The only minivan in North America to deliver power to all four wheels.
Since the three-row SUV’s meteoric rise to becoming the de-facto family vehicle for every family, the good old minivan has unfortunately become an afterthought for most. The auto industry has responded by offering car buyers with SUVs in every size in every price point, and in consequence, we have seen a stunted growth in the minivan segment.
We think this shift is unfortunate because we believe there is value in having the minivan’s two sliding doors and low loading floor, particularly for those who need to haul on a full-time basis. There are only a handful of minivans left in the segment, namely the Honda Odyssey (reviewed here), Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (reviewed here), Kia Sedona (reviewed here), Dodge Grand Caravan, and the example we have here, the 2019 Toyota Sienna.
The Sienna stands out in this segment being the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, a big bonus for buyers who reside in colder climates in North America. Our sample, the 2019 Toyota Sienna SE AWD is painted in Celestial Silver Metallic, a sophisticated colour scheme that is more than meets the eye and is quite underrated. The Sienna’s body style is largely unchanged since this generation’s debut back in 2011, with a facelift in the 2018 model year that brought us a new front grille and headlights to match the rest of the Toyota lineup’s design language.
Our SE model features a different sport grille, fascia, and 19” six-spoke alloy wheels to add a bit of youthfulness to the exterior and distinguish it from the other models in the Sienna lineup. Even though the third generation Sienna is now eight years old, its exterior styling has aged well and the 2018 updates have allowed it to stay fresh in this segment until the next generation arrives.
A 3.5-litre V6 engine, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, powers all models of the 2019 Sienna. This utilitarian powerplant produces 296 horsepower and 263 lb-ft. of torque, offering usable power in any setting. Throttle response is instantaneous with a seamless acceleration, and the Sienna never felt overweight despite its 4,720-pound curb weight. The eight-speed automatic gearbox is well suited for the Sienna; gear shifts are smooth and kickdowns are done quickly when required.
As mentioned, the Toyota Sienna is the only minivan in North America to deliver power to all four wheels. During our test week, which took place in the first weeks of spring, we thankfully did not have an opportunity to test winter traction capability, but knowing Toyota and their engineering philosophy, we have no doubt that the Sienna’s AWD system will get drivers through winter without much surprises.
Thanks to the Sienna’s SE-model specific sport-tuned steering setup, driving the Sienna does not feel as much of a chore as one would expect given the minivan’s reputation. Steering feel is average and response is accurate, and it feels a bit quicker than models without the sport-tuned steering. The Sienna’s suspension setup is tuned for comfort, but does a nice job controlling its body roll so its occupants do not feel nauseous when the roads get twisty. With the help of excellent visibility from the cabin and a tighter turning radius than the Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica, making an about-turn with the Sienna a fairly easy task.
Instant power from V6 engines usually mean thirsty fuel consumptions especially in the city, and the Sienna is no exception. The Sienna SE AWD’s fuel consumption is rated at 13.4L/100km city, 9.6L/100km highway, and 11.7L/100km combined. These figures are not particularly bad, but in the face of many modern SUVs with turbocharged four-cylinder engines, these figures would make the Sienna seem unattractive on paper. We observed an average of 13.9L/100km over our week of city commuting, and the Sienna will accept 75L of regular fuel.
The biggest reason for why we prefer a minivan over a three-row SUV is for its interior space, especially in the third row. The dual power sliding rear doors, standard on all models except for base CE, make entering and existing the cabin a breeze. Once you are inside, the leather seats in both the second and third rows are comfortable and we observed lots of head and legroom. The tip-up, slide, and recline features in the second row, and the Split and Stow feature in the third row allow for a high degree of customizability to create a space that fits everyone’s needs.
The Sienna’s cabin layout is practical and intuitive. There are lots of cupholders and storage bins for every occupant, and the cabin feels airy thanks to large windows and the power moonroof. For those who would like to have the maximum amount of sunlight for all passengers, the optional Limited Package available for the top of line XLE model comes with a dual power moonroof amongst other unique goodies such as park assist, Bird’s Eye View monitor, EasySpeak, HID headlamps, heated steering wheel, etcetera.
Infotainment is provided using Toyota’s Entune system, and controlled using the eight-inch touchscreen in the centre console. Our tester was equipped with the Entune 3.0 premium audio system that includes navigation, premium JBL Audio system with 10 speakers, and a 10.4” widescreen monitor with two sets of wireless headphones bringing entertainment to rear passengers. Apple CarPlay integration is included with the 2019 Toyota Sienna, and users can also choose to connect using the Entune 3.0 App Suite Connect to get information such as traffic, weather, sports, stock, fuel, and restaurant recommendations through the Yelp app.
All trim levels of the 2019 Toyota Sienna come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense system, which includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Auto High Beam, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist. All models not named CE also comes with Entune Safety Connect system, a subscription service that includes Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), and Enhanced Roadside Assistance. Our tester, along with XLE models, comes standard with Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems.
Pricing for the 2019 Sienna starts at $35,295 for the base CE model, and our as-tested SE AWD model starts at $45,405. Our tester was added with a $5,815 Technology Package, bringing the price to $51,220. Looking around the sparsely populated segment, buyers would have a choice between getting a more engaging drive on a newer platform with the Honda Odyssey EX-L Navi, superior fuel economy with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, or a value-oriented Kia Sedona SXL Plus. However, the optional AWD drivetrain on the Toyota Sienna, along with Toyota’s reputed reliability and rock-solid build quality will help move the needle back to the Sienna’s direction.
Despite getting long in the tooth, the 2019 Toyota Sienna SE AWD is a car that has aged very well and more than its own against not only its competitors in the minivan segment, but against many three-row SUVs. The fact that it is available with all-wheel drive means that many buyers who would normally consider a SUV for its winter driving ability can feel comfortable picking the Sienna, and third-row passengers will certainly thank those who do so.