Living the minivan life isn’t for everyone, but those who own one – by choice or out of necessity – should at least be comforted by the knowledge that there are some good options out there.
Case in point: The 2018 Toyota Sienna.
This minivan can seat either 7 or 8 passengers depending on configuration, comes with new safety features, has a nice passenger cabin and offers with an all-wheel drive option.
The Sienna has a starting price of $34,690, escalating progressively to the $55,202.50 for our XLE AWD tester.
That price includes an expensive optional Limited package ($7,200) that includes a long list of items such as a heated steering wheel, satellite radio, a 10-speaker audio system, dual0-screen rear seat Blu-ray entertainment system, a dual power moon roof, high intensity discharge headlights and much more.
For 2018, the list of standard equipment across all trims has been expanded to include the Toyota Safety Sense package (pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist and automatic high beams) and enhanced connectivity through the Toyota Entune system.
All Sienna trims get their power from a 3.5-litre V6 engine, which is rated at 296 horsepower and 263 ft-lb of torque. It’s a smooth engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. The combined fuel economy rating for the Sienna XLE AWD is 11.7 litres per 100 kilometres and a week of testing resulted in a figure close to that at 12.7 L/100 km.
The Sienna’s exterior styling has been updated for 2018 with a redesigned front fascia. It includes a larger lower grille with oversized fog light compartments.
Lower rocker panels have been added to all trims to give the minivan a sportier appearance. Yes, you read that right.
The passenger compartment, especially in the XLE AWD trim, is luxurious and well appointed.
Sitting behind the wheel, the driver has good sightlines and all the necessary controls are at arm’s length thanks to the setup of the centre stack – which protrudes outward from the dash.
Our tester, which seats seven, featured second-row captain’s chairs that fold and slide forward to make accessing the third row an easy endeavour.
Even with all three rows in use, the Sienna offers a good amount of cargo space, thanks in part to the deep space that is used to house the backbench when not needed. Of course, stowing the back bench in the trench opens up even more cargo space, so it’s a win-win.
And accessing the space is made easier thanks to the power liftgate, which can be activated even with your hands full.
The Entune infotainment system gives the Sienna some interesting features like access to content from Yelp, sports and stock news, but on the downside is the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The optional package on the tester increases Entune’s features to include automatic collision notification, enhanced roadside assistance, emergency assistance button (SOS) and stolen vehicle locator.
The interface for the system is responsive and easy to use, with a clear 7-inch display screen.
And there are five USB ports spread throughout the Sienna so there shouldn’t be any fighting over plugs.
And you don’t have to yell anymore to be heard by passengers in the backseat thanks to a built-in PA system.
The overall feel behind the wheel of the Sienna is positive, with excellent acceleration and braking, and while it’s smooth sailing on roads in good conditions, rough roads make the Sienna rattle quite a bit.
The Sienna is the only minivan on the market with an all-wheel drive option, which will surely make it a top contender to some buyers.
But AWD aside, the Sienna has other qualities that should help win over buyers in a market segment that has limited options, all of which are pretty good in their own right.
2018 Toyota Sienna XLE AWD
Price as tested: $55,202.50
Configuration: Front engine/All-wheel drive
Engine/transmission 3.5-litre V6/ 8-speed automatic
Power/torque: 296 horsepower/ 263 ft-lb of torque
Fuel (capacity): Regular (75 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 11.7 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 12.7 L/100 km
Warranties: 3-years/60,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Sedona, Dodge Grand Caravan
Motor Trend Canada