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2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum First Test: Making Minivans Cool Again?

The new Sienna throws a middle finger to civility in pursuit of having a little fun—if you like its looks.

LOS ANGELES—Most of us know or have known at least one person who owns a minivan. Stereotyped as the functional vehicle of choice for "soccer moms," the minivan tends to be otherwise deemed as too feminine for men. (For the record, more than one Automobile male staffer professes great fondness for the minivan's utility.) Yet it is a vehicle type that, despite all the jokes and criticism levied at its expense, has survived today's SUV and crossover domination. The fourth-generation Toyota Sienna is all-new for the 2021 model year, and it makes a statement straight out of the box with its controversial redesign. We spent a weekend testing a top-of-line 2021 Toyota Sienna equipped with every option imaginable.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Test: So Much for Subdued Looks

Some might call the new 2021 Toyota Sienna's redesign "daring and modernistic." Some might call it hideous. Whatever your eyes and brain tell you, the new minivan is inspired by Japan's Shinkansen bullet train, with a boxy front end featuring an expansive grille, sleeker headlights, flashy chrome embellishments, and inconspicuous fog lights. Toyota says the sculpted side-profile "emphasizes motion and portrays confidence," while the rear integrates radical taillights.

Look closer, and you will see Toyota slimmed-down the side windows, and the D-pillars are wider. Moving away from its awkward former self, the newly redesigned Toyota Sienna gives the middle finger to civility in pursuit of having a little fun, even if it has discovered a whole new serving of awkwardness.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Test: Drives Like an SUV, Feels Like a Private Jet

The 2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum minivan greeted us with its Blueprint paint finish, 20-inch metallic wheels, Noble Brown leather-trimmed interior, all of the chrome exterior accents a Saoutchik French teardrop could wish for, and an abundance of comfort and convenience features. We quickly took a liking to the front-wheel-drive Sienna and hit the ground running toward the bounds of Bakersfield, California. As expected from a minivan's architecture, wind noise crept into the cabin, but increasing the volume on the 12-speaker JBL premium audio system drowned the commotion.

Powered by a gasoline-electric hybrid setup, all 2021 Toyota Sienna variants employ a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, plus an electric motor and a CVT, making a combined 245 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. Though this is not a plug-in hybrid, the Sienna has a small 1.9 kWh battery pack that allows you to go into full-EV mode for short distances at slower speeds. For our weekend test drive, we alternated between the Normal and Sport drive modes, with most of the driving taking place on the highway and about 30 percent in the city. Down 51 horsepower from the outgoing model using a 3.5-liter V-6, the fourth-gen Sienna still delivers solid performance.

Inside, the Sienna provides a relaxing, comfortable, and spacious environment that feels perfect for extended travel. In terms of ride quality, the minivan moves gently, and it effortlessly conceals road imperfections. Acceleration is smooth, and the brakes pack excellent stopping power. We performed curbside pickup at a few stores, and appreciated having the ability to open and close the liftgate door via the cabin's overhead console, which allowed for adequate social distancing.

From Los Angeles to Bakersfield and back, including city driving, we managed a combined fuel economy of 32.2 mpg; it likely could have been better if not for our heavy foot and Sport-mode addiction on the freeway. The EPA estimates fuel economy for the Platinum model at 36 mpg across the board (city/highway/combined). We did not have a chance to attach a small camper or utility trailer, but the Sienna has a towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Test: Platinum Grade Equals the Good Life

Every time we took a seat inside the 2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum, we compared the experience to that of boarding a private jet. Indeed, "cockpit" is an accurate description of the front passenger compartment. One let down: Toyota said that, due to a supplier issue, the refrigerator and vacuum options will not be available in time for the Sienna's retail launch in November.

The cockpit's highlight is an ergonomic bridge console featuring an uncomplicated gear-selector lever, four cup holders, a large open storage space underneath, phone and tablet holders, soft-touch armrests, and wireless charging. Other cool stuff includes the digital rearview mirror with an integrated backup camera, a floating 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and the second-row captain's chairs complete with ottoman. Unfortunately for fans of the removable second-row seats available for the previous model year, the feature is no longer available.

Passengers riding in the rear captain's chairs enjoy a first-class experience, and a 25-inch slide adjustment offers a generous amount of room in the front and rear to find your preferred comfort zone. A bench seat is also optional, and boosts the Sienna's occupancy to eight passengers. The one-motion-stow and 60/40-split third-row seat is easy to tuck away.

This 2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum's dual power-sliding doors can open and close five different ways: keyless remote, overhead console controls, door handles, center-pillar push buttons, and the kick-open-and-close feature. The latter works as it does on many utility vehicles: swing your foot in a kicking motion beneath any of the rear kick sensors, a feature that comes in handy when loading groceries. Our tester also had the 1,500-watt AC inverter ($300) and entertainment package ($1,415) options.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Test: Variants, Equipment, and Pricing

Our Platinum FWD test vehicle stickered for $53,350, and a bare-bones FWD-equipped LE starts at $35,635. An all-wheel drive system is available on all trim grades for $2,000. Toyota offers a Plus package from the LE to the XSE trim grade; the LE Plus package ($2,300) adds wireless charging, black roof rails, power tilt/slide moonroof, eight-speaker sound system, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

There are 11 exterior colors to choose from, but you'll need to pay an additional $395 if you want Blizzard Pearl, Ruby Flare Pearl, or Cypress green, the latter being a new addition to the color palette. The entire 2021 Toyota Sienna lineup comes standard with convenience and safety features including dual power-sliding doors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and automatic front braking with pedestrian detection. Also standard are a 9.0-inch touchscreen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, rear-seat reminder, and seven USB ports. A total of 16 cup holders should be plenty to take care of the Peanuts gang.

Worth noting: Toyota supports wheelchair-accessible conversions via authorized dealerships, among them BraunAbility and Vantage Mobility International. These Sienna wheelchair-accessible minivans will be sold exclusively through a network of authorized dealers and will be available in the first quarter of 2021.

2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Highlights

  • Captain's chairs with super-long slide, and ottoman feature
  • Good fuel economy
  • 16 cup holders
  • Multipurpose center console
  • Digital rearview mirror with integrated backup camera
  • Dual power-sliding doors
  • Kick-open-and-close feature
2021 Toyota Sienna Platinum Specifications
ON SALE November
PRICE $35,635/$53,350 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.5L DOHC 16-valve I-4/189 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm; permanent magnet synchronous motor adds 180 hp, 199 lb-ft; 245 hp combined
TRANSMISSION Continuously variable
LAYOUT 4-door, 7-8 passenger, front-engine, FWD minivan
EPA MILEAGE 36/36 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 203.5 x 78.5 x 69.7 in
WHEELBASE 120.5 in
WEIGHT 4,725 lb
0-60 MPH N/A
TOP SPEED N/A