A minivan is a minivan is a minivan. It is not a sport utility vehicle, it is not an activity wagon and it does not have swagger. But as I recently reminded myself during our week with the Toyota Sienna, the minivan is one of the most useful vehicles on the road today.
Since the minivan came onto the scene in the 80s it has been serving families and businesses loyally. Some automakers have left this segment as they have seen sales plummet as SUVs ate into the market segment but those who have remained are keeping up with consumer demands and models like this updated 2015 Sienna feature all of the latest bells and whistles offered by the automaker including reclining second-row seats.
I am not sure exactly how minivans lost their luster and their appeal to consumers, especially those with growing families. Here is a vehicle that offers all of the space and utility modern lifestyles require and they will haul more people and stuff than almost every sport ute on the road today, and do it fairly economically. I will agree that when loaded with all of the modern amenities minivans are not cheap, but neither are the SUVs or CUVs that get the most consumer attention. And minivans are competitive in the fuel economy arena as well.
Looking at the newest Sienna from Toyota, power arrives via a 266hp 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. In recent years minivan designers have all moved the shift levers up to the dash panel it seems and Sienna is no different. There is still ample room on the dash for all of the other controls drivers may wish to engage including color touchscreen display for infotainment purposes (7-inch variety in this Sienna for navigation with Entune app suite, satellite radio, and JBL premium sound system).
Personally, I love the power sliding side doors as this unique minivan feature will save countless neighboring vehicles from door dings caused by anxious little occupants. Those doors are operated by traditional door handle, buttons at each opening and in the overhead console, and on the remote keyfob where users can also access the power liftgate. And did I mention our tester Sienna featured reclining second row chairs? Toyota has brought power operation to the third row seats for easy stowing when you need the extra (protected) cargo space offered by a minivan.
Parents may find the new Driver Easy Speak function to their liking as they can “talk” to their occupants via a microphone up front that plays their voice through the rear speakers of the vehicle thus eliminating all that “don’t make me come back there” or “don’t make me pull over” yelling. Threats are delivered in a calmer, more modern fashion.
For 2015, Toyota has given Sienna its latest technologies along with updated suspension tuning and a stiffened chassis. Designers have tweaked front and rear fascia and drivers see a new multi-information display in the center dash cluster while backup cameras are now standard across the board. Airbag count is now up to eight along with larger side curtain airbags being added this year.
Pricing for the 2015 Toyota Sienna begins at $28,600 for the base L model in front-wheel drive. AWD is available on LE, XLE, and Limited models and Toyota has added a new SE trim level featuring some sport-oriented touches including suspension and wheel and tire enhancements. Our tester arrived in Limited Premium FWD form with a final sticker of $47,705. Fuel economy is rated at 18 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
Minivans suffer from a stigma these days and that is a shame. They are the most useful vehicles on the road and perfect for every growing or traveling family. You naysayers that have never owned one don’t know what you are missing out on – just get over yourselves.