Millennial Mom’s Review: 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid

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I’m pretty new to reviewing cars, but I love minivans. And while I’m easily impressed by cool features, ultimately, simplicity will win me over. This is not going to be the most technically-detailed review, because we’ve already got so many of those across our site.

If you’re looking for specific details about the engine or hard facts and numbers regarding the 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid, check out Stephanie Wallcraft’s take.

For a deeper dive, you can check out her thorough interior review of the minivan, too; she details many of the amazing features throughout a few of the different trim levels.

But let’s jump right into this review.

First Impressions

I think I might be in love — think big hearts popping out of cartoon eyes. No matter how many minor flaws I’ve picked out, I would recommend this minivan in a heartbeat. What can I say? Love is blind.

I have so many amazing things to say about the 2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid, my new dream minivan; I don’t even know where to start. When I first opened the door, I was floored. The tester minivan is beautiful, in that dark-brown-hardwood-flooring-in-your-kitchen kind of way. That’s the vibe I got — it’s like it was made for a modern home, but in a minivan.

I’m pretty shy; I don’t like being the centre of attention, and thus, tend to keep things extremely simple, in order to stay out of any kind of spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the finer things in life; I just prefer to enjoy it quietly and out of sight — or enjoy it hidden in plain sight, which is exactly what the Sienna allows me to do. From the outside, it’s a minivan through and through, nothing super-special, but we’ll get back to the exterior in a bit.

On the inside, I feel like I’m in a much more lavish, much more expensive, super-spacious SUV. To the outside world, they’re just driving by another minivan on the road, but behind the steering wheel, I’m on a whole other planet — and clearly need to be brought back down to Earth.

Interior

The layout of all the buttons and other various features are extremely intuitive. The dashboard doesn’t have a ton of different touchscreen options, which is good — too many options means more distractions. The rest of the controls are easily accessible and easy to comprehend. Yes, if you drive a vehicle for long enough, you can master its features, but the nice thing about the Sienna is you can master a large chunk of it within a couple hours.

Once I brought the minivan home, I had important business to tend to — I read there are a total of 18 cupholders in the Sienna and made it my mission to confirm that number. Indeed, there are 18 of varying sizes, although I really doubt my large coffee mug would fit in any of the smaller ones. Regardless, all passengers can have several of their own drinks for each ride. I don’t know why you would want to gamble an unscheduled washroom break by filling your passengers with that much fluid (even in non-pandemic times) but I guess it could be handy for road trips with water bottles, baby bottles, coffee cups, empty coffee cups, and toys on board — and, yes, toys will make their way into any slot, cupholder or not.

There’s a long handle by the door opening that seems like it’s meant to help older passengers or small children in and out. Honestly, all vehicles need this extra support bar; sometimes even I need the extra support, especially after a really big meal. The handles distracted me, because it took me a couple seconds to find the little square button that closes the back door on each side. Unlike most minivans that place the button closer to the mid-section of the frame, the Sienna’s buttons are a bit lower and on the inner part.

2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid

2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid

Stephanie Wallcraft

There’s so much space inside, I don’t even know how to convey it — I guess my usual metric is diaper boxes. Every corner of this minivan has room for people and things. There’s a ledge below the infotainment screen, and while I can see it filling up very quickly with tissues (new and used, because life with kids is messy) it’s also a great spot for your phone, since there’s a wireless charger there. There’s a huge console between the driver and front passenger seats. Under the console is a large opening fit for a purse, but my anxiety would never let me leave anything under there. (Quick nightmare scenario: I’m driving, I make a wide turn, my purse falls open, stuff rolls out and lands under the brake pedal, which I then can’t push down. Now you see how I could never store something there, and how anxiety-ridden I am.)

It’s not any wider than the average-sized minivan, yet the entire front section has room for pretty much anyone of any stature. I can’t comprehend how Toyota managed to fit two very wide seats and a huge console into a normal-sized minivan.

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And yet, it parks extremely easily and fits into normal-size parking spots, or at least it did when I reversed into a space at Walmart. I love back-up cameras and I’ll take them in any form, but the camera on the Sienna is not the best in terms of sharpness. It gets the job done, but it’s got this weird, pixelated look — think old flip phone. It seems it’d be an easy upgrade; in comparison, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica I drove had a camera with HD quality.

I’m going to need someone to explain why it’s okay to have a drop-down screen in the centre of a minivan, perfectly placed to block a rearview mirror’s view. All I see is the back of a screen instead of the cars behind me. Is that not a safety issue? Speaking of the screen, there’s no Blu-ray player, so come prepared with USBs or download an app that projects the fun onto this rear-view-blocking screen.

2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid

2021 Toyota Sienna Hybrid

Renita Naraine

Seating

The second-row seats can go very far back and, thus, can accommodate a very large human. However, that large human would be taking up a massive portion of third-row legroom. As long as there are no dangling legs back there, and instead a puppy or toddler, said large human can use an indefinite amount of the space available, though. Similarly, if the third row wanted more space, the second-row seats can also move all the way up – again, dangling legs beware – and just like that, there’s room for tall people in the very back. Even with the second row not that far back, my kids, dangling feet and all, fit with tons of room to spare.

This trim had seven seats, which forced some car-seat shuffling, as I’m used to an eight-seater minivan with all three kids usually in the middle row. If it’s a make-or-break option for you, other Sienna trims are capable of fitting eight passengers.

My test van had beige seating in Chateau Leather, which decently hid the footprints on the back of the seat — most parents know what I mean, but you can check my Instagram for a log of all the kicks. I’m aware I can purchase seat covers, but sometimes it’s easier to pretend the marks aren’t there, and with these colours, they felt out of sight, out of mind.

From a car-seat perspective, it wasn’t any harder to put the actual seats in than in other vehicles. However, with the ability to move the middle row so generously, there was a lot of extra space to comfortably fit into the vehicle while installing the car seats.

This Sienna may not be as high-tech as recent minivans; the Chrysler Pacifica was filled with extra – sometimes unnecessary – features, like automatic folding rear seats. Those were totally cool, but I could live without them anyway. (I can hear my husband chiding “Sure, you can live without it — you aren’t the one putting the seats up and down.” Valid point.) The Sienna doesn’t have automatic seats in the rear, but it does have my heart. And I will say this: the seats in the back are a lot easier to fold than earlier minivan models, so I’ll let it be. Plus Toyota need something to upgrade eventually.

Exterior

On the same above-mentioned trip to Walmart, a lady yelled “I love the colour of your car!” And while I’m not a huge fan of Sunset Bronze Mica (a.k.a. “brown”) I quickly yelled back “Thanks!” and whispered in disappointment “It’s not my car.”

It’s actually pretty low for a minivan, which is great for a few reasons. I’m short, and the Sienna doesn’t make me partake in a major drop down, or climb up; it’s a mere step. It’s really easy for the kids to get in and out, as well.

The sliding doors can be opened several different ways. There’s a button above the driver’s head; the key fob; the buttons beside each of the middle row’s seats; and there’s the actual door handle, easily opened with the push of an extremely kid-friendly button. But, if you’re like me and stuck in some ancient ways, you can still pull the handle and the door will start to slowly open.

The trunk is noisy, but my kids are noisier and each (individually) could easily tune out any noise that space throws out; in other words, it’s really not an issue.

Driving Impressions

I’m not the go-to driver in my household, but the Sienna made me want to be that person. It’s a smooth drive and the leather steering wheel feels great in your hands every turn. Not to mention, the wheel’s being heated is a nice feature, and doubles as a reminder to drive with hands at 10 and 2 – as taught in driving school – since that’s where all the heat hides.

The brakes were quite an adjustment for me, a bit stiff. If you’re going to stop, which you will eventually, get a head start and slowly step on the brakes. Otherwise you’ll end up doing a hard mash on the brakes and jerk forward, along with whoever else may be in the car.

Final Thoughts

Honestly, I’m really sad to give it up. It’s not often that I fall in love with a vehicle, but this one just gave me all the feels.

My favourite thing by far about this minivan is how it makes me feel. I don’t like too much attention, but appreciate nice things. On the inside, I feel like I’m driving a Cadillac Escalade (that makes me the cool mom, right?). Meanwhile, there’s really nothing to see from the outside; it’s just a normal minivan with an anxious mom at the wheel, probably on the way to Walmart.

I would recommend this minivan to anyone in the market; and if you’re not, maybe you should be. I know you’ll probably look cooler in an SUV, but it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters. I think the 2021 Sienna has got something for everyone; it’s a people-pleaser and almost too good to be true. Then again, maybe I’m being blinded by love.

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