According to Toyota, the 2021 Sienna minivan’s front design was inspired by the Shinkansen Japanese bullet train to impart a sleek, speedy and confident appearance. (Manufacturer photo)

According to Toyota, the 2021 Sienna minivan’s front design was inspired by the Shinkansen Japanese bullet train to impart a sleek, speedy and confident appearance. (Manufacturer photo)

2021 Toyota Sienna might be a game-changer for minivans

All new from the ground up, this fourth-generation version is styled to the nines. Seriously.

Minivans have suffered more persecution than any other vehicle in automotive history. When they became associated with “soccer moms” it was open season on derision, against the minivans as well as the moms. In those years, ridiculing women was socially acceptable – not like now, when it isn’t. Not in public, anyway.

To be fair, the minivan has to take some responsibility for its own victimization. Irreproachable in terms of usefulness, styling-wise it has been weighed in the balance and found deficient, as the old saying goes.

The 2021 Toyota Sienna might redeem the minivan. All new from the ground up, it has a striking, chiseled exterior with a muscular emphasis. A pronounced crease in the side sheet metal begins near the front wheel arch, swoops up and around a bulging rear wheel arch, and meets the side edge of a wraparound taillight.

Every 2021 Sienna model is a hybrid, and there are five trim levels: LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum. Each trim is available with front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Pricing starts at $35,635 (including a $1,175 destination charge) for a front-drive LE.

The base LE trim has eight-passenger configuration. The front-drive XLE is offered with seven- or eight-passenger seating; with AWD, seven-passenger only. All Limited and Platinum models have a seven-passenger setup.

Sienna’s hybrid powertrain has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors, producing a combined 245 horsepower. With front-wheel drive, it has the same fuel economy rating for city, highway and combined driving: 36 mpg. AWD ratings are 35 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 35 mpg combined.

All models have a 3,500-pound towing capability.

A clever Bridge Console between the front seats is a special feature of the 2021 Toyota Sienna interior. (Manufacturer photo)

A clever Bridge Console between the front seats is a special feature of the 2021 Toyota Sienna interior. (Manufacturer photo)

Sienna’s new interior has second-row captain’s chairs that slide 25 inches forward and rearward. In eight-passenger configuration, there’s a stowable middle seat positioned between the two chairs. Third-row seats fold into the floor, second-row seats do not.

A power liftgate and power sliding side doors are standard on all models, and kick-type hands-free operation is added as a standard feature on every trim from the XLE and higher.

I drove the 2021 Sienna Platinum model with front-wheel drive, priced at $51,075. All-wheel drive would be an extra $560 on this trim.

Standard features on the top-tier Platinum not found elsewhere in the Sienna lineup include automatic bi-LED projector headlights, 360-degree view camera, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated second-row captain’s chairs, heated steering wheel, and head-up display.

A built-in vacuum system and center console refrigerator are also standard on the Platinum model, but were missing from my particular Sienna tester because it was an early-production unit.

The priciest option on my tester was a rear-seat entertainment system for $1,415. The $1,176 making up the balance was divided among an assortment of individual optional items including all-weather floor liners (a $294 must-have in Western Washington) and a digital rear view mirror with Homelink.

Defying its considerable size, the new Sienna has agile handling on winding roads and excellent maneuverability in crowded parking lots. Highway driving is luxurious. The big interior provides first-class comfort and a generous carrying capacity for cargo items. The Platinum’s indulgent second-row captain’s chairs even have flip-up leg rests.

A creative front row Bridge Console is positioned high between the driver and front passenger, connecting the instrument panel to the center armrest. A flat, open area the size of a cafeteria tray is underneath the bridge, providing a perfect place for stowing a purse or other things.

Meanwhile, there are cubbies, bins, pockets and cupholders galore. The Sienna cabin would cause euphoria in a compulsive organizer.

So, with its fantastic new look, mechanical improvements, technology updates and driving delights, what did I like best about the game-changing 2021 Toyota Sienna minivan?

Its usefulness.

Kick-type hands-free operation for the power sliding side doors and tailgate is standard on the 2021 Toyota Sienna, excluding the base LE model. (Manufacturer photo)

Kick-type hands-free operation for the power sliding side doors and tailgate is standard on the 2021 Toyota Sienna, excluding the base LE model. (Manufacturer photo)

2021 TOYOTA SIENNA PLATINUM

Base price, including destination charge: $51,075

Price as driven: $53,666

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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