The Toyota Sienna was best-selling minivan in 2015, with sales climbing 10 percent following the arrival of a significantly upgraded and improved model for the 2015 model year.
Meanwhile, sales of a longtime minivan sales leader, the Dodge Grand Caravan, dropped a surprising 28 percent while the Chrysler Town & Country dropped an even more dramatic 32 percent. The minivan that registered the most dramatic sales growth was the updated Kia Sedona, which registered a 152 percent sales increase.
Why all these sales numbers? It demonstrates what minivan buyers have known for a long time: there are lots of good reasons why the Sienna is arguably the best minivan in town. Overcome your aversion to joining the minivan army of soccer moms and dads and you’ll discover why more than 500,000 minivans found homes in American garages last year.
Here are five reasons why the 2016 Toyota Sienna is at the top of my recommendation list.
Reason #1: Toyota Sienna offers Cavernous space
My family owns and proudly drives a Ford Flex, which is really just a minivan without the traditional sliding doors. With room for seven passengers, it’s terrific for carpool duty and long road trips. Yet even though it feel positively huge, it’s relatively tiny compared to the spaciousness of the Toyota Sienna. My kids and their friends immediately called out the difference — and they’re right. Let’s compare the differences.
With all seats in use, the Flex offers 20 cubic feet behind the third row. Meanwhile, the Sienna has 31.9 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats. Drop the third row of seats in the Flex and you’ll gain 43.2 cubic feet. The Sienna answers the same challenge by offering 87 cubic feet with the third row flat. Lastly, if you lay both rows down, the Flex offers 83.2 cubes. The Sienna? A whopping 150 cubic feet of interior space that will let you stow everything from boxes, to bikes, to tables and chairs for a BBQ at the park.
Put simply, the Sienna is huge and you won’t find a crossover SUV that puts up a decent fight, even if you include the Chevrolet Suburban in the mix. If you need lots of space on a regular basis, look closely at the Sienna. It’s got loads of it.
Reason #2: 5-star safety rating
If you’re choosing a minivan, there’s a great chance you’re regularly driving with a full van of family members and friends. That means safety is important and you’ll be happy to know that the Sienna earned a 5-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The minivan earned four-star ratings in the front and rollover crash assessments and five stars on the side-impact test.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Sienna “Good” scores on all assessments with the exception of the small overlap crash test where it earned an “Acceptable” rating. All Siennas include a standard backup camera, eight standard airbags, plus the Star Safety System that includes vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution and Smart Stop technology that reduces engine power in the face of a collision to help slow the vehicle even faster. Toyota also offers an optional pre-collision system that can automatically apply the brakes and tighten seat belts in advance of an accident and a blind-spot monitoring system that helps ensure you see vehicles lurking in unseen places.
Reason #3: Comfortable, stylish cabin
My test model was the top-of-the-line Sienna Limited Premium and it offered every feature you could want in your van. My kids loved the Blu-ray DVD player that plays movies on the huge split-screen while they listened from wireless headphones. I liked the fact I could listen to satellite radio or stream audio via Bluetooth from my phone. Everyone was happy.
We were all impressed by the leather-laden, wood-trim-finished interior. The seats were comfortable and legroom was plentiful no matter which row my passengers chose. My friend owns a 2013 Toyota Sienna and he liked the simpler layout of the dashboard. He expects that when the lease on his current van ends later this year, his wife will take one look inside the 2016 Sienna and immediately demand an upgrade.
It moved well on the freeway and was easy to maneuver around town, though it’s still a big vehicle to park in a busy shopping mall lot. Overall, I liked the interior and found it an easy, comfortable place to spend time. If you have a growing family and need space for people and gear, the Sienna is certainly a smart choice.
Reason #4: Only minivan with available all-wheel drive
In the past year, I’ve had multiple friends ask me for minivan recommendations and every one of them have ended up with the Sienna. Why? The big difference is all-wheel drive (AWD). The Sienna is the only minivan that offers AWD and it’s a must-have feature for many families in Utah where I live and review vehicles.
I’ve tested the Sienna on snow-filled roads in past years, and it feels solid and planted. However, don’t overestimate the capabilities of all-wheel drive in a snowstorm. Venture into deep snow and you’ll get stuck. All-wheel drive is not four-wheel drive and every year I see all-wheel drive vehicles mired in muck the AWD system simply couldn’t handle.
But snow isn’t the only reason to consider all-wheel drive. If it’s regularly rainy where you call home, the AWD system will provide more stability than front-wheel-drive vehicles and is worth exploring. On the other hand, if you live in Texas or Arizona or states where snow and rain make only sporadic appearances, a front-wheel drive Sienna is likely the better choice.
Reason #5: Recommended by Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports awarded the 2016 Sienna the coveted “Recommended” rating, thanks largely to its outstanding mix of comfort and capability, plus a longstanding record of dependable service. Consumer Reports editors expect the 2016 Sienna to perform “better than average” in terms of reliability and you have to go all the way back to the 2010 model year to find a Sienna where reliability earned a “Good” instead of “Very Good” or “Excellent” rating. Meanwhile, JDPower.com predicts the 2016 Sienna will be average for the class.
If you run into troubles, Toyota backs Sienna owners with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
An excellent minivan for many reasons
Ample passenger space, cavernous cargo space, excellent safety ratings and a comfortable, tech-filled interior make it easy to recommend the Sienna. So does the fact that there and eight Sienna trims that range from the L model that starts at $28,850 to the Limited Premium model that starts at $45,270.
A minivan is too large for my family’s needs. But were we to choose one, I’m certain the Sienna would be at the top of our list.
2016 Toyota Sienna photo copyright Toyota Motor Corporation