When minivans first came out, way back in the 1980s, the ingenuity of having all that room for passengers in a vehicle filled with convenient features seemed so fun everyone wanted one. Then somewhere along the way, it became the backwater family vehicle for taking the kids to soccer practice, as if that is somehow a bad thing. It’s possible that minivans will never recover their reputation, but vans like the all-new 2021 Toyota Sienna are trying – really trying.
The redesigned Sienna has an interior and exterior that are bursting with innovative features that are not just comfortable and convenient but thoughtfully anticipate your needs. And how about the standard hybrid powertrain that no longer guzzles gas? Sipping fuel at an average of 36 MPG is not only better than all the other minivan rivals this year; it is even better than most compact sedans. In short, this revolutionary vehicle should be on every buyer’s radar.
Driving on Easy Street
Technology is shifting our lives rapidly, with vehicles gaining so many comforts that no one is going to want to go home to their old-school houses. Once upon a time, sitting in a car all day was a drag that usually left you stiff. If you brought along drinks, you had to keep them in a cooler if you wanted to enjoy them at their intended temperature. Cleaning was relegated to pulling the vacuum out on an extension cord or going to a car wash and pumping quarters into the machine. But if you buy a 2021 Sienna with all the bells and whistles, those days are over.
Imagine having lounge chairs with built-in ottomans… in your vehicle. With heat. And rear-seat entertainment. Now imagine being able to reach into a mini-fridge for a cold drink. This is real life if you buy a 2021 Sienna Platinum. In order to have the ottoman seats, you have to order it in front-wheel drive (wait, did we forget to mention that this minivan is available with all-wheel drive?), which seems arbitrary, but the seats can be had. Being able to kick back and watch a flick with snacks and drinks might be better than home unless your family room lounger has heated seats. If you happen to make a mess while being sloth-like, no worries – simply snag the vacuum hose in the center console and clean it up.
Many brands offer the option to add ramps and lifts to accommodate wheelchairs or assist folks with less mobility in getting inside the vehicle. Still, it’s unusual to see this option listed alongside the rest of the flashy features. Recognition of the fact that a family might need to transport an elderly family member or a person struggling with mobility due to other reasons is a step toward acknowledging real-life experiences. That is why Toyota partners with BraunAbility and Vantage Mobility to supply a variety of solutions for the 2021 Sienna.
Having a seat that can move outside the vehicle and turn out so a person can sit comfortably with assistance would change the way a lot of families have to struggle with getting their less-mobile family members into their minivans. A lot of couples are taking care of elderly parents, for instance, and having even a single lift chair that can still act as a regular seat would make taking trips a lot easier. Imagine pressing a button for a seat that lowers as far down as you need it so your grandmother or grandfather can be helped into the seat the same way you sit in a chair at the dining room table. Simple and convenient, and there’s plenty of room in the trunk area to accommodate a wheelchair if you need to bring it.
Another thoughtful move on Toyota’s part is the Sienna’s “Split and Stow” third row seats. Often these seats aren’t being used unless you have extra passengers riding along, but in the past, those seats were always present, taking up potential cargo space. With Toyota’s innovation, the rear seats can be quickly folded backward and tucked away neatly under the rear cargo floor. When you have an extra rider that you didn’t expect, simply pull the seats back into place, and you’re ready to go.
One last addition is the inclusion of a standard power outlet in the cargo area. While many modern vehicles have power outlets, they usually offer fairly limited electrical output. However, because the 2021 Sienna is a hybrid with lots of electrical power, it offers an available 1500-watt inverter that allows the use of electricity for lighting up a campsite, pumping up your air mattress, or even cooking meals at a tailgate party. Whether you’re tailgating, heading out for a day trip, or going on a camping trip, having this small convenience will open up options that were previously unavailable.
Help at Hand
Let’s face it: not everyone is good at parking, especially when you own a large vehicle like a minivan. No matter how smooth and car-like the ride may be, maneuvering a minivan is no joke when it comes to parallel parking. Thank goodness for new technology that helps make parking easier. Front and rear parking assist is available as a feature for those who need help pulling into those tight spots. With sensors to warn you when you get close to hitting anything, you’ll have that van parked safely in no time. An available digital rearview mirror and the 360-degree “bird’s eye view” cameras are nifty for parking, too. They can also be a life-saver when pulling out of a space into traffic or driving through tight quarters.
If you have little ones, you’re probably exhausted all the time, especially when they’re very little. Toyota created a new rear-seat reminder system to make it less likely that tired caregivers forget about their sleeping passengers in the back seats. The way it works is simple. The Sienna will remember if you opened the rear doors before driving off. If you did, when you reach your destination, the seat reminder will chime to let you know you need to check for your little one before you walk away from the vehicle.
When you’re driving in an unfamiliar place, it can be challenging to keep track of all the road signs and speed limits. Toyota offers the 2021 Sienna with road sign assist to help read those signs for you and display them in the instrument cluster so that you will never again be left wondering what the current speed limit is. Along the same vein, the Sienna’s standard radar cruise control will automatically adjust your speed to maintain safe distances from other cars without you having to keep messing with the controls every time another vehicle pulls out or slows down in front of you.
How about those times when you arrive at your vehicle with your arms full, fumble with the fob to unlock and open the door, and inevitably drop half your load? Those days are over with new tech. While powered and hands-free liftgates are getting common in many vehicles now, the Sienna takes it another step further with hands-free side doors, too. Now you can kick your foot under the door sensor and let the kids into their seats without having to drop all your bags, then just kick under the rear sensor to open the trunk area.
Minivans Aren’t Boring Anymore!
These are just a few of the conveniences you can enjoy if you’re willing to live the minivan life. Seriously, it’s luxury on wheels, folks. No SUV has sliding side doors and ottomans for the back seats. And with the Sienna’s styling updates and all-wheel drive, it now looks just as aggressive as any SUV and offers the same performance in bad weather. If you avoid the 2021 Toyota Sienna simply because minivans aren’t considered “cool,” you might just be missing out on the best family vehicle of the year.