The minivan segment has gotten thin over the years as crossovers flood the market. There’s no arguing with the numbers – the popularity of minivans has dropped a lot, which is a shame. We hope we can turn the tide in the minivan’s favor because these are excellent vehicles that have come a long way from the stereotypically “lame” cars they used to be. There’s no better example of this than the 2020 Toyota Sienna, the minivan that has it all – the capacity of a full-size SUV, performance of a mid-size, and luxury of a premium brand. We think you’ll agree that it’s hard to beat the Sienna if you need a high-capacity vehicle, and there’s a lot to talk about, so let’s dig in.
The 2020 Toyota Sienna vs A Full-Size SUV
The primary reason why anybody wants any vehicle as big as a full-size SUV is people-moving. It’s all about the seats, and the Sienna has plenty. An optional 2nd-row bench seat gives it a maximum capacity of 8, so there’s no question it’s got the room to move everyone around. Getting in and out is made easy by having a lower stance than the big SUVs and two power sliding doors for the back rows. 2nd-row captain’s chairs on the Sienna can slide nearly 2’ forward and back, and the middle seat of the bench design can be stowed in the cargo area, for optimal legroom and third-row access. The cavernous interior provides more headroom and substantially more hip room than its direct competition, meaning that a full 2020 Toyota Sienna is not necessarily a tight squeeze.
That’s not all that a Sienna can offer against a large SUV. 150 cu.ft. of cargo volume with 2nd-row seats removed and 3rd-row seats stowed beats even the biggest SUVs. In fact, the interior dimensions accommodate 4’x8’ plywood sheets, a boon to anyone with big-time DIY intentions. Meanwhile, the lower stance, which makes it easier to climb into, also helps it fit in tight places like parking garages by shaving inches off the total height – making the roof rack a little more accessible in the process. A shorter wheelbase gives it an advantage in handling, too, so should you find yourself in a crowded urban center, you’ll be grateful for your Sienna against an unwieldy full-size SUV.
The 2020 Toyota Sienna vs A Mid-Size SUV
Mid-size SUVs are a class where utility and frugality meet. They’re for people who know they need a big vehicle but don’t want a beast. They might have a large family, light towing needs, or a budget that doesn’t justify a behemoth. Would you be surprised to find that the Sienna fits this market, too?
The MSRP for the entry-level 2020 Toyota Sienna L is $31,640, far below the lofty price tags of full-size SUVs and fitting neatly among mid-size models. It’s also the only minivan on the market to offer an AWD drivetrain. All-wheel drive is awesome for dealing with winter weather, when paired with good winter tires, and is available on pretty much any SUV and truck you can think of for the performance benefits it provides. For drivers to whom AWD is a must-have feature, the Sienna is literally the only minivan to consider. It’s no Wrangler, but with an intelligent torque vectoring system to divert power based on the traction at each wheel, it’s got the hardware to handle itself in the dirt.
Under the hood is a 3.5L V6 engine that cranks out 263 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm and 286 hp at 6600 rpm. That kind of power competes well with mid-size SUVs; it’s strong enough that with the proper equipment package, the Sienna can be rated to tow 3,500 lbs. Good aerodynamics, lower curb weight than comparable SUVs, and Toyota’s efficient engine designs achieve a combined fuel efficiency of 21 mpg in the process.
“That’s great and all,” you might be thinking, “but at the end of the day, it’s still a minivan that’ll be a bore to drive.” The Sienna SE dares you to say that to its face. Every Sienna is built on an anti-vibration sub-frame and a unitized body that delivers a solid, athletic on-road feel. The SE sport trim takes this a step further, offering driving enthusiasts a chance to feel alive with a sport-tuned suspension and exclusive 19” wheels.
The 2020 Toyota Sienna vs A Luxury Nameplate
Premium brands bring a lot to the table. They look awesome, the interior materials are lovely, and they’re loaded with features and technology to advance comfort and safety. Starting with the looks, we’re convinced that the 2020 Toyota Sienna would look right at home among a lot filled with Range Rovers, Lexus, and more. The sporty grill, aggressive lines, and low side rocker panels, which continue the look down the length of the body, to where a spoiler is perched above the liftgate, combine to portray an image that’s actually cool. The aforementioned SE trim offers access to the best-dressed Sienna through the Nightshade Edition package, which limits color choices but adds beautiful gloss black accents that’ll fit right in at your next black-tie affair.
Open the doors to find that there really is a Sienna for everyone – an available factory-installed Auto Access Seat rotates 90 degrees and lowers out of the vehicle so those with restricted mobility can get in and out with ease. With such a broad target audience, the interior needs to speak to a broad range too, and the 2020 Sienna does just that. The first thing you’ll notice are high-quality soft-touch materials, including a broad, classy dashboard and available leather seats with contrasting cross-stitching. Then everybody can start to get comfortable; on the dash is laid out a tri-zone automatic climate control system, so the driver, passenger, and rear passenger zones are all conditioned just right.
The Sienna starts to show off when you take a look at family-friendly connectivity features. The 7-inch infotainment display, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, Bluetooth connectivity, and 4G Wi-Fi hotspot are excellent, but common, and the Sienna is not satisfied with “common’. This is why there’s also a 16.4-inch screen behind the driver capable of playing Blu-Ray video and operating in split-screen mode to show two feeds at once. Wireless headphones and the ability to accept several kinds of input deliver custom in-ride entertainment to all back-seat passengers. When it’s time for the captain to grab their passenger’s attention, Driver Easy Speak kicks in to play the driver’s voice through the rear speakers, and a special mirror mounted in the overhead console allows them to make eye contact with passengers without taking their eyes off the road. Gone are the days of beleaguered parents turning and yelling to the kids in the back!
A luxury nameplate should boast a design you can count on and the best in state-of-the-art safety tech, and the Sienna is right there with them. It’s got a 5-star score from NHTSA and the superb Toyota Safety Sense package on all trim levels, including pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, and dynamic radar cruise control. All Siennas have an integrated back-up camera, with rear park assist and even surround-view available at top trims for maximum driver awareness and peace of mind. Last but not least, the 2020 Toyota Sienna has the best-predicted reliability in its class, so you’ll only be in the shop for regular maintenance and won’t have any surprises in between.
Minivans get a bad rap. The best comparison is to mid-size SUVs, which have a similar price, fuel efficiency, and load limits. But few mid-size SUVs have the people-carrying capacity, fewer still provide the back-seat comforts of the Sienna, and none compete with the cargo room of a minivan. The 2020 Toyota Sienna makes a strong case for choosing a minivan instead of an SUV by being unique, the only AWD minivan on the market with trim options to suit those on a budget, those who’d rather have a race car, and those whose other car drives itself. It offers a stylish alternative to the mainstream trend, customizable for every customer. The minivan segment might be thin, but we think the reason might be that with the Sienna to compete against, there just isn’t room for more of them.