If you thought the minivan was as good as dead, you might want to think again. Plenty of automakers are still investing in the segment. And two of them offer gas-electric hybrid models: the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid and the 2021 Toyota Sienna.
The first Pacifica models rolled off production lines in mid-2016, with the hybrid version following the next spring. The Sienna differentiates itself with a hybrid-only powertrain across all trims, along with optional all-wheel drive. Toyota has claimed that despite being a hybrid, its minivan still boasts the same 3,500-pound towing capacity as the third-generation Sienna.
But you probably shouldn’t tow anything with the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, U.S. News notes. The non-hybrid model has a towing capacity of 3,600 pounds, 100 pounds more than the hybrid Sienna, an achievement of which Chrysler seems very proud.
2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid highlights
Chrysler’s chief engineer, Kevin Mets, said the production of a plug-in hybrid Pacifica was intended to give consumers a feasible family vehicle. When it debuted in early 2017, it was the first of its class to become available in the United States. “It brings the ability that if you want an electric vehicle, a hybrid, you don’t have to compromise size to get there,” Mets told Autoblog in January 2016. The automaker initially limited the Pacifica’s release to stricter states like California but has since sold it in all 50 states.
As of writing, Chrysler prices the 2021 Pacifica starting at $39,995. Some key changes for this model year include the new Pinnacle trim, a styling refresh inside and out, an improved infotainment system with a 10.1-inch touchscreen (up from 8.4), and additional advanced safety features.
Chrysler also added more standard driver-assistance features, such as pre-collision warning and automatic braking. Using a mobile app, owners can remotely access their Pacifica Hybrid’s driving history report, locate the nearest charging station, monitor its charging progress, and more.
2021 Toyota Sienna highlights
The 2021 Sienna starts at $34,460, according to Toyota. It’s trying its best to refashion the way today’s parents view minivans. Rather than looking like something you’d be slightly ashamed to drive, the Sienna boasts a rugged yet sporty exterior and a cabin that would make Captain Jean-Luc Picard envious. Its body is somewhat reminiscent of the 2021 Toyota Highlander. Thanks to its long list of innovative comfort features and hybrid-only powertrain, the latest model has been turning heads.
Toyota designed the 2021 Sienna in its CALTY studio in Newport Beach, California. Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train inspired this generation’s sleek front-end design. The Sienna looks especially sharp sporting optional 20-inch wheels. And with sporty taillights, its rear end nods to the Supra.
If you’re in the mood for a different look, Toyota has added the new XSE trim, which trades the standard grille for a honeycomb design. The XSE also adds dark 20-inch wheels, mirror caps, and distinctive front and rear bumpers.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid vs. Toyota Sienna
First, the 2021 Toyota Sienna’s hybrid-only powertrain is a plus for eco-conscious drivers. It also has sliding second-row seats and available all-wheel drive. But it ranks below average for its lack of a plug-in hybrid version and non-removable second-row seats. On the other hand, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica offers an optional plug-in hybrid model and optional all-wheel drive; KBB lists its pros as “comfortable and mannerable on the road; seating for seven or eight; user-friendly infotainment.” However, the 2021 Pacifica ranks below average for its higher price and lower resale value.
The Toyota Sienna’s 4-cylinder hybrid engine offers good power, KBB reports. But all Chrysler Pacifica models come with a smooth V6. However, KBB overlooks that the Sienna offers an all-wheel-drive hybrid powertrain, while the Chrysler offers only all-wheel drive for non-hybrid Pacifica powertrains. Plus, the Pacifica V6’s lower fuel economy seems a tad counterintuitive for a hybrid. Nonetheless, it’s better than a non-hybrid V6.
The Toyota Sienna gets an EPA-estimated 36 mpg, much better than the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid’s 22 mpg average. Furthermore, the Sienna’s 2.5-liter inline-four hybrid produces 296 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque, while the Pacifica’s 3.6-liter V6 produces only 287 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. If you were to stack them against each other on those specs alone, the 2021 Pacifica isn’t necessarily worth the extra $5,535 over the Sienna.
Even considering KBB’s assertion that the Pacifica’s “plug-in hybrid powertrain and plenty of flat-stowage” make it a better option, we think the point in buying a hybrid is for efficiency. On top of that, the Toyota Sienna still offers plenty of awesome features. Plus, it’s useful for towing (unlike the Pacifica Hybrid) and can trailer nearly as much as Chrysler’s non-hybrid minivan.
Overall, we think the 2021 Toyota Sienna is the superior hybrid minivan because of its better fuel efficiency and power. However, the Pacifica is no slouch either. So, as is often the case, the decision ultimately boils down to your personal preference.