Is the 2021 Toyota Sienna Secretly the Best New SUV?

Let’s face it. The 2021 Toyota Sienna isn’t exactly the most exciting vehicle out there. In fact, minivans overall have been struggling as SUVs become infinitely popular. Today we’ll be looking at the 2021 Sienna and how its main improvements could actually make it a better buy than a comparable SUV. According to Car and Driver, the 2021 Sienna is trying its best to entice SUV buyers.

What does the 2021 Toyota Sienna do well?

Rather than morphing itself into an SUV, the 2021 Toyota Sienna improves on all the pillars that make a great minivan. According to Car and Driver, the brand-new interior is a major step up. You now get a larger infotainment screen, a partially digital instrument cluster, and higher-quality interior materials for starters. To make the Sienna feel less like a van, Toyota gave it a new center console, which not only holds extra storage space but gives an almost SUV-like appearance.

Once on the road, Car and Driver says there’s even more to like. Since the Sienna is offered exclusively with a hybrid powertrain, fuel economy figures have improved drastically. According to Car and Driver, the minivan has an estimated fuel economy of 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Since the Sienna shares a platform with the RAV4 and the Highlander, it is also reportedly far more refined on the road. Once you consider all of the benefits, it becomes difficult to justify any other vehicle as a family hauler.

Why would SUV owners be interested in a minivan?

A photo of the Toyota Sienna outdoors.
Toyota Sienna | Toyota

It is abundantly clear that the 2021 Toyota Sienna isn’t just competing with other minivans. According to The New York Times, SUVs made up 47.4 percent of U.S. car sales in 2019. When we look at SUVs’ history, we quickly find that they started as high-riding machines that were often quite capable off-road. However, as the decades have come and gone, most new SUVs will likely never see an inch of dirt, thus rendering the extra ride-height somewhat useless.

According to The New York Times, SUVs are particularly appealing to older people because they are easy to get in and out of. Additionally, there is an added feeling of safety due to being in a relatively larger vehicle. Additionally, The New York Times claims adults aged 35 to 44 are more likely to buy a three-row SUV to haul around their families.

When we consider the wants of traditional SUV buyers, the Toyota Sienna seems almost like the perfect choice. The Sienna offers three rows of seats, more cargo space, and even up to 18 cupholders. When we consider that a great majority of SUVs spend their time on the road, the Sienna’s lack of ride height isn’t truly a drawback. However, there are a few key drawbacks holding this minivan back.

SUVs pull ahead in these categories

a deep red all-new Toyota Sienna, rear view in a desert landscape
2021 Toyota Sienna XSE | Toyota Press Release

Here’s Why People Don’t Buy Minivans Anymore

There is no getting around the fact that the Toyota Sienna is a bit of an ugly duckling. They’ve given the 2021 model all sorts of aggressive design elements to spice it up significantly, to Toyota’s credit. According to Car and Driver, the Sienna is actively trying to escape the stigma associated with minivans in the U.S. Since SUVs offer similar space with better looks, buyers often write off these family haulers without giving them a chance.

Additionally, The New York Times says that the feeling of safety felt in an SUV also comes from the high ride height. As a result, even if the ground clearance will likely never be used, it creates a feeling a minivan can’t match.

There’s also the issue of price. The 2021 Sienna starts at $34,460. In contrast, the great-looking Kia Telluride starts at $31,990. The SUV also offers three rows of space, a great interior, and tons of standard tech.

Despite the Sienna’s drawbacks, the minivan is set to be one of the best brand-new vehicles for families. If you can look past its looks and the potential stigma, you may not miss your current SUV.