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Is the Toyota Sienna Really 1 of the Worst Minivans You Can Buy?

The Toyota Sienna minivan has been an option for family vehicle buyers for more than 20 years. While so far, it’s hung on in a shrinking field of minivans still being produced and sold, the Sienna sometimes shows up on lists of the worst minivans. Is this really true? Not everyone thinks so.

History of the minivan

The arrivals of Chrysler’s Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans in 1983 were an immediate hit that started a new trend for family vehicles. Within a decade, the minivan started getting a negative reputation and was thought to be for “soccer moms.”

SUVs, with their more “macho image,” were on the upswing by the ’90s. Since 2005, more than 13 minivan models have stopped production, and after the 2008 recession, sales took a big drop. Today, only six minivans are still being manufactured, including the Toyota Sienna.

The Toyota Sienna

The 2017 Toyota Sienna minivan is seen during the 2017 North American International Auto Show
The Toyota Sienna | SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The Toyota Sienna has been redesigned twice since 1998, with new generations arriving for model years 2004 and 2011. After 2008, the Sienna came standard with one engine – a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 296 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. It has an eight-speed automatic transmission and decent fuel economy at an estimated 20 mpg combined. Its available all-wheel drive is what sets it apart from other minivans.

Consumer Reports calls the 2020 Sienna a “sensible choice,” saying it’s comfortable and quiet, but its handling is “lackluster.” According to Autowise.com, ride and handling quality get worse with the higher trim levels of the Sienna. On the plus side, the Toyota Sienna has lots of space for passengers and cargo; however, the cabin has odd shapes and cheap plastic materials. The second-row seats slide quite a bit to make space, but they have to be fully removed when owners want to carry extra cargo.

The Toyota Sienna shows up on Autowise.com’s list of worst minivans. It ties for third on U.S. News’ ranking of 2020 minivans. It comes in third on Edmunds’ list of best minivans and fourth on Kelley Blue Book’s. Consumer Reports, though, picked the 2020 Sienna as its top midsize minivan.

Consumer Reports’ minivan ratings

The only six minivans available today are the Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona, Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager, and Dodge Grand Caravan. However, the 2020 model year is expected to be the last for the Grand Caravan, which is already not available in all states due to emissions regulations. It will be replaced by the newly returned Chrysler Voyager, a lower-priced version of the Chrysler Pacifica.

Consumer Reports actually prefers the Sienna over the other current options for 2020. The 2020 Sienna’s overall rating of 78 beats the Kia Sedona (67), Honda Odyssey (61), Dodge Grand Caravan (65), and Chrysler Pacifica (59). The Chrysler Voyager hasn’t yet been tested. The 2020 Sienna comes in the middle of the pack at third with its road test score of 79. The Odyssey (85) and Pacifica (85) both score better. The Grand Caravan (72) and Sedona (70) score lower.

The 2020 Sienna and Grand Caravan rank well for predicted reliability, with a rating of four out of five. The Sedona has a three out of five. The Odyssey and Voyager models have a rating of two out of five, and the Pacifica has one out of five for predicted reliability. The 2020 Sienna, Odyssey, Sedona, Voyager, and Pacifica all have three-out-of-five ratings for predicted owner satisfaction. The 2020 Dodge Grand Caravan scores lower with a two out of five for predicted owner satisfaction.

Minivan safety ratings

While the returning Chrysler Voyager hasn’t yet been tested, the other five all have respectable safety ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA. All five minivans that have been tested earned a Good for their IIHS front moderate overlap and IIHS side crash test results. For IIHS front small overlap, driver testing, the Sienna only got Acceptable, while the Odyssey, Sedona, and Pacifica have Good ratings. The Dodge Grand Caravan was rated at Poor.

The Pacifica, Odyssey, and Sedona all have five-star ratings for NHTSA overall, overall frontal-crash, and overall side-crash test ratings. The Sienna comes in fourth, losing a star in overall frontal-crash test ratings. The Grand Caravan is fifth with four stars for both NHTSA overall frontal-crash and NHTSA overall crash test ratings. All five minivans have five stars for NHTSA overall side-crash test ratings.

While Consumer Reports gave the 2020 Toyota Sienna minivan high marks, not everyone agrees. However, with only six minivans available, there isn’t much variation among the rankings of the contenders.