Hybrids & Electrics

The Toyota Sienna Is Not the Most Fuel-Efficient Minivan

It had been nearly a decade since the Toyota Sienna had seen a notable refresh. But in May 2020, Toyota announced the fourth-generation Sienna for the 2021 model year would be hybrid-only. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient minivans. However, it’s not as efficient as one of its top rivals: the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.

The Pacifica debuted in 2016 for the 2017 model year as a replacement for the Town & Country. Chrysler touted it as the first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) minivan manufactured in the United States. The refreshed 2021 model reportedly gets the best fuel efficiency, with an EPA-estimated 82 MPG-equivalent (MPGe). That means the Sienna isn’t the most fuel-efficient minivan.

The Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid saw refreshes

The Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid both appear in Car and Driver‘s “Every New 2021 Minivan Ranked from Worst to Best.” The Pacifica Hybrid ranks first among the seven minivans listed, while the Sienna comes in at number five. U.S. News also lists the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid as number one among minivans. According to Chrysler, the Pacifica Hybrid starts at $39,995. Toyota lists the 2021 Sienna’s starting MSRP as a more affordable $34,460.

The Sienna comes with a hybrid powertrain standard. Unlike the Pacifica, this hybrid-only vehicle can still tow the same 3,500 pounds as the third-generation all-gas model, Toyota claims. The LE, XLE, and Limited models are once again available. Plus, Toyota added two other trims: the sporty XSE, replacing the SE, and the top-shelf Platinum. Front-wheel drive comes standard, while all-wheel drive is an option.

The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid saw exterior and interior restyling. It offers four trims: Touring, Touring L, Limited, and Pinnacle. Both the new gas-powered and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models are the first in Chrysler’s lineup to offer Android’s new Uconnect 5 infotainment system. It features a standard 10.1-inch high-resolution touchscreen, Amazon Alexa capability, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, high-speed data connectivity, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android integration. Additional standard equipment includes USB-C high-speed data and charging ports.

The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid outperforms the Toyota Sienna

RELATED: Is the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Worth $5,535 Over the 2021 Toyota Sienna?

When it comes to hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric vehicles (EVs), gauging performance goes beyond how fast the car can travel and how quickly it accelerates to 60 mph. Things like charge time, range, and estimated EPA are equally, if not more, important. After all, the purpose of buying a green vehicle is efficiency. Other performance milestones are the icing on the cake. That said, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica‘s 82 MPGe is a huge plus for consumers interested in a hybrid vehicle.

The new Sienna gets an EPA-estimated 36 mpg overall. Though that’s great for a minivan, the Pacifica offers better efficiency.

In addition, the Pacifica PHEV is the only minivan in the United States with a conventional AWD powertrain. On the other hand, the 2021 Sienna uses Toyota’s new E-four technology. This means the vehicle’s hybrid powertrain directly powers the front wheels, and a dedicated electric motor, with its own power control unit, differential, and reduction gear, powers the rear wheels. However, an optional third electric motor for the rear wheels is available as an option.

The difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid

In short, a hybrid vehicle uses a gasoline engine and an electric motor. They work together to power the vehicle, increasing the overall fuel economy. However, the gasoline engine is also tasked with recharging the hybrid vehicle’s battery. You do not plug in a hybrid vehicle to recharge the battery; regenerative braking does that for you.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles also use a gasoline engine and an electric motor, but not in the same way. PHEVs primarily use the electric motor to run, powered solely by the battery. The gas engine is used more or less as a backup. And rather than tapping into the gas-powered engine to recharge, you use a plug-in charger.