Still the most utility vehicle by a mile

Tons of kids grew up in vans. If they were a bit older, they were full-size vans, but Gen X and Y lived in Ford Aerostars, Chrysler Town and Country, other more maneuverable forms of people-carrying. Growing up, these kids didn’t think minivans were cool. But then these children became adults and had to carry their own children. And there is no better vehicle for transporting people and things than a van.

The Toyota Sienna was a latecomer to the minivan scene, landing in North America as a 1998 model. Last year marked the debut of the fourth-generation Sienna, which brought a single hybrid powertrain and the option of all-wheel drive, a boon for minivan drivers in the northern states.

The biggest change for 2022 was the addition of the Woodlands Special Edition, which comes with equipment to travel a bit further off-road than a standard minivan. It adds all-wheel drive, a 1,500-watt inverter with a 120-volt outlet, a hitch with a 3,500-pound towing capacity, roof rails, 18-inch wheels, a premium audio system and dark accents inside and out.

But before that, the Sienna got a big redesign for the 2021 model year, taking a more aggressive approach to the normally stuffy body style. Toyota widened the front and rear fenders as with its Highlander SUV. He cleaned up the door slider area to make it look more like a crossover and completely redesigned the head and taillights to look more like the rest of the brand.

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And the designers did a great job. The 2022 Toyota Sienna is one of, if not the coolest minivan on the market, depending on how you categorize the Kia Carnival. It also comes with great color choices like Blueprint (medium blue), Ruby Pearl Flare (dark red), and Cypress, a Kelly Green color. And these add up to three silvers and a dark blue.

The 2022 Sienna now offers six trim levels starting with the LE for $35,285. That comes with two power sliding doors, keyless entry, seven USB ports, a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Sienna XLE adds mooroof, sliding second-row seats, heated front seats, four-zone climate control for $40,575. The LE and XLE are supposed to be the more luxurious choices while the XSE has a sportier style. Additionally, the XSE also adds sport-tuned suspension and parking sensors for $42,825. The Woodland Edition starts at $45,500.

The Sienna Limited ($47,525) adds ventilated seats, sliding second-row chairs with ottomans and the Platinum ($50,725) tested here adds LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, windshield -sun, leather-wrapped seats and a bird’s-eye camera. This one also had the rear seat entertainment package for $1,415 with an 11.6-inch touchscreen and a few other items for a total price of $55,042 including destination.

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Regardless of its beauty, the cabin of the minivan is the most important part and the new Sienna did not disappoint. It doesn’t start with a storage space, just a general flat space. The armrest features a wide, flat tray that extends to the cupholders and gear lever. It’s big enough to hold a purse, phone, or papers for the next meeting.

It also has an in-dash tray that includes the wireless phone charger, but also a ton of space for keys, change, towels and whatever else accumulates in a vehicle designed for 7 or 8 passengers. In the Platinum trim, it is finished in matte wood, which makes it look even better.

There is also a huge storage space under the center console, not to mention the space in the doors and in the center armrest.

The cabin feels cavernous in the first and second row. These sliding captain’s chairs (with ottomans) in the middle row are extremely comfortable, although these footrests are NOT meant to be used while driving due to the operation of the seat belts. The third row can be very small or quite reasonable for adults when the second row (possibly with child seats) is slid forward.

Toyota Sienna 2022
The 2022 Toyota Sienna now has rear bubble fender flares.

The driving position in a minivan is always a bit more upright than most, but the Sienna leather-wrapped seats were soft and comfortable. The heating and cooling functions worked quickly and there were plenty of adjustments for different body types.

Toyota has made huge strides in its infotainment. The upgraded 11.6-inch touchscreen performed flawlessly during the week-long test. Wireless smartphone integration isn’t included yet, but Apple CarPlay worked well with a cord. The display has two buttons for volume and tuning along with several other redundant buttons if shoppers don’t always want to use the display.

The 2022 Sienna only offers one engine, a 189 horsepower four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and a hybrid battery pack for a total of 245 horsepower. This motor and battery work on the rear axle to add power when the road gets slippery. When not needed, it shuts off, saving energy and leading to an EPA rating of 35 miles per gallon.

In practice, the Sienna feels surprisingly quick from a standstill. The problem occurs when there is a little slippage or the driver turns the steering wheel too hard. In this case, the tires try to spin, which triggers traction control, sapping power. This happens less when taking off in a straight line.

The continuously variable transmission keeps the minivan moving, but like most of the class, it makes the engine feel tired and buzzy, even when it’s not. Overtaking maneuvers, even from higher speeds, are quite acceptable, even thrilling.

This Platinum model’s standard suspension and medium-effort steering keep the minivan on track and in its lane. Only the huge bumps affect occupant comfort and none transmit anything through the steering wheel.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard across the board with adaptive cruise, lane keeping, automatic high beams and traffic sign assist.

The Chrysler Pacifica is the giant of the minivan market, starting at around $37,000 with a V6, all-wheel drive is extra. The beautiful and cool Kia Carnival is cheaper at $32,600 and the Honda Odyssey has a base price of $37,340.

Minivans aren’t meant to be an exciting ride. They are meant to take you and six of your friends or family somewhere to have some fun afterwards. And in addition the Sienna is successful, and more efficient in doing so.

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