Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we’ll let you know. If not, we’ll recommend one – or the required options – that earns a passing grade.
Even though SUVs and crossovers have long usurped minivans as the family vehicle of choice for many Canadians, a few manufacturers continue to invest heavily in the development of these boxes on wheels. Despite fewer options, there is an argument to be made that the vans which do remain are the best of their breed.
Toyota recently re-upped in this segment by adding four-cylinder hybrid power as standard equipment in their Sienna minivan. While it only manages 245 horsepower, its real-world fuel economy is very attractive, with our tests turning up an impressive 6.5L/100km performance. Customers will get this powertrain no matter how much cash they spend on a Sienna, though all-wheel drive is an extra-cost option.
Practicality is any van’s raison d’etre, and the Sienna brings the goods in this regard. Even the base LE trim ($4x,xxx) has tri-zone climate control, for example, ensuring both front seat passengers and the peanut gallery can adjust ambient temperature to their own desires. This makes more of a difference than one may think on long journeys. The front chairs are heated, with the driver’s receiving power adjustments, while the side view mirrors and wiper park area also benefit from heated grids. That leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated, too.
Digital goodies on the LE include a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen, an ample number of USB charging ports (some of which are handily placed on the dashboard’s ‘flying bridge’) and safety kit like Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 plus a blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
Styling generally doesn’t rank too high on the priority list for most minivan shoppers, but it helps if the thing doesn’t look like a battered hamster. Toyota says the Sienna’s headlamps are meant to evoke the Japanese bullet train, and the van’s side panels have some visually interesting flared surfaces. The lack of colour selection on the base LE is irritating but at least the trio of greyscale paint choices are all zero dollar options.
What We’d Choose
Choosing to spend an extra $1,860 on all-wheel drive seems like a no-brainer, though we still heartily recommend springing for a full set of good-quality winter tires. Making the several thousand dollar walk to the next-rung XLE trim is less clear cut, unless one is hell bent on features like a moonroof and quad-zone climate control. However, there is a case to be made that the Softex (read: fake leather) seats in the XLE are easier to clean, no small consideration when families are involved.
Still, that $3,000 price difference can buy an awful lot of wipes and a really good wet/dry vacuum. Since minivans are the most practical things on the road, it only makes sense to be prudent with one’s purchasing decision as well. We’ll stick with the LE trim – though the selection of all-wheel drive is up to you.