Speed Dating: We Spend an Hour With the 2021 Toyota Sienna

Just a few short weeks ago, I had occasion to briefly . This "one on one" presentation - only one member of the automotive press at a time, out of what what they call ‘an overabundance of caution’ - was certainly unusual after so many years of covering the world s largest industry, but in the context of the current pandemic, this solution conjured up by Toyota Canada has the big merit of letting us learn more about a new vehicle that what can be found in a press release and a photo gallery.

Last week, it was the turn of the other new 2021 hybrid, the Sienna minivan, to be brought out for show and tell. The model is getting a radical makeover after 10 years in much the same shape. In the process, the most versatile and practical of Toyota models also becomes the 10th in the company’s Canadian lineup to offer an electrified powertrain – a mere 20 years after the very first Prius appeared in 2000.

The only thing different between the two Toyota meet-and-greets – other than the model itself, of course - was the venue. With summer in full swing, the event was held in the great outdoors. For the rest, though, this speed dating session with the Sienna followed the same script as that with the Venza crossover back in May.

Photo: V.Aubé

2021 Toyota Sienna, blue and red

Enough of all that though; here are the highlights of our first contact with the new 2021 Toyota Sienna which, for the occasion, was presented in two trim levels: XSE front-wheel drive and Platinum four-wheel drive. Note also that both vehicles were pre-production vehicles, a detail that explains, among other things, the glossy finishes of certain plastics in the cabin.

A word about the design

As always, the manufacturer s official images look great, what with the spectacular scenery and superb image quality. But they don t deliver the more rounded impression a tour of the vehicle in person provides. For this fourth generation of the minivan, Toyota’s design department decided to go for a more dramatic silhouette, in line with the brand s recent creations, notably the revised 2020 Highlander . The bumper features a huge mesh screen under the Sienna s blue badge, while the hood is raised, not only for better safety in a collision, but also to give this minivan a look that snuggles up more intimately with three magic letters: SUV.

Photo: V.Aubé

2021 Toyota Sienna, profile

From the side, the new Sienna has fairly plain windows, the exact opposite of the muscular fenders that end with the pinched taillights at the rear. This design stroke forced the engineers to come up with an unusually shaped fuel-tank door. And since the trendy thing is to equip new models with large-diameter rims, the Sienna gets shod in 20-inch wheels that, I must admit, look small in those big wheel arches. I’ll bet that a set of 22-inch wheels will be added to the list of options in the next year or two.

On the inside...

The interior, invariably a minivan s greatest strength because of all the available space and the comfort that comes with such a roomy vehicle, reveals both many things you’d expect to find and a few surprises. Let s start with the new features, which on their own are often the ones designed to get consumers drooling.  And so we find a dashboard that’s a complete departure from that of the outgoing model, especially the raised and floating centre console. Underneath it, a large empty space just begs to accommodate a backpack or purse.
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