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2017 Toyota Sienna keeps it old school; remains a reliable minivan option Featured

Oct 07, 2017 Hit: 67 Written by 
The 2017 Toyota Sienna is an unapologetic, old-school minivan; and still has its fans after two decades on sale.
The 2017 Toyota Sienna is an unapologetic, old-school minivan; and still has its fans after two decades on sale. Photo by Matt Myftiu/AutoTechReviews.com

Let’s be honest: The last time minivans were considered cool, the original “Ghostbusters” movie had just come out in the theater. Since then, their reputation has gone steadily downhill.

That’s why the death of the minivan has been trumpeted for years by naysayers, who claim SUVs are now the better alternative. And on one hand they are somewhat accurate, with minivan sales dwarfed more and more each year by the endless parade of compact, midsize and full-size SUVs flooding the market right now.

On the other hand, while some minivans are dying off (RIP Mazda5 and Nissan Quest), others are proudly continuing to bear the soccer mom-car badge -- including Honda’s Odyssey, Chrysler’s new Pacifica, the Kia Sedona and the vehicle I just tested -- the 2017 Toyota Sienna, which has proudly carried families for the past two decades.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle:: 2017 Toyota Sienna
  • Price as tested:: $40,175 (starts at $29,750)
  • Best feature:: Practical vehicle for families, reliability, only minivan currently offering AWD
  • Rating:: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?:: Families who are old-school and still prefer minivans to SUVs, and want Toyota reliability


LOOKS

Let’s get superficial first and talk looks. Like all minivans, this is not a sexy ride, and some might call it downright frumpy. But these are vehicles that sell based on function, not beauty. Get a sports car if that’s what you’re looking for.

Exteriorwise, the styling on the Sienna is a bit dated compared to the other minivans available, and it could use a refresh, but it’s not a deal-breaker for me.

This vehicle is built for utility. It’s roomy inside by all measures, and easy to get around.

My test vehicle had the 2-2-3 seating setup with captain’s chairs in center row and could seat 7 comfortably, but you can also opt for 8-person seating (which not a lot of vehicles offer these days). There is plenty of storage space through the vehicle for whatever you might want to bring along.

ENGINE, HORSEPOWER

The 2017 Toyota Sienna features a 3.5-liter, V6 engine; paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Official numbers are 296 for horsepower, and 263 lb.-ft. of torque.

While those number may sound impressive for a minivan, it still doesn’t mean too much. The Sienna is large and takes a while to get moving.  But you're taking your kids to school and not running the Daytona 500, so the benefits of the vehicle should outweigh this concern.

On the plus side, one important thing to note here is you can get an all-wheel-drive version of the Sienna, something that you won’t find on any the minivan competition presently. That may be a huge draw for folks in bad-weather locations.


TECHNOLOGY, SAFETY

The controls on the Sienna are very well-placed and easy to use, but the system looks quite outdated, almost like a 1980s video game. It functions very well, but the look and design disappoint compared to rival minivans. I also found it was a long reach to the volume control knob, but I did have the backup of using the steering wheel controls.
One positive on the tech front is the dual-screen option, which allows you to put half your screen on the radio and the other half on navigation, for example. Voice commands work great to find area businesses and get you going there via navigation, so you should never get lost. Also, rear seat entertainment is available to keep the little ones entertained.

And since this is a family vehicle, safety is one of the key factors potential buyers will take into account. Toyota vehicles are known to be extremely reliable and safe (a five star overall government safety rating backs that up), and based on that alone the Sienna is always going to be a worthy contender in the category.

MPG
Official fuel mileage numbers on the AWD version of the Sienna are 18 city/24 highway/20 combined. Front-wheel drive version is 19/24/22, which is as good as you’ll get in any minivan still being sold in this country. In my real-time testing, I averaged 19 mpg.

PRICE
The Sienna I tested came in at just over $40,000 with all its options; Base price on the vehicle starts about $29,750, which is on par with the Honda Odyssey, just slightly more than the Chrysler Pacifica, and a few thousand more than the Kia Sedona. With all these options being so close, price shouldn’t be a deterrent for any of these minivan models -- and it will come down to your automaker tastes and preferences, and how much you anticipate maintenance will cost in the coming years.

BOTTOM LINE

Introduced way back in 1998, the Toyota Sienna is one of the few minivans still carrying on the legacy of this dwindling style of vehicle in an era of SUVs. But fear not, because between Toyota’s reliability, strong safety reputation, roominess and its optional all-wheel-drive, the Sienna should continue to transport many kids to soccer practice for many years to come. It may not be the most thrilling ride to get there, but all the people and equipment that need to get there will make it with ease and in comfort.

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Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Last modified on Saturday, 07 October 2017 23:17
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Matt Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

Website: www.autotechreviews.com

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