2019 Toyota Sienna: Logic And Reason Over Emotion

Take a step back from the world today. Have a look at advertising, purchasing decisions, popular tv/video and yes even the political clown show. What do you see? Everything is based on emotion. Everything. By pulling at your emotions they hope to make you make decisions quickly, not think about it. Stimulus, response, pause, rather than stimulus, pause, response.

Herein lies the problem with Minivans in today’s market place. Station wagons may be more acceptable than Minivans in the current automotive fashion framework. Crossovers and SUV’s? They are like ice water in the desert, people can’t lap it up fast enough.

The Arguments

There are the usual reasons, they “look rugged”, you sit high, they “feel safe” and a litany of other bravo sierra reasons. It’s like people who shop at Eddie Bauer, they want to look like outdoor adventures without ever leaving the urban environment. Just one large facade.

Yet here is the Minivan. Sales continue to fall every year. And yet, they are more suited to today’s family lifestyle than ever before. My neighbor across the street has three kids under the age of eight. In their driveway is a two-row crossover and a three-row crossover. You see the kids have to climb up into the vehicles. All the stuff they haul around stacked in the back.

The Realities

When I had the Toyota Sienna in for review I did a little test. The family was heading “Up North” for the weekend and I quickly asked if I could see how the kids and all the gear would fit into the Sienna. Everyone had more room, there was a ton of extra room for more stuff. In other words a far better choice than their three-row crossover.

For my own purposes, loading our Irish Wolfhound was a piece of cake compared to doing the same with my wife’s Ford Edge. My wife even thought that the Sienna was more practical than her Edge.

The problem for Minivans, in general, is that while they are oh so useful, they are not sexy. Yes, Toyota tried to have fun with that image advertising the Sienna as the “Swagger Wagon” and while that had a minute in the sun, Toyota didn’t stick with it.

Drive a Minivan and people have the illusion that you are boring. Drive a three-row crossover and the illusion is that you are hip, smart, forward-thinking. Pure, unmitigated bullshit! Just one more person, following the trend, afraid to think for themselves.

The Conclusions

At the end of the day, Minivans are a far better choice for America’s families than just about every three-row crossover on the market. This Toyota Sienna is a good example of that. It’s quiet, well built, hugely spacious, returns fair fuel economy, and drives just as well, if not better than most crossovers.

The Sienna XLE that I had in for review starts at $39,695 and had an as tested price of $44,918. You can save $2,400 by skipping the rear seat entertainment package since an Amazon Fire tablet or an iPad is far less expensive.

My week with the Sienna did nothing but confirm my personal inclination, based on standing back and looking at things objectively, that more people need to be buying vehicles like the Sienna and far fewer of any crossover.

30 Comments

    1. I’ve learned to expect that Trytko’s “reviews” are in reality just editorials. In my typical blunt fashion, I remarked on the lack of specifics in a “review” he did on a Volvo a few weeks back. Judging from his response, he either doesn’t understand the difference, or else doesn’t care to make the distinction. Regardless, this article was easier for me to read and digest, having revised my expectations.

      For the sake of personal disclosure, I declare that everything I write on this site is primarily opinion, often openly biased, and sprinkled with various amounts of information I think is factual. In cases where I’m outright wrong, I hope people will correct me. In cases where people disagree, I hope people express contrary opinions. I often find disagreement as enlightening as agreement is comforting.

      1. I’m fine with both the opinion piece and your reaction to it, really. It’s just that this one was pretty generic – the thing about rational vans that are better than SUVs has been written, read and said a gazillion times before, especially around here. Take that away from the text above…and there’s hardly any review or insight on the Toyota left. You’re right in that I didn’t quite expect that. Would have been a decent “last call” though.

      2. I’m fine with both the opinion piece and your reaction to it, really. It’s just that this one was pretty generic – the thing about rational vans that are better than SUVs has been written, read and said a gazillion times before, especially around here. Take that away from the text above…and there’s hardly any review or insight on the Toyota left. You’re right in that I didn’t quite expect that. Would have been a decent “last call” though.

  1. “Just one more person, following the trend, afraid to think for themselves.”

    I prefer to believe that my automotive choices demonstrate that I neither follow trends nor engage in thought.

  2. Is that a seat belt running from floor to ceiling in the shot of the load area?

    I’m also picturing a lifted version with cladding etc.

    1. Yes, although it does unclip from the seat if you want, and there’s a little slot in the roof where the belt can clip in when not in use

      1. Aha, seeing the photo on a bigger screen it is attached to the folded seat – it looked like the reel was in the floor, which didn’t make sense.

  3. I’ve said it before.. Minivans are ironically, the most rock and roll vehicle out there, as families moved away from them, the hip people ads try to portray as driving SUVs, buy used minivans and vans. One of my favorite recent bands, used to tour Europe in a Ford Galaxy/Seat Alahambra type thing and if you’ve seen them live, they’re pretty rock and roll in that gleefully chaotic messy way. It’s pretty hard to fit a band drum kit, instruments and amps in your three row crossover… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpQgrWndsLg

    Mind you, there was a time when Europeans carted six people around with only 600cc. https://cdn.bringatrailer.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/1959_fiat_600_multipla_1547319841f2e1b276f7ebd598DSC_0470-940×678.jpg

    1. VW Sharan diesel is my go-to when I have to cart around a pile of relatives during visits to N Ireland, and I kind of like the stupid things. There’s also the unending comedy of yelling “Sharon!” in a fake Ozzie Osborne voice every few minutes…

  4. I actually envy the large MPVs that the US can get, you can’t even buy the smaller Espace or Voyager/Pacifica in much of Europe anymore, but one thing that puzzles me is why the Sienna was developed for the US, but Japan gets the seeming similar (but cooler, because JDM yo!) Alphard that doesn’t even share a platform. Is there a size difference? https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/25/2016_Toyota_Alphard_2.5_G_van_%28AGH30R%3B_12-22-2018%29%2C_South_Tangerang.jpg/1280px-2016_Toyota_Alphard_2.5_G_van_%28AGH30R%3B_12-22-2018%29%2C_South_Tangerang.jpg

    1. They don’t look significantly larger or smaller, the Sienna and Odyssey come with relatively big V-6’s, not sure what the Alphards get for powerplants. The answer is likely in the platforms. The Sienna runs on the Camry architecture and the Odyssey uses the same bones as the Pilot/Highlander/Passport. I’m guessing Eastern supply chains reach critical mass efficiently another way.

      I did ride in a HiAce in the Caribbean once, it was nearly as large as a full sized North American spec van.

      1. The Alphard is about 6″ shorter and narrower, just over 1″ less wheelbase. Basically has Camry drivetrain options but the platform is shared with previous Corolla, RAV4 etc (for what that’s worth).

        The SLWB HiAce would still be several inches narrower than a US van, just 74″ wide. It is basically a box though, no extra width below window sill level.

  5. I don’t get the “sexy” argument– crossovers are not in any way sexier than a minivan. They lack the ruggedness of a truck or legitimate SUV, are not nearly as sporty as a coupe, and their overall shape isn’t any more attractive than the minivan’s. They all look pretty generic to my eyes. I don’t see where a FWD crossover is superior to a minivan in any measure at all. Unless “sexy” is equivalent to “giving up practical amenities for the sake of ego”, then I don’t understand the general perception.

    My three kids would be pissed if I drove anything other than a minivan. They think they support me in my desire to buy a Jeep Wrangler, but after a week I know they’d be begging for the ride and space that the minivan provides.

    Besides, two words alone nearly win the battle in favor of the minivan: SLIDING DOORS.

    1. But you do see how the perceived adventureness of SUVs is a sales argument? Remember how it all started with pedestrian carmakers: The Legacy Outback, Volvo V70 XC and Audi A6 Allroad. Basically plastic cladding on wagons that were first lowered due to improved emissions standards, then lifted to “1990s height” with some sort of action-feelz attached.

      On my way to exercise tonight, I saw one of these for the first time:

      https://i.ibb.co/L6mmq5L/Dorkbike.jpg

      They just look so…dorky. Really, really dumb. Yet I regretted my reaction immediately, thinking of this discussion here. It’s quite possible such a three wheeler has huge, rational advantages over a normal motorbike. It’s just…not too smart looking. I guess it affects all of us, somehow.

    2. Exactly. Nobody sees someone driving by in an Atlas or Pilot or and thinks it’s a cool as a new Mustang or what have you. Nobody is fooled by it.

    3. But you do see how the perceived adventureness of SUVs is a sales argument? Remember how it all started with pedestrian carmakers: The Legacy Outback, Volvo V70 XC and Audi A6 Allroad. Basically plastic cladding on wagons that were first lowered due to improved emissions standards, then lifted to “1990s height” with some sort of action-feelz attached.

      On my way to exercise tonight, I saw one of these for the first time:

      https://i.ibb.co/L6mmq5L/Dorkbike.jpg

      They just look so…dorky. Really, really dumb. Yet I regretted my reaction immediately, thinking of this discussion here. It’s quite possible such a three wheeler has huge, rational advantages over a normal motorbike. It’s just…not too smart looking. I guess it affects all of us, somehow.

    4. Exactly. Nobody sees someone driving by in an Atlas or Pilot or and thinks it’s a cool as a new Mustang or what have you. Nobody is fooled by it.

    5. Years ago we moved from an Odyssey to a FWD Saturn Outlook for one advantage – towing. We had a relatively large pop up camper and were very close to the Odyssey’s 3500 pound limit. The Outlook with its 5200 pound limit towed that camper much better.

      Of course it was worse for everything else. We had to buy a hitch mounted cargo carrier for trips without the camper because we couldn’t fit everything inside. It used more fuel. It was harder to see out of. Tires cost more. Aside from towing, the Odyssey was a objectively superior vehicle.

  6. The choice of a CUV over a Minivan comes down to a very simple factor:

    Did your parents lug you and your siblings to soccer practice in a minivan? Did you ever have to use your parent’s minivan on a high school date ? Is that a gray hair you have? Are you afraid you are turning into your parents? Are you still really hip and cool, even though you never ride your mountain bike any more?

    1. My parents owned a minivan. I went on tons of dates in a high school girlfriend parents minivan. I threw up in the backseat of it on our first date when her dad was driving (we weren’t 16 yet). Hell, I took the engine out of it to rebuild it. Rode around in tons of friends parent’s hand me down minivans.

      I got a minivan. I love it.

      My brother drove our parents van tons in high school. His wife rode in one as a kid, too. They own one. My sister in law and her husbands parents both had minivans. They own one.

      So yeah, still don’t get it.

      A large SUV/crossover screams soccer mom just as much as a minivan. It’s just far less space efficient and nowhere near as good at the job as a minivan. Your not fooling anybody in a Traverse. Nobody is going to think it’s a dang corvette or something. I’ll never understand what is wrong with a vehicle choice that reflects your lifestyle choices. A minivan is a purpose built, engineered family hauler. What’s wrong with looking like a mom/dad when you are one?

    2. My parents owned a minivan. I went on tons of dates in a high school girlfriend parents minivan. I threw up in the backseat of it on our first date when her dad was driving (we weren’t 16 yet). Hell, I took the engine out of it to rebuild it. Rode around in tons of friends parent’s hand me down minivans.

      I got a minivan. I love it.

      My brother drove our parents van tons in high school. His wife rode in one as a kid, too. They own one. My sister in law and her husbands parents both had minivans. They own one.

      So yeah, still don’t get it.

      A large SUV/crossover screams soccer mom just as much as a minivan. It’s just far less space efficient and nowhere near as good at the job as a minivan. Your not fooling anybody in a Traverse. Nobody is going to think it’s a dang corvette or something. I’ll never understand what is wrong with a vehicle choice that reflects your lifestyle choices. A minivan is a purpose built, engineered family hauler. What’s wrong with looking like a mom/dad when you are one?

    3. My parents owned a minivan. I went on tons of dates in a high school girlfriend parents minivan. I threw up in the backseat of it on our first date when her dad was driving (we weren’t 16 yet). Hell, I took the engine out of it to rebuild it. Rode around in tons of friends parent’s hand me down minivans.

      I got a minivan. I love it.

      My brother drove our parents van tons in high school. His wife rode in one as a kid, too. They own one. My sister in law and her husbands parents both had minivans. They own one.

      So yeah, still don’t get it.

      A large SUV/crossover screams soccer mom just as much as a minivan. It’s just far less space efficient and nowhere near as good at the job as a minivan. Your not fooling anybody in a Traverse. Nobody is going to think it’s a dang corvette or something. I’ll never understand what is wrong with a vehicle choice that reflects your lifestyle choices. A minivan is a purpose built, engineered family hauler. What’s wrong with looking like a mom/dad when you are one?

  7. Minivans are rational, crossovers are emotional, and the best argument for the minivan remains Dan Neil’s “African Savannah” article in the LA Times.

    The Sienna needs to lose the cow catcher grille, the Kia Sedona and Honda Odyssey are much better looking while staying equally utilitarian.

  8. I’ve owned SUVs for the last 15 years with 2 kids and a dog. The “U” is relative. The same family (sans dog) has been renting 7-pax turbo diesel manual transmission Ford, Opel and Hyundai minivans every year in Europe- much better fit.
    If someone had offered one of those here we probably would have bought one instead.
    Agree that the “review” isn’t much of a review, but it s à van. Is he supposed to run it around the Nurburgring? It has seats, A/C and Bluetooth- maybe 4wd. It’s just like every other minivan offered in the US.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here