The Toyota Sienna family van enters the 2019 model year with standard Amazon Alexa and Apple CarPlay, compatibility for all grades, AWD for the SE grade as well as a slew of new options for LE and SE grades. Metro News Service photo

Toyota Sienna continues to engage in shrinking minivan segment

Keeping up with the Joneses (in their minivan)

Innovation and updates keep vehicles relevant in today’s automotive industry. That’s especially important when you’re a minivan.

That segment, once popular – although never hip – has fallen on down times. There are only a few minivans left in the segment. One of the best-selling ones is the Toyota Sienna. For 2019, the Sienna, once a cutting-edge competitor in the minivan segment, finds itself a bit long in the tooth. This doesn’t mean, however, the 2019 Toyota Sienna is not without merit, as I found out after spending a week with it.

Readers take note: I’m one of the few auto writers who still likes minivans. Believe me when I say, I’m pulling for nothing but success for the Sienna and its competitors. Minivans offer so much more to bigger families than SUVs.

A few years back, Toyota added all-wheel drive to the Sienna which was a bit of a game-changer for the segment. My tester this week came with AWD.

The Sienna still has the same 3.5-liter V6 that’s powered it for years. It’s a good engine. It makes almost 300 horsepower. While not a blazer off the line (why would you need that from a minivan?), the Sienna is well-powered. An eight-speed automatic transmission adds to the overall quality performance. The handling is superb for a vehicle of this length. As a people mover, it does not disappoint. The AWD adds extra confidence during changing road conditions. I can live with the drop in fuel economy as a result of the AWD.

On looks, the Sienna seems a little dated. Toyota should do it quickly before the segment loses more consumers. The Sienna was always one of the better-looking minivans on the road. That still is the case, despite it being a little long in the tooth. The rear spoiler adds some appeal to the Sienna’s profile and back end.

If there’s one area of the Sienna that hasn’t aged well it’s the interior. The cabin is spacious and certainly comfortable. However, some of the Sienna’s competitors have created more impressive interiors of late. Touchpoints are adequate. Cabin noise is minimal; that’s certainly a plus.

From a technology standpoint Toyota did add Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa to the infotainment system compatibility. That alone wins me over as CarPlay is really all you need when it comes to infotainment system connectivity and apps. Toyota does offer a nice line of apps that go along with the Entune system. The system is simple to use, and the 7-inch touchscreen is responsive. There’s a good combination of knobs and buttons.

The Sienna boasts a lot of cargo area, more than most three-row SUVs. Behind the third row, there’s 39.1 cubic feet of space. The third row folds flat easily and increases the cargo room to an impressive 87.1 cubic feet. To maximize the Sienna’s cargo haul you had to physically remove the second-row seats, which is clumsy and awkward. But in doing so, the total cargo volume is 150 cubic feet.

There are four trim offerings for the Sienna. My tester was the SE Premium. It came with leather seats, a pre-collision warning and pedestrian detection sensor system and a power sliding moonroof. MSRP for my tester was $44,865.

Fuel economy for the AWD version is 18 mpg/city and 24 mpg/highway. I struggled to get to 20 mpg on average for the week, hovering between 19 and 20 mpg. That is one down side to an AWD minivan.

There’s nothing chic about minivans. And the Toyota Sienna, though a stalwart in sales, has had the competition catch up to it. It’s time for Toyota to make a move on the Sienna and elevate it once again to the top of this unfortunately shrinking segment.

2019 TOYOTA SIENNA SE PREMIUM

  • Price/As-tested price………………………………………… $44,865/$46,298
  • Mileage…………………………………… 18 mpg/city; 24 mpg/hwy
  • Engine……………………………………… 3.5-liter
  • Horsepower…………………………… 296 hp/263 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission…………………………… 8-speed automatic
  • Drive wheels……………. All-wheel drive
  • Final assembly point……………. Princeton, Indiana