Here's one minivan that deserves a badge of honour!
Rumours of the minivan’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. My friends and fellow boy scout instructors were all enthused by the new 2011 Toyota Sienna, our unit’s dedicated fleet vehicle for summer camp.
If you study market trends, you’ll notice that minivans currently match large SUVs on sales charts. Toyota, for instance, sells as many Siennas as Highlanders, yet no one is predicting the death of the latter. So please, let’s put all these "dying breed" metaphors to rest, already!
In reality, a significant amount of drivers still need to carry either lots of passengers or lots of cargo — maybe even both. In fact, through the first quarter of 2010, nearly 40,000 Canadians and 225,000 Americans purchased a minivan, which represents about 5-6 percent of total car sales in both countries. Such numbers ensure that minivans are here to stay.
Not much diversity
The Toyota Sienna is one of only six minivans available in North America right now (the next-generation 2011 Nissan Quest won’t arrive until this winter and the Mazda5 really is in a class of its own due to major size differences). The Dodge Grand Caravan remains the segment’s leading model by a long shot, outselling the Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Chrysler Town & Country, Kia Sedona and Volkswagen Routan, in order.
The Toyota stands out in many ways. First of all, it’s the only one to offer all-wheel drive for its up-scale models as well as a 4-cylinder engine - a first for a Toyota minivan since the days of the Previa! The new-for-2011 exterior is 2-centimetre shorter overall (with a 5-cm shorter front overhang), making for an athletic silhouette according to designers. The body sides also look more muscular thanks to a sliding door rail that now runs along the lower side window line. Speaking of which, the sliding doors were made 3.5-centimetre wider to allow easier access to the cabin.
Doing its best
Our 4-cylinder LE tester positions itself at the very bottom of a stacked Sienna lineup (8 trim levels). But despite acting as the base model, the list of features and amenities is fairly extensive, including climate control, cruise control, power windows and heated mirrors to name a few.
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