Minivan Review: 2023 Toyota Sienna XSE

The 2023 Toyota Sienna is still the Camry of minivans

Among those leaden of right foot, the 2.5L four-cylinder hybrid comes in for a bit of a drubbing. Despite a not-bad-on-paper combined 245 hp, the Sienna’s performance envelope is a bit, well, Squishmallow-y. Actual zero to 100km/h times are not terribly slow, but this big comfy box does not like to be rushed.

Compare the specs of the five minivans available in Canada

One caveat to would-be highway warriors is that the Sienna’s big bluff shape seems to be more susceptible to mileage losses at higher speeds. Fuel economy is rated at a combined 6.6 L/100 km, but observed mileage was at least two litres more on a quick-moving highway trip. In town, with more stop and go and a gentle foot on the throttle, Toyota’s proven hybrid system delivered as expected.

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XSE trim notwithstanding, the Sienna bears up best when treated as a motorized couch. Hurrying will barely save you five minutes, anyway, so better to roll slow and save fuel.

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For a family with two children (plus a mid-sized army of stuffed things), the Sienna offers basically invincible practicality. It is the master of any edge case, whether that’s ferrying the field hockey team to various drop off locations, scoring some fully-assembled Ikea furniture on Facebook marketplace, or just tossing the kids’ bikes in without worrying about fitting them to an exterior rack.

Further, the way the third row folds is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s ergonomically fine, and easy to use. However, with the seats folded into the bin, there are all kinds of cracks and crannies for things to fall into in. As in, all the bits of mud that just fell off the tires of your kid’s bike.

There’s also just acres of hard plastic here, which wipes down well but also shows the scratches from abuse. In fact, the entire cabin of the Sienna, while filled with useful cubbies, is a bit on the utilitarian side. On more-basic models, this is a feature rather than a complaint, but this 25th Anniversary XSE pegged the register at $54,615 before freight and taxes. A Limited AWD model is priced in the mid-60K range.

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Speaking of value, it’s worth taking a quick look at what’s in that 25th Anniversary package. Some features are shared with the Technology package, but the main takeaways are an upgraded 12-speaker audio, navigation, LED foglamps, folding legrests for your (now slightly spoiled) children, and a memory system for the driver seat and power tilt/telescoping steering.

Squishmallow in the 2023 Toyota Sienna XSE
Squishmallow in the 2023 Toyota Sienna XSEPhoto by Brendan McAleer

This is where the Sienna nameplate establishes itself as a twenty-five year veteran. Toyota knows its customers well, and while a few may grumble about the lack of a V6 offering here, the hybrid system and its thrifty fuel economy is a higher priority for most families. And while a few may wish for fancier appointments, especially at this price point, most will appreciate how the interior will take a bit of a kicking and scrub up clean.

Because, unlike my fluffy and outsized passenger, the Sienna is not a machine built as a fad. Instead, it is designed to carry them, be they overstuffed toys, three-wheeled scooters, a unicycle, hula-hoops, or whoever knows what comes next. It provides the room for whatever your kids want to bring along, up to and including other kids. Although there is perhaps an upper limit to even Sienna country. Squishmallows are one thing, but I’m starting to hear small voices opining quite a lot about the appeal of horses. Uh-oh.

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