INTRO: When Richard Tawton was driving home from his job as a Para-Transit bus driver this spring, he was waiting at a red light when another driver started honking at him. When he lowered his window to see what was going on, the driver in the next vehicle over yelled out excitedly: “I just bought one, too!”
The driver was referring to the 2021 Toyota Sienna XLE minivan that Tawton was driving, which just hit the market in Canada earlier this year. It seems Tawton wasn’t the only one who had his eye on the fourth generation of the Sienna, which is a complete revamp from the minivan’s previous iteration. For one thing, it’s a hybrid-only model, inspired by Japanese bullet trains, which gives it a unique exterior (like, well, a bullet train), with a front bumper that juts outward. Gone is the V6, replaced by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, powered by a hybrid-electric powertrain.
When Toyota announced the release of the minivan last fall with an online reveal, that’s when Tawton knew he had to have it. He tells us why he loves his vehicle:
FIRST PERSON: “When they announced it, I ordered it right away, and I was the first one out of the dealership to get the Sienna — right now they’re back-ordered, they can’t get enough of them,” said Tawton, who purchased his minivan from Meadowvale Toyota in Mississauga. “They found me one in the ‘blueprint’ colour. It’s a deep, deep blue.
“This design is sold exclusively as a hybrid. The Sienna’s overall fuel economy easily bests other minivans. I feel the XLE trim offers the best value — I have the seven-passenger AWL trim. I need the all-wheel drive to help me get to my job in Caledon, which has a lot of gravel roads.”
Tawton lives in Cooksville and is semi-retired but works as a bus driver two to three days a week for Caledon Community Services in the Region of Peel. “I drive into Caledon each time — that’s why I bought the Sienna, because it’s available in all-wheel-drive, and I feel you need that to drive in Canada,” he said.
He also keeps active with organizations such the Hamilton Trail Blazers hiking, volunteers for the Royal Ontario Museum, takes cooking lessons at George Brown College and leads historical or architectural walking tours in Toronto for Walk and Roll — which have just started up again. All of this to say, he spends a lot of time on the road.
“It’s very stylish, it’s great looking, it’s got fantastic headlights,” Tawton said. “I have long slide seats in the back — it’s a seven-seater and it’s like limo seating back there. You can slide them right back and fold the seats up, and you can put a sleeping bag or a full-size bike back there. But it’s also great on gas, about 800 to 900 kilometres per tank.
“And I’m not a tech geek, but this has got more computing power in it than the original space shuttle.”
A CLOSER LOOK: 2021 Toyota Sienna XLE
Minivans are often considered the domain of soccer moms, where practicality trumps style. But the Sienna 2021 offers a much more stylish interior than its predecessors, taking the dated minivan of yesteryear into the future. For example, there’s a floating centre console that provides a large storage space below, of which Tawton is a big fan. “You can place a lot of stuff under it. I put my PPE masks and cleaning supplies there. You can charge your phone there, above it, or under it — and so much more.”
One of the biggest perks is that you don’t have to pay extra for a hybrid powertrain, because it comes standard with the 2021 model — rated at 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres combined fuel consumption. “It is so great on gas for its size,” said Tawton. “Great in snow and ice. I feel so safe in it, and it is the only one in the van market that is a hybrid … with AWD.” The Sienna 2021 is also based on Toyota’s TNGA-K platform, so steering is more precise and handling more secure.
From a sunroof to heated seats, this is a minivan that’s built for drivers, not just hauling kids to soccer games. “I always wanted a heated steering wheel. It is so nice to have on a cold day,” said Tawton. “It has SofTex vinyl seats, so easy to clean, plus they have three levels of heat in them.” Speaking of seats, legroom has increased in both the second and third rows, while the second row features captain’s chairs that can recline and even slide back and forth.