Base Camp: 2021 Toyota Sienna LE FWD
Every week, wheels.ca selects a new vehicle on sale in Canada and takes a good look at its entry-level trim. If we find it worthy of your consideration, we'll let you know. If not, we'll recommend one that earns a passing grade.
Let’s be honest. If one truly – truly – needs three rows of passenger accommodation, a minivan is the most logical option. A crossover or SUV with a triplicate of seating generally invites compromise, whether it’s in the form of hampered third-row access or legroom suitable only for those decidedly short of limb.
A minivan solves these issues, albeit at a serious hit to one’s cool factor, given society’s stereotypes of vehicles with two sliding doors. Nevertheless, a few bright bulbs recognize there is a market for these things, generally to customers who don’t give a hoot what society thinks about their transportation choices.
Toyota completely overhauled its Sienna for the 2021 model year, introducing some new styling and a hybrid powertrain. Using lessons from its experience as purveyors of the Prius, this new Sienna has a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine working in tandem with two electric motors to produce 245 horsepower. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 brings goodies like dynamic cruise control and lane tracing assist as well. The entry-level LE trim is equipped with front-wheel drive as standard but all-wheel drive can be added for $2,000.
Modern assembly lines and supply chains often dictate that it is cheaper for a car company to simply endow base models with some of the same features as their more expensive brothers rather than design a new button configuration or door panel. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Sienna LE. Heated front seats keep the parental units warm while warring factions in the back can choose their own temperatures thanks to standard tri-zone climate control. Both sliding doors are power operated and feature a handy window sunshade. A heated steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake greets the driver along with the same gauges that pop up on more expensive trims.
Every Sienna, including the LE, gets a 9-inch touch screen infotainment system that works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are seven (seven!) USB ports scattered around the interior, one more than the total number of speakers. The lack of satellite radio capability is a disappointment but Driver Easy Speak ensures rug rats in the far row of seats will hear (but not necessarily heed) parental exhortations.
What We’d Choose
With that much standard kit, it is easy to recommend the $39,990 Sienna LE for those shopping in the minivan segment. Making the walk to all-wheel drive isn’t in the cards for us; we’d rather spend that money on a stout set of winter tires, pocketing the difference and enjoy the better fuel economy. Jumping to the $42,990 XLE trim brings hands-free functionality to the power doors, 4-zone climate control, and a few other toys. Once you’re in for that penny, you might as well be in for a pound and pop for the $45,690 XSE model and its captain’s chairs, premium audio, and jazzy exterior.
As for the rest of us, we’re content with the base LE, enjoying the savings (and the creature comforts) while ignoring those who spout epithets about uncool minivans.