2011 Toyota Sienna

By Mathieu Yuill

In the battle of premium minivans there are just two competitors: the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna. While Dodge owns two-thirds of the minivan market, Toyota and Honda battle it out fairly evenly for second spot.

Minivans have seen their fair share of innovation over the past decade. From dual side doors through seats that fold into the floor, they have become increasingly utilitarian while retaining their car-like drive.

The 2011 Sienna is available in eight different configurations including a $27,900 four-cylinder version, but unless your last name is Enterprise or Thrifty you should probably steer clear of it. The other models, equipped with a V-6 engine range in price from $28,900 to just under $50,000. For this model year Toyota launched the STAR safety system, which includes brake assist, traction control and four other safety features.

The Sienna drives like a Toyota should: smooth, refined and without any hiccups while getting from zero to highway cruising speed. But when buying a minivan the drive quality is only part of the equation. It’s the 75 per cent of the vehicle behind the front seats that matter.

Every model has middle row captains chairs that have simple levers to access the third row of seats. And fortunately for those of us with big hips, when the middle row chairs are moved forward and out of the way there’s plenty of room to get back there.

Starting with the $32,500 model there are climate controls for three zones, USB port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth for hooking your mobile phone up to the minivan’s hands-free audio system, back-up camera which makes parking much easier and dual sliding doors.

In the past I found dual sliding doors a bit of an excessive luxury, but it’s a big bonus when your hands are full and you can walk up to the Sienna with its side doors open and ready for you to dump the contents in the back.

The Sienna was completely redesigned for 2011 and took home the Best New Minivan Award from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, making it a must-look when searching for a new people mover.