Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


2020 Toyota Sienna: Venerable minivan promotes family values

No one buys a minivan hoping to prove themselves hip.

No one buys a minivan with dreams of scorching the asphalt at the Friday night drags.

They’re not imagining romantic moonlit cruises in glamorous locations. Or even impressing the neighbors.

Instead, minivan shoppers are focused on the fundamentals; comfort, safety and space. Loads and loads of space.

In minivan world, a good ride trumps handling. Efficiency matters more than performance. Reliability is valued over a pretty face.

Mixed bag of old and new

Since its 1997 debut, the Toyota Sienna has epitomized the core minivan virtues, but with one noteworthy exception; it’s the only minivan sold in the States available all-wheel drive.

Last made-over in 2010, the Sienna is one of the segment’s senior members. As such, it’s a mixed bag of old and new. Fresher vans offer more refined interiors and superior seating and storage options.

Others sport infotainment systems that are more intuitive and easier to use than Toyota’s Entune system.

But, when it comes to utility, functionality and overall value, it’s tough to beat the seven- or eight-passenger Sienna (AWD models seat seven) Sienna. Packed with features that simplify family life and has the segment’s largest cargo area.

The 2020 Sienna is sold in five main trims: L ($32,535), LE ($35,355), SE ($38,685), XLE ($38,685) and Limited ($45,430). The SE, XLE and Limited can be had in Premium sub-trims that, depending on trim, add navigation, JBL audio, a Blu-Ray-based rear-seat entertainment system and more. 

Nightshade Edition goes dark

Standard features on the L include automatic headlights, a wiper deicer, tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, a rearview camera, a conversation mirror, Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen with Toyota's Entune interface, Apple CarPlay integration, five USB ports, and a six-speaker sound system with CD player, media player interface and an auxiliary audio jack.

Toyota Safety Sense is also standard. It includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic headlights. 

For the 2020 model year, the Sienna SE and SE Premium trims are offered in a Nightshade Edition, which adds a black mesh grille, black door handles, black wheels, a black spoiler, black mirror caps and black Toyota badges. 

Class-appropriate performance

All Siennas are powered by a 296-horsepower V-6 paired with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic. All trims but the L can be had with AWD.

The Sienna runs the 0-60 sprint in 7.7 seconds, about average for the segment. A properly equipped Sienna can tow up to 3,500 pounds. 

Ride quality is quite good, both in town and out on the road. Steering feel is appropriately weighted and its responses are quick and accurate. Only a modicum of information is communicated from the road surface into the driver’s hands. 

A solid on-center groove means the Sienna tracks well in its lane.

Quiet, comfy cabin

Seats are large and supportive. Visibility is good in all directions and adjustable driver- and passenger seat armrests add an extra dollop of comfort.

Useful storage options stud the Sienna’s cabin, including a huge covered bin between the front seats and two generous glove boxes. Grippy rubber surfaces line the cubbies where small belongings are likely to be stored. 

Oddly, the main front-seat cupholders have a slippery base and lack anti-tip measures. 

The second and third rows of seating are fully adult-friendly. There’s generous storage behind the third row bench, thanks to the large well into which it folds.

Models equipped with navigation include the Driver Easy Speak system, which allows the driver to speak to rear-seat passengers via the audio speakers.

The third-row seats are easily folded into a well in the cargo-area floor. Second-row seats can be removed, but they’re heavy and their bases remain attached to the floor, so the resulting load floor isn’t flat. 

LE and XLE trims can be ordered with an industry-first auto-access seat for disabled folks. The powered, one-touch seat rotates for easy access and can be lowered to within 19 inches of the ground.

As long as there are families, there will be room in the market for minivans. And as long as there are minivans, there is likely to be Sienna.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at

2020 Toyota Sienna LTD Premium AWD
Vehicle base price: $32,535
Trim level base price: $49,190
As tested: $51,427 (includes destination and handling)
Options: alloy wheel locks; paint-protection film; chrome lower-door moldings; roof rack; carpeted floor mats; door-sill protectors; cargo net.
Tow rating: 3,500 pounds
EPA rating: 20 combined/18 city/24 highway

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.