2015 Toyota Sienna Surprises with Versatility and Kid Friendly Access
I’m not a mini-van fan. I find their looks lackluster, their size bulky and I think for the money, I’d rather buy a truck. However, after driving around a 2015 Toyota Sienna Limited for a week, I could be persuaded.
One of the first things I noticed with the Sienna is the versatility. During my week of driving, I took boxes to recycling, a stroller to Goodwill and hauled 4 8’ long 2x4s between the second and third row of seats. To be honest, I used it like a truck and it worked pretty darn well.
In fact, I hauled so many things, including my two kids, I never even put the third-row seats into use. Like many mini-vans these days, the third-row is stowed flat in the rear. Besides an obtrusive middle seat belt strap attached to the ceiling, the rear is nearly the size of a mid-size truck bed.
The amount of cargo space was really surprising and I can see why it makes a good travel or large family vehicle.
Why do mini-vans get the rap as a “soccer mom” vehicle? Simple, they are ideally setup for kids to use.
My two boys, 5 and 3, loved the van. The entry/exit was a great height for them and they had tons of space between them.
They also really liked the independence from closing their own doors. Like most mini-vans, the Sienna has sliding middle doors. What I didn’t know was all the ways to operate these doors. There are buttons on the remote to open both sides. You can also grab the door handle and pull it out to get them to automatically shut. Then, there is a inside button behind the drivers and passengers seats to close the doors. Finally, there are buttons on the ceiling near the sunglass holder.
Dropping the kids off at school was a breeze with all of these buttons. Pull up, put it in park and hit the button to open the door. By the time I got out to unstrap my 3-year-old son, the door was already open. As I walked away, the door closed by itself with a simple tug of the door handle.
This kid access is a big deal. Honestly, I had a Cadillac Escalade dropped off a few days after I got the Sienna. After driving around the Sienna and looking at how tall the Escalade was for the boys to hop in and out, guess which one sat – the Escalade. That says a lot for the Sienna.
Only Van With AWD
Another interesting tidbit is the Sienna is the only full-size mini-van with AWD. None of the other models like the Chrysler Town and Country, Honda Odyssey or Kia Sedona offer AWD. With the long wheel base, I found this surprising. I could easily see the backend sliding around on ice.
This, in my mind, is a huge advantage for the Sienna. Sure, it isn’t a feature you would use all the time and sure, it cuts down on fuel economy vs. a straight FWD van, yet when you are talking about family safety, I’ll take the one with AWD over saving a few bucks at the pump.
I’ve talked with other automakers and they tell me the trend to stowed seating makes AWD an obstacle since they are limited in the amount of room they have around the rear axle. After driving the Sienna, I don’t get it. The Sienna’s seats stow and it has AWD.
I could really go on and on about the many features like the large moonroof in the rear, the powered rear vents (rear window pops open), the amount of reading lights and the available rear-seat DVD system (if you don’t have kids, you don’t understand how BIG of a deal this feature is). This mini-van is really a solid family choice.
With all this acclaim, there were a few things I didn’t like. I was surprised at how obtrusive the A pillar was for the driver. With my seat position, it often forced me to lean forward to see around it. Also, I’m not a big fan of the way the center console is setup. I think Toyota could borrow from the Highlander and create a longer center console with storage below it. Finally, the climate controls feel like they are from the 80s and could use some updating.
In the end, I was/am/still surprised how much my opinion changed on mini-vans. I get it and I could be persuaded to buy one. Just don’t tell my wife that!
Model: 2015 Toyota Sienna Limited
Engine: 3.5L V6
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 16/23/19 city/highway/combined
- Roof Rack Cross Bars – $185
- Remote Engine Start – $499
- Four Season Floor Mat Package – $475
Price as tested: $44,824 with $885 delivery fee
Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com