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12 Best Family Cars: 2014 Toyota Sienna

By Keith Buglewicz on February 11, 2014 9:04 AM
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Put your feet up and relax. Literally.

You can sit back, put your feet up, and watch a movie in leather-lined comfort in your living room, or you can do it in the 2014 Toyota Sienna. With reclining captain's chairs -- including a footrest -- the Sienna may be the most passenger-accommodating minivan you can buy. And, with more varied configurations than any other minivan on the market, the Toyota Sienna is the perfect family-car for more than 100,000 families each year.

You'd think there wasn't much difference between the Toyota Sienna and its crosstown rival, the Honda Odyssey. But the two companies have taken different approaches family cars when it comes to the minivan market. Whereas Honda piles on the features the more you pay, each Toyota Sienna trim level is designed to appeal to a different customer. Whether you're looking for bare-bones transportation, a "sporty" family car for eight, or a luxury cruiser for seven people, the Sienna offers a model that's seemingly custom-designed. With the largest cargo area of any of the vehicles we tested, flexible seating, and the only all-wheel-drive system available on any minivan, the Sienna's popularity is well founded.

Key Family Car Strength

The usefulness of the Toyota Sienna's long-slide second row won us over. It gives 2nd-row passengers unbelievable legroom, giving you plenty of room to cinch in a booster seat. In the other direction, the seat bottom tilts up against the seatback, and the entire seat compresses forward, creating a huge amount of room for easy 3rd-row access, or locking in place for when you need to carry big loads, but don't want to lift a heavy seat out of the van. Then there's the recliner-like "lounge seating" option, complete with an integrated footrest, which would be impossible to use if it weren't for the 25 inches of seat travel.

Key Family Car Weakness

The Toyota Sienna is the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, but the all-wheel-drive model's floor is altered slightly to accommodate the extra hardware. The upshot is that the Sienna offers all-wheel drive or 8-passenger seating, but not at the same time. The Limited trim Sienna doesn't get the power-folding third row for the same reason. Speaking of the Limited, you can't get 8-passenger seating in it at all, since it comes standard with the reclining lounge seating.

Model Range

The Sienna comes in five different trim levels and three different seating configurations. The base L trim costs $27,780 and offers cruise control, front and rear air conditioning, the Sienna's long-slide 2nd-row seats (but without the lounge recliners), and the lineup's 3.5-liter V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. The popular LE trim adds automatic climate control, power sliding doors, and a backup camera as standard for $31,350 -- you can also add all-wheel drive for $2,430, and this mid-range trim also offers navigation and Toyota's Entune app suite. The $34,720 SE model targets those who want a sporty drive, and features a different instrument cluster, a lowered suspension, and sporty visual cues like 19-inch wheels and fog lights. All-wheel drive and leather seats aren't available, but you can get navigation and a rear-seat entertainment system (RSE). The XLE costs $34,505 and adds leather, a more comfortable suspension, lounge seating if you opt for all-wheel drive. You can also add a navigation and RSE to it as well. Then there's the $46,490 Toyota Sienna Limited, which adds a dual moonroof, 2nd-row lounge seating (regardless of whether you pick front-drive or all-wheel drive), yet another gauge package, and optional extras like active cruise control. Note that all prices include an $860 destination charge.

Family Friendliness

The Sienna's family-friendly sliding doors open wide, leave plenty of space between parked cars, and the minivan's floor makes it easy for even small children to scramble in and out. The Sienna's flip-and-slide 2nd-row seats give it a distinct advantage over the Honda Odyssey when it comes to accessing the third row, although the Honda Odyssey's rearmost seat is more comfortable. The lounge seats are fine for shorter passengers, but Toyota recommends sitting upright when the van's moving, diminishing the novelty. The LATCH points for baby seats were generally easy to use, although there were only three available in our test model. The RSE is also very good, and the wide screen can be split between the built-in DVD player and the available RCA inputs. Note that the Sienna does not offer HDMI inputs.

Cargo and Storage

The cargo well behind the third row was the biggest of any vehicle we tested, although some of us thought the exposed hinges for the Sienna's third row could snag luggage or accumulate crud over time. The Sienna's seats fold with a quick tug of a handle, opening up even more cargo space behind the second row. Like the Odyssey, you have to remove the second row seats for ultimate cargo space, but the Sienna has a unique trick up its sleeve. Instead of removing the seats, you can lock them into their forwardmost sliding position, creating a very large cargo area without wrestling heavy seats to the garage floor first. For eight passenger models, the 2nd-row seat removes and stows in a special compartment in the cargo area.

As for small storage, the Sienna was the hands-down champ in our family-car competition. There are cubbies everywhere, in the doors, on the center console, on the floor, and so on. It's as if Toyota's interior designers put a door or a bin everywhere there was a void in the dash. Top it off with the dual-level glovebox, and you've got storage for just about everything.

On the Road

The 2014 Toyota Sienna's 266-hp V6 engine has no problem muscling this big van up to highway speeds in just a few seconds. While we preferred the driving dynamics of the Honda Odyssey, the Sienna's competent out on the road. This minivan's louder than we expected though, although road noise is typical of minivans. We appreciated the available blind-spot detectors, which include rear cross-path detection, as well as the rearview camera and backup sensors that made it relatively easy to maneuver in parking lots (though the Sienna's old-school display doesn't support the predictive lines on the reverse camera that so many other vehicles in our test had). The display itself is also quite a bit smaller than today's state-of-the-art, and the small size made using some of the touch-screen controls difficult to use.

Final Word

A solid family-car buy no matter how you slice it, and available all-wheel drive is icing on the cake.

More 2014 Toyota Sienna at KBB.com

In addition to official family-friendly status, the Toyota Sienna also earned a 2014 Best Resale Value Award in the minivan segment. Build and price your own 2014 Toyota Sienna right here at KBB.com to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own and more.

 

12 Best Family Cars 2014

 

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