1998 Toyota Sienna

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1998 Toyota Sienna
Available in 4 styles:  Sienna CE shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

18 city / 24 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 7
1998 Toyota Sienna 4.3 7
$ 1,001-5,573
February 28, 1998
Toyota finally has produced a minivan that could give the domestics a run for their money.

The Sienna is the same sort of rolling jelly bean being produced by Detroit's Big 3, emulating the spacious front-drive configuration pioneered by Chrysler. As such, it has nearly the same styling, interior setup, driveability and utility of Plymouth Voyager, Ford Windstar, Chevrolet Venture or Mercury Villager.

Toyota's previous minivans never quite cut it, though the midengine Previa had some style and substance. Unfortunately, a four-cylinder engine was the only power available and didn't compare well with the powerful V-6s and maneuverable front-wheel drives offered elsewhere.

The Sienna is based on the popular Camry, and is built right next to the sedan in Toyota's Georgetown, Ky., plant.

Camry's strong 194-horse V-6 also powers the minivan, providing plenty of oomph for a load of soccer players, big or little. The minivan also gets a modified version of Camry's sophisticated platform, adding refined driveability to the mix. The ride is smooth and comfortable, with decent handling despite pronounced body sway. Highway manners are impeccable.

Compared with the domestic models, Sienna feels solid and refined, as if Toyota set out to improve the quality of the basic package.

The styling is generic '90s minivan, pleasantly rounded and streamlined for optimum aerodynamics and space utilization. Only subtle differences, such as the position of the taillights, differentiate Sienna from Voyager, etc.

Sliding rear passenger doors are on both sides, a recent fixation among minivan manufacturers trying to get the latest edge.

The interior takes the same utilitarian approach, comfortably seating seven in a tall, airy cabin with lots of cubbies and cupholders.

The dashboard is solid and straightforward, typical Toyota stuff. The only beef here is that the top of the dash is very deep to accommodate the sharply canted windshield. This makes the Sienna feel somewhat ungainly, like a moving van instead of a minivan.

Another minor complaint is that the center row of captain's chairs makes it hard to climb back to the rear bench seat, despite the four-door configuration. Hmmm. Maybe six-door minivans will be the next big thing.

Then again, maybe not.

The interior also suffers from the same malaise of every one of this minivan genre: With all the seats in place, the luggage room behind the third seat is skimpy at best. Fortunately, the third seat folds to provide more space, just like those in other minivans.

One of my boys demonstrated how he could incline the rear seat and fold a middle seat into a footstool, allowing him to travel reclined.

Sienna arrives at a time when minivans are not really a hot item in the marketplace, replaced by sport-utility vehicles and the recently rising ranks of small station wagons. And the Sienna has been criticized for its lack of innovation - that Toyota merely copied the successf ul formula of U.S. minivans.

Critics also say Sienna is too expensive, costing thousands more than its U.S. counterparts.

So what does Sienna have going for it that sets it apart? One recent Sienna buyer says the major distinction is that it's a durable Toyota.

"We bought it for the long haul," he said, meaning that he and his family were willing to shoulder the extra expense for the Sienna because they wanted a vehicle that, presumably, would last many years. And although he agrees that the Sienna doesn't do anything very different from the domestic minivans, "what it does, it does very well."

So despite Sienna's lack of innovation, it could make a big splash in this small pool of minivan buyers.

If the domestics aren't worried, they should be.

1998 Toyota Sienna

Vehicle type Seven-passenger, four-door wagon, front-wheel drive. Base price $23,975. Price as tested $27,193. Engine 3.0-liter V-6, 194 h orsepower a t 5,200 rpm, 209 pounds-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Transmission Four-speed automatic. Curb weight 3,825 pounds. Length 193.5 inches. EPA fuel economy 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway. Highs Air of quality. Refined performance. Versatility. Lows Generic styling. Premium price. Skimpy luggage space.

    Expert Reviews 1 of 7

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