Displaying a modest face-lift for 2001, Toyotas minivan has gained a more powerful engine and several new features. Appearance changes include a new front fascia, grille and bumpers, as well as redesigned taillights and fresh wheel covers. A backseat video entertainment system with a VCR in a covered unit between the front seats and a lateral skid-control system called Vehicle Skid Control is new for 2001. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are a new option, and the dashboard has been restyled.
The third-row seat is now a 50/50-split bench. XLE models now have a standard automatic climate control system for the front and rear. An in-dash six-CD changer goes into LE and XLE models, which gain an in-glass antenna. The XLE gets color-keyed mirrors, an auto-dimming mirror with a compass and an optional HomeLink universal garage-door opener. Heated seats are available for the XLE with leather upholstery.
Introduced for 1998, Siennas are produced in Kentucky. They rank fourth in sales among minivans, edging up to 103,137 units during 2000. Toyotas base three-door CE model is gone, leaving three minivans with two doors on each side: the CE, LE and top-of-the-line XLE.
All Siennas come in a single size, with a 114.2-inch wheelbase and a 194.2-inch overall length. Dual sliding doors are standard. Power operation is optional for the right sliding door on the LE and XLE, and dual power sliding doors are available this year for the XLE.
All Siennas seat seven. The CE and LE have a two-person bench seat in the second row. Twin buckets are standard in the second row for the XLE and optional for the LE. Siennas can hold up to 133.5 cubic feet of cargo with the second- and third-row seats out of the way.
Under the Hood
The sole engine is a 3.0-liter V-6 that makes 210 horsepower, up from 194 hp courtesy of new VVT-i technology. The Sienna has an LEV emissions designation rating and has an improved EPA gas-mileage rating this year: 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. The Sienna can tow as much as 3,500 pounds and is driven with a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes and a low-tire-pressure warning system are standard.
If any minivan matches the 2001 Chrysler and Dodge models, its the Sienna. From the first moment behind the wheel, it is evident that you are driving a refined, civilized, well-built vehicle. In performance, handling, ride quality and seating comfort, the Sienna ranks at or near the top of the league. No minivan is more carlike in behavior.
Acceleration is brisk at any speed or from a standstill. The V-6 powertrain responds swiftly and positively to the throttle, simply delivering a smooth surge of added power to get the job done nothing fancy, just effective. Steering is at a satisfying level between light and tight. A modestly firm suspension is taut enough for top-notch control yet soft enough to cushion the vast majority of bumps and imperfections. And the Sienna is quiet in every respect.
The seats are well cushioned and comfortable. The high-mounted climate control unit has large buttons one of several thoughtful touches. A flexible interior layout yields plenty of space in the second row. Storage space is adequate, but the glove box is puny in size.