Vehicle Type: Minivan

History Description: With heaps of room, top safety scores, proven short- and long-term value, a reputation for reliability, and the backing of decades of experience with minivans, the Toyota Sienna is a worthy used minivan buy for active families, couples, or anyone after plenty of space for the buck.

Three rows of seating, available motorized door and tailgate provisions, and a generously sized interior create appeal and flexibility, and Sienna’s feature content included a 120-volt power outlet, a wide-angle backup camera, dual power moonroofs, rain-sensing wipers, intelligent key system, multi-zone climate control and plenty more. Navigation, a JBL audio system, heated leather and Toyota’s EasySpeak system were available, too.

The latter system uses a microphone near the driver to play front-seat conversations through the rear-seat speakers. Notably, this system only works in this direction, and rear-seat conversations (thankfully) don’t play back through the front speakers.

Engines / Trim: Available with both four- and six-cylinder power and standard with a six-speed automatic, Sienna offers plenty of selection in the powertrain department: look for a 3.5L V6 with up to 266 horsepower, or a 2.7L four-cylinder good for 187. Segment-exclusive all-wheel drive (AWD) could be specified for added all-weather confidence, but only with the V6 engine.

What Owners Like: Space, comfort, flexibility, cargo capacity and even handling were all rated highly by Sienna owners from this generation. The V6 engine is said to offer more than adequate power output, and the six-speed transmission shifts smoothly.

What Owners Dislike: Typical owner complaints centre around models with the AWD system, which are noted for being thirstier on fuel, and for not having a proper spare tire. Instead, AWD Sienna models use run-flat tires, which some owners say are pricier to replace, and reduce ride comfort slightly.

Here’s a list of owner reviews of the Toyota Sienna. Note that these reviews cover all Sienna generations, not just the one highlighted here.

The Test Drive: According to numerous owner reviews online, test drivers of a used Sienna from this generation are advised to start their test drive by checking all accessories for proper functionality, focusing primarily on windows and doors. Confirm all window switches are operational, that all door lock switches work properly, and that the motorized sliding doors, and the motorized tailgate (if equipped) function properly. Any hesitation, unwelcome sounds, or failure of these systems to operate on your test drive should be checked out by a mechanic. Sometimes, a non-functioning power door or liftgate needs a simple adjustment (cheap). Sometimes, it needs a new motor (not so cheap).

Next, confirm proper operation of the smart key system (if equipped). The Engine Start button should fire the Sienna up almost instantly, and on the first try. If that’s not the case, the switch may need to be replaced.

Confirm proper operation of the climate control system on all fan speeds, at all temperature ranges and at all outlets, in both front and rear seating rows. Some owners have reported problems with hot or cool air being unavailable in certain seating positions, or failure of some distribution modes to engage properly. The issue, if detected, may be the result of a bad blend door, or a bad servo in the climate control system. Here’s some more reading.

Confirm that the air conditioner is in proper working order on your test drive, too, noting that a plugged cabin air filter is a common cause of air conditioner problems. Ask the seller if they recently changed their cabin air filter. If they ask what a cabin air filter is, you’ll want to change it ASAP.

Some owners of AWD-equipped Sienna models have reported fluid leaks from the associated system hardware. Translation? Have a mechanic inspect the AWD system on the Sienna you’re considering, if equipped, for maximum peace of mind, having any detected issues remedied before your purchase. Note, further, that the Sienna’s AWD system requires regular fluid changes for proper operation and durability. Confirm that the seller has stayed on top of these fluid changes (and all others), and plan to do the same while you own the Sienna. Here’s some more reading.

Check the cruise control for proper operation, setting and adjusting it several times over the course of your test drive. A wiring short has been reported by numerous owners, which can cause the cruise control system to fail, or work intermittently. Flickering of the illumination on the cruise control stalk is a typical trouble sign as well. Here’s some more information.

Vibrations detected from beneath the Sienna have driven numerous owners batty. If you detect any, and especially if they occur typically at low revs and go away when throttle is applied, the culprit might be the catalytic converter, and specifically, some combination of the clamps and hardware that hold it in place. Here’s some more information. And a little more. Be sure to have a mechanic investigate any detected vibrations, for maximum peace of mind.

Check all rear seats for proper operation of their folding and sliding functions, ensuring each operates as expected. A third-row seat that gets stuck into its stowed position isn’t unheard of, and here’s some reading on how you might fix the problem.

Some owners have also complained of water seeping into the Sienna’s trunk or cargo area. On a test drive, spend some time pressing your hand or a rag into the rear carpeting, especially around the lower, rearward corners of the vehicle, to check for dampness, moisture, puddles and the like. Water leaks can ruin electrical components, cause nasty smells, and encourage the formation of rust. With the Sienna, a water leak into the trunk could be caused by a bad liftgate seal, a bad roof-rail seal, or an improperly installed rain gutter. Here’s some more information.

Finally, be on the lookout for clunking or popping sounds from the suspension as you travel over rougher roads at a variety of speeds. Any unwanted sounds like these typically indicate some suspension component that’s worn and in need of attention.

The Verdict: Most of Sienna’s commonly reported issues are relatively minor, easy to detect and fairly simple to repair. A well-maintained model can be bought with confidence after a mechanical pre-purchase inspection. If the unit you’re considering checks out, you’re well on your way to enjoying a spacious, flexible and reliable family hauler.

A list of recalls.

Here’s some more reading on the Toyota Sienna.

Crash Test Ratings:
IIHS: Top Safety Pick +
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars (2014 and up)

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