Toyota Sienna for the Modern Mini Van Mom

by - Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Toyota and have received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

In 1990, my parents bought a minivan. It was a deep red Toyota Previa, the first of its kind, and that vehicle took us across the country. Literally. 

In 1991, we loaded up that van (my sister and I hid dolls under the seats!) and road tripped to Prince Edward Island, stopping in every province and major city along the way. 



That's my mom, sister and I in front of the Chateau Halifax -- with our beloved Previa to the left. She's even wearing a black leather bra!


Four years later, we went Westward, all the way to Victoria BC and back -- a three-week venture in the van. I remember sitting in the front seat with my dad, playing navigator or co-pilot, and videotaping out the window as we drove through days of canola fields in Saskatchewan. 


When we weren't road tripping, the Previa was my mom's daily ride -- and she loved that vehicle, and so did we. It was bittersweet when it came to trading it in; we put more than 300,000 KM of memories on that red spaceship. 

But since that time, there has always been a Toyota parked in my parents' driveway or garage. They continue to value Toyota vehicles for their safety, ease of navigation, and price point. My sister and I both learned to drive on a Toyota, and I have yet to find a vehicle that compares to the little silver RAV 4 I acquired from my dad. It was my first vehicle -- my little dinky dino ravioli. 

Fast-forward many years later, and I'm married with children, and many of our friends are trading in their vehicles for a minivan. Gulp.  While I'm so fond of our minivan memories, the thought of driving one scared me. 

They are just so. big. 
I am so. short. 

I mean, I can barely see out of the vehicle I currently drive. But the storage would be a huge help. With 2 kids, a dog, a business, dance classes, grocery shopping, we are constantly filling and OVER filling the vehicle we drive. Add a double stroller to the mix, and it was nearly impossible; the trunk was full before we left the house.

So when I got the opportunity to test drive a Toyota Sienna for an entire week, I was excited about it. This would be the best way to see if the vehicle would fit our lifestyle: drop offs and pick ups, highway driving, city driving, loading with gear, car seats -- just a typical week. There are 6 different models of the Sienna available, with various upgrades and features, starting at $34,690 CAN. We drove a 2018 XLE AWD. It's the only All-Wheel-Drive minivan available in Canada. 




VISIBILITY

Where do I start? Well, how about the second I sat in the driver's seat: beautiful visibility, fully adjustable seat and mirror control. My biggest fear of not seeing out the back was put aside when I saw the very impressive rear view camera. Not only does it show the rear of the vehicle, but it also articulates a bird's eye view shot (Limited AWD), so you can gauge where you are in relation to objects around you. It makes reversing and rear parking so much easier. There's also a camera in the front grill of the van so you can perfect all parking jobs. 


Let's talk blind spots and changing lanes -- the 2018 Sienna offers additional security of Toyota Safety Sense. ALL models are equipped with Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (it'll drift you back into the lane if you cross over the line without signalling!), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beams. All models come standard with 8 airbags, and LE and XLE models also offer Blind Spot Monitor and a Rear Cross Traffic Alert (when you're reversing and another car drives by, the vehicle will beep). These added safety features not only impressed me but also made me feel much safer about driving with my kids.

STORAGE

But of course, one of the main reasons people move over to the minivan is storage. With 7 and 8 seater options, there is tons of room in the Sienna. The second row has just as much legroom as the driver and passenger, and even those sitting in the back row will have enough room to stretch out. The large sunken trunk is impressively large. My only wish is it had a trunk cover, but if you're looking for space to stow groceries, equipment, hockey bags, etc, you'll find more than enough room. We even used the back row for overflow storage and still had a very comfortable ride. 






(Photos Above: 1) That's 8 large garbage bags full of purses to donate to a local charity. 80 purses and the trunk is still half full. 2) The true storage test is a trip to Costco. Got all my groceries and even hanging baskets. 3) A Stella and Dot show, and I didn't have to disassemble my clothes rack.)

BELLS & WHISTLES

And some of the biggest selling points -- the bells and whistles. The add-ons to the Toyota Sienna definitely sell themselves and make life easier for a parent. Double sliding automatic doors, automatic trunk release, Dual Power Moonroof, premium leather seats, and Three-Zone Temperature Control, so everyone is comfortable. My kids LOVED the Dual-View Entertainment System featuring a widescreen display so you can watch a movie or even play a game in ultra-wide screen mode. You can even split the screen so two people can watch different things at the same time. 


Oh, and here's the best part -- two sets of wireless headphones, so parents don't have to hear what the kids are watching! And the best, best part? A silent ride with no fighting! If that's not a bonus, I don't know what is!
What else can I say? This is one fancy mini-van. And it's definitely a modern one at that. For the mom on the go, there's SMS-to-speech, email-to-speech, and advanced voice recognition. Entune 3.0 Audio is standard on all 2018 Sienna models, which includes cell-based Navigation. And the Driver Easy Speak is pretty cool, too. No more shouting to the people the back row -- with a built-in mic up front, you can convey messages to the back through speakers, with the touch of a button. The XLE models feature a Premium Audio package and even more sophisticated navigation technology, and you can certainly visit the website for all those impressive specs.


NITTY GRITTY

With a 3.5L V6 engine, the Sienna is designed for low weight and noise. It is a VERY smooth drive, and believe me, you do not feel like you're driving a bus. In terms of gas consumption, the ECO indicator, which is standard on all models, lets you know when you're being efficient with gas. In our week of use, we averaged 12L/100km, which is impressive for a vehicle of its size. 

There is so much more I can say about the Sienna, from the features to the stylish interior, the comfort and ease of driving. But it was the kids' reaction that topped the cake. We knew the monitor would be a hit, obviously, but I never realized how much they would love the automatic sliding doors, the ability to walk inside the vehicle, climb into their car seats easily, and transport friends and grandparents with us. When we returned the van, Isabelle asked me when we would be getting it back. Maybe sooner than you think, kid. 

Now, where should our first road trip be?


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