If you're in the market for a used minivan, check out this family cruiser.
The minivan seems to have fallen out of fashion these days. And that’s a pity, because they’re probably the most practical vehicle ever invented. When it comes to moving people and their belongings, it’s hard to beat the utility of a big, rectangular box on wheels. Despite the lack of cool, most manufacturers include a minivan in their lineup and three of them made the CarMax “Most Popular Used Cars for Families” list.
Here we’ll take a look at one of these minivans—the best-selling Toyota Sienna. If you’re thinking it’s time to track down a used minivan for sale, keep reading to learn why the Sienna belongs on your short list.
Toyota introduced the Sienna in 1997. It was somewhat smaller than the competition’s offerings, so a larger version was introduced for the 2004 model year. The third and current generation arrived in time for the 2011 model year. Each generation gained a larger V6 engine, moving from 3L to 3.3L and finally to 3.5L. Paired with a six-speed transmission and front-wheel drive, this configuration delivers respectable fuel mileage numbers—18 mpg in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway.
A smaller, four-cylinder engine offered in the second generation was dropped after 2013. You‘re unlikely to see many of these used Toyota Siennas for sale.
In common with competitors, the Sienna provides seating for seven or eight, depending on its configuration, and the second- and third-row seats can be removed for really bulky items.
It’s also worth pointing out that as of this writing, the Sienna is the only minivan built by any manufacturer in the last 20 years to offer an all-wheel drive system. These Sienna models are hard to come by, and they’re a bit less fuel-efficient, but hey. It’s an all-wheel drive minivan!
The Sienna minivan comes in L, LE, SE, XLE, and Limited trim levels. Externally, 17-inch alloy wheels are standard, although the Limited trim gets 18-inch wheels and the sports-flavored SE gets 19-inch wheels. All models except the base L have roof rails for tying down additional luggage, and the SE has a unique front fascia that incorporates fog lights.
Overall, interior equipment levels are impressive. Cruise control and three-zone heat and air conditioning are standard on the 2014 Toyota Sienna. On the LE models, there’s power sliding doors and liftgate, tinted glass, an eight-way power driver’s seat, Bluetooth® connectivity, and a six-speaker audio system. The SE has all of this, plus leatherette upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The Sienna XLE has additional amenities, like heated front seats, automatic headlights, blind spot monitoring, and leather upholstery. The Limited model has all the XLE features, plus a two-tone color scheme, dual sunroofs, and a very useful power folding, split third-row seat.
A mild refresh in 2015 gave the Sienna minor exterior tweaks, upgraded interior surfaces and materials, and a revised suspension. Toyota also made the rearview camera standard across all models and increased body structural strength.
Why buy a Sienna?
Most minivans are bought with family duties in mind, and the Sienna is no exception. If you’re browsing for a used Toyota Sienna for sale, or indeed any other used minivan, a good starting point for research is CarMax’s Top 10 minivan features list. And also, check out these 10 reasons for buying a used Sienna minivan.
- It seats up to eight passengers. This is the chief reason anyone buys a minivan, and the Sienna matches most competitors here. Its seven-passenger configuration puts a pair of tip-and-slide Captain’s chairs in the second row and a bench seat in the third row. The LE and XLE trims can be ordered with a second-row bench seat that brings its seating total to eight. (The SE is only available in an eight-seat configuration.
- The 2014 Toyota Sienna received five stars on the NHTSA scoring system (earlier models scored four) and earned a “Good” (the highest rating) from the IIHS.
- Up to 150 cubic feet of storage. With second- and third-row seats removed or folded down for soccer team equipment, hay bales, or antique store finds. The Sienna also has all the storage cubbies and pockets a busy family could want for snacks, toys, games, and everything else needed on a long road trip.
- It’s available with AWD. Sending power to all four wheels rather than just the front two is a huge help when you’re struggling for traction in snow and ice. Snowbelt buyers after a good used Toyota for sale should definitely put this on their list of “must-have” features.
- Power sliding side doors. These are a huge help when unloading and especially loading a minivan. Plus, there are built-in sensors that help eliminate the chance of trapping small fingers.
- Power liftgate. As with the doors, this makes loading and unloading so much easier. And shorter folks are spared that tall stretching for the handle to pull the liftgate down.
- Rear-seat entertainment system. Keeping kids, and even adults, occupied on long journeys taxes every parent and driver, so a big screen entertainment system is definitely nice to have. The system in the Sienna includes wireless headphones, so up-front passengers can listen to each other, and a screen that divides in half so back-seaters can play a game on one side and watch a movie on the other.
- Rear climate control. Many drivers prefer a cooler cabin, but that might not be amenable to passengers in the back. With the Sienna’s rear climate controls, rear passengers can be as warm as they like while the driver stays cool and alert.
- Responsive engine with manually-shiftable transmission. The V6 makes 266 horsepower and delivers all this power very smoothly when it’s needed. Having the ability to select gears is helpful when tackling a long grade in a loaded vehicle that’s going uphill or downhill. Doing this is easy—just move the gear lever all the way down and to the left to choose gears on your own.
- SE trim. With a revised suspension setup and more sensitive steering, this is more than just a sharper-looking Sienna. The SE’s ride remains comfortable but it feels more responsive on the road.
Alternatives to consider
Anyone after a used minivan for sale owes it to themselves to look at competitor vehicles. These include the Honda Odyssey, the Dodge Grand Caravan, and its stablemate, the Chrysler Town & Country (replaced for 2017 by the Pacifica), as well as the Kia Sedona and Nissan Quest.
Sensible, but not boring
When you buy a minivan, you’re buying with your head—sensibly—rather than with your heart. But that doesn’t mean owning a Sienna can’t be fun. A used Toyota Sienna combines practicality with a host of useful features. If you’re someone who needs to drive something sporty, try test-driving the SE—it won’t disappoint.