Coming from a die-hard truck and SUV family, a minivan has always been the furthest thing from my wishlist when it comes to a family car.
My mom friends rave about their minivans, so a few years ago I decided we’d rent one for the annual family vacation. Boy are minivans nice for road trips! As soon as we got into the 2020 Toyota Sienna, by 8-year old exclaimed that we needed to get one of these because “it’s perfect for our family, and for road trips!” I had to agree with the roomy interior and high level of comfort making it a good choice. While I’m still not quite sure I’m ready to call myself a minivan mom, I was able to come up with a pretty good list of reasons why the minivan is still the king of family cars.
Easy In and Out of the 20202 Toyota Sienna
Minivans have a much lower ground clearance than SUV’s, making them easier to step in and out of than other people-movers. This also makes for easier loading of heavy cargo, like that precious little one in his infant carrier, or the week’s grocery haul for your family of six. The easier in-out is also why many seniors choose the minivan, even if they don’t need the passenger space.
Because minivan doors slide instead of swing, you have more space beside the vehicle and can access the second-row seats from any angle, making it easier to assist the kids with buckling-in, or loading large objects.
Massive Cargo Space
The box-shape of a minivan may be part of what turns some people off, but it really does have its upsides and one of those is additional cargo space. Fold-down the third row, or take it out altogether and you’ve got a huge boot to bring home the Costco haul, or pick up that piece of furniture at the flea market. You may even be able to remove the second-row seats and bring home a sheet or two of plywood for your latest DIY home remodel project. I was able to use the Sienna to pick up some plants for my garden, a new hammock for my frame, and to help my brother bring home a new push mower he couldn’t fit in the trunk of his Mustang.
No Swinging Doors to Ding Other Cars Paint Jobs
Ok, so the front doors still swing, but mom and dad are usually pretty careful. It’s the kids throwing open their doors and hitting the car beside you that you’ve got to worry about. Not with a minivan! A simple push of a button sends the door sliding straight back against the side of your vehicle. No more heart attacks for mom when Johnny opens the door.
The Sienna’s power sliding doors can be activated via the buttons on the dash, the buttons on the pillar behind the front seats, or the keyfob. And yes, you can lock them to keep the kids from being able to open the doors before you’re ready for them to be opened. Safety first! I really liked how easy it was for our kids to get in and out of the van, and how easy it was for me to put the baby’s carseat in and out.
The 2020 Toyota Sienna is Equipped for Families, Here’s What We Loved
There’s pretty much no other vehicle designed specifically for families. From built-in storage to microphones and sound systems that help front and rear passengers converse without shouting, minivans are perfect for families on-the-go. Toyota calls this sanity-saver “Driver Easy Speak” and allows the driver to turn the feature on and off via the 7″ touch screen on the dash. So, if the kids need to take a nap, you can still talk to your spouse and let the kids rest.
We love that the Toyota Sienna has keyless entry for parents who have their hands full. Simple walk up to the car with the key in your purse or pocket and the doors will unlock. You can also opt to get the key fob activated power lift-gate for easy-loading of the cargo space in the back.
A must-have for families is the available 16.4-inch dual view DVD player with SD and HDMI inputs, Bluetooth enabled headsets, and two 120v power outlets to charge all the kids’ devices.
Speaking of charging all the things, the 2020 Toyota Sienna comes equipped with 5 USB charging ports, spread across the three rows. #win
The birdseye view and backup cameras provide peace of mind when operating the vehicle at home in your own driveway, or a crowded parking lot. For me, this is a must-have. With all the big trucks in Texas, its often hard to see around to back out and the camera and sensors really help in limited visibility.
Removable or Storable Seats
The 2020 Toyota Sienna offers in-the-floor flat storage of the third-row seats. And if you want, you can fold and store just one part of the 60-40 split seat allowing you to load large cargo on one side, while still having use of part of the third-row for passengers.
Whether your van comes with removable seats or seats that fold up and store flat into the floor, every minivan we’ve seen comes with the ability to offer a flat cargo space, from behind the driver’s seat, to the back door. This kind of flexibility means you could also remove just the second-row or just one bucket seat in the second-row.
Easily Modified for Special Mobility Needs
There are amazing companies that offer modification packages for minivans, turning them into specialized transport vehicles for the handicapped and disabled. The low ground clearance of the minivan is part of what makes this possible, as are the flat floors and second-row bucket seats. It would be very difficult to install a lift or ramp on most SUVs.
The 2020 Toyota Sienna can be ordered with a factory-installed lift seat called the Auto Access Seat. This second-row bucket seat slides out, and down for easy transfer from wheelchair to seat, then lifts the passenger back into the van and secures the seat for travel.
In comparison to large SUVs that seat 7 or more passengers, the minivan is a fuel-efficient superstar. The lower profile gives the minivan a more aerodynamic shape. That coupled with the lighter weight (most large SUVs are built on truck frames) results in a better fuel economy for the customer.
The 2020 Toyota Sienna averages 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway. The model we drove was all-wheel-drive, and we averaged about 20 miles per gallon the week we drove it. In our area, the AWD would not be needed and we’d be able to opt for a model with better fuel economy.
Have you priced large SUVs lately? Holy smokes. Some of them cost as much as a small house. The great thing about minivans is they usually start around $30k new… more along the lines of a full-size sedan. A used minivan can often be had for a lot less, making it a great second vehicle or family car.
The 2020 Toyota Sienna starts at $31,640. This is the base model, called the “L” and comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense package, 5 USB charging ports, a 7″ touchscreen infotainment system, and a three-zone climate system to keep every passenger comfortable. From there you can choose LE, SE, XLE, or Limited, with the limited’s starting price being $44,435. This is still a lot less than most large SUVs with similar passenger and cargo capacity. The Limited boasts a premium sound system with 10 JBL speakers, premium leather-trimmed seats, a dual moonroof, push-button start, and parking assist features.
Disclaimer: Toyota sent me this minivan to drive for the week. All thoughts and opinions are from my own experience.