A Mom’s Take on Why the Toyota Sienna Minivan is so Popular

There's a waitlist for the Toyota Sienna minivan! We had to find out why: motion activated doors, tons of USB ports and cargo space, plus AWD and great hybrid MPG

Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition 2 - Holli Fourniquet
The versatile Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition. Credit: Holli Fourniquet

No wonder there’s a waitlist – for a minivan.

I was stunned to hear this: People are placing orders and waiting for the Toyota Sienna minivan, especially for the more expensive top-line trims. Adventure-ready SUVs lifted with all-wheel drive and ready to take on anything have become the go-to for many families,. So, Toyota has enhanced their roomiest 3-row vehicle for more adventure: Every trim can add all wheel drive, and hybrid performance is standard.

To find out why people love this minivan, we test drove the 2023 Sienna Woodland Edition, which has even more ground clearance and features for families who may tow a boat to the lake or find dirt roads on their journeys. This is what we discovered about this popular family car.

Related: My 11 Year Old’s Dream Car is the Toyota Sienna

A Girls Guide To Cars | A Mom'S Take On Why The Toyota Sienna Minivan Is So Popular - Driving 1 Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Holli Fourniquet

Driving the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition is a delight. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

It’s a Breeze to Drive 

Toyota has embraced an all-hybrid approach to its Sienna minivan powertrains, meaning the Sienna gets about 36 MPG; that’s stunning if you have driven a minivan and thought, well, it’s worth getting 20 MPG for the number of people and the amount of stuff this van can handle.

And, all wheel drive is an option on all Sienna models, though our Woodland Edition was strictly all-wheel drive. The Sienna’s AWD system is slightly different from most, powering the front wheels with two electric motors and a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The rear wheels are powered by a third electric motor that is not mechanically connected to the front at all.

The result is a capable system that supplies power to the wheels with traction while never feeling underpowered or slow. In fact, this really felt like driving an electric car, meaning it had instant power when I pushed the pedal. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a fast vehicle, but it was quick to apply power when needed, making it a breeze to zip around town running errands. This system is also quite fuel-efficient as well with EPA estimates of 35 mpg in the city and 36 on the highway. I saw a respectable 33.1 mpg in our week driving it around town.

Related: My Romance with the Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro

A Girls Guide To Cars | A Mom'S Take On Why The Toyota Sienna Minivan Is So Popular - Drivers View Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Holli Fourniquet

The driver’s view in the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Photo: Holli Fourniquet

How Does it Feel Behind the Wheel of the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition?

Steering was light, not feeling like a workout to turn the wheel at any speed, especially at low speeds in parking lots and the school pickup line. Between the electric motors giving instant power and the lighter steering, the Sienna feels like a much smaller vehicle to pilot than it actually is. However, a quick glance over my shoulder or in the rearview mirror reminded me that there are three rows of seats and plenty of room for storage.

Toyota makes it relatively easy to keep an eye on kiddos in the backseat with their convex mirror placed in the center overhead console. It gives a nice field of view of everything behind you as the driver, though it is rather small, so you might have to squint to really see who is doing what behind you.

Related: 7 Things that Will Make the Back-to-School Carpool More Enjoyable 

A Girls Guide To Cars | A Mom'S Take On Why The Toyota Sienna Minivan Is So Popular - Back 2 Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Holli Fourniquet

The back of the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition -Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Are You Ready for an Adventure? The Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Is

The real magic of the Woodland Edition comes from all the adventure-ready add-ons that Toyota lavished on this minivan. First is the standard trailer hitch that is capable of towing up to 3,500 pounds, or enough for a jet ski or some off-road vehicles like an ATV or side-by-side, maybe even a small camper. This trailer hitch is available on other models of the Sienna but is standard here on the Woodland Edition.

Another added bonus is the ground clearance. If you plan on taking an ATV out to the trail, your tow vehicle needs to be able to get to the trailhead, and Toyota thought of that with the added clearance of over half an inch. At 6.9 inches of underbody clearance, this minivan won’t replace the Jeep Wrangler as an off-road vehicle but will give you the added confidence that you won’t tear something up when venturing to the trailhead, campsite, or off-the-pavement destination of choice.

A Girls Guide To Cars | A Mom'S Take On Why The Toyota Sienna Minivan Is So Popular - Sitting In 3Rd Row W Child Seat Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Holli Fourniquet

Plenty of room to sit in the 3rd row with a child seat in the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

A Very Manageable Interior

Life with kids is often unpredictable, and our vehicle needs to keep up. If you are out camping, hiking, or tearing up the trails in an ATV, the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition is ready for your return in whatever condition you may find yourself, thanks to the rugged rubberized floor mats and easy-to-clean leatherette seats that make coming back to your Woodland Edition muddy, sandy, or wet a non-issue.

Speaking of seats, the Woodland Edition comes exclusively as a seven-seat vehicle with mid-row captain chairs that slide from right behind the front seats all the way back to the third row of seats. This gives rear passengers abundant legroom, and more than many other vehicles on the market. The third row of seats also features two sets of lower latch points and three top tethers for securing a child safety seat in any of the three seating areas in the 3rd row, a feature not many 3-row vehicles offer.

The third-row bench also reclines or folds flat into the floor with a couple of quick maneuvers. I only have one kid, but after watching my friends who have multiple children in car seats configure those seats on the go makes me appreciate the many options; many families would appreciate that it’s easy to reach a child seat in any position in this car.

A Girls Guide To Cars | A Mom'S Take On Why The Toyota Sienna Minivan Is So Popular - Moving Seats Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Holli Fourniquet

Seats are easily moved to accommodate passengers (or rare finds) in the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Space, Yes, But Can the Toyota Siena Woodland Edition Handle My Garage Sale Enthusiasm?

Another thing I like about minivans is all the clever and abundant storage. It is unmatched. With that third row of seats upright, the Sienna boasts about 33.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than the space behind the third row of the Chevrolet Tahoe. Fold the seats into the floor, and cargo space swells to 74.2 cubic feet behind the second row of seats and up to a total of 101 cubic feet behind the front two seats, which is about the size of a medium-sized refrigerator.

Both of those numbers fall short of competitors like the Chrysler Pacifica but eclipse popular midsize three-row SUVs like the Kia Telluride. If that is not enough space for your gear, the Woodland Edition also features standard roof rails with crossbars for securing more cargo up top. I always judge cargo space by whether I would be able to take it garage sale hopping or not. This one definitely passes the “garage sale” test.

Related: The Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid – This Ain’t Your Mama’s Minivan

The Front Seats In The Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

The front seats in the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

How Do You Get Inside the Toyota Sienna? Let Me Count the Ways

Toyota’s hands-free kick-to-open power sliding doors make getting into the second or third rows fairly simple. Key in pocket or purse, a quick pass of your foot underneath the side of the van at a marked location and the power doors quickly slide open. The large opening with and low floor that makes it easy for my five-year-old to climb in himself without worrying about dinging the vehicle parked next to us.

It also has a power lift gate, buttons to open the door on the key fob and a button for the driver to push to open the side doors or lift gate. Oh, the glory of push button everything.

Inside, seven USB ports, a 1,500-watt inverter with 120V household-style power outlet, and an optional 11.6-inch HD rear screen with HDMI inputs make traveling anywhere with kids a pleasant experience. One of the most impressive features for our family was the in-vehicle entertainment system. We even camped out in our driveway one night with a picnic and watched Bluey on the rear entertainment screen, creating our own drive-in movie right in the Sienna.

A Girls Guide To Cars | A Mom'S Take On Why The Toyota Sienna Minivan Is So Popular - Front 1 Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Holli Fourniquet

Nice angles on the front end of the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Essential info for the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition

The Woodland Edition starts at $47,695 MSRP and includes all wheel drive with increased ground clearance and the sporty leatherette seats that are both comfortable and easy to clean—essential for accidental spills and sticky fingers.

The Woodland edition comes in two colors: our test model’s Cement or optional Midnight Black Metallic, with either being accented by special 18-inch alloy wheels, black badging, and dark chrome-colored accents.

All Sienna models also feature Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 with driver assistance features like a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert, lane trace assist, full-speed adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, cyclist detection, and road sign recognition.

The Sienna also has 10 airbags, enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes. Safety is paramount, especially when it comes to my family. All these safety features and more made me feel comfortable toting my family around in the Sienna.

A Girls Guide To Cars | A Mom'S Take On Why The Toyota Sienna Minivan Is So Popular - Child Seat View Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition Holli Fourniquet

The Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition is perfect for adventurous families. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

Who Should Drive the Toyota Sienna?

It might seem like overkill for a family of 3 to drive a minivan, but add in parents and in-laws, shuttling my son and his friends to school, family road trips, or simply managing the day-to-day tasks that come with a household, it makes sense. The 2023 Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition is a good mix of both worlds: Space and convenience + AWD and hybrid fuel economy.

The added details of an off-road vehicle in the Woodland Edition makes this car is perfect for that adventuring family who needs seating for more than five, plenty of room inside for gear, and additional ground clearance with all-wheel drive. I can see why so many people are waiting for their ideal Toyota Sienna to make its way to a dealer’s lot. 

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The Monroney for the Toyota Sienna Woodland Edition. Photo: Holli Fourniquet

A Girls Guide To Cars | A Mom'S Take On Why The Toyota Sienna Minivan Is So Popular - Sienna Woodland Edition Pinterest Vision Board 2 Holli Fourniquet

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I'm Holli Fourniquet; wife to Cory, mommy to 4-year old Tucker, and long time servant to our yappy chihuahua,... More about Holli Fourniquet