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VOL. 44 | NO. 47 | Friday, November 20, 2020

Minivan showdown: Toyota Sienna vs. Honda Odyssey

By Mike Schmidt | Edmunds

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Edmunds’ experts have ranked the Honda Odyssey as their No. 1 minivan since the 2018 model year. It has the expansive utility you expect from a family hauler plus a refined driving experience other minivans can’t match.

Or can they?

This year a familiar nameplate – Toyota Sienna – receives a full redesign. The new 2021 Sienna brings much to the table in its hope to oust the Honda. Most notably, every Sienna is now a hybrid, which completely changes the game for fuel economy.

Edmunds pitted the Sienna against the Odyssey to find out which is the better minivan.

Engines, miles per gallon

Honda sticks to minivan tradition. The Odyssey uses a 280-horsepower V6 engine paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in combined city/highway driving, which is an average figure for a modern minivan.

The Sienna, in contrast, has a four-cylinder engine and a hybrid system with a continuously variable transmission. It trades away some power – it has 245 horsepower – in return for a big boost in fuel efficiency.

The Environmental Protection Agency pegs it at 36 mpg combined. After driving several hundred miles, Edmunds experts recorded multiple tanks in excess of 40 mpg. Toyota even offers all-wheel drive, which is something you can’t get on the Odyssey.

WINNER: Sienna

Pricing, value

The 2021 Sienna starts at $35,635 (including destination) for an LE with front-wheel drive. The 2021 Odyssey LX has a lower entry price of $32,910. That’s a significant savings, but you’re not getting as many features. The Odyssey’s next step up, the $36,310 EX trim, is more comparable to the Sienna’s base LE.

Want a luxed-out minivan? A fully equipped Sienna Platinum with all-wheel drive costs a little more than $51,000. At $48,940, the Elite trim is as good as an Odyssey gets. Overall, the features, and what you pay to get them, are similar throughout the trim level ranges.

Basic and powertrain warranty coverage are also similar. But Toyota does offer additional coverage: eight years/100,000 miles on hybrid components, 10 years/150,000 miles for the hybrid battery and two years/25,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance. The Sienna’s higher fuel economy means saving more at the gas pump, too.

WINNER: Sienna

Interior, technology

Inside, these minivans are similar. Both vans have seven- and eight-passenger configurations, spacious cabins, comfortable and versatile seats, storage space galore and many kid-friendly touches. Even smartphone integration, intercoms and built-in vacuums are the norm on higher trims.

The interior also is a chance for differentiation. Honda has an optional in-cabin camera system that displays a view of the rear passengers on the touch screen. Toyota doesn’t offer one of those but counters with an optional refrigerator built into the center console, plus an optional surround-view camera system for easier parking.

The Odyssey has second-row seats that slide side to side, which helps with third-row access. Toyota offers second-row seats in the Sienna that slide backward more than the Odyssey’s. They even have optional extendable footrests.

For hauling cargo, both minivans have third-row seats that are easy to fold down. You can also take out the Odyssey’s second-row seats for maximum cargo capacity, though they’re heavy and bulky. The Sienna’s second-row seats are no longer removable.

WINNER: Odyssey

Driving experience

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey is how they drive. For any vehicle, assessment of the ride often comes down to personal preference. Here’s our expert take.

Behind the wheel of the Odyssey, things are simple. It drives a lot like a sedan. The V6 and automatic transmission work well together, and there always seems to be enough power to do what you need to. Around town, the Honda is as easy to drive as it is on the highway. The ride is agreeable over both small and large bumps in the road. Easy is the key here.

The Sienna hybrid requires a little adjustment. Remember that standout fuel economy? It comes at a cost.

The Toyota drives awkwardly at times, as the regenerative brakes decide how best to react. Its engine is loud when it’s working its hardest, and you’ll feel the comparative lack of power on freeway on-ramps or when going up grades.

That said, the Sienna has enough guts for most driving situations thanks to the hybrid battery torque. The Sienna’s ride quality is generally OK but gets overly bouncy and floaty over larger bumps.

WINNER: Odyssey

Edmunds says

Minivan shoppers will find plenty to like from both the Honda Odyssey and the Toyota Sienna. This one is close. The difference makers are ultimately drivability and interior versatility. The Toyota Sienna stumbles just a bit in both areas, which gives the Honda Odyssey a photo-finish victory.

Mike Schmidt is the senior manager of vehicle testing operations at Edmunds.

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