UPDATE-3 Mos. later --- Well it's been three months since we purchased our Sienna and I have to say I do not regret it one little bit. It handles like a dream and we have had no issues with it at all. Once I figured out all the gadgets I can't remember how I ever lived without dual sliding doors and fold-down seats. The only quirky thing I noticed was a springy, grinding noise whenever I put it in reverse. After agonizing over what it was, I took it to the dealer only to be told it was the ABS system kicking in. Duh!
After spending weeks agonizing over the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Mazda MPV, we finally settled on the XLE version of the Sienna. As expected, Toyota makes the buying process difficult with any number of options to choose from. The problem is that not all options listed are actually available in the combination you want them.
Ideally I wanted the Symphony version of the Sienna (souped up LE) with the cloth seats and side air bags. The side air bags are only now currently available on the Symphony but nearly impossible to find. The XLE version is not available in my part of the country WITHOUT the leather seats, even though the brochure says they make it that way (???). So, I ended up spending more than I wanted to get some features (moonroof, dual sliding doors) that I really didn't want.
It's only been 2 weeks, however, I am quite pleased with our purchase and I didn't have to wait 3 months for it (like the Honda). This is our first foray into the world of the minivan, so I wanted a ride that was extremely car-like. The Honda felt like I was driving a bus. It handled well, but the road noise was noticeable and it accelerated a little too quickly (bad if you are prone to tickets). The Toyota handled similarly but feels like a Camry. The Mazda was anemic; the accelaration was very slow to respond. The ride in the Sienna is noticeably quieter than the Honda and the acceleration is quite adequate. It has 220 hp, which is more than enough for my needs.
The power doors are a great feature but a bit difficult to figure out at first. There is a shut-off feature on the front dash that disables the power to the doors so you can open/shut them manually. However, if you leave it off, there is no way to turn it on remotely once you get out. One extremely annoying thing is that there is a button behind each of the front seats that closes the doors from the inside. It is just within reach of my three year old as she climbs down from her carseat. She pushed it the other day and it almost crushed me. The doors are designed to reverse themselves if they hit a solid object. Now I am not a big person, but you would think it would've reversed itself a bit sooner before bruising my shoulder.
The rear door is extremely heavy but it has a strap that you can use to help pull it down. The rear seats fold down fairly easily and slide forward to make adequate cargo space. I fit two bicycles back there without flipping the seats up or removing them. They can be removed if necessary, as can the second row seats. It would be nice if the third row folded into the floor easily like the Honda and Mazda vans, but this is adequate for our needs. If you have a larger family or frequently carry large amounts of "stuff" this might not work for you. I would recommend getting the cargo net, if only to keep the groceries from tipping over!
The second row captain chairs (removable) are convenient if you have more than one child (to prevent fighting) but they cannot be moved together to make a bench. Only the driver's side 2d row seat comes with the tether anchor and LATCH features for car seats. The third row will accommodate both. Each seat has it's own cupholder and there is even a juicebox holder in the third row!
Don't get the center console. It is not removable and greatly hinders your ability to get up on long trips and head to the back of the van to break up a fight or get something. We do just fine with the cupholders and little cargo nets on the front seats. The 8-speaker stereo system is adequate, however, the controls are a little low on the dash. To compensate Toyota has placed manual controls on the steering wheel, which I have yet to figure out.
The other features are fairly standard and unimpressive - leather package, heated seats, power driver's seat, power moonroof, keyless entry, heated mirrors, compass, allow wheels....standard fare.
I would buy this van again in a heartbeat for the safety features (side airbags and crash tests), comfort of ride and Toyota reputation for reliability. Price was the biggest drawback, Toyota is hands down the most expensive of the three. Honda will not negotiate at all - you pay sticker or more for the Odyssey. We never got that far with the Mazda.
You can get a good price though, if you are willing to do your homework. I would recommend springing for the Consumer Reports information on the model you are looking at (more in-depth than Edmunds) and getting a price from autobytel or one of the other internet services. I selected the color I wanted and I called local dealers to see if they had one in stock. I played two dealers off of each other and managed to get one to accept $500 over invoice price. Don't let them fool you; Toyota salespeople are some of the most aggressive and hard-nosed out there in my experience. They are STILL gonna make money at that price. The options are where Toyota confuses you and makes their money. If you don't need the leather package, moonroof and heated seats, then get the lower-priced LE. Know what you want before you sign on the dotted line.
Amount Paid (US$):
2002Model and Options:
XLE Luxury Package