2012 Toyota Sienna Review and Prices

Last Updated: Aug 12, 2011

Like this Review

2012 Toyota Sienna Buying Advice

The 2012 Toyota Sienna is the best minivan for you if Toyota never lost your trust and you’re ready to explore the broadest array of model choices in any minivan lineup.

The 2012 Toyota Sienna makes previously optional features standard on some models and gains enhanced connectivity with onboard links to Facebook and Pandora Internet radio. The 2012 Sienna represents the sophomore season of an all-new design introduced for model-year 2011. That was the first fully redesigned Sienna in more than seven years. It brought fresh styling, more interior room, new safety features, and class-exclusive La-Z-Boy-style second-row seats -- all carried over for the 2012 Sienna. This remains the only minivan available with a four-cylinder engine and the only one to offer all-wheel drive.

Should you buy a 2012 Toyota Sienna or wait for the 2013 Toyota Sienna? Little reason to wait because what you see with the 2012 Sienna is very likely what you’d get with a 2013 Sienna. Minivans are life-stage purchases and the pace of change is slow. So if your life stage is minivan-ready, a 2012 Sienna is a fine choice. With the redesign still relatively fresh, it’s highly unlikely the 2013 Sienna would get any significant new styling touches, powertrain tweaks, or new features worth waiting for. But it probably will experience some price increases.

2012 Toyota Sienna Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Toyota Sienna’s styling doesn’t stray from the new look introduced with the 2011-model-year redesign. That means gently sculpted curves, a rakish grille, swept-back headlamps, and blistered wheel arches that contribute to a solid stance.

This third-generation Sienna takes up essentially the same room on the road as did the 2004-2010 second generation, but the redesign lengthened usable interior space by about two inches. Most 2012 Sienna models have seats for seven, but a removable middle section for the second row is available to create seating for eight – a capacity matched among minivans only by the archrival 2012 Honda Odyssey.

The 2012 Sienna is spacious and comfortable. All seats are nicely cushioned and there’s sufficient third-row room to accommodate most folks up to 6-feet tall. The cabin boasts an exceptional number of bins for small-items storage and room for lots of luggage even with all seating rows occupied.

The 2012 Sienna lineup consists of six models. It begins with the base-level Sienna and ascends through CE and volume-selling LE models, then to the flashy SE, upscale XLE, and luxury Limited versions. The Limited gets a satin-tinged grille and the Sienna SE (Sport Edition) has a mesh grille, plus body-side skirting, smoked taillamp lenses, and unique instrumentation and interior trim.

All 2012 Sienna models come with alloy wheels; the base, CE, LE, and XLE models have 17-inchers, the Limited and all-wheel-drive LE and XLE models have 18s, and the SE 19s.

Mechanical: The 2012 Toyota Sienna continues with a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines. The four-cylinder is confined to the base model and retains ratings of 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. (Think of torque as the force that produces acceleration, horsepower as the energy that sustains it.) This 2.7-liter four provides acceptable acceleration due in large measure to the astute calibration of Sienna’s only transmission, a six-speed automatic.

If your Sienna will often be laden with lots of people or cargo or will frequently be challenged by mountains or pitiless urban highways, the better bet is the smooth V-6. This proven 3.5-liter is again rated at 266 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque and is standard for 2013 in Sienna’s LE, SE, XLE, and Limited models.

Front-wheel drive is standard and by putting the weight of the engine and transmission over the tires that also propel the Sienna, provides good traction in all conditions. For an extra degree of all-weather grip the LE, XLE, and Limited models are available with all-wheel drive (AWD). This system automatically transfers power to the rear wheels if the fronts begin to slip. It isn’t intended for off-roading and doesn’t come with an elevated suspension, though AWD Siennas do use run-flat tires. These tires have stiff sidewalls and tend to thump and jolt over sharp bumps, detracting from what in front-drive models is laudable ride quality.

All Siennas track well in a straight line and resist wallow and float over wavy pavement, but only the SE model with its handling-tuned suspension, steering, and tires, feels sharp enough to encourage rapid driving through twists and turns.

Every 2012 Sienna features a generous array of standard safety features. These include antiskid stability control programmed to coordinate the response of the antilock brake system (ABS), traction control, and electric power steering in an emergency maneuver. There is, however, room for improvement. Toyota’s Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system remains standard only on Sienna Limited models. This optional safety upgrade is designed to anticipate an impending collision and respond by cinching seatbelts and triggering early antiskid-system engagement. We think the integrated safety-management system ought to be standard on all versions of this family-oriented vehicle.

Features: The 2012 Sienna’s changes are concentrated in the features category. Newly optional for LE, SE, and XLE models is Toyota’s Blue Harmony hands-free connectivity system. This affords voice-command control of music and, in conjunction with a dashboard touchscreen, provides access to turn-by-turn directions, e-mail, Pandora Internet radio, and Web-based services such as Facebook and Flickr photo sharing.

Added to the sporty SE model is the previously optional SE Preferred Package. This consists of a power liftgate and roof cargo rails and adds tri-zone automatic climate control, a front center console, steering-wheel audio and voice-command controls, and rear window sunshades. It upgrades the audio system with XM satellite radio, a USB iPod interface, and Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free mobile phone and music streaming.

Among other 2012 Sienna changes, XLE models add a power front passenger seat to go along with their already-standard power driver’s seat and now also include automatic on-off headlamps in their base price.

Those La-Z-Boy-style second-row recliners? Toyota dubs them Lounge Seating. They return on the 2012 Sienna as a marvel of footrest-deploying opulence, though reclining them fully severely encroaches on third-row leg room. Lounge Seating is one of Sienna’s signature interior features and for model-year 2012 it’s again exclusive to the top-line Limited model, where it’s standard.

A Sienna signature feature more broadly available than Lounge Seating is Toyota’s Dual View Entertainment Center. This consists of a 16.4-inch video widescreen that folds from the ceiling and is capable of projecting images from two sources – a DVD and a video game, for example.

A navigation system with a wide-angle rearview camera is again available, and so is Toyota’s Safety Connect telematics system. This provides automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location, an emergency assistance button, and roadside assistance. It’s available on only two 2012 Sienna models, however, the XLE, where it’s an option, and Limited, where it’s standard.

No 2012 Sienna matches the sort of second-row versatility found in the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans. A big selling point with those rivals is second-row seats that stow in the floor so you don’t have to remove them to maximize cargo space. On all Sienna models, the second-row seatbacks fold and the seat themselves can be tipped forward, but creating maximum cargo means removing altogether the heavy, bulky seats.

Only Sienna and Odyssey seat eight, however, and in a 2012 Sienna, that’s again accomplished via a removable cushion section that slots between the second-row bucket seats. Sienna’s third row is a 60/40 split bench. It pivots rearward into a well in the floor to create a flat load surface and increase cargo room.

2012 Toyota Sienna Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Sienna is $25,780-$41,380. Base prices are unchanged for most models in the lineup, with a few trim levels experiencing modest increases of $150-$230. The exception is the 2012 Sienna SE model, whose base price climbs $2,090 to account for the newly standard Preferred Package. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fees; Toyota’s fee for the 2012 Sienna is $810.)   

The 2012 Toyota Sienna base model starts at $25,870 and comes with the four-cylinder engine and seven-passenger seating; an eight-seat version starts at $26,995. The 2012 Sienna CE is essentially the seven–seat base model equipped with the V-6; it’s priced from $27,110.

Standard features on the 2011 Sienna base model and the CE include cruise control, tri-zone manual climate control, power windows with automatic up/down in the front doors and the sliding side doors, AM/FM CD player with four speakers, auxiliary iPod jack, power door locks, remote keyless entry, and three 12-volt power outlets.

The 2012 Toyota Sienna LE model comes with the V-6 and starts at $30,510 with front-wheel drive and at $32,740 with AWD. (The front-drive LE model comes with eight seats, the AWD version with seven. At extra cost, Toyota also offers seven-seat LE and XLE models with second-row buckets that pivot to facilitate entry and exit by the mobility impaired.)

There’s good reason the LE is Sienna’s most popular model: it’s the best value in the lineup. Among standard features on the 2012 Sienna LE are minivan essentials such as dual power sliding side doors, a rearview backup camera that displays on the inside mirror, and rear window sunshades. It also has a power driver’s seat with power lumbar support and an electrochromatic-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink automatic garage-door control.

The audio system on the 2012 Sienna LE adds a USB iPod interface, Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity and music streaming, and steering wheel audio controls. Many of the LE’s standard features can be added to the base and CE models as option packages.

Base price for the sporty 2012 Toyota Sienna SE model is $34,250. It comes only with the V-6 and seven seats and basically builds on LE equipment by adding the racier exterior and interior trim, the handling-tuned suspension, and the bigger wheels and tires. Optional on the SE in conjunction with a power moonroof is the Dual View Entertainment system.

The 2012 Toyota Sienna XLE starts at $34,015 with front-wheel drive and $36,125 with AWD. This is the Sienna trim level at which leather upholstery becomes standard. Also included in the XLE’s base price are heated front seats, a power moonroof, an anti-theft system with engine immobilizer, and remote keyless entry. Options for the 2012 Sienna XLE include a 10-speaker JBL sound system, a voice-activated DVD navigation system with real-time traffic, the Panorama rear camera, and Dual View Entertainment.  

Base price for the top-of-the-line 2012 Toyota Sienna Limited is $40,110 with front-wheel drive and $41,380 with AWD. Sienna’s flagship includes as standard all the XLE equipment and adds Lounge Seating, a power-folding third-row seat, front and rear parking sonar, dual moonroof panels, and keyless pushbutton ignition.

Among 2012 Sienna Limited options are those available on the XLE plus xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and the Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system; this last incorporates dynamic radar cruise control that maintains a set distance from traffic ahead.

2012 Toyota Sienna Fuel Economy back to top

With fuel-economy ratings of 19/24 mpg city/highway and 21 mpg combined city/highway, the four-cylinder 2012 Sienna is one of America’s most fuel-efficient minivans. Still, its mileage is roughly even with that of many V-6 minivans, meaning your primary cost savings will come from the four-cylinder’s lower purchase price, not its long-term fuel efficiency.  

Fuel-economy ratings for V-6 Siennas are more in line with those of V-6 rivals. With front-wheel drive, 2012 Siennas with the V-6 engine rate 18/24 mpg city/highway, 20 mpg combined. With AWD, they rate 16//22/18.  

2012 Toyota Sienna Release Date back to top

The 2012 Toyota Sienna went on sale in August 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Toyota Sienna back to top

Minor equipment juggling and perhaps some new colors will constitute the majority of Sienna changes until Toyota gives it a midcycle freshening around model-year 2015. Designed to sustain interest until the next all-new Sienna arrives, likely as a 2018 model, this midcycle freshening would probably include subtle styling changes inside and out but no alterations to this minivan’s basic size or shape.

In the pursuit of improved fuel-economy, however, Toyota could treat this third-generation Sienna to interim powertrain adjustments, such as more-efficient transmission gearing. It might also consider cylinder-shut-off technology for the V-6 engine. Honda uses this in its Odyssey minivan to save fuel by automatically shutting down two or three cylinders during low-demand cruising, then instantly restarting them as required.

As for the possibility of a gas-electric Sienna hybrid, Toyota does insist that each of its vehicle lines will offer a hybrid model by 2020 or so. To move its size and weight, Sienna would probably need a version of the gas-electric V-6 system found in Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid midsize crossover SUV.

With some 270 net horsepower, Highlander’s hybrid system is strong and smooth and gives the seven-passenger AWD wagon fuel-economy ratings of 28/28 mpg city/highway, 28 mpg combined. A V-6 Sienna is several hundred pounds heavier than a Highlander Hybrid, so the hybrid minivan’s EPA ratings might not be that high. And the complex hybrid powertrain would be a pricey addition to the Sienna lineup. With a base-price range of $38,950-$44,605, 2012 Highlander Hybrids cost as much as $6,750 more than  non-hybrid Highlander counterparts.

2012 Toyota Sienna Competition back to top

Honda Odyssey: Odyssey was fully redesigned for model-year 2011 and returns for 2012 with its distinctive zig-zag rear window-sill line and one of the airiest interiors on the road. Though Odyssey has dropped from America’s No. 1-selling minivan to No. 3, behind the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Sienna, it remains unchallenged for handling precision and all-around road manners. Front-wheel drive and seating for up to eight continue. So does a single 3.5-liter V-6 engine with some 250 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque. Top-line Odyssey models continue with a six-speed automatic transmission and again challenge for best-in-class fuel economy at 19/28 mpg city/highway, 22 combined. Lower priced Odyssey models use a five-speed automatic and rate 18/27/21. Estimated base-price range is $29,000-$44,500, with no factory options available.

Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan: Town & Country is basically a gussied-up Grand Caravan and is outsold by the less expensive Dodge. But their performance and accommodations are essentially the same and the 2012 editions of these minivans benefit from a model-year 2011 freshening that brought updated looks, an upgraded cabin, and the corporate Pentastar V-6 as the only engine. With some 283 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, that’s class-topping output, though it somehow doesn’t feel like it. These minivans have surprisingly adept road manners, though, and the second- and third-row seats fold neatly into the floor for unmatched cargo adaptability. Base prices are friendly, starting in the mid-$20,000s and stretching to the upper-$30,000s. Fuel economy ratings are 17/25 mpg city/highway, 20 combined.  
Nissan Quest: Nissan launched an all-new Quest for model-year 2011 with a distinctive – futuristic, even – styling and rewarding performance. The sole powertrain consists of a willing V-6 with 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque working through a continuously variable (automatic) transmission (CVT). Cabin comfort overall is mid-pack, but excellent suppression of road and wind noise lends a sense of refinement. All seats fold flat with the floor – not beneath it – so you get a nice horizontal load surface but also one that’s higher off the ground than in competitors. Quest goes head-to-head with like-equipped rivals with a base-price range of roughly $28,600-$42,500. Thanks in part to the efficiencies of that CVT, fuel-economy ratings are a pleasant 19/24, 21 mpg combined. Worth a look if you like its looks.