2012 Toyota Sienna Review

2012 Toyota Sienna SE 3.5 V6 from North America

Year of manufacture2012
First year of ownership2011
Most recent year of ownership2012
Engine and transmission 3.5 V6 Automatic
Performance marks 10 / 10
Comfort marks 8 / 10
Dealer Service marks 10 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 6 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
8.5 / 10
Distance when acquired90 miles
Most recent distance5200 miles
Previous carToyota Tacoma

Summary:

Best all around car I have owned in 20 years of driving

Faults:

Nothing has gone wrong.

Changed oil due to erroneous but functioning as designed oil life indicator (set for standard oil but comes on synthetic). Oil is hard to find (0w20).

General Comments:

I bought the car to facilitate more comfort for me and my family, and have not been let down. It is wonderful inside. I'm tall, and am as comfortable as I've been in anything. The radio is a bit of a reach, but steering wheel controls are standard.

The standard SE package comes with absolutely everything you need, and leaves little to be desired. The SE does NOT have the foot rest on middle seating, nor does it have passenger power seat controls. Power doors and rear hatch are standard in 2012.

The SE is the one to get. Unless you are on a tight budget, or love light colored leather and the couple extra options the XLE gives, the SE is for you.

When test driving the XLE (my first choice I thought), I really disliked the suspension. I've never driven a new (not in need of repair) vehicle with so much "wallow" in the suspension. It genuinely handled like a boat. Far too soft.

The SE adds snazzy exterior styling in the form of larger wheels and a different body kit. It also adds a great suspension. About an inch lower than the standard van, and much more firm. Combined with lower sidewalls, the SE can out perform your ability to stay in the seat. This may be a detriment. The seats in the SE, other than being made of "sport cloth" and leatherette, are the same shape as the luxo version. It's hard to stay in place when in the curvies. But it's a van, so be it. At least the ability to handle is there.

The radio is much better than I've had in previous Toyotas. Bluetooth media streaming and telephone calls are flawless and clear. People can barely, if at all, tell that I've switched to, from, and back to the Toyota Bluetooth hands free calling. Streaming Pandora or MP3s is loud and clear, and connects automatically with zero problem. No re-pairing or anything needed.

The rear seats fold down flat, the middle seats slide up all the way to the front seats to offer about 6.5'x4' of flat space. Remove the middle seats altogether (simple pull of a handle) and you can now, albeit tightly, fit a 4x8 sheet of plywood in the back. I carried my full size couch in the back with the tailgate closed. I fit an entire 10x8 shed in the van in one trip during a move.

The center console is very spacious. Carry whatever you want, but don't open it with your credit card on the top; it'll fall into the console and be gone forever.

The van catches some guff for having a "hard plastic interior". I can't imagine anything else for a cargo and kid hauler. I haven't owned a Mercedes or Cadillac since the 90s, but it is no different in interior construction than my last 10 or so new cars built more recently. All in the similar $30k+ price range.

The exterior is "sexy" as a van can get. I was floored when I saw the first 2010 model SE back in 2009, and just as excited about it now in 2012 with some updates. It truly is the "swagger wagon". I am not ashamed to drive it.

The engine pulls along much better than necessary for a van. The 4 cylinder is probably plenty (but the SE is the one to get), and the 6 speed transmission is definitely the best automatic I've driven. I never buy automatics, but have had to rent them recently. It kicks the life out of the Chrysler 200 for sure (junk). I don't feel shifts and rarely feel that lame lag that all automatic transmissions have while trying to figure out if you're trying to accelerate or "pass". It's very responsive and efficient.

I'm turning 22 MPG mixed/insane Maryland driving, and actually pulled 29 on a longer drive (3 or 4 hours) on flat ground out south of Delaware.

Though maybe my masculinity took a bit of a hit since driving my GTO. The comfort and convenience is so far making up for any sportiness.

The only way I could be happier with this car, is if I could leave 3/4 of it at home when I'm not hauling family. But since modular cars have not been invented, I'll stick to my van, and motorcycle when I feel a bit more efficient.

I used to think my wife's Scion was one of the most reasonable vehicles to own; but it fails to be able to carry cargo AND people at the same time. The van fails to be efficient when carrying just me as a commuter, but makes up for it on weekends.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 15th February, 2012

27th Feb 2012, 18:05

Great review! I also LOVE my new Sienna SE. We've only had it a week and I have put on 200 miles, 2 coats of wax, and detailed it so that it looks extra sharp & sexy!

My wife and I have both turned heads and got double takes while enjoying the drive to and from the local school house. I believe we are the envy of the neighborhood now... Thanks Toyota for finally making the minivan look sharp and perform well! It's been long overdue!

Oh yeah, when we stopped by the local dealership for delivery, the kids said, "Is that our new van? COOL!!" 'Swagger Wagon' baby!! LOVE IT!

20th May 2012, 13:18

Hi,

I am currently considering a 2012 Sienna, however am looking at the XLE as it's the only model to come with AWD. I live in Seattle where it rains (frequently) and cross the Cascades pass quite often, including in winter, so the AWD was attractive to me. Having a wife and 2 kids in the car, while pulled over on the side of the road, whilst laying in the snow to chain up isn't my idea of fun.

You seemed to think the the steering on the XLE was pretty bad - was it really that bad, or is the SE just that much better? Was it so bad it felt unsafe, or just not tight and responsive like the SE or Hondas?

Lastly, you said you were tall and it fit you fine; I am 6'2" and wanted to know your height as a gauge.

Thank you.

~ Jeffrey.

4th Jul 2012, 21:26

Steering on the clear had no feel and the suspension was floaty. Felt like an 80s Cadillac Seville with bad shocks. According to the dealer, any model can have AWD. If you think AWD will do anything for you in rain, think again. Maybe if you were drag racing. Just take some time to learn how to drive. Driving AWD is not without benefits, but only if you understand how to drive well or starting on glazed ice.

I am 6'2" as well.

Have had it a few more miles, still amazed by the car. So handy and comfortable. Handles so great for a van. Had the opportunity to drive a caravan recently. What a relative piece of junk. Hated it.

11th Jan 2013, 16:40

The XLE is not the only trim with AWD. The LE and Limited trims also have available AWD. We own a 2011 Limited AWD. Best van ever!

Average review marks: 8.5 / 10, based on 1 review