2011 Toyota Sienna
When Toyota replaced the oddball Previa with the front-drive Sienna for 1998, it staked a firmer foothold in the minivan market. The redesigned 2004 Sienna added all-wheel-drive as an option, making it a true alternative to popular SUVs. Now, for 2011, the Sienna is all-new again, and it’s crossover utilities that dominate the family scene. So, let’s see if the new Sienna can stand its ground.
The 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan starts off by standing its ground on size. Its 119.3-inch wheelbase is the same as its predecessor. But it is a few fractions of an inch wider and shorter overall, much of which can be attributed to its all-new styling, penned entirely at Toyota’s Calty studio in Newport Beach, California. And, Calty has given Sienna a fairly aggressive version of the corporate notched hood, above a sharply tapered trapezoidal grille. Narrow, dramatically swept-back headlights are set high in a pair of bulging front fenders.
From there, the Sienna’s greenhouse follows the slight curvature of character lines drawn high on its flanks. Unmistakable Venza-like taillights wrap around under the D-pillars.
Styling cues vary by trim. The sporty-looking SE’s mesh grille, deep splitter, rocker panels, and smoked taillights set it apart from the rest of the clean but much more pedestrian Sienna lineup. A selection of standard alloy wheels range from 17 to 19 inches in diameter.
But while a dose of exterior excitement is fine, the focal point of every minivan is the interior. To that end, the 2011 Sienna fills slightly bigger shoes than last year, with two inches added to interior length. It’s also wider inside, and the now flowing dash has a less pronounced, more integrated center stack to make it feel even roomier.
The front seat passengers are treated to a funky asymmetrical trim swoosh separating two glove boxes, and the driver will find a more upscale instrument cluster with standard ECO driving indicator in the multifunction liquid crystal screen. A full complement of airbags includes one for the driver’s knee.
Standards include tri-zone climate, CD stereo with aux input, up to a dozen cup holders, and dual sliding doors with power windows. Ascend the trim levels, and amenities like wood trim, voice command navigation, and a novel sliding center console are available.
Unlike Chrysler’s minivans, the Sienna’s second row seats don’t fold into the floor. They’re heavy, but are removable. Seven-passenger models have twin captain’s chairs. In Limited trim they recline. The eight-seater features a split bench with a stowable center section. The captain’s chairs have 23 inches of fore/aft travel and seat cushions that tip up, allowing easy access to the third row. There, the 60/40 split bench is placed two inches further back than before for adult-size legroom.
The optional rear entertainment system has a 16.4-inch screen that can display two inputs—like a movie and a game—at the same time. Unlike Chrysler vans, however, satellite TV is not available.
Cargo volume behind the upright third seat is good at 39.1 cubic feet. Drop the third row and cargo volume goes to 87.1 cubic feet. With the second row removed, cargo volume grows to 150 cubic feet, or more than all rivals.
Sienna continues as the only minivan available with all-wheel-drive. For 2011, it returns as an option on V6-powered LE, XLE, and Limited models.
Base power comes from the Sienna's first four cylinder. The 2.7-liter, shared with Highlander and Venza, rates 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. The carryover 3.5-liter V6 rates 266 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque. A new six-speed transmission with sequential shift handles gear changes for both motors. With the V6, Sienna can tow 3,500 pounds.
Suspension hardware is traditional minivan, strut front and a beam axle rear. But careful retuning, stability control, and new electric power steering provide Sienna an unusually tactile driving experience, especially the SE, which gets treated to an even sportier setup. All-disc ABS brakes are standard.
While the four-cylinder does strain a little under heavy loads, its Government Fuel Economy ratings of 19 city/26 highway are the best in its class. The front drive V6 rates 18 city/24 highway, dropping to 16 city/22 highway with all-wheel-drive. All Siennas run on regular gas.
When it goes on sale later this spring, Sienna prices will start slightly lower than last year at $25,010. The V6 starts at $26,250, and can climb to an eye-popping $40,520 for an all-wheel drive Limited.That said, the 2011 Toyota Sienna has something for every minivan taste— a more economical four-cylinder, class-exclusive all-wheel drive, and the nicely sporty SE model. So, not only can this highly versatile vehicle stand its ground, it's likely to make a few more suburbanites think twice about buying a big CUV.
- Engine: 2.7-Liter Four Cylinder
- Horsepower: 187
- Torque: 186 Lb Feet
- EPA: 19 MPG City/ 26 MPG Highway
Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better
When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.
The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.
Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.
A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.
That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.
The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.
At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.
While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.
Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.
Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!
- Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
- Horsepower: 227 | 250
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 6-speed auto
- Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
- EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined