2021 Chrysler Pacifica Vs. 2021 Toyota Sienna: A Minivan Showdown
Posted on March 19, 2021
Who Runs the Van Game?
Here at CarHub Automotive Group, we’ve never lost faith in the van.
Van land is an interesting place these days. The van landscape has changed so much over the years that at times it seemed that the SUV was going to chew up too much of the market space for the van to survive. What has happened instead, is that only the titans of the van have stayed afloat. Today we’re going to take a look at two of them: the Chrysler Pacifica and the Toyota Sienna.
Chrysler is credited with introducing the minivan to the North American market all the way back in 1984 so they have a fair claim at being the most knowledgeable brand in the van game today and probably still one of the best minivans available in Canada. The innovations and changes that they’ve made to their vans over the years would lend credence to the statement.
Toyota was not far behind though. Their late 80s addition to the North American market paved the way for the Toyota Sienna that we know today.
Both Chrysler and Toyota have come a long way since those early iterations of their vans and what they offer now are two time-tested, respected vehicles that continue to impress critics and consumers with their design, engineering and value.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica and 2021 Toyota Sienna are two vans that have come a long way and each has its own story to tell. They are also both at the top of their game. But which is the all-around winner in a comparison test? When it comes to a head to head battle between two of the heavyweights of the van world, there are many factors to consider before declaring a conclusive victor, but we’re going to do our best to make sense of which van has the goods to be crowned the king.
It should be acknowledged that CarHub is an official Chrysler dealer. We pride ourselves on truth and transparency here at CarHub (in fact, they are both part of our CarHub Promises) so we will be reviewing both vehicles objectively for the purposes of the test!
Which Wins in the Looks Department?
The streamlined 2021 Chrysler Pacifica Pinnacle brings a lot to the table looks-wise that the vans of the past would have been hard-pressed to muster. Some may say that the Pacifica looks more akin to a crossover than it does your childhood minivan.
Let’s be honest, it’s tough for a minivan to be a head-turner but the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica does some honest work of it with redesigned front and rear fascia that sees a redesigned grille and front and rear LED lights added to the mix.
When it comes to wheels, the available 20 inch alloys kick the Pacifica’s looks up a notch. They lend an even more slick look to what could have been one more stodgy minivan when the available black alloy is employed.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica does what it can to make a minivan stylish, ditching any semblance of boxiness that its predecessors may have relied on. The end result is a vehicle that brings a sense of luxury and class to the table that is atypical for a family hauler minivan.
Toyota hasn’t done much to change the appearance of the 2021 Sienna and that may not be a bad thing. Sure, it’s not going to win any style awards but as the minivan is a practicality machine, the lack of extreme originality in the Sienna may not be a major failing point.
That’s not to say that the 2021 Sienna hasn’t made any improvements to the Sienna’s outward appearance. The body of the van is bulky but that means that it was created for maximum storage capacity. The body’s bulky but that doesn’t mean that it’s boxy. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Sienna is a picture of artisan sculpting, with smooth contouring that has been meticulously crafted, which gives the Sienna a pleasing, almost muscular look that is reminiscent of the Toyota Highlander. The steep windshield on the Sienna lends an almost crossover appearance to the van that also serves to decrease any sort of awkward bulkiness that it may have.
It’s not going to win any style awards but the 2021 Toyota Sienna is a perfect image of practicality with some elements of flare that lend it enough pizazz to be a significant upgrade from the vans of yesteryear.
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica offers an exceptional passenger experience. The cabin is spacious and laden with compartments for personal items. The Pinnacle comes with Nappa leather upholstery and even second-row lumbar pillows to ensure that your backseat passengers feel like they’re riding first class.
The Pacifica is a big, roomy minivan with 32.3 cubic feet of space with all seats up, and 140.5 cubic feet with the seats folded behind the first row. Even with the seats down that’s plenty of space to stretch out the limbs on a long ride.
Storage for the tiny bits in your life is exceptional in the Pacifica, with cubbies, pockets, bins and drink holders at every turn.
The Stow-and-Go seats are what set the Pacifica apart from the crowd in the minivan segment. When they fold neatly into the cabin floor, you have a wealth of unfettered cargo space at your disposal. In fact, a team from Car and Driver claims to have been able to fit 53 suitcases in their Pacifica with the Stow-and-Go seats folded down. Where they even got 53 suitcases is anyone’s guess but if you happen to need to carry that many, now you know that you can.
One thing to note is that the hybrid versions of the Pacifica don’t offer the Stow-and-Go seats but they double up on the plushness of the middle row seats to make up for it.
Whether or not this is a make or break for you depends on how much you value the added cargo space of the Stow-and-Go over the added fuel economy of the hybrid.
The Sienna certainly doesn’t lack for comfort but it does seem more utilitarian than the luxury-oriented Pacifica. While one could argue that the nappa leather wrapping on the Pacifica interior is almost too much luxury for hauling the kids around town, the Sienna skimps on the frills but not the comfort.
A storage shelf runs the length of the dash and a two-tiered center console adds to the storage capability.
The Sienna offers a second row that is fitted with a slider to allow for easy back row access and it can be fitted with footrests that make the second row feel like lounging in an easy chair.
The Pacifica beats out the Sienna just slightly when it comes to cargo space at 140 cubic feet compared to 101 in the Sienna, but 101 cubic feet is nothing to scoff at and though the seats don’t fold directly into the floor like the Pacifica’s do, they do fold down and allow for ample space for any gear that you feel like hauling around.
And don’t forget to bring your drinks because the 2021 Toyota Sienna has a whopping 18 cupholders in its interior, so you should never lack for a place to store your beverages.
What About Performance?
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica is based on a front-wheel drive platform but it comes available with all-wheel drive, a distinction that only the Sienna held in the van world until recently. This marks a major upgrade for the Pacifica. With its combination of luxury and real-world performance capability it is a minivan that is in a class of its own.
The Pacifica comes with a 287 hp 3.6 liter V6 engine, a capable engine that is more than up to the task of grocery grabbing and light towing. It also has an available hybrid powertrain that kicks up the fuel efficiency in a big way.
The Pacifica uses an independent suspension that lends a smoothness to its handling that is abnormal for minivans. It hugs the road like an old friend who doesn’t want to let go. The Pacifica’s low centre of gravity lends itself to handling that is tighter than most SUVs on a winding road.
The 2021 Toyota Sienna is distinct because this year marks the first that it is available exclusively as a hybrid. Its 2.5-liter gas powered four cylinder is accompanied by a pair of electric motors that make for a combined 243 horsepower.
The all-wheel drive lends a boost to the powertrain and gives added handling and performance value to the very stable Sienna.
The Sienna is a smooth handler thanks to a multi-link rear suspension and the Sienna hugs the road due to its hybrid battery that resides under the front seats that serves to give the van an added bit of balance.
The Sienna is a smooth sailor, with a nice quiet ride and a suspension that’s up to the task of absorbing the bumps on the road.
Which Wins for Fuel Economy?
The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica hasn’t skimped on fuel efficiency, that much is for sure. A Car and Driver test drive listed the fuel economy of the Pacifica at 31 mpg (50km), which is an impressive achievement for a minivan. The Pacifica hybrid is touted as being able to travel up to 33 miles (53km) on electric power and is rated at 84 MPGe (135km) combined.
In short, the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica performs very well in terms of fuel efficiency standards.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the 2021 Sienna is capable of 36 mpg (58km) for city driving and about the same on the highway. It’s a serious bump up from the Sienna’s ratings from previous years and the hybrid version of the van is a great investment for anyone who is concerned with how green their car can be.
Safety considerations are high in both the 2021 Chrysler Pacifica and the 2021 Toyota Sienna, which makes sense because in the family vehicle market, safety is always of the utmost importance.
Both vans come standard with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning and blind-spot monitoring.
The Sienna also has Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist and Standard adaptive cruise control.
The Pacifica is equipped with Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and Standard adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning.
Which Van Takes the Win?
It was a hard-fought battle indeed! We’re dealing with two seriously competent competitors here.
Maybe we’re biased but when all of the factors are stacked up, the Pacifica seems like one tough option to beat these days. Power, performance, fuel efficiency and luxurious add-ons make it the reigning king of van land.
That’s not to say that the Sienna isn’t a fine vehicle, however. In every aspect it is a close rival of the pacifica but when looks and luxury are factored in, the winner is clear.