Los Angeles Auto Show: Is the New Toyota Sienna Minivan Bigger Than a Breadbox?

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There is one cool feature, and one cool feature only to be found in the completely redesigned loaf of Wonder Bread that is the 2011 Toyota Sienna Minivan. I only have this to say: "Second Row Captains Chairs/Barcaloungers."

Like something out of a bad mid-1980's sitcom the La-Z-Boy is back. And it is in the second row of your Toyota Sienna. For this first time in history kids wont be fighting to be able to ride shotgun. Kudos, Toyota, Kudos.

But don't fear if you need to seat seven because a little mini-seat hides away in a compartment behind the third row seats until it is needed. Then it just clips into space between the two La-Z-Boys. Lets just hope the people in the recliners are not morbidly obese and the person in the middle asphyxiates.

That isn't to say the Sienna isnt wide enough it just means the Captains Chairs themselves look pretty wide. Who wants Stow 'N Go now? Not me. Well, I dont really want the Sienna either even if I was looking for a minivan. Sorry.

First off, the styling. This minivan is not only bigger than a breadbox but it looks like one too. A really, really angry bread box. The lights front and rear are so menacing in nature I would be sure to introduce your kids before you buy it in case the cars styling gives them nightmares. I would worry about your kids if it didn't.

Next year will see the introduction of the perfunctory hybrid version while Toyota has rolled the dice a bit by offering a 187-horsespower 4 cylinder as well as a 266 horsepower 6 cylinder. While the option of a four cylinder is intriguing from a fuel economy perspective do you really think that engine is up to carry seven normal sized/French fried Americans back and forth to Wal-Mart? Not likely.

Why Toyota couldnt come up with a happy medium like the cylinder de-activation system Honda currently uses that allows its 6 cylinder to run on 3 or 4 cylinders under light loads is beyond me. The six cylinder is a wiser bet if you ever plan on having passengers. Both the 4 and 6 are familiar units to anyone who has ever driven a Camry, Venza or most any Toyota that isn't a hybrid or a Yaris.

Now on to the interior whose utter lack of imagination boggles the mind especially when you consider how much space that Toyota engineers had to play with. If you look at Renault or Citroen MPVs (what they call minivans in Europe) they are chock full of clever little "surprise and delight" features that cater to the needs and whims of families. They make you want to have kids. All the interior of the Sienna offers is a driving environment that makes you wish you had run off with that dumb but cute office copy clerk two weeks before your wedding.

The dashboard is made up of discordant shapes and the plastics have that chintzy look that has become the norm in mid-range, non-hybrid Toyotas of late. It scratches easily and it may last for years but it isnt going to look very good when you drive this embarrassing box to your kids graduation. Actually, if you drive the Sienna you might not get an invitation.

Here's the biggest slap of the face to the 2011 Sienna. It's still not better than the Honda Odyssey and that minivan is due for a complete restyle next year. At this rate the Kia Sedona will have it beat in no time. (At Kia/Hyundai's pace shouldn't the Sedona be due for two restyles over the next year and a half?)

This half hearted and soul-less attempt to make a minivan is possibly the shoddiest effort Toyota has ever produced to date. And that is saying something when I am including the Echo in that statement.

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