By Steve Laser, Craig Nicol and Nahoko Osuka reporting from Nagoya, Japan
Japan is filled with people carriers of all shapes and sizes, yet nothing on the road looks like the new Toyota Sienta. We see big boxy vans like the Toyota Alphard and Vellfire, recently upgraded with big chrome grilles. At the other end of the spectrum is a batch of next-generation Kei cars (mini-vehicles), like the Daihatsu Wake and its Toyota Pixis Mega twin.
Sienta occupies the sweet spot between these two sizes. In the States, we have similar size MPVs like the Mazda 5 and Ford C-Max. Yet Americans have traditionally preferred larger vans like Toyota’s own Sienna (no relation to Sienta), Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Town & Country.
Join us for our test drive of the new Toyota Sienta around the scenic streets of Nagoya-shi (Nagoya city). Our contributing editor who lives in Japan is in the driver’s seat.
When we planned our latest journey to Japan for the Tokyo Motor Show, we wanted to test a new vehicle that’s not available in America. So with a little help from our friends at Toyota, we scheduled a Sienta press fleet vehicle from Toyota Motor Corporation’s Nagoya office.
Toyota offers a wide variety of models in Japan sold at Toyota, Netz, Corolla, Toyopet, and Lexus dealer channels. Many of the vehicles have no counterparts in the U.S. market. The new Sienta replaces a previous model by the same name that was starting to look a bit dated. Sienta’s styling succeeds in breaking the mold of the boxy van.
Our Sienta walkaround video highlights the exterior, cargo compartment, interior and under the hood of our Hybrid G grade test vehicle.
TMC says that Sienta’s sporty design was inspired by the shape of a trekking shoe. Our tester, in the eye-popping shade of Air Yellow, is right in step with the latest trends in boldly styled active wear. Other available Sienta colors include green, red and black mica, silver and blue metallic, and white and brown pearl.
Sienta’s cool styling touches include a large grille flanked by headlight clusters that connect to the lower valance via dark grey plastic inserts. Getting into the spirit of the design, we thought they look a bit like shoelaces. At the rear, similar plastic panels connect the taillights with the lower bumper.
Our tester was fitted with Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive that combines a 1.5-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor, Nickel-metal Hydride battery pack and a Continuously Variable Transmission. Those who are familiar with the Toyota Prius, Aqua (Prius c) and Alpha (Prius v) will feel right at home with the smooth and seamless power delivery. As a parallel hybrid, motivation is supplied by the gas engine, the electric motor or a combination of the two.
The 1NZ-FXE 1,496 cc engine puts out 54 kW (74 PS) at 4,800 rpm with 111 Nm (11.3 kgf-m) of torque at 3,600 – 4,400 rpm. Meanwhile the electric motor delivers 45 kW (61 PS) plus 169 Nm (17.2 kgf-m) of torque. Combined system output is 73 kW (100 PS). Toyota says this powertrain is good for class-leading fuel efficiency of 27.2 km/l with the JC08 test cycle. A non-hybrid version is also available.
The cabin continues the sporty styling motif with a swoopy dash design that brings to mind the new generation Prius. Yet instead of the instrument panel being centrally mounted, it’s positioned high above the steering wheel in the upper half of the dash.
A 4.2-inch color TFT LCD display is mounted between the gauges on our tester including trip computer and other functions controlled by switches mounted on the steering wheel. Sienta Hybrid models feature an Eco button for more economical driving plus an EV button that allows the vehicle to be driven for short distances under pure electric power.
Our tester had a bright center display screen with an easy to use navigation system (for those who understand Japanese). We configured it to display convenience stores in our area and counted about 14 of them on this map.
Select the main menu, touch a few on-screen buttons and the display can show a wide variety of information including fuel consumption, audio selection and more. We liked the color choices used for this display that segued nicely into the bright hues around the cabin.
Three different interior color schemes are offered including fromage, dark brown, black and blue-black. We nearly fell out of our seats when we opened the upper glove box and were greeted by this bright orange lining.
Buyers can select six or seven-passenger seating. With the latter configuration on our tester, the second-row offers space for three passengers. The center headrest straddled the split-folding seats and included offset posts so it doesn’t have to be removed when folding down the seatbacks.
The multi-flexible third-row seats offer enough space for the six-foot frame of our tech editor who seems happy as a clam riding back there. Second-row seats have a tumble function with one-touch operation.
Efficient packaging that positions the hybrid battery pack below the front seats and the gas tank below the second row helps to create a nice flat load floor. The beauty of the design allows the seats to be reconfigured in different ways to accommodate cargo like sports gear, shopping bags, luggage or mountain bikes.
Our tester included the optional Toyota Safety Sense C that’s described by the automaker as a collision avoidance assist package using a laser radar unit and a single-lens camera. Features include a pre-collision system, lane departure alert and automatic high-beam.
In addition, Toyota offers a wheelchair-adapted model as part of the specially equipped Welcab lineup. Toyota says it includes second-row seating on the passenger side with a slope that allows wheelchair users to enter and exit without getting out of the wheelchair.
We really enjoyed our day-long test of the Sienta in Nagoya where we visited several attractions that will be the subjects of future CarNichiWa.com stories. With its sporty styling, choice of powertrains, flexible interior and convenient touches, Sienta is bound to become a popular sight on the roads of Japan. (And we think it could find a place in Toyota’s U.S. lineup too.)
With a base price of ¥2,329,855 (about $19,200), our Sienta Hybrid G model tester included optional 16-inch alloy wheels and several option packages bringing the bottom line to ¥2,846,203 (about $23,500). Sienta prices begin at ¥1,689,709 (about $13,900) for the non-hybrid front-drive V model. All-wheel drive is also available on some of the gas engine Sientas.
CarNichiWa.com thanks Toyota Motor Corporation for providing the Sienta press fleet vehicle featured in this review.
Prices, features and specifications apply to models sold in Japan and are subject to change without notice by the automaker. Prices include consumption tax but do not include recycling fees. Prices differ in Hokkaido and Okinawa.
Story, photos and videos © 2015 CarNichiWa.com