Sport-utility vehicles and crossovers are currently the darlings of the crowd. They’re the ‘in’ thing nowadays; the default choice for a family car. I find this a bit confusing, to be quite honest. If what you really want is a dedicated people hauler or family vehicle, nothing comes close to the versatile nature of a proper minivan.
And to be quite honest, I prefer the car-like driving feel of modern minivans over a lumbering SUV any time of the day. Or probably it’s just me. Whatever the case, this is the reason why we decided to pit the 2019 Toyota Sienna with the 2019 Honda Odyssey.
Both minivans are the best in their class. The 2019 Toyota Sienna is the third-generation model introduced in 2011. The platform is aging quite gracefully but is facing stiff competition from the newer 2019 Honda Odyssey, which made its debut in 2018. The Kia Sedona and Chrysler Pacifica are excellent alternatives to the Sienna and Odyssey, but we’re here to check out the best of the best.
2019 Toyota Sienna
The Toyota Sienna has grown up over the years. This comes as no surprise. As carmakers started supersizing compact cars to better compete with car-based crossovers, the same holds true for the Toyota Sienna. The 2019 model is a far cry from the first-generation Sienna sold from 1998 to 2003. The base four-cylinder motor was scrapped in favor of a stronger, torquier, and more fuel efficient V6 motor.
Oh, and the 2019 Toyota Sienna is the only minivan in the United States that comes with an optional all-wheel drivetrain. This unique feature makes a lot of sense for potential buyers who need a minivan that can hack it over snow or ice.
All 2019 Toyota Sienna trims are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 296-horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. The V6 motor is mated to an 8-speed automatic to achieve 19/27 mpg.
The base L trim starts at around $31k. It comes well-equipped with automatic headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone climate control system, keyless entry, rearview camera, and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with six speakers and Bluetooth connectivity. The base trim offers comfortable seating for up to seven passengers.
All trim models of the Toyota Sienna also come standard with Toyota Safety Sense which includes automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist.
The Sienna LE starts at $34k and can be optioned with an all-wheel drivetrain and 8-seating capacity. The Sienna LE includes roof rails, privacy glass, power-sliding rear doors, heated mirrors, rear sunshades, unique easy-clean upholstery, Wi-Fi hotspot, and HD satellite radio. Ticking the options box for the all-wheel drivetrain will also come with larger 18-inch alloys. The LE with Auto Access Seat includes a power rotating lift-up second row seat and a power liftgate for less than $40k.
The Sienna SE starts at $37k and comes with LED running lights, sport-tuned suspension and steering, 19-inch alloys, heated front seats, a power liftgate, and leather upholstery for the first and second row seats. The XLE trim starts in the same price range as the SE but includes a smart key system with push button start. The Limited trim starts at $44k and includes a 10-speaker JBL audio system, 18-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, and in-dash navigation system.
The 2019 Toyota Sienna is a blast to drive. It’s not as fun as a sports sedan that’s for sure, but the strong V6 engine enables the Sienna to go from 0 to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds. This is enough to make the Sienna the fastest minivan in its class. The steering is overly light and dull, but it does make it easier to squeeze the Sienna in tight parking spaces. It also rides smoothly over bumps and the third row seats are large enough to fit grown adults.
However, there are sour points. Given the age of the platform, the Toyota Sienna (even in top-tier Limited trim) is not as nice on the inside as the newer Honda Odyssey or Kia Sedona. Granted we’re not talking about a luxury car, but the center console, instrument panel, and interior materials in the Sienna are a bit nasty compared to the soft touch interior of the Honda Odyssey.
2019 Honda Odyssey
The Honda Odyssey is all-new for 2018. The 2019 Honda Odyssey is basically a carryover of the previous model, and that’s not a bad thing. All Odyssey models are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with Honda’s VCM or Variable Cylinder Management. The motor is good for 280-horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque.
But unlike the Toyota Sienna, the Odyssey is only available in front-wheel drive. Base and mid-trim models will have to make do with a standard 9-speed automatic, while higher trim models get the excellent 10-speed automatic.
I find this a bit disconcerting. While you might say ten driving gears are too much for a minivan, I wish Honda made this standard among all trim models of the 2019 Odyssey. As a consolation, the nine-speed unit is equipped with paddle shifters, but so does the ten-speed variant. Whichever you choose, both transmissions will allow the Odyssey to achieve an EPA-rated 19/28 mpg.
Honda is also kind enough to throw in Honda Sensing as standard on all models of the 2019 Odyssey except the base LX trim. This feature includes lane keeping assist, collision mitigating braking system, road departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.
The base Odyssey LX starts at $30k and comes with power front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, and a 5-inch infotainment screen with seven speakers with Bluetooth connectivity. The LX offers adequate seating for seven passengers similar to the Sienna in base trim. Higher trim models get seating for up to eight adults.
While the lower base price of the Odyssey LX is an attractive bargain, I prefer the EX trim if my money is on the line. Starting at just around $34k, the Odyssey EX comes with keyless ignition and entry, power-sliding rear doors, Magic Slide second row seats with a removable center seat, tri-zone climate control, remote engine start, and heated front seats. You also get a larger 8-inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
The Odyssey EX-L throws in a sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, a noise-reducing windshield, and a power tailgate for less than $38k. The Touring model starts at under $45k and comes with a hands-free access tailgate, automatic engine stop-start, LED headlights, and Honda’s CabinWatch rear interior camera system with night vision. The Touring is also equipped with an integrated vacuum cleaner and 4G LTE connection.
The ultimate Honda Odyssey is the Elite, which starts at under $47k. This model comes with heated and ventilated front seats, a wireless smartphone charger, rain-sensing wipers, an 11-speaker audio system, 19-inch alloys, and blue ambient lighting.
While the Toyota Sienna is nice to drive and all, the Honda Odyssey is a better driver’s car than the Sienna. The steering and the reflexes of the Odyssey are sharper and it handles better as well. Although the Sienna has a stronger V6 motor, the Odyssey is no slouch. It can still blast from 0 to 60 mph in around 7.6 seconds with the 10-speed auto.
The 2019 Honda Odyssey has a more modern-looking interior than the Sienna, although both minivans offer premium levels of room for both passengers and cargo. My only gripes with the Odyssey are the second row seats and the stiff ride, especially in Elite trim with 19-inch wheels. The second-row seats doesn’t fold flat to the floor, but they can slide laterally to allow easier access to the third-row seats. This can be a problem when loading bigger items or cargo. Since the seats won’t fold flat, you’ll have to remove them as needed, which is no easy feat.
Both the 2019 models of the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey are stellar choices for a family hauler. Even though the Toyota Sienna is riding on an older platform, it is easily the default choice for those who want a reliable, durable, and spacious minivan. However, the fresh interior and excellent driving dynamics of the Honda Odyssey can make the Toyota Sienna feel like an aging athlete in the sea of newer contenders.
In short, you can’t go wrong with the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. Choose the Toyota if you prefer a comfortable family vehicle. Meanwhile, our pick is the Honda as we can’t resist a minivan that drives as well as the Honda Accord.