|38.6 / 92.0 / 158.0||Cargo Volume (cu.ft.)||33.5 / 75.2 / 101.0|
|5 / 8||Infotainment Screen (in)||7|
Despite lagging sales numbers due to the increasing popularity of SUVs, the minivan market is witnessing some of the best competition it’s seen in years. From the low price of Sedona and Voyager to the remarkable efficiency of Pacifica Hybrid models to the incredible all-around value of the Odyssey and all-new Sienna, the segment is loaded with attractive vehicles that deliver on all the things that matter most to you and your family. Of course, it’s of paramount importance for you to determine which model is the absolute best, and we’re here to help, which is why we’re taking a look at the two most exciting models in the class today, the 2021 Honda Odyssey vs 2021 Toyota Sienna.
The 2021 Honda Odyssey has a refreshed look and an updated list of features and equipment. Highlights include a low starting price, LED lighting all around, updated Honda Sensing, and advanced seating mechanics, which enable the most flexible configurations for moving people and cargo alike. The 2021 Odyssey stands out to young families for its LATCH system, which is so easy to use that the Odyssey was recognized as the only minivan to earn top ratings in this category earning it the distinction of being the first minivan to earn an IIHS 2020 Top Safety Pick+.
On the other hand, the Sienna is all-new for 2021, delivering bold styling, signature powertrain options, excellent rear-seat accommodations, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. There’s no denying that Toyota delivers an efficient, capable minivan with a great warranty in the all-new Sienna. However, we think the easy-going ride, low price/high resale combination, and supreme interior flexibility are enough for the Odyssey to retain its crown as America’s most popular minivan for the 11th year in a row.
Both the Sienna and the Odyssey sport comprehensive suites of advanced driver-assist technologies to help prevent accidents before they happen. The Sienna has a standard blind spot monitoring system that includes a rear cross-traffic alert for safely navigating tight parking lots. The Odyssey has a similar system, which is standard on all but the base LX models.
In fact, there are few practical differences between the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite (standard on all 2021 Siennas) and the Honda Sensing suite (standard on all 2021 Odysseys). Common features include:
Pedestrian detection, low-speed following capability for the adaptive cruise control, and the traffic sign recognition system are all new for the Odyssey in 2021. Also new is a rear seat reminder system, which uses a logic-based algorithm to remind you to check the back seats for passengers or valuables if the rear doors open and shut shortly before starting a drive.
On the other hand, the 2021 Sienna introduces Lane Trace Assist, which is the name of their automatic lane centering assist technology. Honda was previously the only brand the offer similar technology on their minivan via the Odyssey’s Lane Keeping Assist System. We think it’s only a good thing that these two top-tier competitors are matched neck and neck for standard safety technologies. When you buy a minivan from Honda or Toyota, you can be certain that you’re making no compromises on your family’s safety.
It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine that the average minivan driver has a lot on their mind. While nifty tricks and features might be interesting, if using them is complicated or non-intuitive, then what’s the point? That’s why Odyssey and Sienna are loaded with intuitive, seamlessly integrated features to make life easier for drivers and passengers alike.
Connectivity starts with the phone tech. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard on every Sienna and Odyssey except the base Odyssey LX. Wi-Fi hotspots can be set up with data plans to keep all devices connected. With available maker-specific smartphone apps like Honda’s CabinControl and Toyota’s Remote Connect, drivers can remotely operate features like the locks, power doors, and even remote start if equipped. Honda’s includes a neat Social Playlist feature that invites all users to play the role of DJ and queue up what they want to hear next. Numerous USB ports throughout the cabin and available wireless charging on both models ensure batteries need never run down either.
Both vans also offer onboard PA systems – CabinTalk for Odyssey and Driver Easy Speak for Sienna – which transmit your voice from the front seat to the speakers and vehicle-connected headphones in use in the back seats, eliminating the need to yell to be heard. This is where Honda pulls away from Toyota to a degree. In concert with the CabinTalk and new Rear Seat Reminder systems is CabinWatch, a Honda-exclusive technology that puts a display of the back rows onto the 8” multimedia touchscreen interface in the front row. The freedom to see what’s going on back there without turning around makes it easier than ever to safely engage with your passengers.
A last little bonus for Odyssey owners kicks in after a day at the beach or a spill of some cereal. 2021 Odyssey Elite drivers can simply open the rear liftgate and pull out the built-in HondaVAC to deal with messes, free of the struggle of dragging a shop vac out to your minivan. A similar feature had been promised for the 2021 Sienna, but supplier issues have sidelined it for now.
If you’re in the market for a minivan, it’s because your needs fit a combination of low towing capacity, high cargo capacity, and high people capacity. You can get that from large SUVs, but frankly, they’re generally more expensive, less efficient, and less spacious. Factor in the incredible flexibility of modern minivan seating layouts, and you’ve got a no-brainer decision to make on which segment to shop in.
The 2021 Odyssey and Sienna both offer 7 and 8-seat configurations. The base Odyssey features 2nd-row captain’s chairs, and every other Odyssey gets the Magic Slide 2nd row seats, which enable seating for up to 8. The base Sienna, on the other hand, has a 2nd-row bench to seat 8, then starting at XLE trim, captain’s chairs can be selected, reducing capacity to 7.
Sienna stands out by offering super-long-slide captain’s chairs, with 25” of sliding range to maximize legroom/cargo space in the 2nd or 3rd rows as-needed. They also come with built-in ottomans and available seat heating for maximum 2nd-row comfort. This may be preferable for some, but we think larger or younger families will prefer Honda’s Magic Slide seats, which offer incredible flexibility to the middle row configuration.
First, the seats come as a 3-seater bench with LATCH anchors in all 3 positions. Removing the center seat opens up a world of possibilities, the first of which is the default “Wide Mode” with a large pass-through to the back. Both seats can be pushed towards the center for “Buddy Mode,” putting the two seats right next to each other in the middle or pushed together to one side for “Super Mode,” which creates a broad outboard entryway to the 3rd row. The seats can also recline or be pulled forward for easy access to/from the front seats, and can be fully removed for maximum cargo capacity, something that Sienna does not yet offer.
In fact, despite nearly identical exterior dimensions, the Odyssey’s seating flexibility not only gives it higher passenger capacity at the high trim levels but also makes it significantly more spacious. While the Sienna’s standard cargo hold behind the 3rd row is excellent with 33.5 cu.ft., the Odyssey has more initial cargo space with 38.6 cu.ft. In fact, the Odyssey wins out in all cargo space aspects. Honda provides 92.0 cu.ft. behind the 2nd row and a whopping 158.0 cu.ft. behind the 1st row. Comparatively, the Sienna has 75.2 cu.ft. and 101 cu.ft. in the same categories.
In short, Sienna’s spaciousness and luxurious captain’s chairs are excellent, but still no match for Honda’s supremely flexible configuration scheme. In the surprisingly competitive minivan segment, this disparity is likely the reason why Odyssey continues to set the pace for minivan sales in the USA.