New 2021 minivans offer features like hybrid power, safety technology, family comfort

For 2021, Toyota has completely revamped its Sienna minivan. Generations of them have been sold, and this newest Sienna is a complete redesign, with a sleeker look, starting at $34,460 for the base LE model.

It's still space efficient, and brimming with new safety technology. Want to pamper the kids? Check out the second row amenities in the Platinum model, which features reclining captain's chairs with extendable footrests. They're like the automotive equivalent of business class airline seats. And coming along later, an optional built-in mini fridge, and a built-in vacuum cleaner with a hose that extends from the center console. The kids might even have fun cleaning up their own messes, though a fully-loaded Sienna Platinum approaches the $50,000 mark on the window sticker.

The longtime rival Honda Odyssey gets more of a mild upgrade for the new model year, and is a perpetual sales leader at auto malls across the country. New available features include an advanced rear seat monitoring system. Prices for the 2021 Odyssey start at $31,790.

And Chrysler introduced a unique style to the minivan world when it brought out the Pacifica a few years ago. It gets a slight refresh for '21 with an advanced infotainment system, cool storage options, and a few tweaks to that stylish exterior. The Pacifica starts at $35,045, and Chrysler introduce a lower-priced minivan in the same basic body style called the Voyager, for under $30,000.

It's no secret that crossover SUVs have greatly eclipsed the minivan in terms of sales volume over the past 20 years. In the year 2000, more than 1.3 million were sold, but last year, that number was down to just over 430,000. However, there were once many more brands selling minivans. For example, several from General Motors and two from Ford. So, the minivan sales 'pie' as it were is smaller, but there are fewer slices of that pie.

And each minivan maker is now looking to stand out. The Pacifica gets to brag about its plug-in hybrid version - 30 miles before the engine has to come on after a full-charge. For those first 30 miles, the Pacifica Hybrid is in effect an electric vehicle.

If you want hybrid power in your new Toyota Sienna, you're in luck. This latest version comes only as a hybrid, with Toyota leveraging its hybrid leadership to bring fuel efficiency to the school drop-off area. How about 36 mpg combined? In a vehicle that can seat up to eight, mind you

But if you're not quite in the minivan demographic yet, or beyond it, Toyota's brought back the Venza name on a two-row crossover SUV. Like the Sienna, the sleek Venza is hybrid or nothing; there is no non-hybrid version this time around. The Venza uses the same basic gas-electric power system as the Sienna, and starts at $32,470.

Space, ease of access, safety, and tech for the whole bunch, minivans check all the important boxes for a solid family ride. Plus now letting you enjoy hybrid fuel economy in some cases. With the Sienna, Odyssey, and Pacifica all now offering those built-in vacuum cleaners, minivans more than ever are like "living rooms on wheels."
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