Head to Head: Sienna vs. Odyssey
Minivan owners love their vehicles. They’re roomy, family-friendly, efficient, and easier to drive than large SUVs. Sliding doors make it easy to get kids and their car seats in and out. Two models rise to the top of our rankings, though the segment may soon be shaken up by a new contender.
Topping our Best Minivans ranking is the 2016 Honda Odyssey. The Odyssey also takes our awards for both 2016 Best Minivan for the Money and Best Minivan for Families. Second in our rankings and a finalist for both of the awards is the 2016 Toyota Sienna.
Coming soon to the market is the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica – the replacement for the Chrysler Town and Country. The Pacifica will be available in both gasoline-only and plug-in hybrid models. Both the Odyssey and Sienna are getting late in their product cycles, but replacement models have yet to be announced.
Both minivans feature seven- or eight-passenger seating, depending on the trim level and middle row configuration chosen. Both also have a third row that folds into the floor to open up cargo space, and middle-row seats that must be removed when carrying large cargo.
Like twins separated at birth, the minivans are nearly identical in specifications, standard equipment, and available options. The only major differentiators between the two are their distinct driving feel and the availability of all-wheel drive on the Sienna.
Sliding side doors are standard and are power-operated on most trim levels. The Odyssey is 2.7 inches longer than the Sienna and just over an inch wider. Base models are just that, basic, with top-trim models rivaling the interior opulence of Lexus or Acura vehicles.
Odyssey pricing starts at $29,400 for the 2016 LX model, plus a destination charge of $900. The base Sienna L model starts at $28,850, not including a $900 destination charge. Both base models feature standard rear-view cameras and seven-passenger seating. Automatic three-zone climate control is standard on the Sienna.
Topping the 2016 Sienna lineup is the Limited Premium All-wheel Drive, priced at $46,410 plus destination. The Odyssey’s top model is the Touring Elite, with a price of $44,875 plus destination. All-wheel drive is not available on the Odyssey.
Safety is a critical consideration for minivan buyers, and the Odyssey claims an edge with a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), earning “Good” ratings on all five tests. Both minivans earn a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Sienna receives “Good” ratings on all but the IIHS Small Overlap Front Test, where it has an “Acceptable” rating.
For those interested in LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) systems for their child’s car seats, lower anchor locations in the Sienna include the outboard center-row seats and the passenger side and center seat in the third row. In the Odyssey, lower anchors are located at all positions in the center row and outboard third-row seats. The Odyssey has top tether anchors for all second- and third-row seats.
Advanced electronic safety and driver assistance aids, such as emergency braking intervention, have not made it to the Odyssey, though top trims are equipped with blind spot warning systems. Odysseys are also available with Honda’s LaneWatch system, which uses a camera mounted on the side-view mirror to show what’s in your passenger-side blind spot.
Top trim Siennas are available with a pre-collision warning system, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot warning, and adaptive cruise control.
Upper trim models of the Odyssey feature wiper-linked headlights that automatically turn on the headlights when the wipers are switched on so that other drivers can see you in inclement weather.
All-wheel drive Siennas ride on run-flat tires and do not include a spare tire. Owners in rural locations need to be aware of the range of a deflated run-flat tire to ensure that they have the ability to reach a dealer before the run-flat tire fails.
Engines and Fuel Efficiency
The Odyssey and Sienna feature 3.5-liter V6 engines, with the Toyota producing 266 horsepower and the Odyssey generating 248. Despite the Toyota’s horsepower edge, both feel about the same in everyday driving due to the Odyssey’s slightly higher amount of maximum engine torque (250 pound-feet vs. 245 for the Sienna).
The majority of minivans are sold as front-wheel drive models, although the Sienna is unique in the segment with an all-wheel drive option. The Odyssey and Sienna employ six-speed automatic transmissions across their model lineups.
In terms of efficiency, the 2016 Odyssey scores the win. EPA-estimated mileage for the Honda is 19 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway, with a combined estimate of 22 mpg. The front-wheel drive Sienna earns estimates of 18/25 mpg city/highway, and 21 combined. All-wheel drive Sienna models are rated at 16/23 mpg city/highway, and 19 combined.
The Sienna has an edge in horsepower, but the Odyssey employs the horsepower it has in a smoother, more refined manner. The Odyssey simply makes a lot less of a ruckus getting to speed. Under hard acceleration, the Sienna can sound rather coarse.
When cruising on the open road, however, the Sienna has the quieter cabin. The Odyssey uses active noise cancelling technology in an attempt to reduce road noise. Towing packages are available for the vans, with each rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped.
Buyers looking for a softer ride should look toward the Sienna’s mainstream models. For those looking for a sportier ride, Toyota offers the Sienna SE, with 19-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension, and aerodynamic side skirts. The enhanced handling comes at the cost of a firmer ride and more road noise.
Somewhere between the Toyota’s extremes lies the ride and handling of the Honda Odyssey. It’s crisper than the standard Sienna’s without the harshness the Sienna SE can exhibit. The Honda’s more advanced multi-link rear suspension shines on twisty roads where the Sienna’s torsion-beam setup doesn’t inspire the same confidence.
Interior Features and Technology – Sienna
The Sienna is loaded with technology to make the journey a pleasure for all aboard. Folks up front can enjoy one of four versions of the Entune app-based infotainment system. Even base L grade Siennas are equipped with 6.1-inch touch screens, Bluetooth telephone connectivity, and Siri Eyes Free control.
Upper trims gain features including XM satellite radio, smartphone-based or onboard navigation, and upgraded audio systems. The Driver Easy Speak system amplifies the driver’s voice through the rear speakers so that they don’t have to raise their voice to talk to third-row passengers.
An available dual-view Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system features a wide ceiling-mounted LCD screen that is capable of streaming two different shows at once. Wireless headphones are included with the package.
Interior Features and Technology -- Odyssey
Parents must no longer fear the spilled bowl of Cheerios. The Odyssey was the first minivan to be equipped with a built-in vacuum system in some models. The HondaVac is housed alongside the rear cargo area and comes with a hose long enough to reach the front passenger floor.
All Odysseys come standard with an 8-inch display screen topping the center of the dash, controlled by a multi-function dial lower on the dash. All but the base LX trim get a second screen (controlled by touch) mounted below the larger screen. Where Honda once led the way in the intuitiveness of their interfaces, the Odyssey’s is complex and will require a bit of education to take advantage of all its functions.
Like Toyota, Honda offers a wide (16.2-inch) entertainment system for second-row passengers. Two video sources can be viewed at once, including movies or video games.
Seating Space and Comfort -- Sienna
Toyota Sienna models can be configured with either seven- or eight-passenger seating. The center row can be moved far forward, giving adults in the front easy access to kids. Slide them far back to give extra room to adults in the center row.
Eight- passenger models feature a seat in the center of the second row that can be removed and stowed, leaving cup holders and a storage tray for the remaining two seats. Unlike in the Odyssey, removing the third seat does not create a floor-level pass-through to the third row.
Lounge seating is available in Limited trim level front-wheel drive models. Leg and foot rests fold out from under the plush seats for even greater comfort. Unlike some competitors with lounge-style seating, Toyota’s can be removed to maximize cargo space.
The third-row seat is split 60/40 and folds into the floor when not needed. On Limited models, the rear-seat stowage is power-operated.
Seating Space and Comfort – Odyssey
The Odyssey’s interior wins the award for flexibility. Base LX models seat seven, while the rest of the lineup seat as many as eight. The eighth seat fits neatly between the two middle-row seats and can be removed to create a pass-through to the back.
The second-row center seat can also be moved forward, independently of the other seats, for easy access by adults in the front. The center seat is equipped with LATCH anchors to accommodate a child seat. When the center seat is in use, the two outer seats can move toward the doors, creating more shoulder room for all three passengers.
Honda pioneered the third row of seats that folds neatly into the floor, and the 2016 Odyssey’s folds completely flat into a well at the rear of the van. When the seat is in use the empty well can hold a large amount of luggage.
With the second row of seats removed and the third row stowed, the Odyssey and Sienna are cavernous cargo haulers capable of carrying up to 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood. Even better than that though, is their flexibility in carrying a mix of passengers and cargo.
With all three rows of seats up, the Odyssey can carry 38.4 cubic feet of cargo, while the Sienna can pack in 39.1. Stow the third row and the Odyssey has 93.1 cubic feet of stowage behind the second row, and the Sienna has 87.1. With the second row removed and the third row stowed, the Odyssey can haul 148.5 cubic feet and the Sienna 150.0.
Sienna or Odyssey?
In our ratings of the Best Minivans, the 2016 Honda Odyssey is the clear winner. Its interior is more flexible, it drives and handles better, it touts higher safety ratings, and it’s more efficient. Realistically, however, both are excellent choices with the Toyota Sienna ranked a close second in the segment.
For some customers the Sienna makes more sense. If all-wheel drive is a requirement, the Sienna has to be your choice. If you rank a plush ride higher than crisp driving dynamics, you should give the Sienna a test drive.
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica could potentially upend the ratings in the competitive minivan segment when it is rolled out this year. It arrives this spring in gasoline-only form and later this year as a plug-in hybrid model. The Pacifica replaces the Chrysler Town and Country minivan.