Vans Have Come A Long Way In 27 Years

Illustration for article titled Vans Have Come A Long Way In 27 Years
Screenshot: Hello Road

It’s hard to find a more practical vehicle than a van. Back in 1994 the mid-engine Toyota Previa was the top of the line when it came to people hauling, and today the automaker’s Sienna is pretty remarkable in a lot of ways. I know that it still feels like 1994 was a just a couple of years ago, but literally everything about the new Sienna is head and shoulders above the old guard Previa. It’s difficult to put that difference into words until you bring the two vans into this juxtaposition.

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Ethan Tufts of Hello Road, a good friend of mine, recently got an all-wheel drive Sienna hybrid press loaner to compare to his own OG egg van. The new one is more comfortable, more efficient, packed with way more features, and has ten (TEN!) more cupholders than the Previa. Clearly Toyota has prioritized development of its new van to be better with each subsequent generation.

I mean, the Sienna would be way cooler if it was mid-engine and used a weird S.A.D.S. system to drive its accessories. It would be awesome if it had middle-row seats that pivoted around, and third row seats that folded up into the sides of the van, but that’s not realistic these days. But rad-era cool-guy points don’t really get you where you need to be in a reasonable amount of time. The 14-second 0-60 times of the Previa are, uh, not great.

Somehow, when adjusted for inflation, the Previa actually would cost more in today’s dollars than this new top-of-the-line Sienna, even including a hybrid drivetrain, all-wheel drive, tons of options, and interesting character.

Ethan’s ridiculous points system is fun, and makes the comparison an interesting fight. If you’re looking for a great van, go get a shoddy 1994 Previa!

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

DISCUSSION

Clearly Toyota has prioritized development of its new van to be better with each subsequent generation.

Nah, the 2021 is a clear step back from every perspective besides a single minded pursuit of fuel economy.

-No more V6. Maybe the hybrid drivetrain will have easy 300K mile reliability too, but the 2GR V6 was proven like little else in the automotive world. Not to mention 300 hp.

-Ugly styling (subjective to be sure, but seems to be the majority opinion).

-Non removable second row seats.

-Weird center console design that makes it much harder for an adult to step over and access a kid in the back seat.

The 2020 Sienna is basically the peak of minivan design. I’ll die on this hill.