The history of Toyota Sienna, Nigeria's most popular minivan (1998-2020)


Posted by: Joshua-Philip Okeafor

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Nigeria's most popular minivan, the Toyota Sienna has undergone a lot of changes, both in design and functionality since its emergence into the market. Read below for its full history of development!

Toyota Sienna - the most popular minivan in Nigeria

The Toyota Sienna is one of Toyota's best selling brands and Nigeria's most popular minivan. Over the years, the Toyota Sienna’s evolution has brought forth improvements in design with incredible features within price affordability, all contributing to the present-day model. These unique features have focused on enhancing user comfort, car hospitality, and safety in a tailored culture. 

No doubt, it has become a more practical vehicle for traveling, relaxed family vacations, carriage, and balanced safety controls compared to most brands and models. It is a major point to note that this vehicle is made for families and it allows parents to communicate, control and effectively monitor their children’s activities in the rear with the great infotainment options in place.


The first generation of this minivan was positioned to take over from the Toyota Previa in 1998

Dating back in history, the Toyota Sienna (formally known in Japanese as Toyota Shiena) is a minivan produced by Toyota at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana. This minivan has since effectively replaced the Toyota Previa van. With its special features re-branded yearly, the Toyota Sienna has kept on evolving with newer models that shape its road-worthiness till the present day. 

The Toyota Sienna models' main competitors include the Nissan quest, the Kia Sedona and the Mazda MPV. Take a look at the incredible journey so far:

1. The XL10 (1998-2003) Toyota Sienna

As the first generation model, the XL10 (1998-2003) Toyota Sienna was built in Georgetown, Kentucky and launched in the North American market as a replacement for the mid-engine Previa. Being a 5-door minivan with a more modern appearance, it was an extended display of other Toyota products like the Camry, but this model of Toyota minivan was spiced up with the following:

  • A 3.0 liter 1MZ-FE V6 engine rated at 194 horsepower. This engine had a variable valve timing feature VVT-i boosting its output to about 210 horsepower.
  • It was develped in three trims – the CE, LE, and XLE.
  • It was refurbished with a center console area which brings more usability to the HVAC controls with new locations for the accessory switches for rear vent, power sliding doors and heated seats making these seats easily folded.
  • A driver standard sliding door.
  • A high fuel economy capacity with an ability of covering 16 mpg for city driving and 22 mpg for the highway.
  • It came with facelift to both its front and rears, restructured grille and bumper tail-lights.
  • It was widely noticed for safety, offering a front seat-mounted side torso airbag with Vehicle Stability Control and Standard Anti-lock braking.


The first gen Sienna made a name for safety, space, its easy to use console, and fuel economy

This version became important and interesting enough to be noticed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a "Good" in all six-frontal crash test measures.But its fame was ruined by a class-action suit for engine oil sludge problems affecting the V6 engines in other Toyota brands including: oil smoke in the exhaust, oil quickly becoming dark after a change, high oil consumption with time resulting in engine failure.

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The original 6-seater provded roominess in a comfortable cabin

2. The XL20 (2004-2010) Toyota Sienna

In 2003, another jaw-dropping development of Toyota Sienna began at the Detroit Auto Show, moving production from the Georgetown plant to the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Plant in Indiana. This generation of Toyota Sienna came in with various versions of updates such as:


The 2004 and upward, 2nd generation saw the Sienna solidify its position as a truly global family minivan

  • 3.3-liter 3MZ-FE V6 engine paired with a new five-speed automatic transmission, ULEV certified with an 111mph or 179km/h top speed performance.
  • An unladen weight f 4120lbs or 1869kg with a displacement of 3311cm3.
  • The gear stick now redesigned from the steering column down to the center console in a gated shift pattern.
  • A 39% cargo space with 60/40 seat divide infrastructure.
  • HID Xenn headlamps, Dynamic Laser Cruise Cntrol, parking sensrs, a convex rear view mirror to enable the driver see the passengers and a voice-activated navigating system.
  • Hard key-less remote entry with high solar absorbing glass on the windshield and front windows.
  • A tilt and telescopic steering wheel with a factory tow package in the 2004-2007 model.
  • A standard anti-lock braking.
  • An electronic break-force distribution, traction and control with tire-pressure monitoring system for the brake assist with side torso airbags.


Five speed transmission, increased cargo capcity, and a general upgrading of tech facilities accompanied the 2nd gen Sienna

Aside from these yearly updates with numerous options depending on its trim level, this generation’s safety was certified by the IIHS which gave the Toyota Sienna an overall "Good" score in their frontal offset crash test with proper marks in all six measured categories. Also, the engine oil sludge problems affecting the V6 engines became history.  


Brand new 7-seating cabin wowed families world over

>>> While we are still talking family cars, see the best 201 has to offer! Up Next: 6 best family cars you should consider buying in 2019

3. The XL30 (2011-present) Toyota Sienna

This new Sienna models started arriving in 2011 with a range of unforgettable offers amongst all brands at the Los Angeles Auto Show; this was designed at Calty studios and engineered at Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan. This generation has continuously been flooded with features such as:


The 3rd generation Sienna faces fiercer competition from game changers like the Nissan Quest

  • Dropping the four-cylinder engine replaced with the 2GR-FE/3.5 V6 engines.
  • An eight-speed automatic transmission replacing the six-speed transmission engine in 2017 with D4-S direct injection fuel system increasing the new engine's power up to 296 horsepower (221 KW).
  • Availability of the all-wheel-drive.
  • A factory-installed auto-access seat for disabled persons with one-touch rotating power lift-up seat that lowers within 19 inches (48 cm) of the ground.
  • An Entune connected navigation system now available using standard Apple 7-in touchscreen Car-Play support alongside the 3.0 media system with USB ports for the 2018,2019 and 2020 models.
  • Back-up cameras coming with new 1800 panoramic view.
  • Interior dashboard and door cards now reviewed with 16.4-in color display, SD/ HDMI inputs, 2 120V AC power outlets displaying wide range of images at the same time with a remote and two wireless headphones for the 2020 model.
  • A 4505lbs or 2043kg unladen weight, 119.3in or 3030mm wheelbase and 6.5in or 165mm ground clearance.
  • New patterns of headlights, front grille with minor noise and vibration enhancements;
  • Adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist all engaged in Pre-collusion system that aids in pedestrian detection.
  • Standard automatic emergency braking.
  • Advanced eight-standard airbag systems.
  • Latest Toyota design language for the 2020 model.


Toyota went all out wth the 2011 onward version with V6 engine, all wheel drive, and better connectivity

Again, from its inception, the Toyota Sienna has been a more widely accepted, adventurous vehicle that uses a heavily envisioned design with other similar brands offering comfort and hospitality to families, individuals/ loved ones, employers/ employees etc.


7-8 seat option in a spacious cabinmakes the 3rd gen Sienna among the top 5 most bought minivans in the world

It's no fluke this is Nigeria's most enduring fmily minivan. Whatever generation you choose, you  won't go wrong rolling with the big Sienna.

If you are a fan of Toyota Sienna, these are suggested articles you can refer to:

>>> More car reviews as well as other auto resources on

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Joshua-Philip Okeafor

Joshua-Philip Okeafor

Car buying & selling

Joshua, or KK as friends call him, is a Filmmaker, Writer and Director. A Christian, Joshua is a product of Nigeria’s foremost film school, the National Film Institute, Jos, where he majored in Writing/Directing. Joshua began his writing career at age 18 when an older brother gave him a four page outline of a children novel. Joshua intends to keep writing and directing. His screen name is sometimes Joshua Kalu Ephraim (Writing), and sometimes Joshua KK (directing).

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