Car review: A more sensible and sensuous Sienta

The new Toyota Sienta is funky, functional and almost fun at the wheel. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE – The first-generation Toyota Sienta was a small, boxy bread-van of a car. The second-generation looked chic and avant-garde, but had an austere interior and was forgettable at the wheel.

Now, the third-generation Sienta has arrived, and it seems Toyota has got it right.

Besides being 20mm taller, the new car’s other dimensions are unchanged from its predecessor’s. The extra height does not hurt. It means a higher ceiling, and tiny tots can literally walk to their seats without stooping.

What is more significant is how well put together the Sienta feels now.

The test car’s interior is upholstered in fabric, which is actually classier, more suitable than fake leather and softens the plastic bits in the car. Fabric also gives the interior a homely ambience, and is a refreshing change from leather, whether real or simulated.

The latest car is built on a better platform – one which has proven its mettle with hit models such as the Toyota Yaris and Yaris Cross. Little wonder, then, that the new Sienta moves with more confidence and feels more coherent at the wheel than the previous model did.

It also shares the same drivetrain as the Yaris Cross Hybrid, which was reviewed here in January 2021. A 1,490cc three-cylinder engine assisted by an electric motor is actually smoother than the previous four-cylinder. Regulated by a continuously variable transmission (CVT), this combo worked wonderfully for the Yaris Cross, and it does the same for the Sienta.

Except for an audible buzz intruding into the cabin when both engine and motor work in unison and a hint of wind noise from 80kmh, the car is a lot more insulated than before.

Its CVT does a wonderful job of optimising the car’s modest output without piling on revs the way most other CVTs tend to do.

With more power and more accessible torque than its predecessor, the new Sienta is quicker, clocking a 12.5-second century sprint (12.8 seconds previously), but feeling a lot breezier at the wheel. Rarely does it feel underpowered, whether in the city or on the open highway.

The car is not too shoddy in the ride and handling department either.

Being light and compact is a plus point here. Braking is relatively dive-free, and cornering is fairly roll-free despite the height of the car. You need to work the steering wheel furiously sometimes to make sharper turns, but that is not something that affects the car’s overall appeal greatly.

The car has a long list of premium features, including adaptive cruise control and wireless connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

The test car averages 4.2 litres/100km, which is quite close to Toyota’s declared 4 litres/100km. Its consumption figure also compares favourably against the smaller, lighter Yaris Cross, which clocked 3.8 litres/100km.

These traits matter but, to most buyers looking for a multi-seater, space matters more.

On that front, the new Sienta is not much different from the previous one. The third row of seats is best reserved for very small children and for short journeys. The seats are thinly padded and there is hardly any legroom back there.

But since most trips in Singapore are short, and most families will not require all seven seats all the time, the Sienta qualifies as a versatile 5+2. Stowage is pretty decent even with all seats occupied. But if more cargo space is needed, it is effortless to flip either of the last two seats down.

The car comes with two rear motorised sliding doors, but its huge tailgate remains manual. In front, there are several storage bins, cubby holes and drink holders.

Fabric upholstery suits the Sienta, giving it a homely ambience and softening its plastic panels. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Despite its utilitarian outlook, it is generously equipped. Premium features include adaptive cruise control with lane guidance, collision warning, reverse camera and no fewer than six airbags.

Its super-efficient climate control has an in-built ioniser, and a 9-inch locally fitted infotainment touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity sits well within reach of a multi-function steering wheel. And there are two USB outlets in front, and two more in the second row.

The new car is funkier looking than before, with high-mounted headlights integrated with daytime-running LEDs and turning lamps, and a brush-metallic treatment around a floating bumper.

Space for seven and luggage, but just barely. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Starting at around $150,000, it is less expensive than a five-seater like the Toyota Corolla Altis. But it is some 50 per cent more than what its predecessor commanded when it was launched six years ago.

A probable upside to this might be that private-hire operators – who adore the previous model – would find the car too expensive to include it in their fleet. For now, at least.

Toyota Sienta

Price: From $150,588 with COE
Engine: 1,490cc 12-valve inline-3 with electric motor
Transmission: Continuously variable
Power: 114hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 141Nm at 3,995rpm
0-100kmh: 12.5 seconds
Top speed: 160kmh
Fuel consumption: 4 litres/100km
Agent: Borneo Motors

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