Daddy likes. Forget about Mommy.
It came in black with grey interior: My husband's favorite color. I was thinking there is no way I am driving to Austin and I need to test drive this thing, I can drive it from the dealership so I nicely offered to drive it home. Daddy jumped up quickly and said noooo I will drive it, you can take the Civic home. So as you can see it passes the looks Dad cool enough test.
I am notoriously slacker when it comes to distance driving... or daily driving. For the most part, if my husband is in the car, he is driving per my request. I have man the mp3 player and keep the baby quiet duty. I enjoy driving and I enjoy being chauffeured. I get plenty of time to drive without him. So he gets chauffeur duty when we are in same car. And he rarely complains. <3
So we caravan-ed it back to the house and immediately started packing up to go to play group monthly dinner which Friday night was a decent drive from the house. We would be leaving for Austin at crack of dawn Saturday morning so 7am and car seat wrangling without Starbucks? Not an option.
We installed Elena's True Fit carseat rear-facing with the headrest (won't fit with headrest in the Civic while rear facing). We decided to place it behind the driver's seat since that is our biggest issue. When the driver needs leg room, the drive has to have leg room.
First, installing was a BREEZE. I was shocked. We got that baby into the car and solid in less than 5 minutes. The latch hooks were very easy to find and access on the cloth second row seats. They weren't as deep in the cracks. You moms know what I am talking about.
The amazing thing about the Sienna 2012 second row seats is that the captain's chairs independently move forward and backwards. Because of that my 5' 11" husband had way more room than he needed while still having tons of third row seat room which I later appreciated when adult-sized me (5' 3") rode to Austin in said third row seat. I can honestly say this Toyota Sienna takes care of two rear-facing carseats without breaking a sweat.
Overall our van seats 7-8. There is an optional 2nd row seat that installs between the two captain's chairs. Its really nice to have that option. We never had more than 5 adults and one baby in the van. I very much do not want 5 children. So my take is that, its a great optional seat when you are carpooling somewhere. It compactly stores in a special niche in the cargo area when not in use. I prefer having no seat there for normal daily use. It was really hard to install the optional seat when driving home from Austin in a full packed car, trying to not wake the baby without reading the instructions. After 15-20 minutes of whispering curse words Grandpa (my father) and I discovered said instructions conveniently printed on the bottom of the seat. Whoops! It was super easy after that.
Car seat placement
It appeared to have latch connectors for both captain's chairs and the three seats in the back row. All with the tie-down tethers. Someone stole the owner's manual out of our rental, so I dont know for sure where what can be placed. Typically you cant install in the middle seat latch and the two flanking seats at the same time. The manual specifies these things. I will update on the details when I get a clarification from the dealership. In the meantime, I can comfortable state that our minivan can seat 4 or 3 car seats with the difference being either one in the center third row or two in the back row not occupying the center seat.
On the the rest of the details because its not all about the kids and cramming people in, right?
After the carseat placement I drove the van
My impression of the handling of this vehicle was tall car. It did not feel like driving a van, truck, or SUV. It was very responsive and zipper than the Civic with much smoother transmission timing. There were no obvious or large blind spots. I rarely used the back up camera even though it turns on automatically when in reverse. I hate driving my husbands truck because its hard to gauge when the pick-up bed ends. I had no issues with the van. The breaks performed as I instinctually expected them to as did the gas. Some cars you have to get used to driving, this van was not that way. I felt like I had been driving it for years despite rarely ever driving vans and avoiding driving SUVs. Mommy liked.
My favorite features on this trim level were automatic side doors, the reclining second row seats, bluetooth, heat absorbing glass windows, built in retractable 2nd and 3rd row sunshades, and rear controllable AC. The back up camera was very nice to have when in tight situations. We were in Austin and it was bright and sunny all day Saturday. Surprisingly, even after many hot parking lots, our black minivan never felt like getting into an oven (common in Texas). The heat absorbing glass was a noticeable benefit. The AC was MAGNIFICENT. It got cold very quick and was evenly vented throughout all three rows including lower and upper vents.
Moving in and out of the minivan was relatively easy. The second row seat uses the recline handle to fold and slide forward. I dont think this feature would work well with the carseat in it. However, it was easy to climb in and walk between the two captain's chairs to the third row. You can slide the 2nd row seat forward with a carseat in it. Without the fold its harder for a large adult to fit through the space provided. The front seat center consul was low enough to easily climb over to gain access to the kids in the back or in our case screaming tired baby who needed her paci after Friday night dinner. I rode in all three rows to access their options over the course of Fri and Saturday. Surprisingly the back seats were just as comfortable as the front. The reclining 2nd row seats were lovely when I read my kindle on the way home from the same dinner. The interior lights are very bright with no dark corners for monsters to hide in.
This vehicle is spacious. We packed in 5 adults, an almost 14 mth old, car seat, ice chest, City Mini stroller, huge beach/tote bag, and the large bin we store Elena's cloth diapers in. Plus her all day long plant wise wet bag (monster sized), diaper bag, two purses, and road trip required snacks and entertainment. I could have easily doubled the cargo we were carrying and still had some room left over.
The 3rd row seat is split 60/40. On the way to Austin I found it difficult to pull things from the trunk into the back seat while driving because the trunk is so deep. So, getting smart, I folded down the 40 side of the seat and created a walkway into the truck which worked very well for ice chest access. The third row also has these great lidded storage cubbies in the side arm rests. The two cup holders on either side of the back was also very nice for drink and snack storage.
Now for the things I wasnt fond of. There is this weird awkward tray thing permanently attached to the floor between the two captain's chairs. It is what makes the optional 8th seat work. It was nice when driving for holding cups but kinda weird to walk over. It is built to be walked on with very sturdy, hard plastic. If you actually store things there, you have to move them for someone to walk through. The front seat backs do have pockets and there are other cup holders available for the second row. It wasn't a deal breaker but was kinda odd. In nit-picky things I wish the aux jack was located inside a storage compartment. Either the center storage or one of the two glove boxes.
Also the Le doesnt come with a power liftgate, a known concern of mind. I will say it was one of the easiest liftgates to open and close. Because of the hinge mechanism it practically opens itself. The latch trigger is an electronic style rubber button. Much easier than the typical lever. It wasnt too high to grab and pull down. I could pull down with one hand but it did require two hands to push close. If I could ever live without a power liftgate, it would be on this van. It wasnt so hard to operate that I would insist on moving up a trim level to gain a power liftgate. It bugged me some that the remote wouldn't "pop" the trunk.
Overall there were no deal breakers or major concerns. We enjoyed the van and my husband remarked late on Saturday that he had to remind himself that we didnt buy it. We miss the van. The sliding doors were nicer than we imagined in getting Elena in and out of the car, particularly in parking lots. Made me wish for sliding driver and passenger doors too.
Result: We decided to buy the Toyota Sienna 2012 LE. Now we live like monks so that we can pay for it as much in cash as possible but I cant want for baby boy to arrive and get our new black car baby too!