2023 Toyota Sienna Long-Term Update: How do you clean a black hole?

I was about to hand over our long-term Toyota Sienna to Road Test Editor Zac Palmer, so I went through the vehicle for a clean-up. It was a reminder about how long it takes to clean the interior of something this large, but I also noticed that some parts of the Sienna were difficult, even impossible, to clean. Here are a few of the things that gave me pause.

First, the rails for the sliding captain’s chairs were an obstacle. The rubber flaps that attempt to cover it do not meet cleanly in the middle, so I’m sure over time a lot of detritus will end up in them. They’re wide enough to let in bigger debris, but thin and deep enough to make them difficult to access with a finger or the skinny attachment of a vacuum cleaner. If you have a Sienna, it might be worth your while to buy an extra set of cheap floor mats to cover the rails. It would be a little inconvenient, sure, but less inconvenient than trying to clean them.

The second thing I noticed was that a lot of the plastic moldings and trim pieces, like those at the ends of the above rails, are a loose fit. It makes it pretty easy for smaller things like sand to get in there, but difficult to get that stuff out. The extra wiggle room meant, however, that I could get to some of the debris under them with relative ease without having to take anything apart.

There are also some spots where pieces of the carpeting overlap, or the ends of the carpeting aren’t totally adhered to the floor beneath. That means some stuff can get under there, but it’s also easy enough to pull those flaps of carpeting back to clean underneath. It’s a little disconcerting to do so, though. It just feels like something you shouldn’t do, or a part of the car that could cause problems in the future. Not saying it definitely will, but I’d be constantly worrying about those spots over the course of ownership.

I didn’t notice those crumbs until after I pulled back the carpet.

Finally, the cover for the center console storage bin folds down to the side of the bin. Not into the bin, but into a separate recession. If you have crumbs or spilled liquid on the lid, that would all disappear in to that black hole of a space, never to be seen again. I can only imagine the nightmare that would ensue if some moist piece of food or something milky ended up down there. How would you clean it? Or worse, what if you absentmindedly set, say, your house key atop the bin, opened the lid? At least the Sienna is big enough to live in after you’re locked out of your house. That seems like a small design flaw that could become a big headache.

Where does it go?

Do you have a current-generation Sienna? If so, have you encountered any issues with any of the above?

On the other hand, one item in the Sienna that made life a lot easier come cleaning time were the all-weather floor liners that came with our tester — a $260 option, according to the Monroney — did make the cleanup a lot easier. That’s a lot of square footage that doesn’t put up a fight against the vacuum when trying to suck up sand or dog hair. That is definitely worth the money for the saved time and the peace of mind for longevity.

All that said, I was sad to hand off the keys to the Sienna, and hope it makes its way back to the Snyder Mill again before the loan is up. Being huge made it a chore to clean, sure, but it was an awesome family vehicle. The ease of getting people and cargo in and out of a minivan is a benefit that can’t be understated. When you combine that with the Sienna’s all-wheel drive and excellent fuel economy, it’s no wonder I see these all over the place.

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