The Sienta is a reliable family minivan

Thursday September 10 2020

Although not an attractive car, the Sienta has a lot more to offer, especially for people with large families or business people looking for a reliable workhorse. PHOTO | RACHEL MABALA

By David S. Mukooza

The Toyota Sienta is a seven seater compact minivan. In Uganda, it is popular with business people and people with large families thanks to its affordability and utility. It is a practical car that is not overloaded with sensors, which makes it reliable and easy to maintain. It simply gets the job done in a practical and efficient way. 

Engine, fuel consumption
According to the Toyota website, the Sienta has been in production for two generations from 2003 to date. It is built on a platform that is shared with the Vitz, Platz, Porte and others. The 2013 Toyota Sienta comes with a 1.5 Litre engine, which speaks to its excellent fuel consumption. When it comes to reliability, the Toyota Sienta is bullet proof. Its engine is a proven work horse and it is one of the most reliable and longstanding Toyota engines. However, as with any car, service and maintenance play a big role in reliability.

The interior is basic but this is what makes the Sienta successful. The instrument cluster consists of the speedometer/tachometer in the middle of the dashboard and the radio and AC consoles right below. The legroom is decent on all three rows and the head space is good thanks to the high roof.

Cabin storage
There are several storage compartments in the cabin that are useful for storing items such as smartphones, beverages and a handbag. At the first row, there are two cup-holders, a storage shelf below the seats, door panel storage and glovebox. At the second row, there are two cup holders in the door compartments, and at the third row, there are two cup holders.

The Sienta has a high roof, which makes it ideal for carrying bulky luggage. With the three rows in use, the boot space is small but with the third row seats folded flat into the floor, the space is quite big. Additionally, the second row seats can also be folded flat into the floor to create an even bigger space.

The Sienta does not score much in exterior design and can best be described as basic although practical. Higher grades are spruced up with alloy rims and fog lights but the overall look still remains basic.
Ground clearance
The 2013 Toyota Sienta has a ground clearance of 5.5 Inches (140mm), which is below the minimum for Ugandan roads and it may be necessary to make some height adjustment to avoid scrapping speed bumps. Bosco Kigongo, a mechanic, says height adjustment makes it better on the move but also disturbs its appearance.


Stability and handling
According to Elizabeth Mpongo, who owns this car, with five passengers on board, it drives fairly well and does not feel underpowered. However, she says, with seven adult passengers on board, the engine labours harder and acceleration is subdued. Around corners, it leans a bit too much especially when lightly loaded but otherwise drives well on straight roads. Sound insulation is minimal and road noise permeates the cabin at higher speeds.

Service and maintenance 
Kigongo says minor service at 5,000km requires air cleaner, oil filter, and engine oil and major service at 10,000km will require air cleaner, oil filter, fuel filter, plugs, front brake pads, rear brake pads and engine oil. However, he says, some of these might not require replacement depending on how old the car is and how it is handled.

Spare parts
As is common practice, Kigongo says most parts are widely shared with other Toyotas. Mechanical parts and service parts are easily available in most shops in downtown Kampala. However, he says, body parts might be rare but you can still get them, especially in Bwaise, a Kampala suburb.

The Sienta has low ground clearance and it’s commonly reported problems include transmission failure, electric door failure, loss of power and oil consumption. However, it is an affordable seven-seater car with bulletproof reliability and excellent fuel economy.