This loaded 8-seater still makes a very solid argument for the minivan segment.
Pricing: 2016 Honda Odyssey
Base price (Touring trim): $48,890
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $50,856
While nobody is selling as many minivans as they used to, a significant number of them still move off dealership lots every year, and while some models come and go, barely making a blip on the sales radar, some keep rolling. Year in and year out, perennial best-sellers like the Odyssey, the Toyota Sienna and the Dodge Caravan, continue to entice buyers for one reason or another. Actually, it’s likely a large list of reasons that wins over minivan buyers, because they still make a lot of sense to a lot of people.
Is the Odyssey the best looking van on the market? That’s a matter of opinion, but it’s certainly in the top two for me. The Kia Sedona is a looker and the all-new (and hilariously overpriced) Chrysler Pacifica is easy on the eyes too. Our loaded-up Touring trim Odyssey looked great, and the deep, gleaming Obsidian Blue Pearl colour got plenty of compliments.
Honda says the Odyssey has a (I’ll quote them here) “ready-or-not-here-we-come athletic stance”. I’d say that’s a bit rich, but for a minivan, it looks sleek – more so in person than in pictures. That’s partially because it rides quite low.
The lightning-bolt styling is now familiar, but is still likely the most subjective aspect of the otherwise tame design. The grille is flanked by a set of automatic HID headlights, and out back there is an attractive LED tail light signature. The Touring trim gets 18-inch rims with 235/60-sized tires.
Getting into the Odyssey is no problem with the proximity key system. Once you’re in, you’ll notice a somewhat busy dash – but that’s forgivable considering how much this vehicle can do. The materials are a mixed bag – there are some soft-touch plastics on the face of the dash and door panels, but the cabin is mostly hard plastics with a variety of textures and colours.
The comfortable heated leather seats are highly adjustable (including the armrests) and the driver’s side has a two-position memory which remembers the power mirror settings too.
Honda’s somewhat confusing two-screen system – there’s an upper one, which is display only, and then there is a lower touch-screen which works in concert with some of the hard buttons and knobs to control the system’s phone, navigation and front and rear audio functions. Speaking of audio, the Touring trim’s 12-speaker, 650 watt system will keep everyone’s ears happy – as long as you can all agree on what you’re listening to.
The centre stack is home to a tri-zone automatic climate control system (more about the third zone later), some USB and 12V charging ports and yes, there’s a sunroof overhead.
Touring trim buyers get a decent amount of driver assistance technology – a multi-angle rear-view camera with front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning and a forward collision warning system.
Second and Third Row Seats
Getting into the second row is just as easy as the front, thanks to the nearly-silent, power sliding doors. They can be opened and closed from a lot of places – buttons on the fob, buttons on the dash, buttons on the front edge of the sliding door frame, or with either the inside or outside door handles.
The second row seats – there are three of them – are very comfortable, and there is more than enough leg and head room. You can also recline the seats and slide them fore and aft. We appreciated the multi-function middle seat here, which can flip down to become a handy storage console with cupholders for the second row. Overhead is a control panel for the automatic rear climate system (the third zone), which gets excellent ceiling-ducted air conditioning vents and floor ducts for the heater.
Entry and exit to the third row isn’t quite as easy but still works well for kids and adults, thanks to the outboard second row seats that easily tip and then slide forward and out of the way. Once in, I was surprised by the amount of the room back there. I’m 5’10” and even with the second row seats all the way back, I had an inch or two of leg room to spare, and plenty of head room. There are three seats back there as well, each with a seatbelt and headrest, and there is a centre armrest that folds down out of the middle seatback. Your rearmost passengers will find cupholders and drop-in bins on either side too.
If you aren’t able to agree what you want to listen to, there’s a pair of wireless headphones as well as a pair of headphone plugs for the third row. And the rear passengers aren’t limited to music – there’s an enormous 16.2-inch screen that pops down out of the ceiling. Heck, that’s wide enough to split into two screens, allowing your passengers to watch two different things at the same time. Sources? Sure – there’s a DVD player, an HDMI plug and even RCA inputs if you’re going old-school. It’s all about choices these days, isn’t it? The control panel pops out and acts as a remote if you prefer that.
There are integrated sunshades for the side windows in both the second and third rows, and if you’re transporting lots of little people, you will find a total of five sets of LATCH anchors (three in the second row, and two in the third) for child seats. And there’s a 115V household plug for good measure.
There is absolutely no shortage of places to put your things, whether you’re looking for a spot to drop something during daily use or whether you’re packing the Odyssey to the brim for a lengthy road trip. Between the pop-out bin (that can be cooled!) at the bottom of the centre stack, the dual door bins for front passengers and a handy coin bin under the left side of the dash, I found lots of “stash” room.
Oh and let’s not forget the huge centre floor console between the front seats, complete with cupholders for the front and second row passengers, a tray and a large bin under the lid. At the back of it is a flip-up trash bag ring, which allows you to add a place for second row passengers to put garbage. Yes! The best part? The whole thing is removable by lifting a single latch, which creates a nice open space between the seats or more room for baggage if you need it.
The power lift gate opens up to let you into the 846 litre trunk. It’s big and we really loved the deep well (with a rubber tub for wet and dirty stuff) that sits below the floor level. Honda adds a 12V plug and a series of bag hooks for your convenience. The third row splits 60/40 and can either fold forward, or flip backwards and into the trunk cargo well, making for a perfectly flat floor. If they are out of the way, you’ll be working with 2636 litres of capacity behind the second row seats and that’s enough to do most anything.
Under the Hood
There are no surprises under the hood. Honda’s excellent 3.5-litre V6, which puts out 248 HP at 5700 RPM and 250 lb.ft of torque, motivates this van, sending its power through the 6-speed automatic to the front wheels. Modern tricks like variable cylinder management help the Odyssey to achieve its reasonable fuel economy ratings of 12.3 L/100 km (19 US mpg) city and 8.5 L/100 km (28 US mpg) highway.
We averaged an impressive 11.8 L/100 km (20 US mpg) during a week with plenty of bringing-kids-somewhere-and-coming-right-back-home trips, slow commuting and a couple more freeway trips than usual. If you do the towing thing, the Odyssey can drag another 1588 kg (3500lb) along.
You get to fire up the Odyssey with a racy red push-start button, in case you forgot that you’re in a sporty Honda.
Power is good off the line and around town. Things are a bit different once you’re on your way. While it cruises effortlessly, I thought the Odyssey seemed a bit too hesitant to downshift at highway speeds, and when it does, it felt like it was working pretty hard to pass.
The ride is outstanding as you’d expect, and it soaks up any kind of hits, bumps or dips. The handling is, for a minivan, excellent. Sure, it wallows in corners with plenty of lean, but this is a huge, heavy beast capable of moving plenty of people and their stuff. And with that in mind, I consider it a little victory that the Odyssey still feels somewhat agile around the city and that it will happily tackle curves. It’s less about athletic prowess than consistent competency and that is perfectly fine for a minivan.
Visibility out of the Odyssey is excellent with one exception. If the third-row headrests are in use, they block half of your rear view. Honda has done an excellent job with the Odyssey’s noise levels – it’s quiet right up to highway speeds.
Living with the Odyssey is easy, but Honda has engineered in and added little extras that make life even sweeter. Things like the Odyssey’s outstanding 5.6 metre turning radius and the power-folding mirrors help make parking in tight spots easier. There are 15(!) cup and bottle holders throughout the vehicle, which works out to nearly two per passenger if you’ve got a full house. And the HondaVac in-trunk vacuum is downright cool. The hose reaches right to the front seats and while it’s not the most powerful vacuum, it certainly picks up the bulk of what you’ll find on your seats and your floor mats. It’s great for families.
While peak minivan has come and gone, there are still plenty of people who buy them. If you’re in the market for a vehicle that comfortably moves a lot of people and their stuff, that is easy to live with on a daily basis and is just as comfortable in town as on the open road, I highly recommend the Honda Odyssey.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was very high. We used to own a previous-generation Odyssey, which she loved very much. While she appreciates her much-smaller ride these days, she said she loved how smoothly it drove, how easy it was to live with and just how much space it had.
Yes, the Odyssey’s Touring trim gets pricey, but it’s hard to imagine anything that Honda missed here. I’m guessing most people could happily live with one of the lesser trim levels – which would come with a few less gadgets and goodies – to save some money. Yet the local dealership indicates the Touring trim is definitely the best-seller. Regardless of which trim one chooses, the functionality and capability is there. If I were shopping for a minivan, I’d be buying an Odyssey.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Wheaton Honda.
Blog provided with permission from Tom Sedens, a local automotive blogger in Edmonton, Alberta, and member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For more vehicle reviews, visit wildsau.ca.