Beneath its distinctive exterior, the Honda Odyssey is a family-friendly minivan with a flexible cabin that can be configured to seat eight passengers or haul up to 148.5 cubic feet of cargo. This practicality, along with capable handling and admirable fuel efficiency, makes the Odyssey one of the top choices in the minivan segment.
For the latest model year, Honda has updated the Odyssey with minor styling changes inside and out, new safety systems and an available in-vehicle vacuum. An efficiency-boosting six-speed automatic transmission, previously offered only on upper-tier trim levels, is now standard on all Odysseys.
Already distinguished by an unusual side window treatment, the Odyssey gains additional visual presence for the new model year thanks to several stygian touches, including black-trimmed headlights and a black-surround grille. A more muscular hood - newly constructed from aluminum to save weight - along with expanded chrome trim and restyled LED taillights round out the revisions.
While looks are important, Honda recognizes that the interior is a minivan's raison d'etre. With all three rows of seats in place, the Odyssey provides seating for up to eight and room for 38.4 cubic feet of cargo. The second-row seats can slide fore or aft to prioritize legroom for whichever of the two rearmost rows has the more vertically-gifted passengers.
Should there be a need to carry more stuff, the 60/40 split-folding "Magic Seat" third row can be tucked entirely into the floor to create a flat load surface and 93.1 cubic feet of space. For serious hauling situations, the 40/20/40 split second-row seats must be removed to free up more real estate - several competitors offer simpler fold-into-floor seats - but the reward is a warehouse-like 148 cubes of storage.
Stowage space aside, the Odyssey's cabin boasts numerous cupholders, a removable center console with a trash bag holder and a beverage cooler located at the bottom of the dashboard. An optional HDMI DVD entertainment system lets rear seat passengers enjoy two separate road-trip diversions - for example, a gaming system and a movie - at the same time on a 16.2-inch screen.
Range-topping Odyssey Touring Elite models are equipped with a unique HondaVAC in-vehicle vacuum system developed in conjunction with Shop-Vac. A high-power vacuum, replaceable filter and canister bag are included, as are nozzle accessories that are integrated into the driver's side of the van's rear cargo area. Since it runs off of the Odyssey's electrical system, the HondaVAC does not need to be recharged. It can be operated any time the Odyssey is running and it will continue to work for eight minutes after the van has been turned off.
Material quality is excellent throughout, and though buttons and knobs for the sound system and HVAC are numerous, they're at least logically arranged. Several recent changes, including redesigned instrumentation, trim and fabrics, keep things looking fresh inside. Also new is the available HondaLink infotainment system, which pairs the standard eight-inch upper display screen with a seven-inch touchscreen mounted lower down on the dash. The setup features voice-activated Bluetooth connectivity, integrated SMS text messaging and Pandora Radio along with Twitter and Facebook functionality.
All Odyssey models are powered by a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 engine that produces 248 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. Though some trim levels previously used a five-speed automatic, a more amply-ratioed six-speed auto newly standard across the board for the latest model year. Fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Odyssey is offered in LX, EX, EX-L, EX-L w/RES, EX-L w/Navi, Touring and Touring Elite trim levels.
The LX comes standard with two-zone A/C, full power accessories, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a seven-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system with AUX and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity with Pandora radio compatibility and SMS texting capability, a rearview camera, cruise control and 17-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.
The EX ups the feature count with tri-zone automatic climate control, power-sliding doors, heated exterior mirrors, a blind-spot warning system, a removable front center console, push-button start, HondaLink infotainment with Aha radio compatibility and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The EX-L adds first- and second-row leather upholstery, heated front seats a sunroof, a power liftgate, satellite radio, a chilled storage box, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and forward collision and lane departure warning systems (description below). The EX-L w/RES adds the rear entertainment system, while the EX-L w/Navi features a navigation system; these two features can't be ordered together on the EX-L.
The Touring makes both the navigation and rear entertainment systems standard and also brings front and rear parking sensors, foglights, memory seating for the driver, retractable third-row sunshades, a wide-angle rearview camera and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Step up to the two-level Touring Elite and you'll get the HondaVAC system in addition to a 12-speaker, 5.1 Surround Sound stereo with HD Radio, an upgraded rear-seat entertainment system with a widescreen display and xenon headlights.
All Odyssey models come equipped with dual front, front side and three-row side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems, front row active head restraints and electronic brake force distribution.
Newly available safety systems include forward collision alert, which warns the driver when it detects that a crash is imminent, and a lane departure warning system that chimes when the Odyssey begins wandering into an adjacent lane.
Family-friendly rivals to the Honda Odyssey include the reliable Toyota Sienna, the uniquely-styled Nissan Quest, the value-laden Kia Sedona and the best-selling Dodge Grand Caravan.