The only automotive segment hurt worse than family sedans by the market’s crossover explosion is the venerable minivan. Long a staple, and stable, transportation appliance for millions of families, the minivan class continues to witness declining sales despite the best editions ever engineered.
Ford and GM don’t even offer minivans anymore. Chrysler/FCA has two, the Pacifica and the Voyager (replacing the Grand Caravan), Toyota has the Sienna, Kia still makes the Sedona, and Honda’s Odyssey, long a benchmark, are the sole remaining sliding side-door passenger-first vehicles for the masses.
The Odyssey comes in five flavors. Base LX starts at just under $31,000 while the line increases in price through EX, EX-L, Touring and top Elite — $49,335 as shown. Power comes from a robust performing 3.5-liter 280-hp V-6 backed by a 10-speed automatic, a smooth transmission with two overdrive gears at the top that labored over holding selected cruise speeds. Acceleration requests are met with a muffled mechanical flurry that results in satisfying forward thrust. Fuel economy averaged 25 mpg for the week against an EPA estimate of 19/28/22 mpg.
Front-wheel drive is standard, which is how all of the segment used to roll. But now Pacifica offers AWD as an option, Sienna too, plus the Pacifica comes in a hybrid edition, while every single new Sienna is now a hybrid.
As always, this platform is sure-footed, secure in every handling assignment and stable under the worst conditions. The ride is so good that the wide-track, long wheelbase Honda reveals how very bad many of our rural roads are. This very well could be the quietest Honda you can buy, which seems unusual given the spaciousness of this box.
Dimensionally, these vans are separated by mere inches in every measurement, so you will make your purchasing decision on how well the interior is executed as all of today’s minivans ride and drive with similar aplomb. Or maybe the price will be a factor.
Most minivan buyers are looking for practical, versatile packaging and the Honda rewards that quest in spades. Strategically placed beverage slots, USB ports and folding, sliding rear seats are necessary staples today. The Odyssey adds a terrifically flexible front console that features slots and sliding door covers along with a wireless phone-charging pad. In the way back, there is the requisite deep well for cargo, or, to swallow the split-folding third row seat when not needed.
Unfortunately, to get max cargo space, the second-row seats have to be removed — they do not store in the floor like the Pacifica. Our Elite had twin-bucket Magic-slide seats in the middle row, pedestals that can slide front and back or side to side to make a small bench if necessary, or, a wider passageway to the third row. Adult rear passengers were pleased with their seating. All doors are huge, electrically powered here, plus visibility is excellent all around.
Elite trim brings Honda’s Sensing portfolio of driving aids, as well as CabinWatch interior view monitor, plus a rear seat reminder signal upon exiting so that no one accidentally gets left behind. Surprisingly, Honda’s LaneWatch cameras are not included nor is a surround-view exterior camera system. A Heads-Up display for the driver is also absent.
You do get remote starting, heated and cooled front leather seating, tri-zone climate controls, rear sunshades, a power moonroof, rear parking sensors, rear privacy glass, rear entertainment screen, plus blind-spot and rear traffic alerts. The 11-speaker audio system runs through a touchscreen panel up front that could be easier to manipulate, but tech-savvy buyers will become immersed in its many capabilities and overlook its unnecessary complexity.
Pet peeves: access is convenient all around (key for both older and younger passengers), however the driver’s seat actually feels too low and does not offer enough height adjustment. Shorter drivers might even feel like they are hiding behind the expansive dash. The electronic push/pull transmission shift buttons on the dash lack the traditional no-look feel and operation that most drivers take for granted in a vehicle.
Honda uses this same platform as the foundation for the Pilot and Passport crossovers, as well as the Ridgeline pickup truck. Built in Lincoln, Ala., the Odyssey works exceedingly well, yet there are signs that this vehicle will need more defining points (AWD, hybrid powertrain, even EV) going forward in order to remain viable against the constant crossover assault.
Next week: Hyundai Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid