New & Used Honda Odyssey: In Depth
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The Honda Odyssey is a minivan that can seat up to eight passengers. It's one of the best choices in the minivan segment, a step ahead of rivals like the Nissan Quest and Kia Sedona--and on par with the Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Chrysler Town & Country.As minivans go, the Odyssey has the best road manners, even though buyers in this niche are more concerned with the number of cupholders and video screens over road feel and cornering ability. It's also known for its low running costs and strong resale value.
Today's Odyssey bears little resemblance to the one that first emerged in Japan in 1994 and launched a year later in the U.S. As Honda's first minivan, it had a cool initial reception here in the States. It was smaller than domestic minivans, and didn't have sliding side doors like those on the Caravan and Town & Country. Still, Honda’s reputation for reliability and strong resale values enabled the Odyssey to become a household nameplate within its first couple of years of sale.
That first Odyssey rode on a version of the Honda Accord family sedan platform and was built in Japan and exported. The smallish first-generation Odyssey offered only a four-cylinder engine, although the little package was able to carry either six or seven passengers; the middle row could be optioned with either a traditional bench or a pair of captain's chairs.
The Odyssey’s other major draw card was its competitive pricing, although an inflow of cheaper models has seen this advantage eroded significantly. It's completely gone now, and the highly featured Odyssey is one of the more expensive minivans for sale in the U.S., with a starting price in the high $20,000s.
Honda then moved production of the Odyssey to North America, sized the van up significantly, and replaced the four-cylinder engine of the previous model with a new 3.5-liter V-6. Coming onto the market as a 1999 model, this bigger Odyssey was praised for its strong power, excellent handling and twin sliding doors.
Honda was on to a winning formula, so for the third generation of the minivan, which was first launched as a 2005 model, changes were kept to a minimum. The Honda Odyssey featured a 244-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 with optional cylinder deactivation technology. The most efficient model returned an EPA-rated fuel economy of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
The new Honda Odyssey
Honda has added a little more design panache to the latest generation of the Odyssey, which was introduced as a 2011 model, along with improved seating plus new connectivity and entertainment features. The most noteworthy detail of the new design is a 'lightning-bolt' beltline--a small drop of the window line just behind the sliding door--which adds a little more window space in back.
Power has carried over, with a 247-hp version of the 3.5-liter V-6, but a new six-speed automatic has been phased in for part of the lineup, boosting some models' gas mileage to 19 mpg city, 28 highway. Variable cylinder management and active noise cancellation makes these vans among the most efficient and refined picks in the real world, too, plus the Odyssey has earned both IIHS Top Safety Pick status and top five-star ratings from the federal government.
The lack of some features on all but the highest-priced models has been a problem with the Odyssey in the past. That became better with the refresh given to the Odyssey for the 2013 model year, since a rearview camera and Bluetooth are now standard equipment. The Odyssey can also be had with a stunning wide-screen entertainment system, HID headlamps, a blind-spot warning system, and a great 650-watt sound system--as well as, lest you forget, that integrated vacuum system.
The 2014 model year brought what could be a minivan innovation to the Odyssey's top Touring Elite trim level. The HondaVac, developed with ShopVac, is a built-in vacuum that is powered by the car's battery and can reach from its spot in the cargo area all the way to the front row. While Honda is only offering it on the top trim level for now, it's likely that it will spread to other models if it proves popular, and it shows that automakers are still looking for ways to make minivans work better for families.