New & Used Honda Odyssey: In Depth
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The Honda Odyssey is an uncompromising minivan for buyers unswayed by family crossovers.
The Odyssey tackles rival minivans such as the Toyota Sienna, Dodge Grand Caravan, and Kia Sedona. Luckily for Honda, the Odyssey is armed with best-in-class fuel economy, great safety, and features like a built-in vacuum cleaner to take on those competitors.
Honda's minivan now comes in a top Elite model, along with the usual LX, EX, and Touring editions.
The Odyssey is also known for its low running costs and strong resale value, which are traits common to most Honda vehicles.
MORE: Read our 2016 Honda Odyssey review
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, 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—that adds a little more window space in back. The design flourish can be polarizing, but it at least serves a functional purpose, as any good minivan feature should.
The engine has been carried over from the previous generation, and the current model uses a 248-horsepower version of the corporate 3.5-liter V-6, but a new six-speed automatic has been phased in—initially, it was only offered on the upper trim levels. The new transmission boosts 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. The Odyssey has earned nods from the IIHS as a Top Safety Pick status and a top five-star overall rating from the federal government.
The lack of some features on all but the highest-priced models has been a problem with past Odyssey models. That was somewhat alleviated with the refresh given to the Odyssey for the 2013 model year, which made a rearview camera and Bluetooth connectivity standard equipment.
The 2014 model year brought 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. The HondaVac spread to the middle-of-the-road SE trim in addition to the Touring Elite trim, which could mean that the automaker is testing the waters for more buyers. Honda also made the six-speed automatic standard across all Odyssey models in 2014, putting all models at the same (higher) fuel-economy ratings. Few noticeable changes were made to the Odyssey for 2015 or 2016.
In its top trim, the Odyssey can 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.
Honda Odyssey history
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 reception in the States. It was smaller than domestic minivans, and didn't have sliding side doors like those on the American offerings at the time. Still, Honda’s reputation for reliability and strong resale values helped the Odyssey become a household nameplate within its first couple of years on 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 calling card was its competitive pricing, although an inflow of cheaper models has seen this advantage eroded significantly. Nowadays, 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.
The Odyssey was fully Americanized in its second generation, and production moved to North America as well. The van grew for 1999, and its four-cylinder engine was replaced with the corporate 3.5-liter V-6. The second-generation Odyssey offered dual sliding doors, solid handling, and plenty of power.
Honda was on to a winning formula, so for the third generation of the minivan, which was launched as a 2005 model, changes were kept to a minimum. That Odyssey featured a 244-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 with optional cylinder-deactivation technology. The most efficient model returned EPA-rated fuel economy of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.