- Great handling
- Thoughtful interior touches
- Gas mileage of a mid-size sedan
- More child-seat positions than other vans
- Top-notch wide-screen entertainment system
- Still no Bluetooth on base LX
- Pricier than other minivans
- Visibility for lane changes
The 2012 Honda Odyssey is the priciest of the minivans, but innovative seating and excellent handling set it apart from all the rest.
Honda completely redesigned its Odyssey minivan last year, giving this near-perfect family vehicle a more detailed look, improved seating, and new connectivity and entertainment features.
For 2012, Honda has addressed one of our chief complaints with the launch of the redesigned Odyssey last year. Honda was aiming to move on from the Baby Boomer crowd and extend the Odyssey's appeal to a younger crowd of new parents in their 20s and 30s, yet the new Bluetooth, connectivity, and infotainment features that this more tech-savvy crowd especially values were only offered on top trims. This year, Bluetooth, a USB interface, 2 GB of music storage, and the i-MID information display are included in all but the base LX.
Minivans are the shape they are because the boxy proportions maximize space and the rounded edges and rakishness help aerodynamics and highway gas mileage, but Honda has managed to make the latest Odyssey a little more interesting in the details. While pictures don't always do the new lightning-bolt beltline, which drops the window line a bit behind the sliding door, justice, we think the new cue adds style as well as function—giving third-row passengers a bit more window space while accommodating the thicker back pillar that's common to other Hondas like the CR-V.
Climb behind the wheel of the 2012 Honda Odyssey after doing the same test-drive route in an SUV or taller crossover, and it's likely you'll become a minivan convert (or rediscover the van). The Odyssey has always been one of the most responsive-driving and cleverly packaged minivans, and neither of those aspects have changed. You can drive an Odyssey on tight, twisty roads with the same verve as you would a sporty sedan, and handling is top-notch. The Odyssey has strong acceleration from the 247-hp, 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 engine; top Touring and Touring Elite models of the new Odyssey get a new six-speed automatic transmission, while the rest of the line does just fine with a five-speed. Odysseys with the six-speed are a little bit better on gas though, with ratings up to 19 mpg city, 28 highway, but all Odyssey models now have Variable Cylinder Management, to save gas, and active noise cancellation, to bolster the Odyssey's already quiet and refined interior.
In keeping with the Odyssey's very family-focused package, it's brimming with smart details that keep the interior safe and stress-free for parents and kids. The three rows of seating are now even better for six adults, thanks to a new second-row configuration that allows the outboard seats to actually tilt and slide outward—changing the width of the second row depending on whether there are two adults, three, or a combination of child seats there (there are now five sets of LATCH connectors, for child seats). Last year, the third row gained an inch of legroom and in some trims an armrest, while its folding mechanism got even better, with one-arm operation and no need for a power-folding mechanism. And the Odyssey was the first minivan to achieve both top five-star results in the revised federal crash tests as well as Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS.While connectivity and audio features have been bolstered for 2012, some of the other more desirable features, such as a blind-spot system, auto-leveling HID headlamps, and a hard-drive-based music system, remain the exclusive domain of top Odyssey Touring and Touring Elite models. FM-based (free) traffic updates, extended voice controls, and a stunning wide-screen entertainment system (with first-in-class HDMI input) help truly distinguish these top models, although the top Touring Elite costs nearly $45k.