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There was a time when minivans were despised by style-conscious parents about as much as their kids despised hand-me-downs from their older siblings, but it appears as if they've made it through the dark days. At the other end of the tunnel, we still can't ignore that with their easy-driving nature, comfortable seats, awesome versatility, and cavernous interior, minivans make sense--and in style, they don't have to be so oppressive.Among the best of the current bunch--and really, the template for why minivans are still relevant and enjoyable--is the 2013 Honda Odyssey. Minivan designs tried to hold on to the Baby Boomer crowd for too long, which is really part of the problem, but with the current version Honda looked directly to today's parents. With Bluetooth connectivity, up-to-date infotainment and entertainment features, and lots of tech-savvy, plus top-notch safety and even a little design savvy, this Odyssey is neither frumpy nor behind the times.
Minivan designers face a particularly tough task--of trying to make these boxes on wheels attractive and stylish, without giving up space efficiency. And they get it right with the Odyssey in some respects. While it's quite generic from the back, it fits right in with the Honda family from the front, and from the side its profile is quite easy to pick out in a crowd. Credit the "lightning bolt" hump along the rear window; it's a cue that serves to add much-needed design flair as well as aid outward visibility, slightly.
What's under the hood of the 2013 Honda Odyssey probably doesn't matter much to most minivan shoppers; but even if you're in that category you can rest assured that it has what it takes to accelerate strongly, pass quickly, change lanes confidently, and even take on steep mountain roads with a full load. In short, the Odyssey performs more like a car--even a somewhat sporty one--than an SUV. Honda's 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 makes 247 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque in all Odyssey models, but while most of the lineup gets a five-speed automatic transmission, top-of-the-line Touring and Touring Elite models get a six-speed automatic. The Odyssey handles much more like a V-6 Accord, even though its looks align more closely with a Pilot.
What matters the most to minivan shoppers is interior space, versatility, and comfort; having ways of keeping kids soothed and occupied helps, too. And whether you're either a busy parent or an empty-nester with grandkids to haul some times, weekend project material other times you'll almost certainly find that the Odyssey delivers with the convenience you need. The Odyssey is absolutely loaded with thoughtful touches, and the second and third rows have a seating layout thatnot only meets the needs of full-size adults but also maximizes the number of positions (up to eight) for child seats and kids.Overall, the Odyssey's cabin is a surprisingly quiet, refined space, with a smooth ride, and some high-tech wizardry helps serve that impression. Active noise cancellation and active engine mounts both quell any vibrations from fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, as well as excess road noise.
The 2013 Honda Odyssey has a bragging right that may be enough to sway many safety-minded family shoppers: It's one of the few large vehicles to achieve top ratings from both U.S. safety agencies. It's also a standout in that it offers a a class-leading six child-seat tether locations and five LATCH locations (the official clips). And for 2013, a rearview camera system is newly standard on all Odyssey trims.
The Odyssey can be equipped with with some standout technology features such as a blind-spot system, auto-leveling HID headlamps, and a hard-drive-based music system. But all of those features remains the exclusive domain of top Odyssey Touring and Touring Elite models, and Honda's tendency to push some of the most desirable features to much more expensive trim levels (rather than part of packages or a la carte options) can be frustrating. For 2013, the base LX no longer skimps on Bluetooth connectivity; that's now standard equipment on all Odysseys, and base LX models now also get the intelligent Multi-Information Display (i-MID) and 8-inch TFT screen, in addition to 2 gigabytes of audio storage, and a USB audio port.
At the very top of the lineup, Touring Elite models can add up to around $45k, but they step up to a blind-spot system, a 650-watt sound system with hard-disk storage, the ultra-wide-screen system, theater surround sound, and HID headlamps. A standout option is the new 16.2-inch wide-screen system, which provides entertainment and can even split the screen in half for two separate inputs (including HDMI), while the navigation system includes Zagat listings and live traffic info.
- Thoughtfully designed interior
- Crisp handling
- The mileage of a mid-size sedan
- Standout entertainment system
- More child-seat positions than other vans
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- Pricier than other minivans
- Front seats need more support
- It's definitely not a mini van