2013 Honda Odyssey Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 26, 2013

A thoughtful interior, innovative seating, and excellent handling make the 2013 Honda Odyssey a standout among minivans--although it is the priciest of them all.

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.

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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.

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2013 Honda Odyssey

Styling

The Honda Odyssey makes the most of the standard minivan constraints—and actually stands out from other vans at a distance.

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.

Overall, the 2013 Honda Odyssey continues to borrow more design details from Honda's cars than it does from its crossovers like the Pilot. A couple of years ago the Odyssey received a redesign that brought it a slightly more arched roofline plus more brightwork accents throughout. But the most significant new design trait was the addition of a "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.

Other design cues of note, on the outside, are the small front windows ahead of the side mirrors, which also help with visibility but help the design stand out as more rakish, and the rear fender sheetmetal below and behind the "lightning bolt"--it's more exciting and aerodynamically sculpted than you'll find in other minivans.

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Inside, the Odyssey is more ordinary, and that last redesign brought only evolutionary changes. The instrument panel design is familiar and upright, remaining somewhat swoopy and space-maximizing. In stark contrast to the sea-of-buttons look that's offered up in the dashes of some Honda and Acura passenger-car and crossover interiors, what's here is a refreshingly simple control layout containing large knobs and controls.
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2013 Honda Odyssey

Performance

The 2013 Odyssey is a lot more fun to drive than it looks—and really, it's the best-handling and best-steering of the (large) minivans.

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.

Acceleration feels fast for this kind of vehicle, but objectively it isn't all that quick--about 8.8 seconds to 60 mph. That's a bit faster than the Toyota Sienna V-6.

While either of the transmissions deliver decisive, quick, smooth shifts when you're accelerating rapidly, we've noticed in both cases that shifts can be balky when things aren't as urgent--when you're getting gently back on the gas out of a corner, or accelerating lightly, for instance. And with an 'L' mode and an O/D-off button on the gearshift selector, there's no straightforward way to simply control shifts when you're on a mountain road.

The Odyssey handles much more like a V-6 Accord, even though its looks align more closely with a Pilot. Thanks to some expert chassis engineering, this minivan corners with poise and control but not much harshness as a tradeoff; that's because of well-tuned, isolated front and rear subframes that help avoid the queasy secondary motions that plague many big, family-friendly vehicles.

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Although the Odyssey isn't tuned for performance driving, its variable-displacement power-steering system has great weighting and even a little road feedback, and it's far better than the electric power steering systems that Honda has installed in its smaller CR-V or Civic.
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2013 Honda Odyssey

Comfort & Quality

Think 'living room on wheels' and you won't be far off the mark—yet the Odyssey has one of the best folding-seat arrangements in the business.

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 2013 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.

Between the Odyssey's three rows of seating, the interior is great for six adults. The excellent second-row configuration 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).

As for the third row, it gets an armrest in some trims, while the folding mechanism is excellent--you can fold either section of the seat into the floor in a single motion, with only the firm pull of a strap (it takes one arm, and there's no need for a complex power-folding mechanism). This 6'-6" editor would have been happy all day in the second row, while the third row was more confining and only good for short trips.

With both the second and third rows folded, there's enough space and a continuous cargo floor good for two ten-foot-long 2x4 studs, or 4x8 plywood. For smaller items, there's a media drawer with damped motion, a cooler compartment that can hold several cans or bottles, and a trash-bag ring—one of those simple things you'll wonder how you've managed without. Interior materials and trims aren't in the luxury realm, but they're not bad for also being Wet Wipe friendly.

Front seats aren't completely neglected; they're comfortable and somewhat wide, and there's a good view outwardwith a good view outward. But we can't say they're among the best; we would have liked more lateral support and back support.

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.

Review continues below
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2013 Honda Odyssey

Safety

U.S. crash-test ratings point to the Odyssey as one of the safest minivan picks—and likely one of the safest vehicles of any kind.

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.

In the federal government's New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), the Odyssey has achieved top five-star results in every crash-test category, while it also earns top 'good' ratings in every category of Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing (although it hasn't yet been tested in the new small-overlap frontal test). It earned IIHS Top Safety Pick status last year and is expected to retain that accolade.

The Odyssey includes the expected safety features, such as stability control, anti-lock brakes, driver and passenger front side airbags, and full-length side curtains, but what makes it a standout is that it offers a a class-leading six child-seat tether locations and five LATCH locations (the official clips). What that means is that you can fit up to five child seats in some cases--or up to four seats of any kind.

Both handling and outward visibility are at the front of its class, we think, and they're both attributes that might help avoid an accident. And for 2013, a rearview camera system is newly standard on all Odyssey trims.

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2013 Honda Odyssey

Features

Top 2013 Honda Odyssey EX-L trims are the only ones to get some top tech and connectivity systems, but the rest of the lineup has some clever features.

The 2013 Honda Odyssey can be equipped 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 base level, air conditioning (with front and rear controls), cruise control, an eight-way power driver's seat, power windows, locks, and mirrors, and a 229-watt sound system with subwoofer are all also included in the LX.

EX models add alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, HomeLink, the removable front center console, a tri-zone climate control system, and second-row sunshades. EX-L models add to that leather upholstery and trim plus heated front seats, an eight-inch screen display, rearview camera, power moonroof, cooling box, an added utility tray, and many more extras.

At the very top of the lineup, Touring Elite models 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.

EX and EX-L models include 15 GB of hard-drive space in navigation-equipped models. Honda says that this holds the contents of 175 CDs. Another standout 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).

The navigation system has an especially clear, intuitive display, and we like the controls better than the systems in some of Honda's other models; it has a built-in Zagat guide, a huge points-of-interest database, high-contrast VGA display, and free FM-based traffic information. You can also customize the system with a personal picture for wallpaper.

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2013 Honda Odyssey

Fuel Economy

If you need to carry a large family, the Honda Odyssey is one of the greenest picks—and a far better one than a full-size SUV.

The 2013 Honda Odyssey has best-in-class fuel economy ratings, thanks to Variable Cylinder Management--a system that gives you excellent mileage in the real-world, too, provided you're not too much of a hotfoot.

Odyssey Touring and Touring Elite models (which have a six-speed automatic transmission) get 19/28 ratings, while Odyssey LX and EX trims have the five-speed version and now carry an EPA rating of 18 mpg city, 27 highway. As such, they rank several mpg better than the Toyota Sienna and Dodge Grand Caravan.

In short, if you need three rows of seating and want a regular, non-hybrid powertrain, the Odyssey is your most fuel-efficient pick.

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8.2
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Expert Rating
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 10
Features 8
Fuel Economy 7
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