Honda Odyssey Review 

By The Car Family

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Honda’s Odyssey was one of our choices as best ten cars in the nation when it first came out a few years ago. It had the new fold into the floor rear seat, a powerful engine, and handled like the Accord sedan it was based on. That was then, this is now. With competition from the all new models out today including the lovely Chrysler van pulling at a consumer’s pocketbook, the Honda appears older in every regard except its superior handling and power.You still get a highly competent van, but the Odyssey lacks the features found in the competition and the useful interior design is drab. For example, the second row passengers still do not have windows that lower and there is not a power option to lift the rear tailgate.Another matter of concern for us was that our test vehicle had over 10,000 miles on it and there was a rattle here and signs of wear there.The engine only got 18 mpg in mixed driving and we never were able to crack the EPA’s 25 mpg estimate for highway driving even with the 3.5-liter, V6, 240-horsepower engine using the standard five-speed automatic transmission with overdrive.On our last test, with a less powerful engine and four-speed automatic transmission, we average nearly 25 in mixed driving so there may be a trade off here with the new powerplant requiring more unleaded to provide more poke.New this year is the availability of leather-upholstery in some models. Although we don’t know why a family van filled with dogs, sharp objects, and kids with pens in their rear pockets would want the leather option. However, the seats are comfortable once you spend the time to get the adjustments correct. Also standard on our EX test van are the antilock 4-wheel disc brakes, traction control, and front side airbags, dual sliding side doors. The van also has available in the EX-L model a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with ceiling-mounted LCD screen, remote control, and wireless headsets. Another option was the GPS system of which Honda has one of the very best. You can’t get this when you order the entertainment centre, though.Mom’s view: We think that the Toyotas’ are more family oriented than the Odyssey, and that the Chrysler has the best ride. Nissan has not made a van available to us.Anyway you slice it, Honda dealers are going to have to try a lot harder to sell the Odyssey than in the past when mark-ups were common. The Car Family does not like mark-ups because, we feel, in the end it hurts customer relations. For example, Subaru dealers used to ask a few thousand over list hot selling WRX sedan. Our daughter wanted one, but she passed because of the mark-up. Instead she got a great deal on a Saab 9-3. Now she is a firm Saab believer and would never think of going back to Subaru. Those dealers lost a potential young, long term customer for a couple of thousand dollars.Getting back to the Odyssey, the bottom line for me is that the Honda, listed for A$49,850 in base form for the more upscale EX, is a significant value. You get air conditioning, antilock brakes, traction control, cruise control, adjustable steering column, power windows, mirrors and door locks, power sliding side doors, automatic climate control, upgraded sound system with a CD player, a keyless remote entry and security system, and alloy wheels. Unfortunately, you need to order leather seats to get the DVD entertainment centre, which I found difficult to understand since they appear mutually exclusive since children are tough on leather.Safety wise, the Honda is a leader in many regards. You have dual front airbags, side-impact airbags, and a three-point seatbelt/shoulder harness for each of the seven seating positions. There are child safety seat anchors for the second and third-row seats. Best of all, the government gave the Odyssey its best ratings for frontal collisions. You also have good visibility to the front and side with your rear vision restricted by the high back window, head rests (which are removable if no one is riding there) and the wide stance of the Honda.But the main reason you buy a mini van is to move people and products. To this end, the Honda is well equipped. The third-row seat folds into the floor, a feature that has been copied by most other companies outside of Chrysler. The best news for me is that when the seat is up you have a handy storage well for groceries and other objects that could tip and roll under seats on other vans. Honda also offers hooks for plastic bags and small cargo nets.The trade off for the floor hidden rear seat is that the spare tire has been placed under the second row passenger seats and is a space saver. The other trade off is that even if you use the provided rear seat pull-up strap to remove the third seat from the floor it requires more leverage and strength a person may have. Please check this out if before you buy because it is not an easy task for some.Loading the van was swift. The low lift-over height is excellent. The power sliding doors are easy to operate and you can close them either with the key or very well placed buttons on the dash.Unlike some vans, the doors stop immediately when they hit an obstruction.I would never order a van without these power doors.I also would have liked it more if Honda had offered a powered rear hatch such as Chrysler does, but as we said at the beginning, Honda’s van lacks many offerings the competition considers important. After driving two cars with this feature, the Chrysler and the Lexus 330 RX, I can tell you from a woman’s point of view that once you get used to power rear deck lids they are irreplaceable.Dad’s view: There was significant wind and tire noise in our test model and I noted that the tires squealed excessively when cornering at average speeds. Thus, the first thing I would do after buying this Odyssey is upgrade the tires. Next, I would spend considerable time learning how to use the column-mounted shifter. If you like to shift for yourself, the strange path that is required by the shift linkage to move it from gear to gear is not intuitive.Driving is pain free. The engine is clearly world class, except for the gas mileage which fell to 16 mpg in town and seldom got to 20 mpg even on the highway. Of course, this is a 4400-pound vehicle with 240 smooth horsepower and so I didn’t expect miracles. Regardless, this is the best handling minivan we have tested. It gets to 100 km (62 mph) in about 8 seconds and can keep pace with the fastest traffic. I would have liked to shift the Honda into fourth gear and leave it there for mountain driving, but this option is not on the shifter.Although in all likelihood Honda is going to put an even more powerful engine in the next version of the Odyssey, the 240 horsepower, 242 pounds of torque that this V6 provides is quite ample, especially once you are moving.Working college aged male’s view: I found that the sound quality from the upscale stereo was inferior as was the radio reception. The unit needs to be replaced if you are into music at all.There was ample backseat cargo and foot room and the seats were reasonably comfortable. The rear bench is too stiff for my liking, and I doubt you could get more than two adults back there without complaint.I did like the idea that you could adjust the rake on the rear seat. The second row buckets also have rake controls and you get your own temperature and fan settings. The rear windows don’t roll down and the small third row windows push out about an inch to provide some air movement.The second row seats can be removed, but they aren’t light so get a buddy. When we had to haul a four by eight foot wood lattice, we just folded the second row seats down and crawled home in cramped comfort.The second-row bucket seats are adjustable fore and aft, allowing optimum comfort for six passengers.Adjustable shoulder belts for the front and second-rows reduce the irritation caused by inflexible mounts that some manufactures offer that ride could choke a small fry, cut into the necks of others, and make pregnant women uncomfortable.Young working woman’s view: It has a nice tight turning radius, holds 20 gallons of fuel, and is easy on the eyes. Yet, my best advise on the Odyssey is to wait. Next year a more potent version well most likely be brought online with substantially more features to keep it competitive. Another advantage of waiting is to see what Ford and Volkswagen are going to offer. Meanwhile, the Odyssey remains the BMW of vans with its sporty combination of handling and performance, although the disc brakes have their pads full when trying to stop this Honda in a hurry.I liked the idea of a fold-up table between the two front seats, but when you stop fast everything slides off. I liked the Chrysler movable centre console better. There is good space in the second row where two-bucket seats can be moved around to make access to the third row of seats easier. The interior is rather plain and certainly not up to the competition’s standards.Would I buy a Honda Odyssey van? Not now. When the need does arise, I would certainly consider this model based on its drivability, but although I like it pricing and value in class, the interior rattles bothered me, as did the tire noise.Family conference: This is a good van with above average reliability and performance. If you can get a good deal, go for it. If not, wait, because this next model year there is going to be plenty of attractive offerings from other manufactures and Honda knows this well. Look for a vastly improved model to arrive and move the bar even higher in the expanding mini-van market. One thing we hope Honda does not change is its value pricing. For a list of all vehicle websites go to and click on business.