Honda Odyssey perfect if you have kids
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POPULAR IN JAPAN FOR YEARS, PEOPLE MOVERS ARE SMALL FLEETS HERE
You buy a people-mover to please the children, correct? On that basis, the flagship Honda Odyssey L is a winner right out of the box.
If you’re accustomed to travelling in the back, you can be quite self-sufficient in this vehicle: comfort and convenience are certainly catered for.
Both of those sliding side doors are power-operated, for example. You can open them with the remote, the door handles themselves or a button on the dash; a quick click and motors whirr as the doors glide rearwards. Kids love this kind of stuff.
Rear occupants have their own air conditioning, with separate digital controls that feed roof-mounted vents. So if you’re in the back, you’re not reliant on the room-temperature whims and trickle-back climate of those up front. Yes, kids also love this kind of thing. If they can reach the buttons.
About the only thing that’s missing is an entertainment system, although that might be a little too much to ask in a $52,500 vehicle. If the kids are not impressed, they can always walk through from the rear compartment to the front to complain. You can do that in the Odyssey L.
In New Zealand, the people-mover segment is the smallest: just 1 per cent of total sales last year and not showing any signs of growing. In terms of lifestyle vehicles, Kiwis went straight from station wagons to sports utility vehicles (SUVs) without really pausing to consider the more prosaic world of the people mover.
So Honda has a hard job on its hands with the Odyssey. Its solution in the previous two generations (2003-13) was to work some platform magic and make a six-seater that was as low and sleek-looking as any sporty station wagon. It was a remarkable packaging job — but then that’s an area of expertise for Honda. See also Jazz and Magic Seat.
Honda is quick to point out that the latest Odyssey’s platform is actually 60mm lower than the previous model, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s 150mm taller overall and clothed in sheet metal from the set-square school of design. Although the new car is apparently also more aerodynamic. Go figure.
Why the dramatic change? The answer is quite simple: in Japan, this Odyssey replaces not only the fourth-gen model but also another larger Honda people mover called Elysion.
We’ve established that there’s plenty to recommend the Odyssey L in the back. But is there anything for the person in the driver’s seat?
Performance-wise it’s a mixed bag, with plenty of power on paper from the 2.4-litre engine and a paddle-shifting function for the continuously variable transmission (CVT). But the powerplant lacks low-down torque, so you have to work the CVT that much harder, resulting in quite a bit of engine flaring as the revs rise and fall in that continuously variable way.
The 18-inch wheels and low-profile tyres no doubt help that cornering aptitude. They do generate quite a lot of road noise on coarse chip seal, but the rest of the car remains relatively quiet at cruising speeds.
The Odyssey has equipment designed to take the stress out of its exterior size, including a 360-degree camera system and self-parking that can theoretically handle both side-by-side and parallel spaces. I say theoretically because it’s pretty hard to operate.
Getting the car into a space involves slow driving while the cameras scan, a lot of selection by the driver on the car’s touch screen and a high degree of concentration, because if you fail to obey the system’s instructions to the millimetre it will self-cancel. Honestly, there are much better systems and great visibility means it’s not actually that difficult to park the Odyssey yourself.