Honda Odyssey review: when an SUV is just too out of the box
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Honda Odyssey Premium
- Sliding doors
- Captain's chairs
- Interior access
- Engine/CVT lacking low down...
- ...and works hard/uses fuel as a result
- Public opinion of people movers
We’re down to the final two. Some call them the remnants of an age that’s passed, all but a motoring memory in a now-world where SUVs and utes do it all. But it wasn’t long ago that the humble people-mover, MPV or minivan was a lot more popular.
But now, representing less than one-per cent of the new car market share in NZ, there’s just two left for sale on the new car market: the Kia Carnival, and the Honda Odyssey, the leader of the class with a 35 per cent share, just updated and an icon of the people-mover market.
We last took a decent look at the Odyssey back in 2015, and to be honest, not a lot has changed. But there are natural improvements.
So just to state the semi-obvious, it’s an up-to-eight person mover, it’s a van – of sorts – when space is required, there’s some good tech and a big dollop of luxury, especially for passengers.
And for 2021, Honda’s offered a few improvements: its Sensing safety suite is the biggest headline, an assortment of passive and active driver aids like active cruise control, lane assist, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic warning, smart entry and keyless push button start, walk-away auto-locking and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto on an eight-inch touch screen. All very car- (er, SUV) like.
Though, we must add, the radar cruise deactivates under 20km/h, so it loses points for that.
The two-model range starts at $49,990 for the new Touring grade, with eight (fabric) seats; incidentally $1k more than our Honda CR-V Sport 7 (seater), that Honda buyers might be shopping it against. The top spec is the Limited with seven leather seats, at $59,990, which adds features like hands-free power tailgate with kick sensor, gesture control power sliding doors, key-linked driver’s memory seats, and a roof-panel climate control for second row passengers in the captains seats.
A more upscale design is thanks to the new grille, bumper, bonnet, and guards, new headlights and taillights and sequential LED indicators, along with new 17-inch alloys.
Interior design updates include a new wheel, while the dash offers more usability, with a large upper storage box added to the passenger side, an additional easy-reach driver’s cup holder in front of the AC vent (helping keep drinks cool), and acoustic-suppressing glass and wheel resonators to make it a little more pleasant RE road noise.
Where it offers more over the typical SUV is engine capacity and with a 2.4-litre DOHC i-VTEC four, it promises a decent turn of speed, with 129kW and 225Nm - but it seems it’s more about torque than speed, as it does tend to drone and grind a bit in combination of the CVT gearbox. Shift paddles often get a downshift tap to keep it more responsive, and it also offers idle-stop to help economy. While Honda claims 8.0l/100km, our week with the Odyssey, with a mix of motorway and suburbs and not many passengers, turned in 11.4l/100km.
But the question remains: why an MPV? Especially if shopping for an SUV. As an SUV family, I purged our bias to look at the Odyssey with fresh eyes. There are a few reasons and if any/all of them suit your needs, then it’s certainly worth considering. The sliding doors offer great access, and the touchless access to the tailgate and doors is a bonus, especially when hands are full. The low floor makes getting in and out a breeze, especially for smaller kids like our 2yo who loved the smaller step the ground than his normal method of reversing down a ladder from our large SUV; the rear seats offer added comfort in both the seats and number, as that eighth seat could be a deal-sealer. And with simple access, offering the ability to walk between front, second and third rows.
Possibly the biggest bugbear is mindset and other people’s opinion. Owning, driving and being seen in a people mover are the best ways to slide down the social snakes and ladders, and it’s often suggested that those with a penchant for people movers have finally resigned to draining the last remaining drops of petrol from their once-a-car-enthusiast head.
No need to feel threatened, people movers still have a place, in the same way that PHEV hybrids or Kei cars do, and the Odyssey is an icon of a smart family on the move. And for that reason, may the MPV live long and prosper.
ENGINE: 2.4L i-VTEC petrol four