by Roger Biermann
With the crossover segment booming, the humble MPV is no longer the method of choice to move families from A to B. But not all have given up on the segment; Honda is one of the stalwarts who believe the era of the family minivan is not dead yet. To that end, it launched a new fifth-generation Honda Odyssey for 2018, bearing sharp styling and improved practicality to try and lure buyers away from what is the current segment leader - the Chrysler Pacifica. With an enjoyable chassis and a robust 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, mated to either a nine- or ten-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels, the Odyssey is enjoyable to drive. It’s marginally on the expensive side of things priced between $30,190 and $47,070 for the five available trims but offers extensive safety features and loads of tech. Higher trim lines boast unique features like a built-in vacuum cleaner, a rear cabin camera monitoring system, and an onboard 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. But the question remains - can the Odyssey dethrone the Pacifica?
After introducing the Odyssey as an all-new fifth generation for 2018, Honda hasn’t changed a thing for the 2019 model. The only difference between the two is price, with the Odyssey now starting at $30,190 whereas last year’s base model was priced from $29,990.
Redesigned for 2018, the Odyssey range features halogen headlights on the LX, EX, and EX-L models, while Touring and Elite trims get full LED headlight clusters. Fog lights are standard from the EX model upwards, with LED front fogs equipped on Touring and Elite trims. All models receive rear privacy glass and the floating roof design. The LX, EX, and EX-L trims get 18-inch alloy wheels in varying shades of silver, while the Touring gets machine finished items with dark gray inserts. The range-topping Elite model gets 19-inch alloys with gloss black inserts. All models receive taillights with integrated LED light bars and a roofline spoiler but only the Elite model gets the latter color-matched to the rest of the body. A power moonroof is standard from EX-L upwards.
With a curb weight ranging between 4,354 lbs and 4,593 lbs, the Honda Odyssey closely matches its chief rival, the Chrysler Pacifica. But it measures marginally shorter in height at 68.3 inches, as well as shorter overall in length at 203.2 inches, while a 118.1 inch wheelbase is shorter than both the Pacifica and Toyota Sienna. An overall width of 78.5 inches secures the Odyssey’s overall sense of being more compact than rivals, while giving comparable, or even more spacious interior dimensions.
Like last year’s model, a color palette of eight hues is available for the 2019 Honda Odyssey, although the LX model only gets access to four of these color options. Available on all trims, and at no extra cost, are White Diamond Pearl, Lunar Silver Metallic, Modern Steel Metallic, and Obsidian Blue Pearl. The EX and higher trims receive access to the remaining four colors, but at no additional cost, with the extra hues being Pacific Pewter Metallic, Forest Mist Metallic, Deep Scarlet Pearl, and Crystal Black Pearl. The latter two pearl hues are particularly striking, while the LX’s best shade comes in the form of Obsidian Blue.
It’s a common misconception that minivans are slow. The Odyssey is anything but, giving spritely performance regardless of the gearbox its paired with. The V6 is revvy and smooth and gets up to speed from a standstill just as well as it manages to ease up to highway speeds at an onramp. Despite only the front wheels being driven, 0-60 mph comes up in under seven seconds - provided you’re not fully loaded - while top speed should be of no concern to anyone piloting a minivan. What does matter, however, is towing capacity, in which the ten-speed automatic is the pick of the transmissions, offering up 3,500-lbs of towing capacity compared to the 3,000-lbs on the nine-speed. While the Odyssey only makes use of front-wheel drive, this is standard for the minivan segment, despite Toyota offering all-wheel drive on the Sienna.
Under the hood of the Honda Odyssey lies a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine, with outputs of a healthy 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. An automatic gearbox is standard across the range, but it’s the number of gears that change based on which trim you buy. On the LX, EX, and EX-L trims drive is sent through a nine-speed automatic, while the Touring and Elite models get a ten-speed unit.
Despite the power and torque figures not being anything particularly unique in this segment, the engine is strong and performs well in all situations. Even when fully loaded, the Odyssey gets up to speed quickly around town, while it’s easily capable of getting up to highway speeds or overtaking without much delay. The V6 revs nicely which makes it easier to reach the upper limits of the power when you need to. Although the nine-speed automatic is smooth and offers decent power delivery, the ten-speed is just a little bit smoother in its shifts.
It seems weird to say it, but the Honda Odyssey is the driver’s car in the minivan class. The suspension is a little firmer than others and the ride can get jittery with the range-topper’s 19-inch alloy wheels, but opt for a lower trim and the 18-inch alloys ride better without compromising deft handling ability imbued in the Odyssey’s chassis. With the smaller wheels equipped, the Odyssey is unfazed by bumps through turns, and rippling surfaces are ironed out pristinely. On particularly badly pockmarked surfaces the Odyssey won’t quite ride as plushly as some rivals like the Pacifica, but it’s not behind by any great margin.
Despite being a van of rather large proportions, the suspension keeps the Odyssey on its toes, while the steering affords quick changes of direction with precise responses to inputs. It might not ooze feedback - not that you want supercar-like feedback here - but responses are precise and predictable, and on the highway, it tracks straight and true, without being overly heavy when you need to maneuver.
The engine is, of course, a keystone to the enjoyable driving experience with swift acceleration and mid-range punch, but when you need to drop anchors the brakes are equally as pleasing. The pedal is easy to modulate and provides decent feedback with more than ample stopping power. Emergency stops yield impressive responses from the brake system without any deviation from the straight and narrow.
Regardless of which gearbox is equipped, the Odyssey achieves the same EPA-rated mileage estimates. Figures of 19/28/22 mpg are given for the city/highway/combined cycles, with the latter figure matching what most in the segment offer. But for the way the engine delivers its power, to achieve class-average figures is an accomplishment. All Honda Odysseys are equipped with a 19.5-gallon fuel tank, yielding an expected range of 430 miles per tank with mixed driving conditions.
The Honda Odyssey boasts a cabin that oozes style and quality. With its digital instrument cluster and an abundance of soft-touch materials, it’s a truly wonderful place to be, while generous and comfortable seating for up to eight occupants gives it genuine family-moving credentials. Power driver’s seat adjustment is standard, with heating and ventilation available. Heated steering is available too, and on all but the base model, you’ll find tri-zone climate control. A camera-based rear cabin monitoring system is classy, as is the built-in vacuum cleaner. Crucially, the Odyssey crams five full sets of LATCH anchors that will fit three child seats across in the second row.
The Odyssey LX will only seat seven occupants, but all other trims boast seating for up to eight. There are no ifs or buts, no caveats to that number - eight adults can comfortably climb in and out of the Odyssey, with even the access to the third row unimpeded for taller folks. All three rows offer ample head and legroom for adults, and all three rows of seating are comfortable for the long haul. The driving position is great with loads of adjustment and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel making sure any driver can find an ideal position. The only downside is visibility, which isn’t terrible, but it is a little difficult to see the forward extremities of the hood, while blind spots are created by the second-row headrests. We wish Honda equipped a 360-degree camera system, too, as parking the Odyssey with a full contingent of passengers can be tricky.
On the lower trims (LX and EX) cloth upholstery is standard with no option to upgrade to leather. Depending on the exterior hue, the interior upholstery is available in either gray, beige, or mocha. Door and lower dash panels are equipped in corresponding soft-touch materials, while the upper dash remains black - with a horizontal wing separating upper and lower panels. On the upper three trims, cloth upholstery is traded for leather, but once again the same three color options are available with the same corresponding trim upgrades on the dash and doors.
What’s a minivan without an abundance of cargo space? It’s something the Odyssey does well, with an available 32.8 cubic feet available behind the third row of seats - albeit in a primarily upright position. With the rearmost row of seats stowed, there’s in excess of 89.2 cubic feet, while behind the driver and front passenger seats you can store in excess of 144.9 cubic feet worth of space. Getting that last bit of space is a cumbersome process as the second-row seats need to be removed rather than folding into the cabin floor, which is not the case with rivals like the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica. The tailgate opening is large, power operated on most trims, and with the availability of a hands-free tailgate operation on higher level trim lines, it makes it easy to load large items.
Small item storage is truly abundant, with a push-button gear selector freeing up space on the center stack. Beneath the center stack, there’s space for handbags, and the bin in the stack itself is massive. There are large cupholders for every row of seats, four garment hooks between the second and third rows of seats, and a large, lockable glove box.
In various trims, the Odyssey offers a genuine treasure trove of features. Adaptive cruise control is standard on all trims, as is push-button start, and a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel. Climate control is standard on the LX model, while all other trims get tri-zone climate control. All trims but the base LX get power sliding rear doors while a power tilt-and-slide sunroof is reserved for the EX-L and higher trim lines.
The EX-L trims and higher get auto-dimming rearview mirrors, while heated front seats are standard from the EX. Ventilation is available as well, but only on the Odyssey Elite. The driver’s seat is standard and eight-way power adjustable on the LX, but all other models get 12-way power adjustment, while EX-L models and higher get driver’s memory function as well.
Available from the EX-L is the CabinTalk in-car PA system. Honda’s CabinWatch rear seat monitor is standard from the Touring model, along with HondaLink and mobile hotspot capability, while wireless device charging is exclusive to the Elite trim.
A multi-angle rearview camera is standard on all trims with guidelines, though EX models and higher get dynamic guideline functionality.
Equipped as standard on the LX trim, Honda offers a five-inch color LCD infotainment screen with a seven-speaker sound system including a subwoofer. The system caters for AM/FM/USB/Bluetooth/auxiliary inputs and Bluetooth hands-free. Higher trims upgrade to an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment display with additional SiriusXM and HD Radio, as well as full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. On the top-of-the-line Elite model, there’s multi-zone audio and a 550-watt premium audio system with 11 speakers. From the EX-L, buyers can opt for a 10.2-inch rear infotainment screen with Blu-ray player and HDMI input, while the system is standard on the Touring, as well as a 4G LTE hotspot and a rear cabin camera monitor.
2019 models don’t yet have overall or predicted reliability ratings from J.D. Power. However, unchanged from last year’s model the overall reliability figure of 73 out of 100 places it in the middle of the segment between the Pacifica at the lower end and the Sienna at the higher end of the reliability range. This generation appears, so far, to be more reliable than previous iterations, despite a recall that was issued late in 2018 affecting a large number of vehicles relating to the power sliding doors opening at speed.
The Honda Odyssey scores favorably with government institutions, being awarded as a 2019 Top Safety Pick by the IIHS, while the NHTSA gave it an overall score of five out of five stars. The IIHS lauded the number and ease of use of the LATCH safety anchors.
While all Odysseys get eight airbags (dual front airbags, front side airbags, three-row curtain airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags), the best safety tech is reserved for the EX model and higher trims, all equipped with Honda Sensing, comprising forward collision warning with auto braking, lane keep assist, and road departure mitigation. These items should be standard across the range, especially on a vehicle designed with the school run in mind.
Chrysler has placed the future of the brand almost entirely on the shoulders of the Pacifica, making sure it’s the best in its segment. But, with the new Honda Odyssey, Honda has taken a huge leap forward to the top of the class. The base LX is the runt of the litter, but every other Odyssey is loaded with tech and safety, while the ergonomics, design, and build quality ensure the Odyssey’s interior moves the game forward in the minivan segment. The Odyssey combines a robust V6 engine and an endearing chassis with great driving dynamics and a supple ride - you needn’t give up the joy of driving just because you have responsibilities. It rides and handles with poise and refinement and will seat up to eight occupants in comfort, while the seats can be removed - albeit with difficulty - to unveil massive amounts of cargo volume. Without a comparison, we’d be hard-pressed to say it beats the Pacifica outright, but it’s good enough to give Chrysler a serious run for its money, and we’d be willing to wager the Honda is the better offering.
The Honda Odyssey spans a broad price range, with $16,880 separating the cheapest and most expensive variants of a five-trim model lineup. The Odyssey LX kicks off the range with a sticker price of $30,190, while the EX carries a base MSRP of $34,160. The EX-L is priced from $37,710, while the Touring is a little pricier at $44,760. A further $2,310 gets you into the range-topping Elite model. All-in, you’re looking at $47,070 for the top-of-the-line Elite model.
Honda offers the Odyssey in a range comprising five trims: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite, all of which are powered by the 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine driving the front wheels.
The LX features 18-inch alloy wheels, a rearview camera, automatic climate control, power front seats, a 60/40 split third row of seats, and a five-inch display screen with seven speakers and Bluetooth. It’s the only model with maximum seating pegged at seven.
The EX gets seating for eight, power sliding rear doors, keyless entry and ignition, tri-zone climate control, heated front seats, a removable center second-row seat, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The EX also gets Honda Sensing as standard.
The EX-L equips a sunroof, power tailgate, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, driver’s seat memory functions, and dual USB charge ports for the second row. Optionally available is navigation and rear seat entertainment with a PA system from the front seats to the rest of the cabin.
The Touring model adds the 10-speed automatic gearbox with an additional 500 lbs towing capacity, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, a hands-free liftgate, an integrated vacuum cleaner, a rear cabin monitor, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
The top-of-the-range Elite adds 19-inch alloy wheels, power folding mirrors, acoustic glass all round, ventilation for the front seats, a wireless charging pad, and an 11-speaker premium audio system.
|LX||3.5-liter V6 Gas||9-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$27,611||$30,190|
|EX||3.5-liter V6 Gas||9-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$31,232||$34,160|
|EX-L||3.5-liter V6 Gas||9-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$34,470||$37,710|
|Touring||3.5-liter V6 Gas||10-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$40,901||$44,760|
|Elite||3.5-liter V6 Gas||10-Speed Automatic||Front Wheel Drive||$43,008||$47,070|
Honda primarily avoids the options package way of doing things, equipping bundles of features into various trim lines like Honda Sensing on all but the LX model, which comprises a range of accident-avoidance technologies. Instead, several standalone options are made available.
19-inch alloy wheels can be equipped on all lower trims for $2,993, while accessory alloys can be equipped to the Elite model for $2,196. On all models up to the EX-L, buyers can equip rear parking sensors at $500, while the EX, EX-L, and Touring models get the option of a heated steering wheel at $500. The EX model can be equipped with an auto-dimming rearview mirror for $360.
The main available features at EX-L level include two $1,000 options - one of which equips a Garmin-based navigation system, and the other adding a 10.2-inch rear entertainment screen, a Blu-ray player, and an HDMI input. Both of these options are standard on the Touring and Elite models. The EX-L also gets the availability of a hands-free tailgate opening at $280, and wireless device charging for $265 which is standard on the Elite trim and available on the Touring.
With such a broad price range, we recommend two trim lines depending on your budget. If things are a little tight, avoid the LX and go for the Odyssey EX. It features all the modern connectivity you require and boasts all the features you need in a modern minivan, with eight seats, power sliding doors, heated front seats, and a comprehensive range of safety features. If you have the money to spend, avoid the Elite - that’s just overkill - and get the Touring. It’s fully loaded with all the luxuries you need, rides more pliantly, tows the extra 500 lbs, and gets an integrated vacuum cleaner and rear-cabin camera monitoring system to help you keep an eye on the kids.
The Toyota Sienna is a staple in the family minivan segment with a history of excellence, but in this case, the Odyssey has it beaten comprehensively. The Odyssey packs more in the way of standard features and offers up more storage space and passenger volume too - three key aspects of the family minivan segment. A composed-yet-pliant chassis and suspension setup ensures the Odyssey rides and handles better than the Sienna, while the Odyssey’s 3.5-liter V6 provides robust performance that the Toyota can’t quite match. Both are priced comparably, but the Odyssey just offers more in all aspects. The only field in which the Sienna has the Odyssey beaten is in that the Toyota is the only minivan to offer all-wheel drive, while the Odyssey is strictly front-wheel driven.
The Odyssey’s toughest challenge comes from the class-leading Chrysler Pacifica. The Chrysler delivers comparable handling excellence and potent performance to rival the Honda but falls behind on cargo volume. It’s worth noting, however, the Pacifica’s interior is easier to reconfigure, with second-row seats that collapse into the floor rather than needing to be removed entirely. But the Odyssey’s seats are more comfortable for long journeys and cater to larger adults better. The Chrysler offers a hybrid version to its benefit and is marginally cheaper than the Odyssey, but the Honda offers more features. It’s a tough choice, and either would be a suitable family minivan, but the Honda might just have the edge here.