Crossover SUVs may be very hot, but don’t discard the minivan. What was once a nerdy way of familiar transportation is now an elegant way to carry kids and gear. Case in point, the revamped 2021 Honda Odyssey.
- Many standard features
- Peppy V6 power
I do not like
- No all-wheel drive
- No hybrid powertrain
If you are serious about the market for a minivan, I don’t imagine driving dynamics are your primary concern. Instead, you’re probably more interested in super comfy front seats or a three-sided second row with a removable center section. Without that center seat in place, outboard chairs can slide from side to side. This makes getting into the third row even easier and means parents can separate their naughty children if they start fighting. The third row can accommodate three children or two medium-sized adults.
Regardless of where your kids are sitting, you can keep an eye on them with the available CabinWatch feature, which shows a rear compartment video feed on the front infotainment screen. It also has night vision so you can see your kids in the dark and now works with the back seat reminder to not only tell you if you accidentally left a child in the car, but to show you which one. What a world. In addition, CabinTalk technology uses a microphone to project the driver’s voice through the headphones and rear speakers.
Of course, I had no reason to use the child tracking features. But I managed to test the vacuum cleaner. Works as advertised.
The infotainment technology in my fully loaded Elite tester is handled on a standard 8-inch touchscreenis , but the base model gets a 5-inch drive without smartphone integration. However, even the larger Display Audio software isn’t my favorite, as there seems to be an extra step to each function. Not good.
On the back, the Odyssey Elite has a 10.2-inch drop-down screen with two sets of wireless headphones. The second row kiddos have an HDMI port and two 2.5 amp USB-A sockets. The third row has two headphone jacks (sorry, no wireless units for these unfavorable devices), as well as a 2.5A USB-A port and a 12-volt 800-watt socket. Featured, mom and dad are also flush with charging options, including a pair of USB-A ports, a 12-volt outlet, and more.
As for freight, children always come with cargo, right? – the space behind the third row has up to 38.6 cubic feet of space. I dig the low and wide cargo area that allows the third row seats to fold flat, and when stowed, the cargo area increases to 91 cubic feet. However, if I want to unlock the Odyssey’s true carrying potential, I have to take out the second row seats, which is no easy task. Each seat weighs around 70 pounds and just makes me want the Stow-N-Go seats found in the Chrysler Pacifica. Sure, the Odyssey has more space once the chairs are removed, but I’ll take a slightly smaller area for easy stowage.
When it comes time to really drive, the Odyssey doesn’t disappoint. The 3.5 liter V6 and lots of zips to get on the highway. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission that directs power to the front wheels. All-wheel drive isn’t available, which sucks because Pacifica and Toyota Sienna now offer this feature. There is, however, a snow mode that recalibrates traction control parameters to handle slick things.
The Odyssey returns an EPA-estimated 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. During a week of testing I actually beat the EPA, averaging 24.6mpg combined. However, families looking for even better fuel economy should look to the Pacifica and Sienna’s hybrid powertrains. The Sienna gets up to 36 mpg combined while the Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid has 32 miles of all-electric range and gets 82 MPGe.
The Odyssey performs better than you would expect on winding roads, but it truly excels at everyday driving. The ride quality is excellent, it never feels harsh or jarring and the cabin is quiet all the time. New this year is an electric brake booster, which improves braking feel and offers shorter pedal travel.
All of today’s modern driver assistance features are here and most are standard. Blind spot monitoring doesn’t grace the entry-level LX trim, but other driving aids are standard. It’s good to see that adaptive cruise control now has a low-speed following, because in previous years it disengaged below 22 mph, rendering it useless in stop-and-go traffic. Also new this year are the recognition of road signs, which work as it should, and the emergency braking of pedestrians, which fortunately I have not experienced. Lane Keeping Assist works mostly well, but can be a bit iffy at times. A good reminder to keep your hands on the wheel.
While the 2021 Honda Odyssey starts at $ 32,910 including $ 1,120 for the destination, my best Elite tester comes in at $ 49,335. The sweet spot on the lineup is the EX-L for $ 39,580. The EX-L is well equipped with heated front seats, four USB-A ports and three 12-volt outlets, 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and tri-zone automatic climate control. I miss the ventilated front seats, CabinWatch and CabinTalk, as well as the rear seat entertainment system, wireless charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and the vacuum cleaner, but I’m not sure if these features are worth the extra $ 10,000 for the ‘Elite.
The revamped 2021 Honda Odyssey is an excellent choice for those who need to carry kids and gear, but don’t want to enter the three-row SUV market. The Pacifica and Sienna offer electrified options and all-wheel drive capability, making them seriously fierce rivals, but the Odyssey at least has plenty of family-friendly features and a lively V6 to boot.