The Honda Odyssey is the minivan to beat, if you consider design flair or driving pleasure. It is a bit long in the tooth, having last been redesigned for the 2011 model year, but it still ranks near the top of a small class.
Odyssey offers fuel economy that nearly matches that of a sedan. Honda’s 3.5-liter V6 engine develops 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque, mating with a 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The Toyota Sienna is the only minivan that offers all-wheel drive.
Odyssey has plenty of reserve power to provide brisk passing, even when carrying a full load. It blends ride comfort with responsive handling, though the ride is a tad firm.
Occupants can expect a surprisingly quiet and refined experience. Active noise cancellation and active engine mounts squelch excessive road noise, as well as any vibrations emanating from the fuel-saving cylinder deactivation system.
Odyssey’s seating layout is more reconfigurable than most. An available split second row lets outboard seats move toward the doors, yielding greater room for hips and shoulders. Second- and third-row seats can also be repositioned, to ease access to the back row or add space for second-row occupants. An Odyssey also offers greater flexibility in terms of positioning child safety seats.
Touring Elite models get the HondaLink infotainment suite, which uses a smartphone app to access Internet-based entertainment. Standard on Touring Elite and the new SE (Special Edition) is the helpful HondaVAC. Co-developed with Shop-Vac, it’s a vacuum cleaner that resides in the cargo area, and never needs to be charged or plugged in.
A clear standout in safety, Odyssey is among a handful of large vehicles that have earned top crash-test rating from both safety agencies: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). NHTSA gives Odyssey a five-star overall rating, while IIHS names it a Top Safety Pick, including Good ratings in each of five tests that were conducted.
Each trim level has a standard rearview camera. All but the base LX get Honda’s LaneWatch camera, which puts an image of the blind spot into the right-hand mirror when you signal for a right turn or lane change. EX-L trims and above include lane-departure and forward-collision warnings. To get blind-spot monitoring, you have to pick the Touring Elite.