The flagship Odyssey brings a big box of luxury seating and standard equipment to the people-mover market. But can it really capture SUV buyers?
Base price: $52,500.
Powertrain and performance: 2.4-litre petrol four, 129kW/225Nm, continuously variable transmission with manual mode and paddle shifters, front-drive, Combined economy 7.8 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4840mm long, 1695mm high, 2900mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 1332 litres (with third row folded down), fuel tank 55 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/45 tyres.
We like: Absolutely enormous interior, business class-style centre row, surprisingly good in corners.
We don’t like: Breathless engine, useless automatic parking feature, why no power tailgate?
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? You can instigate a revolution, but it doesn’t always stick. The previous-generation Honda Odyssey was a clean-sheet approach to the people-mover genre: clever platform engineering and packaging meant it carried seven occupants under a sleek body shape.
But with the new Odyssey, Honda has returned to a more familiar people-mover formula: it’s a tall box with lots of seats inside.
This is exactly the type of vehicle that Japanese domestic-market customers love: acres of space inside and slab sides that make it easy to drive through heavy traffic.
It’s also the type of vehicle that Kiwi new-car buyers love to hate, but Honda New Zealand is bravely pitching it as an alternative to seven-seat sports utility vehicles (SUVs) anyway. Our test Odyssey, especially: it’s the flagship L version, which wears a body kit with extra chrome, comes fully loaded and treats the centre-row passengers to business class-style seating.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? You could argue that the driving experience is secondary with a vehicle like this. But for the record: the 2.4-litre petrol engine feels thin at the low end and sounds coarse when worked hard, despite the one-gear-fits-all flexibility of the continuously variable transmission (CVT).
That said, the chassis is remarkably good. The Odyssey turns into corners with authority and maintains composure in tight turns, as alarming as such brisk driving might feel to six passengers.
It might not look like it, but Honda has worked hard on the aerodynamics of this model, which retains the same drag coefficient as its low-slung predecessor. Road noise from the 18-inch rubber of our test car aside, the Odyssey is a quiet cruiser at open-road speeds.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Odyssey L eschews the entry model’s eight seats for a 2-2-3 layout, with massive chairs in the middle row that slide, recline and even offer fold-out footrests.
The 40/20/40-split third row is less welcoming: lots of legroom, but it’s quite narrow and the roof-mounted seatbelt for the centre position intrudes on the left-side passenger’s headroom. So the L is ideally a six-seater, with seven-up capacity at a pinch. That’s fine: this luxury model is supposed to be more about space than ultimate seating capacity.
There’s a separate climate air conditioning system for the rear, with digital controls and roof-mounted vents. The L model also allows you to walk through from front to back without exiting the vehicle.
Because the second row slides and the third row stows flat under the floor, you can have a four-seat luxury vehicle (the second row will roll back up to 740mm with the rearmost seats away) or a simply massive van, if you bring the centre-row forward again and fold it down.
So the Odyssey is really about space and more space. The platform is actually 60mm lower than the previous model, but that’s used for volume rather than to create a sleek shape, as the new car is still 150mm taller overall.
The Odyssey L is fitted with power-operated side doors; these can be opened or closed via the key fob, controls on the dashboard or the doorhandles themselves. Given that, the absence of power operation for the tailgate seems a little odd.
Automated parking should be a boon with a vehicle this size, but the Odyssey’s is the most complex and least effective system we’ve ever tested. It can ostensibly handle both back-in and parallel manoeuvres; in truth it’s not much good at either.
You have to tell the vehicle you are ready to park by going into a specific menu on the information screen, at which time the display projects green boxes over possible spaces using the 360-degree camera system. It’s up to you to choose the right spot, which you do by pressing another button. Then the car self-steers and instructs you to accelerate/brake into yet more boxes (blue this time) to get into position. If you overshoot even slightly, the whole thing cancels and you have to start over.
Even if you succeed, the car doesn’t always: we tried the parallel parking five times in different spaces and on each attempt the Odyssey mounted the kerb. Perhaps you need to position the green box with absolute precision against the kerb? If so, that’s all too hard. Rival systems can read the road and the other parked cars.
The back-in feature was better, but it took an eternity and we held up lots of other drivers in the parking lot, due to the amount of roadspace required for the three-point-type turn. True, the car ended up in the correct space – but it was a bit crooked. Exhausting.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? You’ll know whether you need or want an Odyssey already: it’s not the kind of vehicle that will suddenly win you over with its styling or performance, nor is it going to turn the heads of SUV-obsessed buyers. Sorry, Honda.
The downsides are all too obvious: the Odyssey looks pretty cheesy (a matter of taste, admittedly) and the powertrain is uninspiring. On the plus side, it’s an enormous amount of metal for the money and the $53k Odyssey L offers the kind of luxury equipment you’d find in an $80k SUV like the Toyota Highlander or Hyundai Santa Fe.
- Blind spot warning: Yes
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Parking radar: Yes with 360-degree camera
- Self-parking technology: Yes, back-in and parallel
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Three-zone climate with rear control
- Heated/ventilated seats: Two-level/No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Power side doors, manual tailgate
- Split/folding rear seats: 40/20/40 (third row)
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