Odyssey an expensive journey into minivan mediocrity
"Odyssey passes that important minivan test - the ability to get people in and out quickly and with as little effort as possible."
The 2012 Honda Odyssey does all the things a good minivan is supposed to do, while carrying a price tag that suggests it’s in a class far above its competitors. After driving a top-of-the-line Touring model for a week, though, I’m not convinced it truly is.
The world of minivans is ever-shrinking, but there’s still a price point for just about every family among the models currently available. The MSRP for the entry-level Odyssey, for instance, is almost identical to that of the most expensive Dodge Grand Caravan. This is an extreme example, but it makes my point.
Regardless of how popular or unpopular minivans are these days, when one of them costs nearly $50,000 - well above many competitors - it’s safe to say most people expect a certain level of luxury. Yes, the Odyssey has plenty of goodies that are sure to make road trips with youngsters more pleasant, but it doesn’t have the atmosphere to match the price.
I’ve seen this interior before in other Honda vehicles, and while the user-friendliness earns it points, the expanse of grey plastic lacks character, and it’s very button-heavy, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
The leather seats are easy to slide in and out of, but they lack the support needed for longer trips. It doesn’t take long for my behind to become tired while I’m parked behind the steering wheel.
In terms of convenience, the Odyssey fits the bill (no pun intended). There’s no shortage of cup holders throughout, and there are numerous cubbies in which to store all sorts of odds and ends. There’s a “cool box” up front for drinks, and plenty of outlets for kids’ numerous gadgets - heck, there’s an HDMI jack that comes standard on the Touring model for high-definition movies or games. My gadget-laden apartment still doesn’t have anything with HDMI!
All Odyssey trims besides the LX are equipped with eight-passenger seating, and Honda proves it’s anything but mini in terms of interior space. I load the vehicle up with five adults besides myself, and I don’t hear a single complaint from anyone - third row occupants included - about discomfort or lack of room.
Honda paid careful attention while designing the latest Odyssey to make its third row as comfortable as possible - making changes such as lowering the placement of the side door motors for better shoulder room - and it shows.
Not only that, but the Odyssey passes that other important minivan test - the ability to get people in and out quickly and with as little effort as possible. Granted I’m not corralling a handful of hyperactive preteens and toddlers, but I am chauffeuring several adults at the crack of dawn who are still half asleep.
Everyone easily finds all the proper buttons to press and switches to flick to get seated comfortably. Once belted in, no one needs to adjust seats for the sake of giving someone else more room, and everyone is impressed with the amount of space they have.
The best part is that it’s still plenty useful. Third row seats easily fold in the floor, and when they’re in use, the back of the van has a deep recess for cargo. The second row seats, meanwhile, can all be completely removed - with a little elbow grease.
The 3.5-litre V6 that comes equipped in every Odyssey may fall a little short in the horsepower department compared to other minivans, but even while loaded up, I still have no problems passing other vehicles on the highway. It whines a little like a four-cylinder under heavy throttle, but it’s not a deal breaker.
It’s worth noting just how many people commented on the Odyssey’s styling. Current minivans either look terribly boring for the sake of usability, or they’re given wild designs to stand out and make up for their lack of driving excitement. The Odyssey clearly falls in the latter category, and people I talk to shower it with plenty of compliments.
2012 Honda Odyssey
Trim level: Touring
Price as tested (before taxes): $47,190
Options on test vehicle: none
Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5L V6/ 6-speed automatic
Power/torque: 248 hp/ 250 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): regular (80L)
Fuel economy ratings: 10.9 L/100km city; 7.1 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 10.8 L/100km over 648 km
Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Dodge Grand Caravan; Kia Sedona; Nissan Quest; Toyota Sienna; Volkswagen Routan
Strengths: features list; space; convenience
Weaknesses: seats; price; no AWD