It’s not just in its name that Honda’s Odyssey is epic. As automobiles go, the Odyssey’s proportions are epic too. No wonder then in nearly two decades since its introduction, the Japanese family hauler has had a heroic run in almost all the markets it’s been on sale. Honda has shifted nearly 3 million of these MPVs globally across its four generations.
This larger than life persona that the model has created for itself explains why Honda has not been adventurous with its generational updates. In fact, the Odyssey’s massive 3,000mm wheelbase has remained the same since the second generation, although the 2018 edition sees the architecture move to the latest platform that also underpins the Pilot SUV.
There isn’t much that designers can do to add verve into the looks of an MPV. But within their limitations, Honda’s stylists have managed to make the latest Odyssey look less mundane than its predecessor, and arguably most of its rivals too. Apart from the kink in the beltline that starts from just before the C-pillar, the profile also has quite a few creases traversing its length. These, along with the redesigned front grille and LED headlights and taillights all add a reasonable amount of dynamism to the Odyssey’s appearance.
But styling is among the least significant of considerations for an MPV buyer. And Honda doesn’t disappoint with utilitarian credentials either. In fact, with the raft of new technology features that have been incorporated into the Odyssey, it’s hard to find another vehicle that can outdo it. The sliding rear doors can be opened from outside by pressing a button on the key fob, and reveal a cabin that’s extremely spacious and versatile. The Odyssey is designed to seat eight passengers, but if you don’t need to carry those many, the centre seat of the second row can be removed to add more space and flexibility within the cabin. In fact, the second row can be customised into four different positions — Full, Wide, Super and Buddy modes as Honda calls them. In Full mode, the Odyssey will accommodate eight passengers, while all the other three modes will seat seven as the centre seat will be removed. Wide mode leaves a walk-through space in between the second row seats, while Super mode provide easy access to the third row. The Buddy mode brings both the centre row seats together in the middle and slid forward so that these are within easier reach of front seat occupants. Overall, the level of customisability offered in seating configuration leaves nothing to be desired.
There are some great new tech additions to the Odyssey that will be appreciated by parents who travel with kids. The first is Cabin Watch, which lets the driver and front passenger keep an eye on the rear passengers via the 8.0in display on the centre console. The wide angle footage is
shot using a camera with night vision capability so it works well even when it’s dark inside the cabin. Another handy feature Cabin Talk, which lets you use the vehicle’s speaker system or wireless headphones to talk to rear passengers who are using the entertainment system. Engaging this overrides the entertainment system, so the kids can’t pretend they didn’t hear you while watching their favourite cartoon on the 10.2in rear screen.
The Odyssey is still powered by the good old 3.5-litre V6, but now it’s mated to an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission that sends 280bhp and 355Nm to the front wheels. The Odyssey has always been known for its surprisingly good drivability. And despite the move from an Accord platform to the Pilot base, it still feels taut for a vehicle of such generous proportions. The steering is also notably precise and the turning radius belies the MPV’s size. But the brakes are a bit squishy and not confidence inspiring when trying to stop, especially from highway speeds.
Our top-spec Touring tester comes packed with the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech, which include collision mitigating braking system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation system, blind spot information system, rear cross traffic system, pedestrian detection system, and adaptive cruise control among others. These, along with airbags all around and the high-strength ACE body structure, make it a very safe family vehicle.
If you are considering buying a large SUV just for its utility value, and do not intend to make use of its off-road capabilities, then the new Honda Odyssey warrants a closer look. There is no SUV on the market that can give you the levels of practicality and versatility that the Honda MPV offers at this price point.
It can’t get more utilitarian than this.