The minivan market has continued to march forward, losing some of its decorated heroes to the crossovers. But some of the old, grizzled stalwarts haven’t given up, and they continue to be the perfect solution for what many families need – whether they want to admit it or not. The Honda Odyssey is one of the big players in the premium van segment – it’s biggest (and only significant) competitor being the Toyota Sienna.
The 2014 Odyssey sees a refresh on the outside, and the Touring trim I reviewed absolutely bristles with gadgets, technology and luxury. As a matter of fact, there are no factory options available on it – only some dealer-installed accessories for the interior and exterior. So when I say it’s loaded, I’m not kidding.
Of note, the 2014 Odyssey is the first minivan to earn the highest possible rating of Top Safety Pick+ from the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
2014 Honda Odyssey
Base price (Touring trim): $49,881
Options: $195.83 Block Heater
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $51,871.83
Under the Hood
Honda’s familiar 3.5-litre V6 lurks at the front, making 248 horsepower at 5700 RPM and 250 lb.ft of torque at 4800 RPM. The Odyssey line gets a 6-speed automatic as standard equipment in all models now. Fuel economy isn’t any minivan’s strong suit – the Odyssey is rated at 10.9 L/100 km (22 mpg) in the city and 7.1 L/100 km (33 mpg) on the highway. I averaged a surprisingly good 11.5 L/100km (21 mpg) during my week with it, which leaned heavily toward commuting and city driving and included two quick freeway sprints.
The Odyssey isn’t a lightweight at 2090 kg (4608 pounds) – that’s no surprise considering its size and what’s all packed into it.
The new Odyssey “lightning-bolt” design, as Honda calls it, still looks good after a couple of years. It’s sleek (for a minivan) and modern and has a more low-slung style than the previous generation. Honda says it’s athletic, which is hilarious for a minivan. The front end got a nice refresh and now has a bolder twin-bar grille that accents a newly-sculpted hood. The headlights are great HID units and I thought the integrated foglights with their chrome-trim look great. The rear-end sports LED tail light bars and the roofline spoiler completes the look.
Honda redesigned the Touring’s 18” aluminum alloy wheels – they’re shod with meaty 235/60-sized boots.
Once you get inside, you’ll find nicely textured materials but nothing that’s soft-touch. There are nice touches here and there, attempting to dress up what is a pretty busy interior.
You get plenty of headroom once you’re in the heated, power-adjustable leather seats. They are very comfortable and the driver’s side has two memory settings. The Odyssey’s big steering wheel has buttons for phone, handsfree, cruise control, media and the driver information screen. Behind it is a typical gauge bin including a driver information screen that shows fuel range, average and instant fuel economy, driving time and the trip meters.
The top of the center stack holds a 6.2-inch screen that shows the driver the information you need, mostly resulting from anything you’ve just done on the larger 8.2-inch screen below. The bigger one is controlled by touch, or a joystick button with a rotary dial. The two screens work in concert to manage the navigation, phone, front and rear audio zones and vehicle settings. It takes a while to get used to but it works pretty well. I don’t think the user interface is as straight-forward as I’d like it to be, and I think technophobes will strongly dislike it.
Honda makes a big deal about the premium audio system with its 650-watts, 12 speakers including subwoofer and how it feeds off AM, FM, satellite, CD, USB, auxiliary and Bluetooth streaming sources, but truth be told, I was not that impressed with the sound.
Between the two screens is a three-zone automatic climate control system. The gear selector is located on the left side of the center stack, and there’s a handy center console with cupholders and storage tray between the front seats. It’s removable, to add space and to allow for the transport of 8-foot long lumber. A big thank you to one of my readers for pointing this out to me.
You’ll find a full complement of driver assistance technology here: Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Blind Spot Monitoring systems. There’s also a rearview camera which has three different angles (wide, normal and top-down) and front and rear parking sensors with audible and visual warnings.
The Odyssey has keyless entry and a pushstart ignition – a sweet red button which looks like it was lifted right out of one of their R-spec cars.
Look up and you’ll find a smallish power tilt/slide sunroof. I enjoyed the convenience of the power folding mirrors several times as I tried to sneak into small parking spots.
The Odyssey’s sliding doors are powered, actuated by pulling the exterior or interior handles or by pressing an open/close button on the front edge of the door frame. They can also be opened remotely – from the dash or the key fob.
The second row is comprised of three seats with seatbelts and headrests. They are very comfortable and can recline and slide fore and aft. Even for a minivan, I was taken aback at the amazing amount of headroom and legroom. Another surprise was the middle seat – it is unusually comfortable, even for adults.
There is an automatic climate control system overhead on the right side which feeds excellent ceiling-ducted air-conditioning vents for all rear seating areas.
Each of the three seats has a set of LATCH anchors for children’s seats. The middle seat is removable, creating more space and a walk-through aisle to the back. You can also fold it flat to create a sort of middle console with three cupholders and a storage tray. The huge side windows have window shades.
Overhead is Honda’s Ultrawide Rear Entertainment System. It has an enormous 16.2-inch dual screen with separate input sources, which means one passenger can play video games while others watch a movie. There’s a great control panel that detaches to become a remote control. They throw in a couple of wireless headsets too. There’s a DVD player, and inputs for HDMI and RCA-based sources. That’s all fine and dandy and looks all whiz-bang, but frankly it’s still a horribly limited and stationary system. Of course it’s standard equipment in this trim, so it’s a non-issue, but an iPad mini for each kid would be a much smarter and more flexible option that they can take out of the van when you arrive at your destination.
You can access the back row by quickly folding and sliding forward either side of the second row with one handle pull, or if you’ve removed the middle seat in the second row, you can stroll to the back using the middle aisle. The third row also has three seats with seatbelts and headrests and once again, I was surprised to find such generous headroom and leg room. These seats recline as well, and I found enough leg room for my 5’10” frame.
In terms of convenience, the middle seatback folds down to become an armrest and you have cupholders and little storage trays on either side. There are also side window shades, which is a nice touch. The aforementioned inputs for the video system are in the third row, and there are also two headphone plugs on the left side – each with its own volume control. My kids really appreciated the 115V household plug back there for charging their devices.
There’s no shortage of LATCH anchors in the Odyssey – there are two more sets of them in the third row. Our kids were very happy in every single seat in this van and obviously space was never an issue.
Let’s get this out of the way – there are 15 cupholders throughout the vehicle. Let that rattle around in your brain for a moment.
You get a decent glove compartment, good front door bins, a change tray under the left side of the dash and a large bin under the center console tray. At the bottom of the center stack is a “cool bin”, which lets you keep snacks and drinks cool.
The real capacity is in the back, of course. If you’re using all three rows, you get a nice deep trunk well behind the back row. There’s a 12V plug and a fantastic rubber tub in the well, which means it’s no problem to throw wet or muddy things in the back. There’s plenty of space (at 846 litres) here. The third row Magic Seat splits 60/40 and with the yank of a single strap, the seats fold themselves neatly into that tub, creating an enormous 2636 litre cargo room and a wonderfully flat load floor right up to the second row.
Need more? You can remove the second row seats and you’re looking at a 4205 litre space, with enough floor area to easily swallow 4’x8’ sheets of plywood. Don’t tell friends about this, because this thing is probably handier than a truck to help people who are moving. The powered trunk lid can be opened from dash and key fob and can be closed with a button on the lift gate itself.
As mentioned, we own a previous generation Odyssey. We chose it over the Toyota Sienna because of how it drives. It’s clear that the Odyssey is a huge vehicle. It’s tall, it’s wide, it’s long and it’s heavy. But you might be very surprised at how well it drives.
The V6 has enough power to move it smartly off the line, and to get in the passing lane on the highway if you need to. The ride is stellar – always smooth and comfortable, and as it sits lower and is slightly wider than the older Odyssey did, it feels more planted than before. Yes, it’s top-heavy but I would say it handles more like a car than it should. It will tackle corners and highway-speed curves with ease.
The transmission was almost always invisible, handling its task with quiet competence. There were a couple of times when I stepped on it and the 6-speed felt a bit confused as to what it should be doing.
I found the brakes to be effective and visibility out of the vehicle is quite good with one exception that I’ll mention in a second. It’s a very quiet ride, with road, wind and engine noise never intruding into the cabin – at virtually any speed.
If you need to pull something, the Odyssey’s towing capacity is 1588 kg (3500 pounds).
OK, now let’s talk HondaVAC. This new feature, unfortunately only available on the Touring trim, was the talk of the town when it came out. It’s a built-in vacuum developed by ShopVac.
It has a hose that easily reaches the front seats and you get a couple of different nozzles, a replaceable filter and a canister bag – all of which is hidden in a compartment in the rear cargo area. It’s relatively quiet and very effective but it’s only meant for dry messes, which is kind of a drag.
At the back of the center console is a flip-up frame – drop a plastic grocery bag into it and it creates a garbage can for the second row. Brilliant.
I did take issue with a few things. The third row’s outboard headrests obscure your rear view even at their lowest useful setting, which I found very annoying. I also didn’t like that the second row middle seat can’t be stored under the floor. We own a previous generation Odyssey which uses a floor well for this – it’s nice because it keeps the removed seat clean and out of the way. This Odyssey uses that space for the spare tire.
It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that my Audi S4 wagon wasn’t the right answer for a family with three small kids. But once I turned that corner, there was no looking back. Our minivan has been one of the smartest investments we’ve made.
The Honda Odyssey continues to make improvements, offering a great driving dynamic for a behemoth this size, solid cabin technology, a full suite of luxury touches and of course, all the utility and convenience you can dream of. The caveat is that if you want everything I had this week, you’ll need to pony up for the Touring trim. Of course, the same van that’s underneath can be had for a starting price of just under $30,000. The Odyssey has a great track record and holds its resale value incredibly well.
If you can wing the lofty price tag, the Odyssey Touring might be the ultimate example of smart, family-friendly transportation.
I give the 2014 Honda Odyssey an 8 out of 10.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) soared. She loves her current Odyssey and said the 2014 Touring improved on almost everything. She wasn’t fond of the two-screen system and would prefer something simpler and more straight-forward to operate, and she felt the whole dash comes across as busy. Otherwise, she loved it.
Obviously the minivan is designed to shuttle people and cargo in comfort, whether it’s in the city or on the highway. Is it the right ride for you? Well, some people just know it is, and happily submit to the minivan years. If you’re chronically smashing your head into the door frame as you put your kids into their seats, or running out of space or you’ve occasionally found yourself wiping a solitary tear of frustration as you’re asked to transport another family’s offspring from Point A to Point B… you might want to give it some consideration. And when you do, the Honda Odyssey is definitely one to put on your shopping list.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Wheaton Honda.
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