Crossovers are king, but does that necessarily mean that they are the best vehicle to cart around your family? No. That title is still held by the mighty minivan, even though most moms shudder at the idea of driving one, but it’s time to get over that. No other type of vehicle can easily carry up to eight passengers, all their stuff and do it comfortably. Yes a large SUV, like Chevy Suburban or even some three row crossovers come close, but they still can’t swallow as much stuff as a minivan.
Ok now that we’re passed that little rant, today the minivan segment isn’t nearly as popular as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s dead. Chrysler, Honda and Toyota continue to battle it out for the sales crown with the Pacifica, Odyssey and Sienna. For the 2018 model year, Honda has given the popular Odyssey a major redo to keep it at the top of its game, does it work?
The 2018 Honda Odyssey marks the introduction of the fifth generation. With the introduction of every generation Honda manages to make its minivan better and better to compete with Chrysler’s top selling minivans. On the outside, the 2018 Odyssey ditches some of the swoopy, dare we say “sporty” styling of the last generation for a more conservative design that neither offends or impresses. If you’re comparing the Odyssey to the new Pacifica, that’s a no brainer in terms of styling. The Pacifica looks almost gorgeous from some angles, while it’s hard to say the same thing about the Odyssey. Its styling is so restrained, but there are some unique details, like its character line that runs along the side to give it a slightly sculpted look.
Yes the last generation Odyssey did look a bit less like a minivan than the all-new Odyssey, but once your inside, you’ll forget all about that slightly boring exterior. This is why minivans are king when it comes to transporting families from point A to B. The Odyssey’s interior is huge, comfortable and so functional. There are cupholders everywhere, the second row seats can slide left or right (a first for the segment) and even the third row passengers won’t complain about the accommodations. Try that in some of the popular three row SUVs that are taking over your neighbor’s driveways.
There were a few negatives though. For starters, the Odyssey’s second row seats don’t fold into the floor like in the Pacifica. It’s a feature that Chrysler loves to tout, but during my week with the Odyssey I kept wondering, how many owners actually ever need to fold down or remove the second row seats? I doubt it comes up weekly. At least the Odyssey’s third row seats are 60/40 split and easily drop down into a large well with one hand.
The Odyssey could also use a panoramic sunroof and individual screens would probably keep the kids from fighting in the back. Honda did introduce some other new features, like CabinTalk that lets you talk directly to the kids in the back via the rear speakers. It will save you from losing your voice on a weekly trip to the grocery store. The CabinWatch system also features a unique camera in the back that lets you spy on the kids without having to turn around, since it displays the view on the front touchscreen.
Once the kids are loaded and all your suitcases, shopping bags, beach supplies and whatever else you think you need to bring, are loaded, you’re on your way. The 2018 Odyssey is powered by a 3.5L V6 with 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft. of torque. LX, EX and EX-L trim levels get a 9-speed automatic transmission that sends the power to the front wheels, while the Touring and Elite trim levels get a 10-speed transmission. The 2018 Odyssey is rated at 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined, no matter which transmission you choose.
During my week with the 2018 Odyssey Elite, the Odyssey easily carted myself and five of my friends, a grouchy pug to a weekend of wine tasting in Temecula, CA. The Odyssey easily carried all of our suitcases, again try loading six carryon sized suitcases in a three-row SUV with the third row seat still up. On the road, the Odyssey never struggled to get moving and no one actually complained about being stuck in the minivan for an extra hour due to the lovely Los Angeles traffic.
There were only two complaints about driving the Odyssey and neither of them had to do with its powertrain or driving dynamics. For starters, the Adaptive Cruise control automatically shuts off when you get down to around 20 mph. You can imagine how annoying this can be in stop and go traffic, since the Odyssey will automatically slow you down, but won’t actually bring you to a stop like other Adaptive Cruise control systems. Also the other is the gear selector, which is now a series of buttons. It takes a bit to get used to punching a button to select your gear.
As you’d expect, the Odyssey isn’t very engaging to drive, but it’s also not entirely boring. There’s a Sport setting and it even has sporty feeling paddle shifters. Body roll is kept in check and the steering isn’t overly assisted, like in some other large family vehicles.
At the end of my week with the Odyssey, I was impressed with how comfortable and spacious the interior is. I just kept saying, “wow its so functional and spacious.” If I ever have a kid, a minivan will easily be on the top of my shopping list. Get over the stigma, life is easier in a minivan.
Pricing for the 2018 Honda Odyssey starts at $30,965.