Honda is on a roll again. We've said it many times before that what was once a very proud and incredibly competitive brand had been left on the sidelines after so many troubles in the past few years.
Now they're bouncing back, coming out with more next generation versions of their existing models, expanding the lineup with more cars than they've ever sold before. This is one of them: the Honda Odyssey.
Honda only sold the first generation Odyssey in 1997, but in small numbers only; thus the majority of previous generation models we see on the streets are most likely gray market units or personal imports . This new Odyssey is already on its 4th generation, and contrary to popular belief, the units we are getting are from Honda's plant in Alabama, USA and not Japan.
Honda says that the new Odyssey was developed with the concept of the “Ultimate Family Vehicle” in mind, and combines new styling, improved performance, advanced family safety and versatility. Let's find out if their claims hold true.
There's not much to hype about the exterior. It looks like a minivan, as it's supposed to, but they have made a sleek body and a dignified front end. I particularly like Honda's use of a black grille with chrome inserts, as well as the clever use of lines and edges to give the Odyssey a low stance. The piano black mirrors are particularly cool as well as the blacked out B- and C-pillars, creating a nice side profile. Even though it's probably going to be destined as mom's choice, Honda have made a good effort to make sure that dad wouldn't mind driving it around as well.
The size of the Odyssey is unusual. At first I was thinking this is actually smaller than the Alphard from Toyota (currently one of the best selling vehicles in the class), but upon a glance at the spec sheet, it's not true. The Odyssey measures in at very lengthy 5,152mm and a width of 2,011mm, both of which give it more real estate on the road than its primary competitor, but the roof is lower at 1,737mm. Wheelbase is pretty long at 3000mm.
Where the Odyssey truly shines is in the interior. You'd be forgiven for thinking you were inside a properly German car, but of course, the big 'H' on the wheel is the giveaway. The dash is two toned, but Honda used a predominantly cream interior for the leather on the seats, the plastics and other fabrics. The materials feel great to touch, and everything is laid out nicely. The really noticeable part is the width that the Odyssey's interior affords. The seats are very comfortable, and there an abundance of leg, hip, basically all sorts of room.
The features installed in the Odyssey include a triple zone (driver, front passenger, rear cabin) automatic climate control system (with a small control panel on the ceiling for the 2nd row), a power sunroof, automatic headlamps, cruise control, pull-up sunshades, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and other niceties. The driver can open and close the two rear sliding doors and the tailgate either from the buttons on the key remote or from a small panel on the dashboard. Also, at the center of the dashboard is an 8 inch QVGA screen that serves as the display for the AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with iPod compatibility, USB functions and 7-speakers plus a subwoofer. Nice.
One thing unique about the Odyssey is the 3rd row. Its competition usually gets either 6 or 7 seats total (2-3-2, 2-2-3 or 2-2-2), but the Odyssey can seat 8 (2-3-3). Even with the 3rd row up, the floor goes down deep enough to give plenty of cargo space. Should you need more space, the 3rd row can fold into the cavity behind it and provide a flat cargo space that stretches until the 2nd row. For safety, you've got all the goodies like traction control, 6 airbags, ELR seatbelts, et cetera.
Powering the Honda Odyssey is the same 3.5 liter V-6 engine found in the Accord (and the Pilot it was launched alongside with). It has 250 horsepower (metric) available on tap, as well as 343 Newton meters of torque. It's got power, but I'm sure you're wondering what kind of fuel consumption I was getting in such a heavy vehicle. Given that the Odyssey's V6 gets the same i-VTEC system, the Variable Cylinder Management system (that can shut off up to 3 cylinders during cruising) and a 5-speed automatic transmission combine for -wait for it- 5.0 km/l in the city with heavy traffic, 5.9 km/l in the city with moderate traffic and 12.3 on the highway with little or no traffic. VCM really works well on the open road.
In city streets, the Odyssey is very comfortable, soaking up the road very well. I really won't get into handling much as this is really a minivan, but the Odyssey still holds up well, and maintains a very good ride. Again, the seats do count for a lot, but as far as I can tell, it's a nice drive and a very nice ride.
The Odyssey can be had for PhP 2,800,000, though since this is the pearl white color (an extra option) the pricetag of this particular car is PhP 2,825,000. Am I sold on it? Not yet.
You see, it's kind of hard to get over the supremely comfortable ottomans (or is it ottomen?) of the Toyota Alphard. Its the one thing that the Odyssey didn't have, or at this price range a DVD system (not the Chinese DVD/NAV systems we've been getting a lot of lately, mind you).
The case for the Honda Odyssey really depends a lot on what you intend to use it for. As a supremely luxury transporter, the other minivan will have it beat. However, as a true family hauler for as many as 6 kids, with plenty of space to spare and safety to go around, not to mention versatility, the Honda would be my pick.