Honda Odyssey Minivan Road Test Review
by Martha Hindes
Road & Travel Magazine Names Honda Odyssey
2012 International Minivan of the Year
2012 Minivan Buyer's Guide - Top Picks
Imagine a bored nine-year-old counting mile after mile on a long road trip. Stationed next to an 11-year-old sibling would be worse. Watching a movie on drop-down video might seem an ideal peace maker, but not when each wants something different and age advantage usually wins. How to cope? Well Honda has a bang-up solution in its 2012 Odyssey minivan.
Someone in Honda's design department must have umpired such childhood video wars in the past before contributing a sensible solution. How about a drop-down screen for different flicks on each side with individual headset audio? That's one no-nonsense approach Honda uses to duel with minivan competitors.
Minivans aren't your traditional middle-of-the-night dream sequence autos that can make one weak in the knees at the prospect of owning one. (Too bad - A woman with a wriggling toddler in tow might explain why it should.) More styling zip was added during the Odyssey's major overhaul last year, including a bolder zigzag "lightning bolt" carved into the side, should boost that attraction faction.
The leather-trimmed interior on our top-line model added a handsome, luxury touch. And easily distinguishable gauges plus actual buttons to change comfort or entertainment commands were welcome. The voice sensitive, fully-loaded navigation has a screen tucked beneath an eyebrow to block sun glare. Like some competitors, the shifter sits on the instrument panel face, opening more room inside.
We eased into congested traffic to start our test drive and felt the 3.5-liter V6 kick it forward, suggesting the 248 horsepower underneath. Despite its eight-passenger size, it handled with surprising ease.
During our test week, we noticed pluses obviously meant to solve potential challenges in a vehicle loaded with kids: Side window sunshades to protect sleeping infants; a drop-down convex mirror to monitor rear action; an i-pod connector locked inside the glove box -- a no-touch signal for restless young hands. Each front seat door has double bins for storage, and four pre-cooled pop cans stay chilled in an instrument panel console bin. Climate control can merge or be separated, with ceiling-mounted rear temperature display for those in back. Heated seats keep it cozy in front. A standard 120-volt outlet at the rear is away from CD or DVD slots up front. And we lost cup holder count during our drive.
Odyssey should make sense, parent wise. Numerous hooks and catches secure shopping bags. Front seat center console storage snaps out when traditional pass through is preferred. Rear, mid-seat passengers stay grounded with shoulder harnesses locked to the ceiling, while second row outboard seating can move outward on tracks if the removable center seat needs more room. While third row seats don't electronically fold down, a single step flips them into a storage well to expand cargo space.
Honda cites segment-best fuel economy of 19-city/28-highway on regular, and a green "ECO" light tells when that's being optimized. The range gauge actually increased at times when we drove more cautiously or when Variable Cylinder Management temporarily shut off two or three cylinders while cruising. The Odyssey touts its Top Safety Pick rating, augmented with such features as blind spot lane warnings plus backup camera with overhead view.
Odyssey's base LX pricing is $28,225, but our $44.5K Touring Elite was loaded for bear. In typical Honda style, each of seven trim levels has its own set of amenities, rather than being optioned. That's so choosy mothers (and dads) can choose the best fit.
Honda Odyssey website, click here.