2011 HONDA ODYSSEY REVIEW
Vehicle Style: People mover
Fuel Economy (claimed): 8.9 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 8.4 l/100km
Honda has tweaked the Odyssey’s specification sheet for 2011, updating the interior trim and adding satellite navigation as standard on the Odyssey Luxury.
Other changes are scant, but really there’s not a whole lot that needed adding to an already very competent and appealing family car.
Quality: Plastic quality is up to Honda’s usually high standards, and the faux woodgrain trim of last year’s model has been replaced with silver metal-look plastic.
The sliding covers on the flip-down centre tray between the front seats feel cheap, but otherwise the Odyssey’s cabin is very well put together.
Comfort: The leather-trimmed front seats feature generously-sized cushions and decent support, along with seat heaters and flip-down armrests.
The steering column adjusts for reach and rake, but ergonomically the dash layout doesn’t work as well as it could. With the centre stack and its controls positioned so far away, the driver needs to lean over to use the GPS and Bluetooth system.
Also, the trip computer buttons are annoyingly positioned right behind the steering wheel, and the seat heater switches are located inside the front door pockets - how bizarre.
At least the dash-mounted gear selector and foot-operated parking brake free up space between the front seats, which is instead occupied by a fold-away centre tray.
Outward vision is great thanks to the skinny A-pillars, generous glasshouse and large wing mirrors. The Luxury’s reversing camera also helps here.
The middle row slides fore and aft, and is both commodious and comfortable. Headroom and legroom are in abundance here, but sitting in the middle position can be a pain after a while due to the firm backrest.
Unlike most seven-seat SUVs, the Odyssey’s third-row seats offer more than enough space for two adults, although headroom is limited.
Entering and exiting the third row is easy thanks to the sliding second-row seats, and roof-mounted vents ensure plenty of fresh air can be directed towards back-seaters.
Equipment: The Odyssey Luxury is generously equipped, and features cruise control, tri-zone climate control, trip computer, heated front seats, a reversing camera, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and a six-speaker stereo with USB/iPod inputs.
Storage: There's 259 litres of space behind the third-row seats, and 708 litres with the third row stowed. On the Odyssey Luxury, these occasional-use seats are power retractable and can be raised or lowered with the push of a button.
Fold the 60/40 split second row seats flat, and there's a huge space for bikes, skis or flat-pack furniture. In-cabin storage is a bit disappointing though.
Each door is fitted with its own storage bin and even the third row gets a small lidded storage tray, but the fold-down tray between the front seats is impractically shallow and the cupholders don’t hold bottles firmly enough.
There’s a couple of cubby holes in the lower reaches of the dashboard, but their size only makes them suitable for wallets, phones or a small tissue box.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Odyssey’s 2.4 litre petrol inline four is shared with other Honda models like the Accord Euro, but is detuned to 132kW and 218Nm (the Euro has 16kW and 14Nm more).
Its relatively low midrange torque necessitates higher revs on steeper inclines, and performance is noticeably blunted when carrying a full load of passengers.
There’s enough underfoot for overtaking safely, although it needs a firm prod to get the best out of the free-spinning (and beautifully balanced) DOHC i-VTEC engine. It also makes a nice sound when working hard.
The five-speed auto’s shift-programming is intelligent enough to pick the right ratio for the condition - it comes with a ‘grade logic’ function which means it doesn’t ‘hunt’ through gears on hills.
And, interestingly, despite the engine’s preference for revs we actually found it easy to beat Honda’s claimed fuel consumption figure by 0.5 l/100km.
Refinement: Big wagons generally mean a boomy cabin, but that’s not the case here. Coarse asphalt transmits a bit of road noise into the passenger compartment at highway speeds, but there’s little wind noise to speak of.
Suspension: Rolling on 17-inch alloy wheels, the Odyssey Luxury is slightly firmer and less compliant than the base model.
Body control and grip is quite good for a people mover, and from the drivers seat the Odyssey handles like something much smaller and nimbler.
Its car-like 10.8 metre turning circle is a boon in tight carparks, but the electric power steering lacks feel and feedback.
Braking: The large front and rear disc brakes have no problem stopping the Odyssey, and the pedal has a nice, progressive feel to it.
ANCAP rating: Not rated
Safety features: Six airbags (front, front side and full-length curtain), three-point seatbelts on all seats, anti-whiplash front headrests, ABS, EBD, stability control and traction control are standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Service costs: Servicing costs vary from dealer to dealer. Before purchase, contact your local Honda service centre for servicing costs.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Toyota Tarago GLX ($53,990) - Less powerful than the Honda and also saddled with an antiquated four-speed automatic (the more expensive V6 gets a six-speed).
The 2.4 litre mid-range Tarago GLX holds no substantial advantage over the Odyssey besides its eight-seat capacity.
It’s also expensive, considering its spec-sheet mostly mirrors that of the cheaper Odyssey Luxury. (see Tarago reviews)
Dodge Journey RT ($42,000) - The Journey’s 2.7 litre V6 may only have 4kW more than the Odyssey, but a substantial 38Nm more torque makes a massive difference to its driveability.
Interior fit and finish pales in comparison to the Honda, but the cabin’s roominess makes it a fine family transporter (see Journey reviews)
Volkswagen Multivan Comfortline TDI340 ($49,990) - It’s more expensive and has less equipment than the Honda (cloth seats and no sat-nav as standard, for example), but the big VW Multivan’s highly customisable and very roomy interior makes it ideal as a people mover.
It’s also well suited for corporate transport duties, with the centre seats able to swivel to face the third row. A handy fold-out table that rides on floor-mounted rails also improves the versatility of the Multivan’s interior. (see Multivan reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The 2011 updates may be mild and the Odyssey’s powerplant is still lacking the low-down torque that it needs, but Honda’s stylish people mover is still a solid choice for families.
Carlike handling, excellent cabin comfort and good all-round visibility are the Honda’s key advantages over the more popular seven-seat SUVs.
When people movers like the Odyssey Luxury are so good, we have to wonder why so many families opt for bigger and thirstier SUVs instead.