2014 HONDA ODYSSEY REVIEW
What’s hot: LOTS of room, easy access, well-featured, quiet and comfortable.
What’s not: Ponderous front styling, works hard at higher revs.
X-FACTOR: It’s a Honda, AND it’s a family bus: that means bullet-proof engineering and room inside for a barn dance.
Vehicle style: People mover
Price: VTi - $38,990, VTi-L - $47,620
Engine/transmission: 129kW/225Nm 2.4 litre petrol | 7spd CVT auto
Fuel consumption listed: 7.6-7.8 l/100km | tested: 8.3-8.4 l/100km
If there had been a discussion between Honda and its Odyssey, it might have gone like this:
Odyssey: Er... you want to see me?
Honda: Yeah, yeah, come in, come in O... sit down
O: Ok... and... ah, I see you’ve got some drawings you want to show me... it’s the new me is it?
H: Yeah, yeah, have a look, what do you think... exciting huh?
O: Umm... you want me to look like a bus?
H: Yeah, well, not exactly a bus, maybe a bit ‘bussy’, you’ll love it... look, sliding doors!
O: To wit: a marshmallow, all cheeks and arse... you want me to look like that?
So, yes, the Odyssey is now transformed. Where once it was low and long and kind-of ‘wagonny’, now it’s fuller and higher and more obviously a ‘people mover’.
A family bus, in fact.
And why? One look at VFACTS for 2013 tells the tale for this market. Of the 9242 people movers sold in Australia last year, the very bussy Kia Carnival took nearly a third of them - 2847 sales in fact.
Hyundai’s iMax took 1455, nearly 50 percent better than the Odyssey’s 1001 sales for 2013. And, of course, in this sector, it’s the corporate buyers - hotels, hire cars and the like - who account for the lion’s share of sales.
And Honda wants a bigger slice of that action. So maybe now the Odyssey is what it has to be. Maybe it always had to be bigger and lumpier.
The new Odyssey is certainly big. But it’s not as lumpy as its girth and dimensions would suggest. Thanks to Honda’s investment in lightweight materials and construction, it’s actually quite light, comparatively.
At 1776kg, it’s 350kg lighter than Hyundai’s iMax (with petrol 2.4 litre), and just 130kg heavier than the outgoing Odyssey.
And though it’s saddled with “the pet hate” - a CVT transmission - this one works particularly well. In fact, is it a CVT? You would hardly know in normal driving.
We had our doubts when we saw the images last year, but the new Odyssey is improved over the old.
Sure, it’s more a bus, but it’s easier to understand, has brilliant access to really roomy seats, and it drives like a Honda.
That means it drives very well.
- Seven-inch full-colour touch-screen, Siri™ Eyes Free mode, Bluetooth with audio streaming, HDMI/USB ports, app integration and MP4 movie play
- HondaLink navigation, reverse camera
- Air-con climate-control front and rear, plus roof vents (tri-zone in VTi-L)
- Heated, electrically adjusted, front seats (VTi-L only)
- One-touch passenger-side power sliding door (VTi-L both passenger and driver side doors)
It is huge in here, with acres of knee-room and shoulder-room for the second row, and a wide third row. And, access is easy through the wide, power-sliding side doors.
A low, low floor accentuates the sense of space, makes a shallow step to the kerb (there is no sill) and will also make it easier to strap kids into second and third row seats.
Typically Honda, it’s a very well-constructed interior with quality fabric and materials throughout, and classy fit and finish.
The touchscreen controls, with smartphone ‘tap-swipe-and-pinch’ screen, look very smart, are easily operated (techno-dunces take note) and offer the latest in communication, navigation and audio functions (including audio-streaming, Siri eyes free and a host more).
The instrument binnacle itself doesn’t work so well. The large dial ahead of the driver and secondary linear rev-counter are hard to see in bright light, and very difficult to read with the sun at the shoulder. At fault is the reflective clear panel they sit behind.
But, certainly, gripes are few with this smart, roomy and well-thought-out interior.
Where the VTi-L gets soft ‘lounge chair’ leather, the VTi is trimmed in a tightly woven appealing dark fabric.
The generous seats up front are among the better ones you’ll find at this price. The second and third rows are similarly well-shaped and surprisingly comfortable with deep high-quality padding.
The driving position is very good. In both models the driver’s seat is height adjustable (electric in the VTi-L), giving an unimpeded panoramic forward and side view over the flat uncluttered dash.
We particularly like the second-row seats in the up-spec VTi-L: they’re wide, padded like business-class airline seats and recline independently (with an in-built ottoman).
With the third row folded (it spirits away mysteriously into the floor), the second row can be slid back to open up more than a metre of legroom, limo-style.
Wing mirrors are large - something city drivers will find useful in cramped carparks given the Odyssey’s long slabbish flanks. They’ll also appreciate the light and accurate steering and the tight 5.4 metre turning circle.
And if that’s not enough, the VTi-L’s multi-view camera system, with front, side and rear vision projected onto the large central screen, will ensure nothing is hidden.
Lastly, the flexible seating allows equally flexible storage and cargo options. There are cup holders and nooks everywhere.
With all rows in place the deep boot offers 330 litres of storage, compared to 259 litres with the outgoing model’s seven-seat configuration. (Expanded storage figures still to come.)
ON THE ROAD
- 2.4 litre DOHC i-VTEC petrol engine
- 129kW @ 6200 rpm | 225Nm @ 4000 rpm
- Constantly Variable Transmission (CVT) with paddle shift
- Drive-by-wire throttle and idle stop
- Front suspension: MacPherson Strut; rear H-shaped torsion beam
It’s bigger, and it’s less powerful; so it’s slower… right? No, the new Odyssey actually feels a little more lively than the old.
The seat-of-the-pants impression is that off-the-line acceleration is improved, as is on-road performance.
I liked the old Odyssey, it was one of my favourites, but, honestly, this new one drives just as well.
It’s higher, and drives more van-like and less car-like than the former model, but it’s still an appealing drive - and it has that ‘Honda thing’: designed-in enjoyment at the wheel.
On the road, it’s immediately evident that the CVT is one of the better ones.
Unusually, it’s mated to a ‘wet clutch’ torque-converter, and only when fully floored is the ‘flaring’ typical of CVTs noticeable (the fact of the torque converter may be helping here).
In normal overtaking, or getting briskly away from the line, it performs more like a conventional auto with seven ‘stepped’ ratios.
Using the paddles can liven things up for a quick burst, or if pulling out of a corner. It's not fast, and the engine note is a bit reedy and breathy if stretching things out, but, yep, it's a family bus not a sports car.
All up, while power is down, torque is increased slightly over the old model (thanks to that long-stroke four under the bonnet) and the torque band is wider.
It certainly helps driveability on-road. Loading-up may take the edge off, but few family or fleet buyers will find the Odyssey wanting.
Also improved over the former model is road noise and vibration (which itself wasn't bad).
On-road, despite its hollow boxy lines, the more refined new Odyssey sits at highway speeds over most surfaces with almost zero wind noise and very little tyre roar.
The ride too is very good, more sedan than van-like. A low centre of gravity means it corners pretty flatly and has a well-damped but ‘elastic’ feel from down below.
Some will find it a little firm if they regularly encounter rougher roads, but on highway and secondary roads it’s as comfortable as a large sedan.
The torsion-bar rear seems entirely up to the task, and the gains it affords in interior space and structural rigidity are worth any trade-off in rear suspension balance.
The final word for the drive rests with the fuel consumption. Our result, close to Honda’s claimed average consumption, and certainly with a less-sympathetic foot, is remarkable for a car of this size.
We rarely get anywhere the claimed ‘combined’. This time, at 8.3 and 8.4 l/100km, we’re within 10 percent of the claimed figures of 7.6 and 7.8 l/100km.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
No question about it, the new Odyssey is better than the old.
It is also vastly more driveable and enjoyable than Kia’s Carnival, better by a long chalk than Hyundai’s iMax, and vastly better value than Volkswagen’s Caravelle.
It’s much more of a van than the old model, but what it loses in individual style, it more than makes up for in practicality and comfort.
The wide-sliding side doors, long, long feature list, and incredibly roomy interior will certainly appeal to both family buyers and corporates alike.
And it’s not half bad at the wheel. You’d happily pack the family into the new Odyssey for the grand interstate holiday-haul… and arrive mostly sane.