2014 HONDA ODYSSEY REVIEW
What’s hot: Remarkable interior space, improved access, smart CVT
What’s not: No longer looks cool, petrol only, harsh ride
X-FACTOR: Improved and spacious, does things with more finesse than its main rivals.
Vehicle style: people-mover
Price: VTi - $38,990
Engine/trans: 129kW/225Nm 2.4 litre petrol | 7spd CVT auto
Fuel consumption listed: 7.6 l/100km | tested: 8.3 l/100km
Honda says the new 2014 Odyssey is “the sexy people-mover”. But that’s perhaps not much of an achievement, given the opposition.
Nonetheless, Honda has a point. The Odyssey was the people-mover you would be least ashamed to be seen in.
The ‘flattened’ older model could even look cool, especially when given some mild after-market treatment.
The fifth generation is not so slinky nor so worried about its looks; it’s designed purely for practicality.
And, for those who have been blessed with a large tribe, this is a good thing because the new Honda is remarkably spacious.
Prices have risen, and the new base model, the eight-seat VTi now costs $38,990.
That’s the one we’re reviewing here. (The VTi-L version, which has seven seats and is loaded with features, is a hefty $47,690.)
Quality: The cabin of the Odyssey hits the target. It’s no Lexus, but you can tell it’s not cheap either.
Honda has decided to use ‘woodgrain’ for the base model dashboard (there’s a kind of marble-style pattern for the VTi-L)
You do get an impression of missing out in the base model, there is a round cut mark in the woodgrain where the automatic start button is fitted for the VTi-L, which is now blank.
No big deal, but there it is, right in your field of view.
The leather seat trim of the VTi-L is top quality, but while the felt-feel dark fabric of the VTi is pleasant to touch and the colour should hide most stains, it doesn’t have the same look of quality and durability.
Honda has replaced the car-like doors of the previous model with rear sliding-doors, mainly because owners said their kids were flinging them open onto adjoining cars.
Comfort: There is a vast amount of legroom for all three rows of passengers plus air-vents for all three. Second row passengers control the climate for the back of the bus.
Unlike the VTi-L, the VTi gets a middle seat in the second row and qualifies as an eight-seater.
The middle seats in the second and third rows of the VTi, however, are rather narrow and only suitable for very small people. However, as you can guess from the shape, headroom is generous.
The rear seats fold down into the floor, allowing the second row to slide back to free up even more room.
Equipment: Given that prices have risen, it’s only right that Honda fill up both Odysseys with a reasonable amount of gear.
The new family hauler introduces Honda’s new generation information and entertainment system called Display Audio, which uses a touch-screen and offers Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming.
It allows you access to several apps downloaded onto your phone that can be controlled through the steering wheel or touch screen.
You can also access satellite navigation through an app on your phone, loading a route before you get in the car.
But there is a catch. Firstly, you need to preload the route or have phone coverage to draw down information on the run.
If you do have an iPhone 5, you can also have digital assistant Siri sort things out for you by touching a button on the steering wheel.
Storage: Lots of space is expected in a big people-mover and the Odyssey delivers, but it also goes further.
There is nothing worse than being able to carry the whole family, but having nothing left for all their stuff. The Odyssey has a considerable 330 litres behind the third row of seats.
You could fit a couple of strollers plus one of the more compact prams in there.
The cargo space is remarkably deep, partly because of the low floor, but also because the spare wheel has been relocated and now sits under the front seats.
The only downside is having to remove the occupants of the second row to get to the space saver spare, which is accessed from inside the cabin (but the pay-off is all that space).
ON THE ROAD
Drivability: With two up, the Odyssey performs adequately, accelerating at a fair pace without screaming its head off. Push hard, however, and there will be screaming.
The 2.4 litre i-VTEC four, with 129kW and 225Nm to do the heavy lifting, has its work cut out in the Odyssey.
We haven’t yet done the ‘seven-up’ test (or ‘eight-up’ in the VTi), but when filled with people and gear and on a long trip into the hills, we’d expect those 2.4 litres to be blowing pretty hard.
It would be nice to have the option of a torquey diesel, as found in the Kia Rondo, because it really would suit the car, but Honda has no plans to offer one.
The clever ‘seven-ratio’ CVT, which also has a torque convertor, is excellent at low speed – not something you would expect.
It is able to creep and hold the car on an angle, which is a nice touch. It’s not too bad on the road either and is one of the better CVTs around.
Refinement: Honda has also done a good job suppressing road and tyre noise and this Odyssey is certainly quieter than the last.
You might expect something so large to create a fair bit of wind-noise, but it doesn’t.
This is all very good, but parents can attest that it is rarely quiet in a people-mover no matter how refined the car is.
Ride and handling: As far as I know, there is no magic wand that can turn a people-mover into a hot hatch or sports coupe.
If you don’t have unrealistic expectations, the Odyssey won’t disappoint. It handles well enough for a tall family hauler and feels stable when cornering.
The suspension tune is on the firm side, possibly to keep this bus from rolling around (and making the kids ill). The downside is a ride that feels harsh on bumpy roads, picking up road imperfections and passing them onto occupants.
Make sure you cover some bumpy roads you know if you go for a test drive.
The steering is light, but not dead and visibility is excellent, making parking easier than the dimensions might suggest.
Braking: The Odyssey pulls up extremely well, running ventilated discs at the front, and solid discs at the rear.
It has a progressive brake feel and the anti-skid system is not too intrusive.
ANCAP: Not yet tested.
Safety features: Both Odyssey models come standard with front, side and curtain airbags. The curtain bags extend all the way down the sides of the car and cover the third row, something not all cars do.
A rear parking camera is standard across the range, while cross traffic warning and a multi-view camera system for parking is fitted to the VTi-L.
Electronic stability control, traction control and anti-skid brakes are standard, as is tyre deflation warning and emergency stop signal.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years or 100,000km (Honda extended warranty available).
Service costs: The Odyssey is covered under Honda's Capped Price Servicing programme. Service costs vary from $243 to $279, depending on the interval.
HOW IT COMPARES
Kia Grand Carnival S ($38,990) - Spacious, but lacking the finesse of the Honda – inside and on-road - and near the end of its model life.
That said, its V6 engine moves it along pretty sharply and is untroubled by a load. (see Grand Carnival reviews)
Toyota Tarago 2.4 petrol CVT auto ($48,990) - Similar in spec to the Odyssey but WAY more expensive. Highly competent, but, at this price you’d nail the Odyssey VTi-L.
The V6 version though ($53,990) is a rocket ship. (see Tarago reviews)
Note: All prices are manufacturer’s list price and do not include on-road costs and charges.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
If you were attracted to the previous model Odyssey because it looked cool and the most car-like of the people-movers, chances are you won’t like this one.
The fifth-generation Odyssey is so different to the last that it pays to do a system reset and approach it with no preconceptions.
Do that, and you will find a competent people-mover that is refined, easy to live with and has a vast amount of interior space.
In our view, the Odyssey is better than its rivals in most places where it matters, even if it is no longer ‘the sexier choice’.