Minivans may not be the current hot ticket, but no other passenger vehicle offers as much family-friendly utility.
Some large crossovers offer similar passenger capacity, but they have hinged doors that restrict entry to the second and third rows in tight quarters like garages or parking lots. Those with as much cargo capacity, are taller, more difficult to load, heavier and use more fuel.
Ford and General Motors have abandoned the minivan segment. The only ‘domestic’ brand still in the game is Stellantis, nee FCA/Chrysler. Honda, Kia and Toyota are the other players.
Let’s have a look now at the 2021 Honda Odyssey.
The fifth generation of Honda’s people mover appeared for the 2018 model year. It received a mid-cycle makeover for the 2021 model.
The front got a new grill, flanked by new headlights and a new front bumper fascia. A new trim piece under the rear window updates the look from that angle. The interior trim has been upgraded, and slimmer second-row seats now fold nearly flat.
Family-friendly features and standard safety upgrades galore in the 2021 Honda Odyssey
There is further proof the development team is keyed into family life: hooks on the back of the third-row seats for grocery bags and the like, a standard rear seat monitoring system lets parents keep their eyes on the little people in back. The centre console now has integrated slots to help manage power cords, and it is easier to adjust the HVAC system thanks to improved lighting.
All trim levels benefit from upgraded standard safety features. The adaptive cruise control system now operates at low speeds in heavy traffic and new sensors improve pedestrian detection and now recognize traffic signs.
My tester was a base trim EX-RES.
Even at this entry level the standard equipment list was long and impressive: 12-way power driver’s seat, four-way power driver’s seat, tilt & telescope steering column, 18-in alloy wheels, Honda vacuum, heated front seats and mirrors, second and third row sunshades, tri-zone automatic climate control, power sunroof and power sliding doors.
The infotainment system included satellite radio, USB ports in the first and second rows, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, a WiFi hotspot and a rear seat entertainment system.
The strength of a minivan is practicality.
The Odyssey is great for hauling everything from seven people to lengthy snowboards or skis. The ability to configure the second and third row seats in a variety of arrangements means you can carry long or bulky items as well as passengers.
The square shape and low load floor make loading and unloading easy. The second row seats slide both fore and aft, and side-to-side. But they weigh a hefty 31 kilos, and have to be removed and stored if you wish to maximize cargo space.
Another advantage over crossovers is the lower centre of gravity and resultant better ride and handling.
2021 Honda Odyssey – no sports car but great handling, even for a minivan
The Odyssey is no sports car, but it acquits itself very well when the road develops the bends. It remains flat unless pushed to the extreme.
The ride is pleasant and all but major road blemishes are dispatched with little notice to the occupants. The response to steering inputs is immediate and linear. I’d like a little less assist and more feedback, but this is the best handling minivan, in my experience.
A silky-smooth 3.5-litre V6 sends power to the front wheels through a 10-speed automatic. There is plenty of power for climbing hills and passing, even with a hefty passenger count aboard. All-wheel-drive is not available.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the 2021 Odyssey a five-star crash-test rating.
The standard suite of safety features includes blind spot detection, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, collision mitigation system, traffic sign recognition and automatic high beams.
The Honda Odyssey does what minivans do best – carry families and their gear in a spacious, comfortable and safe environment.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2021 Honda Odyssey EX-RES
As tested: $44,760 plus freight
Blind spot detection, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, LED headlights, collision mitigation system, traffic sign recognition, automatic high beams, heated power mirrors
Seven-speaker audio system with auxiliary input, front and rear USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, satellite radio, wireless connectivity, rear entertainment system, WiFi hotspot
3.5-litre V6, 280-horsepower, 262 lb. ft. of torque, regular fuel, 10-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.2 / 8.5
Length, 5,213 mm; width, 2,110 mm; wheelbase, 3,000 mm; weight, 2,063 kg
Chrysler Pacifica, Kia Carnival, Toyota Sienna