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Honda Odyssey review: when an SUV is just too out of the box – Reviews

Honda Odyssey review: when an SUV is just too out of the box - Reviews

Honda Odyssey review: when an SUV is just too out of the box – Reviews

We’re down to the final two. Some call them the remnants of an age that’s passed, all but a motoring memory in a now-world where SUVs and utes do it all. But it wasn’t long ago that the humble people-mover, MPV or minivan was a lot more popular.

But now, representing less than one-per cent of the new car market share in NZ, there’s just two left for sale on the new car market: the Kia Carnival, and the Honda Odyssey, the leader of the class with a 35 per cent share, just updated and an icon of the people-mover market.

We last took a decent look at the Odyssey back in 2015, and to be honest, not a lot has changed. But there are natural improvements.

So just to state the semi-obvious, it’s an up-to-eight person mover, it’s a van – of sorts – when space is required, there’s some good tech and a big dollop of luxury, especially for passengers.

And for 2021, Honda’s offered a few improvements: its Sensing safety suite is the biggest headline, an assortment of passive and active driver aids like active cruise control, lane assist, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic warning, smart entry and keyless push button start, walk-away auto-locking and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto on an eight-inch touch screen. All very car- (er, SUV) like.

Though, we must add, the radar cruise deactivates under 20km/h, so it loses points for that.

Honda Odyssey review: when an SUV is just too out of the box - Reviews

The two-model range starts at $49,990 for the new Touring grade, with eight (fabric) seats; incidentally $1k more than our Honda CR-V Sport 7 (seater), that Honda buyers might be shopping it against. The top spec is the Limited with seven leather seats, at $59,990, which adds features like hands-free power tailgate with kick sensor, gesture control power sliding doors, key-linked driver’s memory seats, and a roof-panel climate control for second row passengers in the captains seats.

A more upscale design is thanks to the new grille, bumper, bonnet, and guards, new headlights and taillights and sequential LED indicators, along with new 17-inch alloys.

Interior design updates include a new wheel, while the dash offers more usability, with a large upper storage box added to the passenger side, an additional easy-reach driver’s cup holder in front of the AC vent (helping keep drinks cool), and acoustic-suppressing glass and wheel resonators to make it a little more pleasant RE road noise.

Honda Odyssey review: when an SUV is just too out of the box - Reviews

Where it offers more over the typical SUV is engine capacity and with a 2.4-litre DOHC i-VTEC four, it promises a decent turn of speed, with 129kW and 225Nm – but it seems it’s more about torque than speed, as it does tend to drone and grind a bit in combination of the CVT gearbox. Shift paddles often get a downshift tap to keep it more responsive, and it also offers idle-stop to help economy. While Honda claims 8.0l/100km, our week with the Odyssey, with a mix of motorway and suburbs and not many passengers, turned in 11.4l/100km.

But the question remains: why an MPV? Especially if shopping for an SUV. As an SUV family, I purged our bias to look at the Odyssey with fresh eyes. There are a few reasons and if any/all of them suit your needs, then it’s certainly worth considering. The sliding doors offer great access, and the touchless access to the tailgate and doors is a bonus, especially when hands are full. The low floor makes getting in and out a breeze, especially for smaller kids like our 2yo who loved the smaller step the ground than his normal method of reversing down a ladder from our large SUV; the rear seats offer added comfort in both the seats and number, as that eighth seat could be a deal-sealer. And with simple access, offering the ability to walk between front, second and third rows.

Honda Odyssey review: when an SUV is just too out of the box - Reviews

Possibly the biggest bugbear is mindset and other people’s opinion. Owning, driving and being seen in a people mover are the best ways to slide down the social snakes and ladders, and it’s often suggested that those with a penchant for people movers have finally resigned to draining the last remaining drops of petrol from their once-a-car-enthusiast head.

No need to feel threatened, people movers still have a place, in the same way that PHEV hybrids or Kei cars do, and the Odyssey is an icon of a smart family on the move. And for that reason, may the MPV live long and prosper.

HONDA ODYSSEY
ENGINE: 2.4L i-VTEC petrol four
POWER: 129kW/225Nm
ECONOMY: 8.0l/100km
PRICE: $49,990-$59,990

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