Pros: Massive, highly usable interior; seating for seven; quick acceleration; exceptional driving comfort
Cons: Lower than expected fuel economy; polarizing body design
When it first hit the market in 1995, the Odyssey looked more like a bloated five-door hatchback than a minivan. Unlike other minivans, its rear passenger doors didn't slide but instead opened like standard sedan doors, hinging from the front. It wasn't until 1999 and the introduction of the second generation that the Odyssey took on a traditional minivan sliding door structure.
Honda launched the current, fourth-generation Odyssey in 2010, giving it updated body lines and a new overall design. What was once a banal body with a flat window line was transformed into a much more bulbous, modern-looking family hauler. Although some have applauded Honda for taking a design risk with the new Odyssey, others have derided the current model's looks.
The 2012 Odyssey is available in LX, EX, EX-L (which has available rear entertainment system or navigation options), Touring and Touring Elite versions. The lineup starts at $28,225 and tops out at $43,675.
Comfort & Utility
The Odyssey's interior and features are much like those of nearly every other minivan on the market. The most notable difference between the Odyssey and its competitors is its interior build quality. The seats, dash, storage compartments and trim in the Odyssey are all surprisingly well constructed. Every surface in the Odyssey looks and feels sturdy.
The 2012 Odyssey is cavernous on the interior, with 172.6 cubic feet of total passenger volume and 148.5 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the front seats. With comfortable and flexible seating configurations, numerous storage bins and pockets and up to 15 beverage holders, the Odyssey is ready for whatever a family can ask of it.
The third row, which Honda calls a Magic Seat, is 60/40 split folding and enables the Odyssey to quickly and easily adapt between passenger and cargo hauling. It can accommodate three passengers and still provide 38.4 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the seats, or it can fold completely flat into the floor, creating 93.1 cubic feet of cargo volume while still maintaining room for five passengers. With the second row of seats removed, total cargo volume expands to 148.5 cubic feet. Total interior volume, with passenger and cargo volume combined, measures 210.0 cubic feet.
The 2012 Odyssey is available with most every modern technological treat a customer could desire from a minivan. The Odyssey can be optioned with satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity with voice command, a rear-seat DVD screen that folds down out of the ceiling and a "cool box" for chilling drinks.
The Touring model has an improved multi-information display with on-screen custom programming of such functions as interior lighting and door locking.
Performance & Fuel Economy
All 2012 Odyssey models have a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 248 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, and there are two transmission choices. On the LX, EX and EX-L, Honda offers a five-speed automatic transmission. On the Touring and Touring Elite models, the Odyssey is fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission.
The EPA has estimated the Odyssey LX's fuel economy at 18 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. The Odyssey Touring, thanks to its six-speed automatic transmission, does slightly better at 19/28 mpg.
The 2012 Odyssey features dual-stage, multiple-threshold front, side curtain and dual-chamber front and side airbags with Honda's passenger's-side occupant position detection system A vehicle stability assist system, active front-seat head restraints and pedestrian injury mitigation are all standard, as is Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure, helping the Odyssey better absorb collision energy, especially in a front-end crash. That structure is now in its second generation in the Odyssey.
Many people promise themselves they'll never own a minivan. But for millions of Americans, family life necessitates owning one. Should they climb behind the wheel of the Odyssey, they'll be pleasantly surprised by its excellent driving capability. Most impressive is the power output from the 3.5-liter V6.
The power delivery of Rolls Royce has been described as wavelike. When a driver puts his or her foot to the floor, it doesn't rocket forward in a jerk of power. Instead, it builds like a force of nature beneath the driver, rocketing smoothly forward across the landscape. The power delivery in the Odyssey is much the same-smooth but intense and quite satisfying.
During hard off-the-line acceleration, the Odyssey does suffer from some front-wheel slippage. But that is to be expected from a 248-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine wedged into the front end of a big family vehicle.
Unfortunately, we found that, thanks to the Odyssey's impressive power output, fuel mileage wasn't as good as advertised. We suspect it will take a soft-footed, Zenlike driver to get close to the EPA's fuel economy estimates.
Other Cars to Consider
Toyota Sienna - Starting at $25,060, the Sienna is one of the cheapest minivans on the market, but it doesn't beat the Odyssey by much. Fitted with a significantly less powerful base four-cylinder engine, the Sienna is less fuel efficient than the V6-powered Odyssey.
Chrysler Town & Country - Starting at $29,995, the Town & Country is an old favorite among minivan buyers-with an emphasis on old; the Town & Country hasn't been updated since 2007.
Nissan Quest - Starting at $25,990, the Quest comes standard with a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 mated to a continuously variable transmission. We think the Quest is far and away the best competitor for the Odyssey, with comparable power, efficiency, utility and technology.
We think even the base Odyssey is fantastic at $28,225. But if it were our money, we'd want to upgrade to the Odyssey Touring for $41,180. The Touring includes satellite navigation, rear entertainment and the six-speed transmission, which not only makes the Odyssey more fuel efficient but also much more enjoyable to drive.