Slightly refreshed for the new model year, the 2014 Honda Odyssey has come a long way from the 5-door hatchback that first hit the market in 1995. Instead of the sliding doors of a regular minivan, that first Odyssey had front-hinged doors that opened like the doors on a sedan. It wasn't until the 1999 introduction of the second-generation model that the Odyssey got the traditional minivan sliding doors.
Honda launched the current, fourth-generation Odyssey in 2010 with updated body lines and a new overall design. What was once a banal body with a flat window line was transformed into a more bulbous and 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.
What's New for 2014?
The Odyssey receives several updates for the new model year. In addition to freshened styling, Honda has added several newly available features. They include forward collision warning, lane departure warning and, on the top-level Touring Elite model, an available vacuum cleaner dubbed "HondaVAC."
What We Like
Massive, highly usable interior; seating for up to eight; quick acceleration; exceptional driving comfort
What We Don't
Lower than expected fuel economy; polarizing body design
The Odyssey is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 248 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. All Odyssey models use a 6-speed automatic transmission, which returns 19 mpg city and 28 mpg in highway driving.
Standard Features & Options
The ever-expanding Odyssey lineup now includes five trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite.
The base-level Odyssey LX ($29,500) includes such basics as cruise control, power accessories (windows, locks and mirrors), air conditioning, Bluetooth and a USB player for music. A rearview camera is also standard.
Shoppers who step up to the Odyssey EX ($33,000) get several more luxury and convenience features. They include dual power sliding doors, automatic headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control and second-row sunshades.
Above the EX is the EX-L ($36,000), which adds a power sunroof, a power lift gate, leather upholstery, heated front seats and a chilled storage box. Honda also offers the EX-L with options such as a rear-seat DVD player and a navigation system.
Next up is the Odyssey Touring ($42,500). That trim adds 18-in alloy wheels, driver memory for seats and mirrors, fog lights and front and rear parking sensors. It also includes standard navigation and rear-seat entertainment.
Topping the Odyssey range is the Odyssey Touring Elite ($45,000). It's a highly upscale minivan, offering automatic xenon headlights, a widescreen rear video monitor and a blind spot warning system. It also offers the HondaVAC vacuum as optional equipment.
The 2014 Honda Odyssey features dual-stage, multiple-threshold front, side curtain and dual-chamber front and side airbags with Honda's passenger-side occupant position detection system. A vehicle stability assist system, active front-seat head restraints and pedestrian injury mitigation are all standard. So is Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure. It helps the Odyssey better absorb collision energy, especially in a front-end crash. That structure is now in its second generation in the Odyssey.
The Honda Odyssey received a 5-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It earned a 5-star frontal crash-test rating, a 5-star side crash-test rating and a 4-star rollover rating.
Behind the Wheel
Many people promise themselves they'll never own a minivan. But for millions of Americans, family life requires it. Should they climb behind the wheel of the Odyssey, they'll be pleasantly surprised by its excellent driving characteristics. Most impressive is the power output from the 3.5-liter V6.
When a driver puts his foot to the floor in the Odyssey, it doesn't rocket forward in a jerk of power. Instead, it builds like a force of nature beneath the driver, sending the vehicle smoothly forward across the landscape. Power delivery is linear, 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, the fuel mileage we observed wasn't as good as advertised. We suspect it will take a soft-footed, Zen-like driver to get close to the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy estimates.
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 are all surprisingly well constructed. Every surface in the Odyssey looks and feels sturdy.
Other Cars to Consider
Toyota Sienna -- Starting at $26,435, the base Sienna L is one of the cheapest minivans on the market. But it doesn't beat the Odyssey by much. For 2013, the base 4-cylinder engine is discontinued, replaced by a standard V6. The Sienna can be equipped with all-wheel drive for those who need extra traction for winter weather or slippery roads.
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-hp 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 2014 Honda Odyssey is fantastic at $28,575. Budget allowing, however, we'd definitely upgrade to the Odyssey Touring for $41,180. The Touring includes satellite navigation, rear entertainment and handsome 18-in alloy wheels. Still, you won't be faulted for choosing any model in the Odyssey lineup.