Park the 2014 Honda Odyssey next to one wearing model year designation of 2011, 2012 or 2013 and you might be hard pressed to spot the changes. The reason, aside from subtle styling adjustments to the minivan's exterior, is the big difference underneath the skin.

Aside from equipment upgrades, the 2014 Odyssey lineup mirrors last year's model. The least expensive version is the Odyssey LX, which is priced $150 higher than before. Honda also offers its minivan in EX, EX-L (the "L" stands for leather), Touring and Touring Elite trim levels.

Thanks to what proves to be a substantial mid-life update, the 2014 Honda Odyssey makes a compelling case for itself. But are the changes worth a slight bump in price over the outgoing 2013 Odyssey or a substantial premium over a certified pre-owned (CPO) Odyssey? That's what we're here to determine.

    

Fuel Economy

The 2014 Odyssey has the same engine as the 2011-2013 models, a 248-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) technology. Under certain low-load driving conditions, the VCM system allows the engine to operate on fewer cylinders to conserve fuel.

This year, fuel economy ratings for the most popular LX, EX and EX-L versions of Honda's minivan rise to 19 miles per gallon city/28 mpg hwy. That's due to the 6-speed automatic transmission (previously reserved for Touring and Touring Elite versions) that is now standard across the board, replacing the 5-speed automatic.

Because mileage ratings rise in the volume-selling versions of the 2014 Odyssey, the new van is the victor when it comes to fuel economy.

    

Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) calls the 2013 Honda Odyssey a Top Safety Pick, and the minivan receives an overall crash-test rating of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It just doesn't get any better than this. Or does it?

It does, starting with the 2014 Odyssey's new next-generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which is designed to help the latest Odyssey minivan excel in the new IIHS small overlap frontal-impact crash test. Vehicles that excel in this new test -- which replicates what might happen if a vehicle strikes a pole, tree or oncoming traffic on the left front corner -- get a Top Safety Pick Plus rating. Honda fully expects that to be the case, thanks to the Odyssey's new ACE structure.

Additionally, the 2014 Odyssey has a new expanded-view driver's side mirror as standard equipment. This feature helps the driver to see in the left-side blind spot. Odyssey EX models get new LaneWatch technology to monitor the right-side blind spot, as well as headlights that are linked to the wipers so that the Odyssey always has its lights on when it is raining. Upgrade to the Odyssey EX-L and the van is equipped with a new Lane Departure Warning system and a Forward Collision Warning system, and versions with the optional navigation system include a reversing camera with a greater range of view.

Despite the previous Odyssey's outstanding safety ratings, it is clear that Honda has thoroughly upgraded the 2014 model to better prevent collisions and, if they occur, to better protect occupants from injury. The advantage goes to the new Odyssey.

    

Reliability

Among all Honda models, the Odyssey's reliability ratings are the least impressive, consistently scoring "Average" in Consumer Reports surveys. In the most recent round of J.D. Power studies, the Chrysler Town & Country beat the Odyssey for quality, and the Toyota Sienna was the more dependable model. That said, it should be noted that the Odyssey was second-ranked in both J.D. Power measures.

Nevertheless, it sure would be nice if a new Honda Odyssey offered a better warranty. Aside from a standard warranty of three years or 36,000 miles and a powertrain warranty for five years or 60,000 miles, a new Odyssey owner is on his own. No roadside assistance. No free maintenance.

This sorry state of affairs sure makes a CPO Odyssey look pretty good, doesn't it? In addition to a 150-point inspection and a free vehicle history report, a CPO Odyssey gets a 7-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and the basic warranty is extended to four years or 48,000 miles. A Honda Care program is optional and includes roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement, trip interruption benefits and more.

Here's the thing, though. For the CPO benefits to make the best sense compared to the new 2014 model, you have to buy an Odyssey that's less than a year old. And even then, it's still not as good a minivan as the 2014 Odyssey.

We call this one a tie.

    

Value

Where the CPO Odyssey starts making sense is with price. As this article is written, there are 838 CPO examples of the 2011-2013 Honda Odyssey for sale on AutoTrader.com, from a low of $19,500 for a 2011 Odyssey LX with more than 66,500 miles on the odometer to a high of almost $41,000 for a 2013 Touring Elite with 1,900 miles on it.

Compare that to the 2014 Odyssey, which starts at $29,655 for the LX model and rises to $45,280 for the Touring Elite version, including the $830 destination charge. When measured purely on the merits of value, the CPO Odyssey is the better choice, even if Honda is offering low-interest financing of 1.9 percent APR for 60 months through Labor Day weekend.

    

Technology

Consider the long list of changes to the 2014 Odyssey, including those in the Safety section above, and it quickly becomes clear that it is the technologically superior minivan.

The base LX model gains standard Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming for 2014, as well as Pandora Internet radio compatibility and text-messaging capability. The Odyssey EX is equipped with new HondaLink services and a keyless access and push-button ignition system, while the Touring Elite models gain HD Radio and a new 5.1 Neural surround sound audio system.

Additionally, a new HondaVAC system is included for the Touring Elite. HondaVAC is an on-board vacuum housed in the cargo area. It can reach any part of the minivan to clean up the messes commonly made by such a vehicle's typically young passengers.

AutoTrader's Advice

Buy the 2014 Odyssey if you can. It is safer than the Odyssey it replaces, gets slightly better gas mileage and is upgraded with several appealing features. Honda helps to make it easier to afford thanks to low lease payments and frequent low-rate financing deals.

Find a Honda Odyssey for sale

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Doug DeMuro has a wide range of automotive industry experience, from work at a Ferrari dealership to a manager for Porsche North America. A lifelong car enthusiast, Doug's eclectic vehicle purchases include a Porsche 911 Turbo, an E63 AMG wagon, an old Range Rover and a Mercedes Benz G-wagen.

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