The 2019 Honda Odyssey is quite possibly the most overtly family-oriented vehicle on the road today. The design makes no attempt at fashion and this latest generation (introduced last year) moves away from the sharper driving dynamics of its predecessors. The Odyssey is unapologetically a minivan: a parenting tool as dedicated to the job as a BOB stroller or a BabyBjorn. It’s about the kids, not the driver.
As such, the big news for this minivan is in the back. The second-row seat is dubbed "Magic Slide," with outboard seats that slide side-to-side to move the kids closer together or further apart, ease access to the third row, or create room for a middle seat that ups total capacity to eight. For some, this may be preferable to the Toyota Sienna and the Kia Sedona’s far-sliding captain’s chairs, or the Chrysler Pacifica’s Stow ‘n Go seats that fold away into the floor. You have to physically remove the Magic Slide seats.
There are noteworthy tech toys as well. Besides additional USB ports, various places to store handheld electronics and a user-friendly touchscreen for mom/dad/chauffeur up front, the CabinWatch camera lets you keep an eagle eye on those in the back (there’s also a standard convex mirror that does a similar job). There’s also CabinTalk, which allows those in front to do their best impression of an airline pilot over the rear speakers and wireless headphones. "Stop hitting your brother!" should be heard loud and clear.
Those are really just some of the Odyssey’s highlights. In short, it’s a must test drive, but to dig deeper, check out our long-term test.
What’s New for 2019?
The Odyssey is unchanged for 2019 after being completely redesigned last year (you can read about those changes here).
What We Like
Loads of parent- and kid-friendly features; supremely comfortable ride; uniquely adjustable second-row seats; safety tech standard on all but base trim
What We Don’t
Second-row seats don’t slide as far back or fold into the floor; not as sharp to drive as past Odyssey generations; not as many USB ports as rivals
Every 2019 Honda Odyssey comes with the same engine: a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. The transmission differs by trim level, however, with the LX, EX and EX-L featuring a 9-speed automatic, and the Touring and Elite trims featuring a 10-speed automatic. Curiously, fuel economy is exactly the same with both at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features & Options
The Odyssey offers five trim levels: LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite. The base LX seats seven, while all other have the second-row "Magic Slide" seats with a removable middle portion that ups the seating count to eight.
Standard equipment on the LX ($30,090) includes 18-in wheels, a backup camera, rear privacy glass, automatic climate control, power front seats (8-way driver, 4-way passenger), cloth upholstery, a "conversation mirror" for keeping an eye on rear passengers, two USB ports (both in the front) and a 7-speaker sound system with a 5-in color display, an auxiliary audio jack and Bluetooth.
The EX ($34,060) steps things up considerably with forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, automatic headlights and high beams, LED running lights, fog lights, body-colored mirrors and door handles, power-sliding doors, proximity entry and push-button start, tri-zone automatic climate control, second-row sunshades, heated front seats, driver 4-way power lumbar support, the CabinControl remote-control app and an 8-in Display Audio touchscreen interface that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite and HD Radios and customizable feature settings.
The EX-L ($37,610) adds a sunroof, a power liftgate, an acoustic windshield, first- and second-row leather upholstery, third-row vinyl upholstery, driver-memory functions, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and two additional USB ports in the second row. The EX-L is eligible for the Odyssey’s only option, dubbed EX-L w/ Navi/RES. That includes a navigation system integrated into the Display Audio touchscreen and a rear-seat entertainment system that includes a 10.2-in ceiling-mounted screen, a Blu-Ray player, an HDMI input, built-in streaming apps and the CabinTalk in-car PA system that pipes the voices of those front into the back (including through the RES wireless headphones).
The Touring ($44,660) adds LED headlights and fog lights, a hands-free power liftgate, front- and rear-parking sensors, the HondaVac integrated vacuum, third-row sunshades, in-car Wi-Fi, the CabinWatch rear-row camera monitor and everything from the EX-L w/Navi/RES package.
The range-topping Elite ($46,970) gains 19-in wheels, automatic wipers, power-folding mirrors, acoustic front and rear door glass, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, wireless smartphone charging and an 11-speaker sound system.
Every Odyssey comes with antilock brakes, stability control, front-side airbags and 3-row side-curtain airbags. All but the base LX trim includes forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and steering assist, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic warning systems and automatic highbeams.
The government gave the 2019 Odyssey top 5-star crash scores for overall, front and side protection. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick for its best-possible scores in all crash tests plus crash-prevention tech and LATCH ease of use. Its Acceptable headlight rating also contributed to the award.
Behind the Wheel
The Odyssey used to be the most car like minivan to drive, often compared to a big Accord. That’s no longer the case, as the latest Odyssey ultimately focuses on providing a supremely quiet, comfortable and isolating transportation experience. Steering in particular is light in effort and feedback, and not especially indicative of other Hondas. For some, this should be good news, but for others seeking a less overtly minivan like driving experience, competitors might be a better call.
Now, every Odyssey has the same engine, but it’s important to test-drive multiple trim levels as the Touring and Elite feature a different transmission. It has 10 speeds, features an impressively well-executed automatic stop/start system and we suspect it will do a better job reacting to driver inputs than the 9-speed unit found in lower trims. That transmission in the Honda Pilot was a constant source of frustration during our long-term test. We haven’t sampled it in the Odyssey yet, so again, paying attention during a test drive is recommended.
In terms of the Odyssey’s interior, the word "driver focused" never comes to mind. The overall design is very van like up front, but overall material quality is greatly improved from its plastic-y predecessor, and Honda’s latest touchscreen interface is a massive improvement over what’s in the Pilot. It’s not only easy to use, but it’s available with more features like CabinTalk and CabinWatch, which let you better communicate and keep an eye on the little ones in the back.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Chrysler Pacifica — We also had a long-term Pacifica and loved it so much we didn’t want to turn over the keys. It has its own unique set of clever, family-friendly features that you might prefer over the Odyssey’s as well as its excellent plug-in hybrid model.
2019 Kia Sedona — The Sedona doesn’t have quite as many toys as its rivals, but its design and driving experience are a little less overtly minivan like, which should count for a lot with many drivers. We also like how far its second-row seats slide compared to those in the Odyssey and the Pacifica.
2019 Toyota Sienna — The Sienna is the old man in the group, but an influx of tech last year helps keep it competitive. Its far-sliding second-row seats, strong engine and sharp-handling SE trim level are standouts.
Used Honda Odyssey — Do you want the toys found on the upper trim levels, but your budget is restricting you to the lower trims? Well, why not consider a used Odyssey? The previous generation doesn’t have all those toys, but most of them are still present and you really won’t be giving up that much in most other respects.
Skip the base LX. If a low price is that important, it’s probably smarter to a get a used Odyssey. Otherwise, the EX provides such an abundance of extra equipment for the money that it’s really the best deal and should easily satisfy both your needs and wants. And sure, clever items like the HondaVac and CabinWatch are appealing, but they’re also restricted to the top two trims that start about $10,000 more.