There is no exciting way to begin an article about a minivan. I mean, it’s a minivan.
But if you’re looking for a functional vehicle that seats eight, can hold some luggage and actually handles really well, you can’t do much better than the 2018 Honda Odyssey.
During the test week, I piled in seven adults and took a 6-hour round-trip road trip. And we all made it back without killing each other.
When you’re dealing with a minivan, the overall exterior design isn’t going to change drastically from model to model or automaker to automaker. They all have the same cylindrical shape with sliding side doors.
But the Odyssey does a nice job of smoothing out some of the edges, adding in some austere Honda design cues and just generally making the most of the minivan façade.
One nice feature I noticed when parking next to a previous-generation model is that the door track lines have moved from the side panel to the area where the window meets the panel – which makes it less noticeable and a lot more attractive.
The interior design is symmetrical and well organized. There are plenty of cubbies to store purses or diaper bags or electronic devices, and I especially appreciated the hook in the foot well of the front passenger side, which will hold a bag of some sort.
There are also a plethora of USB ports and power outlets throughout the vehicle, including a jack for a standard 110V plug – rather than just a USB cable or 12V adaptor.
The test vehicle was a top-tier Elite trim, which means it included leather trim, ambient blue lighting, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, a wireless phone charger and tri-zone automatic climate control.
Ride & Handling
The Odyssey comes equipped with a really nice 3.5-liter V-6 engine that delivers 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. Even when with 7 adult passengers, acceleration didn’t suffer and highway passing and merges were accomplished easily.
While there is just one engine across the Odyssey lineup, there are two transmissions. The 9-speed automatic can be found in the LX, EX and EX-L trims, whereas the 10-speed automatic (with idle-stop) is in the Touring and Elite trims.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with how well this minivan handles. It’s solid and quiet on the straight, flat highways – just as you’d expect – but it does OK with aggressive passing maneuvers and cloverleaf on and off ramps as well.
Regardless of transmission, the fuel economy ratings are the same across the lineup. EPA estimates that the Odyssey should get 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. Combined fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg.
We averaged 22.2 mpg during our test week, and while that hits the combined estimate, we did a lot of highway driving, so I would have hoped to see it edge a little higher.
Tech & gadgets
It should come as no surprise that many of the gadgets on the Odyssey are family oriented. For example CabinWatch and CabinTalk, which are standard at the Touring trim, allow you to view what’s going on in the rear seats and, should you need to tell the troops to quiet down, access a PA system that projects your voice rearward.
Other available family friendly features include the HondaVAC, second- and third-row sunshades, second-row USB ports, a 12-volt adapter in the third row and a bevy of cup holders in each row.
Things like push-button start, Bluetooth phone pairing, auto up/down front windows and MP3 audio connectivity are standard across the lineup.
Also of note, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and the Honda Sensing safety system are standard starting at the EX trim.
LX ($29,990): This base trim comes well-equipped with standard features such as Bluetooth phone pairing, a multi-angle rearview camera, push-button start, automatic climate control, cruise control and power adjustable driver’s seat.
EX ($33,860): This trim adds features such as Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Honda Sensing, blind-spot monitoring, heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, second-row sunshades and passive entry.
EX-L ($37,360): At this trim, you’ll see features such as driver’s memory seats, leather seating surfaces, a height adjustable power tailgate and a one-touch power moonroof.
Touring ($44,510): This trim starts to add more of the lux-level features, including a 10-speed automatic transmission, CabinWatch, CabinTalk, rear entertainment, navigation, mobile hotspot capability and HondaVAC.
Elite ($46,670): This top-tier trim adds heated-and-ventilated seats, a wireless phone charger, premium audio, blue ambient lighting and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Our test vehicle was an Elite model with no options – but it didn’t really need any. So the as-tested price was $47,645, which includes the $975 destination and handling fee.
Honda has a great suite of safety features called “Honda Sensing.” It includes automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control. While this is not available on the base LX model, it comes standard starting at the EX trim, which is just one level up.
The 2018 Odyssey gets an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick award, the only thing keeping it from a Top Safety Pick + was the merely “Acceptable” headlight ratings. Everything else was rated Good or Superior.
Odyssey also gets top marks from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, obtaining an overall 5-Star Rating.
Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here.
New for 2018
The Odyssey is all-new for the 2018 model year.
A few of my favorite things
One of the reasons our family road trip was fairly uneventful was the available tri-zone climate control. We were able to tailor the heating or cooling to pretty much every person in the vehicle.
Even at the very end, when my husband and I were dropping the car off at the airport, we had climate harmony with the driver’s side heated seat on and HVAC set to 82, while he had the cooled seat on and HVAC set to 68.
There are a lot of great family friendly features in the Odyssey from the HondaVAC and kick-activated rear liftgate to CabinWatch and CabinTalk.
I also really liked that the home screen could easily be configured to put the most-used items on the first screen.
What I can leave
The seat bottoms weren’t comfortable. At all. However, it’s likely this isn’t something we’d have noticed if we hadn’t spent 6 hours sitting in those seats in a single day. For short trips they were fine.
While I appreciated the fact that the middle outboard seats can slide forward to provide more legroom for rear occupants, the center middle-row seat doesn’t move. This can create a bit of an awkward seat arrangement – especially for the person (ahem, me!) sitting in that center middle-row seat.
The bottom line
The new Honda Odyssey has a lot of great available features and a really great starting price.
Since the EX will be the volume seller, it makes sense to add things like the Honda Sensing safety system and passive entry at this trim – and $4K isn’t a huge ask for the amazing amount of content you’ll get.
It’s a great vehicle for hauling people and stuff. My only real complaint would be the hard seating surfaces – which could be a non-issue with cloth seats or time to break them in.
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