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Honda Odyssey Luxury Test

An efficient people mover with image.

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Michael Knowling and Honda Australia

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At a glance...

  • Sleek styling
  • Spacious and practical
  • Seven seats
  • Well built
  • Gimmicky dashboard
  • No traction or stability control
  • Go-fast version dropped
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Have you got a large family to cart around but you don’t want a typically boring people mover? Honda’s new Odyssey 7-seater is aimed directly at you.

The third generation Odyssey is far sportier looking than anything else in its category. A low roofline and reduced ground clearance (compared to the previous model) give the new Honda a ground-hugging appearance. The Odyssey looks most attractive from front angles, where its sleek nose and aggressive headlight assembly – with eye-catching blue reflectors – give an impression like no other people mover. Sporty twin exhausts can be found at the rear and the top-of-the-line Luxury version (as tested) scores 16 inch alloy wheels.

This may be a people mover but, geez, it certainly has some style.

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Honda has slashed the new Odyssey’s roofline by 80mm compared to the previous model but, despite this, they have managed to achieve a slightly increased floor-to-ceiling height. There’s excellent headroom in the front but sprawling space is limited due to the encroaching dashboard. A fold-down table between the front seats allows walk-through access to the second row – it’s a squeeze but it can be done. Note that the transmission selector is mounted on the dashboard and the park brake is foot-operated to maintain a clear walkway.

Second row passengers benefit from a 60:40 split seat with separate fore-aft sliding and rear backrest adjustment. No matter what size you are, you can find a comfortable position. Again, headroom is generous and there’s enough cabin width to accommodate three abreast. The centre second row passenger is the only person to miss out on a 3 point retractable belt – a non-retractable lap belt is all you get.

The second row seat’s slide/tilt mechanism gives easy access to the third row. Impressively, the Odyssey’s third row seat offers adequate accommodation for two full-size adults. The Odyssey is a true 7 seater people mover – unlike the rival Toyota Avesis, which is really a ‘5+2’.

Note that there are ventilation outlets for every seating position, fan speed control for the second row passengers and a total of eight cup holders – just in case the going gets thirsty!

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With seven passengers onboard there’s still a useable amount of cargo space behind the third row seat. The Odyssey’s compact rear suspension and flat mufflers allow a low and wide cargo floor that’s intrusion-free. The load lip is also very low but the hatch doesn’t open high enough to avoid bumping your head. This is a downside of the low roofline.

Seating and cargo flexibility is exceptional.

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The 50:50 split third row backrests can be folded forward like in most other vehicles, but the Odyssey Luxury goes a step further with its power-operated rear seat fold-away system. By pushing a button in the cargo area, the third row seat automatically tumbles beneath the floor for a perfectly flat cargo surface. It’s extremely impressive to watch. There’s no fumbling about with seatbelts or latches – you only need to ensure the head restraints are tilted forward before pushing the button.

Note that the entry-level Odyssey uses a manually operated third row fold-away system.

On rare occasions where even more carrying capacity is needed, the second row seat’s 60:40 split backrests can be folded forward. Alternatively, the lower cushions can be tipped forward and the backrests folds down. A pair of flaps on the second row backrests can then be flipped back to maintain a continuous, relatively flat cargo floor. In this ‘panel van’ configuration, the Odyssey puts a massive 1056 litres of cargo capacity at your disposal.

In addition to its power-operated rear seat fold-away system, the top-line Luxury version of the Odyssey is decked out with full leather trim and its seats are extremely comfortable. Combined with very low levels of NVH, this is a vehicle you can drive over very long distances without becoming tired.

Unfortunately, the Odyssey’s dashboard stands out for its form-over-function design.

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The fancy back-lit instruments are difficult to read because of their mess of colours and fussy detailing. Switch the headlights on at dusk and the instruments are almost impossible to read – especially if you’re wearing sunglasses. In addition, the symmetrical dashboard – which is obviously designed for an easy switch to left-hand-drive – places the audio control buttons on an awkward curve away from the driver. Fortunately, most of these controls are rarely needed because there are audio controls on the steering wheel.

The cabin is well equipped with fruit, but – apart from its futuristic dashboard – there’s nothing mind-blowing. Standard on all Odysseys are digital climate control, cruise control, a single CD/tuner, fold down front armrests, electric windows and mirrors and ‘the usuals’. We like the instantaneous fuel consumption graph that is a permanent fixture in the main cluster – it works well when you can keep tabs of instantaneous fuel consumption and compare it to the average fuel consumption figure shown in the multi-mode display. Unfortunately, the button for the multi-mode display – which also includes an ambient temperature read-out – is awkward to access.

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In addition to standard leather and a power-operated rear seat fold-away system, the Luxury version of the Odyssey scores illuminated vanity mirrors, auto headlights (which come on too late), a 6-stack CD player, lidded second row door pockets, extensive use of wood grain and titanium-look trim, 8 way electric driver’s seat adjustment and two-stage electric front seat warmers. Also standard on the Luxury is an electric glass sunroof that gives the cabin a very pleasant ambience. The sunroof control switch is accessible only to the driver.

Odyssey passengers are protected by what Honda calls a “crash compatible body”, standard dual-stage front and side airbags with occupant position detection sensors, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters and front buckle pre-tensioners. All seating positions feature adjustable head restraints. The Luxury is also fitted with curtain airbags that cover all three seating rows.

So what’s the Odyssey like on the road – does it live up to its sporty image?

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Well, much to our horror, the wonderful V6 engine available in the previous Odyssey has been dropped and a 2.4 litre four-cylinder comes fitted in the entry-level and Luxury models. It’s not a patch on the old V6, but it is responsive and powerful enough to cope with a full load of people. Based on the K24A engine used in the CR-V and Accord VTi, the Odyssey’s DOHC 2.4 litre four employs i-VTEC variable cam timing control. Power output is 118kW at 5500 rpm and there’s 218Nm of torque at 4500 rpm.

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Torque is spread evenly from idle to about 6000 rpm and the electronic throttle control gives smooth transient response. Available as an auto only, the Odyssey’s new 5 speed transmission is smooth and doesn’t take long to learn your driving patterns. At cruise, however, it does drop into top gear very early and this causes a slight in-cabin drone. With the ‘D3’ gear position engaged you have use of only the first three forward gears, while a sequential shift mode gives you full transmission control.

At wide-open throttle, the 1635kg Odyssey Luxury launches off the line without torque-steer or wheel spin and can reach 100 km/h in around 11 seconds. This combines with fuel consumption that averaged 10 litres per 100km during our test – impressive considering the enthusiastic stop-go driving over much of the period. Note that the engine’s 9.7:1 compression ratio requires only 91 RON normal unleaded fuel.

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In typical urban driving, the Odyssey offers a comfortable ride with firm damping. Interestingly, the firm damping remains noticeable with a full load of people onboard.

With revised double wishbone suspension front and rear, the Odyssey is stable at speed but it understeers moderately in tight conditions. Note that there’s no traction control system, so you can also provoke an inside front wheel to spin when accelerating hard out of a low speed corner. There is also no stability control – an obvious omission in a vehicle such as this. Cornering grip levels are relatively low from the 215/60 16 Yokohama A359 tyres but the chassis is very progressive and predictable.

The Odyssey’s steering adopts a variable gear ratio (VGR) system for linear feel. The system senses the amount of torque generated between the tyre and road as the steering wheel is turned. The system requires only light steering effort at all times and there’s good response at the straight-ahead position. Turning circle is tighter than expected.

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The brakes perform well but our test vehicle felt like it had a problem with its pads – it occassionally lacked pedal feel at moderate brake pressure. However, all-out stopping power can’t be criticised – the 300mm ventilated front and 305mm solid rear discs arrest the Odyssey without fuss. EBD and ABS come standard but brake assist is not available on local models.

The build quality of our test vehicle was well up to standard. There were no rattles or creaks, the doors shut quietly and paint and panel finish was very good. The quality of the leather and interior trim is also very high - the only gripe is the fake wood grain is a bit tacky in appearance.

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At AUD$45,290, the Honda Odyssey Luxury is approximately 17 percent dearer than the base model – an acceptable premium given the Luxury’s extra features. The Odyssey’s nearest competitor is from Toyota – the Avesis Verso Ultima. In comparison, the Toyota Avensis (see New Car Test - Toyota Avensis Verso Ultima) cost slightly more than the Honda and is not up to its overall standard. The Honda betters the Toyota with its extra space, spritelier on-road performance and, of course, better styling.

The new Odyssey will certainly continue the enviable reputation forged by its predecessors.

The Japanese Market Odyssey

In its home market, the Honda Odyssey can be purchased with a 147kW/232Nm version of the 2.4 litre four-cylinder engine, a CVT transmission and all-wheel-drive.

Other features available in the Japanese version include IHCC (Intelligent Highway Cruise Control), brake assist, voice operated navigation, rear camera, adaptive headlights (which follow steering angle) and a sophisticated collision mitigation brake system to help avoid crashes.

Contact Honda Australia to register your interest in importing the ‘gun’ Odyssey!

The Odyssey Luxury was provided for this test by Honda Australia.

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