Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: June 5, 2017
CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island - Chances are if you’re reading this review, you have somewhat of an interest towards minivans. Or perhaps you’re the millennial non-believer who avoids minivans like the plague, but are just curious on what and more importantly, why, these box on wheels are a family favourite when it comes to transport.
It all comes down to one thing: practicality. There is no other form of automobile more dedicated towards maximum cargo and passenger capacity. SUVs and crossovers just don’t cut it, and fall empty-handed (or full-handed in this case) when compared to the boxy dimensions of a minivan. Styling and the “cool factor” may not be up its sleeve but comfort, usability, and the ability to haul multiple families give it many advantages in the field. Furthermore, the market demand for minivans is huge despite cultural controversy.
You’ve likely researched into the minivan segment too. The Dodge Grand Caravan still stands as numero uno with 51,513 units sold in Canada last year alone, retaining the title of Canada’s best selling minivan. The Toyota Sienna lags behind with 13,404 units, followed by the Honda Odyssey with 12,311 sold. Newer entries like the Chrysler Pacifica and Kia Sedona should have also flown in your radar.
But the newest minivan to hit the market with a complete refresh is the 2018 Honda Odyssey, with new sheetmetal, a revised V6 engine, a new 10-speed automatic transmission, sliding rear seats, and more cabin technology than ever before.
Honda Canada flew us out to the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island to sample a few pre-production models just before it arrives in dealerships next week. We had a chance to take a fully loaded Touring model out for a spin around the east coast countryside.
The Honda Odyssey has been around for decades but this is the first time that I’ve ever been attracted to one. The redesigned exterior is no longer bland or soft on the eyes. It still looks 100% Odyssey but the bolder front fascia and illusion of a floating D-pillar give it that extra sporty appeal. The side rails are gone, the wheels are larger, and those new LED taillights look eerily Buick-like. The Odyssey is only slightly longer than the outgoing model - it keeps the same wheelbase but there’s more rear overhang for extra third row space.
Customers don’t buy minivans for looks, though. The interior and how well it is utilized, is arguably the biggest consideration (aside from cost) when signing on the dotted line. Luckily then, the Odyssey’s cabin layout receives a few significant changes.
The most noticeable revision is with the center stack. It’s got a bigger and more colourful touchscreen, which utilizes a new infotainment system to replace the god-awful and convoluted iteration from before. This one has been modernized with large app-like tiles and similar to the Pacifica, these can be customized via drag-and-drop along with a shortcut menu on the top left for your favourite features.
The traditional gear lever has also been swapped with an electronic push button selector like they have on the Honda Pilot. It takes some getting used to especially if you’re used to blindly reaching for the shifter when parking but after a few drives, pushing becomes second nature.
The center well has been further revised with more storage cubbies and a wireless phone charging pad on top. Oh and yes, there is a real volume dial. In fact, Honda has listened to customers and given all of the highly-used features a physical button - that goes for the heated and ventilated seats as well.
“Our biggest focus [with the Odyssey] was with technology and features,” said Jean Marc Leclerc, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “We believe that minivans are here to stay, and we wanted to make one that is fun and easy to drive.” And so they’ve added a slew of new and interesting features that will surely appeal to parents.
First up is CabinWatch, which allows front passengers to bring up a live infrared camera feed of the rear occupants. It works surprisingly well in every lighting situation, and saves parents from frequent neck straining exercises. The view can be zoomed in, as well.
In addition to CabinWatch is CabinTalk, which acts like a PA system where front passengers can project their voice through the rear speakers, and even through the headphones if your occupants are watching a movie. There’s even a smartphone app that will let you control all the cabin features too.
The suite of safety and driver-assistance technologies, dubbed Honda Sensing, come standard on every Odyssey, and provide adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, and forward collision and lane departure warnings. Blind spot monitoring and Honda’s unique Lanewatch are optional.
Some market advantages? The Odyssey is currently the only minivan to offer 4G LTE in-car Wi-Fi. Only the Odyssey and the Kia Sedona support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well (FCA products do have it but the Pacifica’s system doesn’t support it just yet).
Some market disadvantages? The lack of USB ports, especially on lower-end models. There are AC and HDMI outlets however. Furthermore, just like Toyota models you can’t sync up your phone via Bluetooth while on the move but oddly enough, entering in a GPS address is allowed.
The Odyssey can seat up to eight passengers but the real party trick is with Honda’s Magic Slide second row seats. With the center seat removed, you can slide the outward seats side-to-side or front-to-back. This not only allows for better access to the third row, but toddlers can be positioned closer to the front passengers. It’s an incredibly thoughtful design and works well in application. For those of you wondering where to store that center seat, there’s more than enough room in the trunk floor pocket.
The sliding seats sacrifice one convenient feature, which is the ability to fold all the seats flat to the floor. The Pacifica and its Stow’n Go feature allows for this, and only the Odyssey’s third row seats are able to be folded flat. The second row seats will have to be manually removed if you want to transport any large mattresses or furniture.
I’ve always found Odysseys to be dynamic and fun to drive, and the same goes for the 2018 model. It now rides on an all-new chassis, which is 44% stiffer than before and cuts down weight by 33 kg. That means even the fully loaded Touring model is lighter than the equivalent outgoing Odyssey.
The result is a well balanced minivan that drives smaller than it looks. Our driver that shuttled us from the airport to hotel jokingly told us that P.E.I actually stood for “potholes every inch,” and though this was rather true, the Odyssey handled the undulations and pothole ridden roads like a champ.
There were frightening moments where we were hitting 90 km/h on an empty road when an ankle-deep crack in the tarmac appeared, and as we clenched our buttcheeks anticipating the jolt through the chassis, all we received was a slight tickle up the spine. The Odyssey’s suspension tuning was above excellent, and it cornered well too with eager turn-in and minimal body roll.
Front-wheel drive is the only option for the Odyssey, as Honda doesn’t think there’s much demand for all-wheel drive. As of this point, the Toyota Sienna still remains as the only AWD minivan in Canada.
The revised 3.5-litre V6 kept up well on the coastal roads, offering linear power delivery and good overtaking ability with direct injection and a 32-hp power bump up to 280 hp and 262 lb-ft. The Odyssey LX, EX, and EXL trims will receive a 9-speed transmission while the Touring gets a brand new 10-speed automatic. Talk about gear overload, but we were pleasantly surprised when we gave the ten cogs a whirl.
It never hunted for gears, upshifts were fairly imperceptible, and downshifts were relatively quick. I never understood why Honda needed to implement paddle shifters in a minivan but I found myself using them more often than I thought during overtakes and on-ramp merges.
The main benefit with the 10-speed is fuel economy and we averaged an applaudable 10.7 L/100km on the trafficless island roads. The 10-speed also comes exclusively with a smooth and non-rattling iteration of Start Stop technology, which shuts off the engine when idling. There were no 9-speeds available for testing.
The 2018 Honda Odyssey comes with a starting MSRP of $34,890 (LX) and goes up to $50,290 for the top Touring model. It’s slightly cheaper than the new Chrysler Pacifica ($36,495 - $51,495), but just a notch over the aging Toyota Sienna ($33,690 - $48,880). The Dodge Grand Caravan will win the hearts of bargain hunters with a starting price of $23,395.
If you’re looking for a choice between gasoline and hybrid powertrains, and prefer the convenience of the rear seats folding flat to the floor, you may want to check out the versatile (but more expensive) Pacifica. If the security of all-wheel drive is up your alley, then the only choice is the rugged Toyota Sienna. If style and a sedan-like first-class cabin is on the top of your list, the Kia Sedona is an eye-catcher. And if you enjoy a bargain above all else, the bare-foot Dodge Grand Caravan should still be your number one pick.
The Odyssey on the other hand offers more than just value. It’s all about the thoughtful cabin features like CabinWatch and CabinTalk, which will garner a parent’s approval, and a dynamic and rigid chassis that give it wonderful and spirited road manners.
In the end, the changes to the Odyssey may not be radical enough to convert young hippy millennials to leap over to the “boring” world of minivans, but for those who rejoice in having a family hauler with the latest tech and customizable seats, then the Odyssey will fit the bill better than any SUV.
型号 Model: 2018 Honda Odyssey Touring
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $34,890
試車售價 Price as Tested: $50,290
引擎 Engine: 3.5-litre V6
最大馬力 Horsepower: 280 hp
最高扭力 Torque: 262 lb-ft
波箱 Transmission: 10-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 12.2 / 8.5 / 10.6
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.6