As SUVs have taken the world by storm, it’s not hard to see why families have moved away from people movers.
But people movers generally offer more seating space and better luggage storage, despite how big their SUV counterparts look.
The fifth-generation Honda Odyssey has just benefitted from a styling update, keeping it fresh as it rolls into its eighth year on sale.
Does the new-look 2021 Honda Odyssey pack enough value to overcome the new Kia Carnival, along with the countless big SUVs vying for family dollars?
The Honda Odyssey is available in two guises in Australia. The entry-level Vi L7 is priced from $44,250 before on-road costs.
The next step up the range and the top-specification model tested here is the Honda Odyssey Vi LX7, which is priced from $51,550 before on-roads.
Four colours are available across the range. All four metallic and pearl colours can be optioned free of charge.
Honda has removed the option of eight seats from the Odyssey, with it now exclusively being available with seven seats (including two captain’s chairs in the second row).
On the outside you’ll find 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with adaptive beam, power sliding doors with gesture control, privacy glass, and a power tailgate.
Inside the cabin there’s an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with inbuilt satellite navigation, smartphone mirroring (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), tri-zone automatic climate control, leather seats, heated seats for first row, power driver and front passenger seats, ambient lighting, surround-view cameras, a digital driver’s display, and space saver spare tyre.
There are no option packs available.
The Honda Odyssey was last tested in 2014 where it achieved a maximum five-star ANCAP rating. The rating doesn’t carry over to the facelifted model.
During testing it achieved an overall crash rating of 32.75 out of 37.
Standard safety equipment includes low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistant, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning.
While the Odyssey comes with a surround-view camera, disappointingly it has no front or rear parking sensors.
I went into this review assuming that given the Odyssey platform’s age, the interior would be fairly dated and behind the rest of its competitors.
Much to my surprise, the new Odyssey is nicely presented with excellent fit and finish. While vehicles like the Carnival aim to please with flash lights and big screens, the Odyssey sticks to the basics with soft-touch surfaces and elegantly-presented finishes.
The leather seats feel like a big warm hug with armrests on either side of the two second-row captain’s chairs and on the inner sides of the first row of seats.
In terms of technology, the Odyssey feels a step behind the competition. The 8.0-inch infotainment screen feels a generation old in terms of size.
It also misses out on DAB+ digital radio, but it does make up for it with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
There’s also a third-party Garmin satellite navigation system built in that takes the edge off needing to have your phone connected to the car to use navigation functions.
The sound system is a six-speaker stereo, which does the job for the most part. Aside from a pair of USB ports in the first row, the rest of the car surprisingly has no USB connectivity to charge devices, a big oversight in our opinion.
Both the first and second rows feature the same type of individual luxury seats. While the first row offers electric adjustment, the second row is manually slid forwards, backwards and reclined.
There’s also the option to slide the second row seats sideways to create a walkway to the third row.
While the second row seats are comfortable, we found the hump between the first and second rows robs second-row passengers of leg room. It elevates the position of the second row occupant’s feet and makes seating a little awkward.
It’s due to the spare tyre sitting in a cavity beneath the first row. It’s an odd placement given how difficult it would be to remove if the car is loaded with belongings and you’re stuck on the side of the road.
Above the second row seats is a panel dedicated to the third zone of climate control. It’s easy to use and adjustable air vents for the second and third rows are located in the roof pillar.
The third row seats two adults in relative comfort, with enough room for three children abreast.
In the boot you’ll find 331 litres of cargo space with the third row in place.
Manually folding and latching the third row into the floor exposes up to 1672L with the second row in place and up to 1867L of space with the second row slid all the way forwards.
The second row doors and tailgate are electrically operated. They can be actuated using the key, buttons alongside the driver’s knee, or in the case of the two side doors using a handsfree motion sensor.
Powering the 2021 Honda Odyssey is a 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 129kW of power and 225Nm of torque.
It’s mated to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT) and claims to consume 8.0L/100km on the combined cycle.
During testing with a mix of city and highway driving, our figure was closer to the 10L/100km mark.
The engine operates on 91RON regular unleaded fuel and the car carries a tare mass of 1844kg.
As with most Honda products, the Odyssey is quiet and comfortable on the open road. There’s very little tyre or wind noise in the cabin on the freeway, which is great for long-distance drives.
I rounded out the engine section by explaining that the Odyssey weighs just under 1900kg.
When mated to an engine that produces just 225Nm of torque, the Odyssey can feel sluggish when unladen and that feeling becomes amplified when you have a full complement of passengers on board.
While the engine is smooth and works well with its CVT, it gets awfully thrashy when you get stuck into the throttle for things like overtaking or trying to keep up with faster moving traffic from the lights.
In comparison to something like the Kia Carnival, the Odyssey feels positively slow. While the Carnival is around 10 per cent heavier, the diesel has an extra 215Nm of torque and the petrol V6 an additional 130Nm. These make a big difference when the car is full of people and their things.
If you put acceleration to one side, the Odyssey rides beautifully and deals well with corrugations, speed humps and cobblestones – all the aspects of a typical urban grind.
Out on the open road it similarly performs well with a comfortable ride and excellent body control.
Visibility out the front, sides and rear is good, with side vision aided by a blind-spot monitor. While the quality of the reverse-view camera is good, the lack of front and rear parking sensors can make tight parks a bit of a chore.
Surprisingly, the Odyssey handles nicely. It’s not as sporty as the previous generation, but it’s engaging and feels more spirited than a high-riding SUV. It’s not a sports car, but it won’t shy away from a few corners over a mountain pass.
Paddle shifters attached to the steering wheel allow you to take charge of virtual ‘gears’ on the CVT to extract the engine’s best.
Peak torque hits at 4000rpm while peak power comes on at 6200rpm, so the engine is fond of high revs to maintain pace.
Just like the Kia Carnival, the Honda Odyssey is front-wheel drive. The main reason is for packaging – you can eliminate a centre driveshaft and the associated tunnel by eliminating the need for rear-wheel drive.
Thankfully hybrids go further to solve this issue by packaging electric motors on the rear axle, which adds an extra torque mechanism and further eliminates the need for a driveshaft – though the 2.0-litre hybrid Odyssey sold in Japan isn’t offered here.
Honda offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with the Odyssey.
Servicing is required every six months or 10,000km (whichever occurs first).
Costs are capped for the first five years or 100,000km. Over a five-year period, servicing comes out to $2993, or an average of $299.30 per service each six months.
As a comparison, it’s around $500 more expensive to service than the diesel and petrol Carnival, though the Kia’s intervals are 12 months/15,000km.
On the surface the Honda Odyssey presents as a decent people mover. It’s sharply priced, has plenty of room inside, and comes with most of the bells and whistles you’d expect.
Ultimately though, it’s let down by a lacklustre engine and the strange omission of parking sensors, USB points, and digital radio.
It’s worth considering the entry level Kia Carnival is around the same price. While it misses out on some features standard in the Odyssey, it comes with eight seats instead of seven as well as the option of a petrol V6 or four-cylinder turbo-diesel.
Honda’s latest iteration of the Odyssey presents good value for money, but ultimately it is outclassed by the superior Kia Carnival.
Click the images for the full gallery