In the beginning, when the people mover was emerging out of the shadow of the van with seats and side windows, one vehicle led the way. The Honda Odyssey produced ride and handling more like that of a car than a tricked-up commercial vehicle.
It seems nothing has changed, with the latest model – the fifth generation – having room for seven or eight occupants, or a stack of gear, while still producing the obligatory car-like going.
Available in two versions – Vti and VTi-L – the Odyssey comes to market at $38,990, plus on-road costs for the VTi, with eight seats, and $47,620 for the VTi-L (the test vehicle), with seating for seven.
As befits a luxury vehicle, as the suffix ‘L’ suggests, the latter features twin Captain’s Chairs in place of the second-row bench seat, offering a high level of comfort in a people mover, plus the ability to carry extra-long items of cargo.
The super-size Odyssey – it’s significantly bigger than before – cannot help but stand out among its peers. An expansive chrome radiator grille sets the standard, its broad slats providing the right proportions to support a centrally mounted unmissable Honda insignia.
Thanks to a compact engine bay the front slopes sharply towards a raked windscreen which in turn connects with a low roof which takes nothing from cabin height due to the ultra-low floor.
Flared guards front and rear complete a profile that is designed to emphasise the vehicle’s dynamic character. Deep side skirts and snazzy wheels also ‘sportify’ the wagon. Electric sliding side doors, operated merely by touching the handles or using the key fob, make entry and exit to the rear seats easy.
A high lifting tailgate (why no electric power here?) gives access to a rather limited cargo area with the third row of seats in use. With the back seats folded it’s a totally different story. There’s lots of space.
If the Odyssey is big and brassy on the outside, on the inside it’s a model of restraint. Quality surroundings and thick-pile carpet give the cabin a limo-like feeling.
VTi-L occupants can lounge in large leather-clad seats which enjoy added legroom between rows. Despite a low roofline, a redesigned chassis has made for more headroom than in the previous model.
The dashboard-mounted gearshift enables a walk-through alley from the front to the rear rows of seats.
The driver’s attention is immediately drawn to a large-face speedometer, with a range of information displayed in a centre circle directly behind the steering wheel.
The new Odyssey is the first Honda in Australia to incorporate Display Audio. Using a centrally dashboard mounted touch screen, the system displays audio and hands-free Bluetooth functions as well as replicating a compatible iPhone.
Users can swipe as with an iPhone, scrolling and zooming in and out as required. Satellite navigation can be downloaded via an app to an iPhone and connected to the Odyssey’s info system, enabling the sat nav software to be stored in the smartphone and not on the vehicle hardware.
Hence a route can be input into a smartphone away from the car and connected to the Honda for use on the road.
The Odyssey is powered by a refined 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine producing 132 kW of power put to ground through the front wheels and a continuously variable automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted shift paddles for the control freaks.
Honda estimates fuel consumption of 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle. I achieved the high elevens in town traffic and the mid sixes on the motorway in the VTi-L.
Odyssey safety features cannot be faulted. There are front, side and full-length curtain airbags, Vehicle Stability Assist and Traction Control, ABS anti-skid brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Emergency Brake Assist and Emergency Stop Signal via the rear lights.
Fisheye cameras around the Odyssey VTi-L give a 360 degree view of the vehicle, while Smart Park Assist will help with parking even in awkward spots. A unique Cross Traffic Monitor keeps an eye out for approaching vehicles behind when reversing. Audible and visual warnings alert the driver.
From the push of the start button the powertrain shows its pedigree, 2.4-litre motor revving freely and quietly through the rev range, the upgraded continuously variable transmission taking its lead like a champion ballroom dancer.
From rest, the Odyssey glides rather than accelerates, taking its time to reach peak torque of 218 Nm. When there, the big wagon behaves in a surprisingly sprightly manner, changing direction confidently and with hardly a hint of body roll. Quite exhilarating.
Visibility all round has been improved with thinner pillars, high-set driving position, repositioned large exterior mirrors and flat-top instrument panel. Then there’s the all-round camera view in the VTi-L.
One serial Odyssey buyer wavered from the people mover only when Honda dumped the completely removable rear seats. She once claimed to have carried fourteen folding tables and a small sound system in her early model without the rear seating.
AT A GLANCE
VTi 2.4-litre eight-seat five-door wagon: $38,990 (CVT)
VTi-L 2.4-litre seven-seat five-door wagon: $47,620 (CVT)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Honda dealer for drive away prices.
ECON mode: (standard)
Eco Assist: (standard)
Vehicle stability assist (standard)
Six airbags (standard)
Halogen headlamps: (standard)
Daytime running lights: (standard)
Tyre deflation warning: (standard)
Multiview camera with Smart Park Assist: (VTi-L)
Blind Spot Information System: (VTi-L)
Cross-traffic Monitor: (VTi-L)
Leather trim: (VTi-L)
Captain’s seats (second row): (VTi-L)
SPECIFICATIONS (Honda Odyssey 2.4-litre VTi-L petrol engine))
Capacity: 2354 cc
Configuration: Inline 4-cylinder, 16-valve, DOHC i-VTEC
Bore x Stroke: 87.0 mm x 99.0 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Maximum Power: 132 kW @ 6500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 218 Nm @ 4500 rpm
Transmission: CVT, front-wheel drive
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4810 mm
Width: 1800 mm
Height: 1545 mm
Wheelbase: 2830 mm
Track: 1560 mm (front / rear)
Kerb weight: 1700 kg
Cargo capacity: 259 litres (third row seat up); 708 litres (third row seat folded)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
Towing capacity: 1000 kg (braked); 450 kg (unbraked)
Turning circle: 10.8 m
SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Suspension: Independent double wishbone coil spring; stabiliser bar (front / rear)
Brakes: Ventilated discs (front), solid discs (rear).Anti-lock braking with Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Assist, Traction Control System
Steering: Motion adaptive electric power steering
Wheels: 17in x 7JJ alloy
Tyres: 215/55 R17 94V. Temporary spare
Acceleration 0 to 100 km/h: N/A
Top speed: N/A
Fuel type: 91RON unleaded
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/01): 8.9 litres per 100 km. CO2 emissions 212 g / km
Emissions: Euro IV
GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 6.5 / 10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5 / 10
3 years / 100,000 kilometres