Honda has made a major change of direction in its fifth generation Odyssey people mover. Previously it has followed passenger-car, station-wagon lines, making it easy to drive and park and – dare I say it? – more popular with female drivers. Odyssey now has an extra 150 mm in height to give it a more spacious interior.

Odyssey competes with the likes of Kia Carnival and Toyota Tarago in the people mover field. It almost impinges on the van-based VW Transporter, Mercedes Vito and Hyundai iMax.

The Australian importer makes no bones about wanting to chase the commercial operators, not just private buyers.

Odyssey features much bolder lines than just about anything else on the market, which is a big surprise after many years of rather conservative bodies. The huge chromed grille attracted a lot of attention from all who saw it as it really does dominate the front of the vehicle.


There are prominent front guards and upswept sculpted lines on the side of the vehicle have a touch of Italian to them.

The styled alloy wheels on our review Odyssey wouldn’t be out of place on a slammed hot hatch…

The Odyssey’s information and entertainment system uses a dashboard-mounted colour touch screen to display audio functions, Bluetooth features and the car system’s information.

We found the touch screen to be quite frustrating to use at times during our initial drive during the launch in February this year. Further use for a week in our home area saw us becoming more accustomed to it, though we feel it should have been better.

In a cost-saving move that’s likely to become increasingly common the new Honda Odyssey doesn’t come with satellite navigation either as standard or an option. Instead it relies on the assumption that most drivers will have a smartphone that provides access to a special downloadable app which links through Bluetooth to the car’s in-dash monitor.

There is only one powertrain; a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol unit with peak power of 129 kW and top torque of 225 Nm.

The biggest change in the drivetrain is the replacement of the five-speed automatic with the greater efficiency of continuously variable transmission (CVT).

All models of the Honda Odyssey come with front and side airbags as well as curtain airbags that cover both second and third row seats.

Crash prevention items include ABS brakes with Brake Assist; Emergency Stop Signal; Vehicle Stability Assist and Traction Control System; Tyre Deflation Warning; and Daytime Running Lights.

The upmarket Odyssey VTi-L adds Blind Spot and Cross-Traffic Warning; Smart Parking Assist; and a multi-view camera system that uses four fisheye cameras located in the grille, door mirrors and tailgate to provide a choice of 180-degree wide and overhead views.

All seats are large and comfortable. The seating in the eight-seat Odyssey VTi is two-three-three; the seven-seat VTi-L (as tested) is two-two-three. Good legroom is provided for all six of the outer seats. This will be huge bonus to those with children in their teenage years. It also explains why Honda Australia is keen to attract buyers from the likes of hotels, perhaps even hire-car operators.

The second row individual bucket seats in the VTi-L come with a built-in adjustable footrest. The seatbacks can also be reclined and, when the third row seats are folded flat, the central seats can slide up to 740 mm forwards or backwards as well as laterally. So there’s a huge range of choice.

The second and third rows in the eight-seater have three-way split seatbacks that provide a variety of seating and cargo options.

New Odyssey has sliding rear doors instead of the conventionally hinged units on all previous generations. Both doors on the higher-specced Odyssey VTi-L, but only the left-rear of the entry level Odyssey ViT, can be operated remotely either through the key fob or by a pull of the handle.

Boot space has been increased over the outgoing model by storing the spare wheel under the front seats. However, it’s only a small area and struggles to hold more than one large suitcase and a couple of smaller bags.

While you do get more luggage depth the passengers in the centre row of seats aren’t able to put their feet under the front seats due to the bulge created by the spare wheel compartment.

Honda Odyssey cruised effortlessly and quietly as the engine has strong torque over a wide rev range.

We appreciate the efficiency of CVT automatic and can’t understand why some people don’t like the engine operating at its best revs. These people can use the steering wheel mounted paddles to manually override the system. Keep in mind you’re losing performance, and probably increasing fuel consumption by doing so.

Fuel consumption during our test period was in the seven to eight litre range during motorway driving, climbing to eight to ten litres per hundred kilometres in suburban work. Impressive figures for a big seven-seater.

The suspension generally copes well, but rough roads can cause it hassles at times. Handling really isn’t the reason you choose a people mover, particularly a Japanese one, but the big Odyssey is safe and sure at higher than normal cornering speeds. Thus leaving a good margin of safety should you accidentally enter a bend too fast.

All-new Honda Odyssey provides a lot of interior space in a quality vehicle with standout lines.


VTi 2.4-litre eight-seat five-door wagon: $38,990 (CVT automatic)
VTi-L 2.4-litre seven-seat five-door wagon: $47,620 (CVT automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Honda dealer for driveaway prices.

ABS Brakes: Standard in both models
Automatic Transmission: Standard in both models
Cruise Control: Standard in both models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in both models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in both models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in both models
Rear Parking Sensors: Standard in both models
Reversing Camera: Standard in both models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in both models
Bluetooth: Standard in both models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in both models

SPECIFICATIONS (Honda Odyssey VTi 2.4-litre five-door people mover)

Capacity: 2.356 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore and Stroke: 87.0 x 99.1 mm
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Maximum Power: 129 kW @ 6200 rpm
Maximum Torque: 225 Nm @ 4000 rpm

Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: CVT
Final Drive Ratio: Not supplied

Length: 4840 mm
Wheelbase: 2900 mm
Width: 1800 mm
Height: 1695 mm
Turning Circle: 10.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 1776 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 litres
Boot Capacity: Not supplied
Towing Ability: 450 kg (1000 kg with braked trailer)

Front Suspension: MacPherson strut
Rear Suspension: Torsion beam with amplitude reactive damper
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Disc

Type: Petrol 91RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.6 L/100km

Greenhouse Rating: 7/10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5/10

Three years/100,000 km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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