My familiarity with Minivans has been rather err… fleeting. Much of it was made up by airport transfers in a Mercedes Viano, which incidentally, have made me feel both comfortable and important. No wonder they go for the three-pointed star, whether the hotel was rated five-star or three. So, choosing the new Honda Odyssey J for the weekend was the start of a curious journey, in which I started appreciating the van from the driver’s seat and, then from each of the six other spaces.
DIMENSIONS: LxWxH: 4830x1800x1695 mm Wheelbase: 2900 mm Ground clearance with full load: 115 mm Max weight: 2450 kg
DRIVING SPECS: 2.4L engine with Earth Dreams technology for 175 hp and 225 Nm / CVT gearbox / MacPherson Strut and Torsion Beam suspensions / 16 and 17 inch wheels
TOP SPECS: LED Daytime Running Lights/Active Cornering Lights/Electric Sunroof with Tilt/Power slide door/Bumper Air Spoiler/Engine start stop/ 7” display audio system/Blind Spot information / Bench and Seat options (7 or 8 seats)
Standard: 6 airbags/ABS with EBD/Hill start assist/Vehicle stability assist/Brake Override/ Smart Paddle Shifts / 5 star rating from the ASEAN NCAP as well as Australian for superior Adult Occupation Protection and safety performance.
UPSIDE: Smooth drive, Clever storage, Premium feel in transit, one touch sliding doors
FLIPSIDE: Seat option too detached for family, Image of driving pleasure missing
THE PRICE: AED 130,000 – 170,000
The Odyssey J is the new gift from Honda to a family of seven. It’s easy to drive, especially because there is an aura of relaxation that is inherent to the category, where the driver makes full use of the armrest, the excellent overall vision and the short gearshift lever on the front console. The 2.4L engine of the new Honda family van is all you hope for while panting up a hill; seeking some quick progress. The CVT groans only till some speed is on your side to silence it.
As I prepared for the customary handling tests, I told myself: “You can’t be serious about doing this to a 7-seater SUV, even though the top of the line Odyssey J does have an all-wheel drive.” Surprisingly agile, the new multi-purpose family transporter from Honda rolled up its sleeves and steadily descended down the loose gravel on its 17” wheels, before joining the highway again.
Usually, it’s the parking that is hard to come by in these vans but Honda has made it foolproof with a vision-friendly layout and blind spot beepers on the side mirrors. Along with the rear view camera and parking sensors, the Honda Odyssey J makes it quite difficult to do something stupid, even though many drivers will need some practice while turning into a parking lot in reverse. If you haven’t thought about it already, a hugely positive point is that one can squeeze into tight spots, thanks to the sliding doors.
There is a paddle-shift that briefly entertains you with manual switches, but seriously, I’ll be happy to stop with the sports button.
As tested: 0-100 in 12.7 sec and Fuel economy 7.4 km/L (8.0 km/L)
They all look the same. I mean, nose-diving into an uninspiring grille and tunneling out rearwards like an earthworm. The Honda Odyssey maintains the shape while holding on to the new Honda styling with the large lamps in the rear and the multi-layered grille in front, which makes the Odyssey look like it’s wearing two extra sets of braces but a trip or two later, you don’t mind the look; in fact you start feeling thankful that Honda has something happening out there.
Cabin and Controls
In their new van, Honda has applied the same things that made me feel good inside my VIP transfer vehicle. The Odyssey J comes with individual leather seats with armrests as well as gleaming wood trims on the dash and the door side. Nothing gives out a cheap feeling while the touch screen control of the music and Bluetooth is complemented by yet another screen for climate control prompts. Add to this the low console deck that you can bring up conveniently closer to you, and your coffee with it; the Honda Odyssey climbs many rungs in premium comfort.
I keep wondering why would people go for an SUV even if they have no intention of taking it back-road, forget off-road. The Odyssey J has three spaciously laid out rows with individual seats in the first two. The middle seat in the last row gets its own overhung seat belt and is flat enough to keep a teen settled.
The second row seats provide options to lean back, move closer to the other seat, and even sprout a calf-rest. Having the armrest down isn’t quite the same as having a continuous seat for a family cuddle, but it’s the closest one can get to family values, while enjoying executive comfort. The third row also allows for a lot of stretch, which inevitably didn’t seem to leave much for luggage. Now, the Odyssey J left me impressed once again with the reasonably large cavity behind the sloping seat back!
The sunroof is only a small one for the front row, but the sunscreens on the side and the sunglass holder are thoughtful features. Just as the automatic one-touch opening and closure of the side doors, that makes getting in after shopping no trouble at all!
The essential Honda Odyssey J
The Odyssey J is good for comfortable long drives, even though there is something bureaucratic about the driver’s seat. The passengers can settle into comfort zones of their own, with hardly any body roll to trouble them. And for those who still can’t imagine the executive MPV outside the airport drop zone, here’s a morsel for thought. While most other vehicles makes a connection with your routine chores and office drives, the Odyssey J conjures up images of vacation, naturally!
Compare: Toyota Previa, Kia Carnival