Honda Odyssey Leapfrogs Minivan Competition
- May 15, 2017
- Chrysler, Honda, Kia, New Model Introductions, More Categories...
- Posted by George Peterson
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Has the new 2018 Honda Odyssey leapfrogged its competition the way Chrysler’s second generation minivans did in the early ’90s? After spending several days with the Odyssey on the Big Island of Hawaii, the case can be made that the Odyssey is the best minivan out there. Up until now, the clear leader was the new-for-2016 Chrysler Pacifica. Its advanced styling, stow-‘n-go seating and available plug-in hybrid make Pacifica a persuasive choice in the minivan category. Only the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are real competitors. Other minivans like the Nissan Quest and Kia Sedona don’t have the volume to be mainstream players. Ford and General Motors abandoned the minivan market years ago to concentrate on SUVs – a good move.
Odyssey a Cornerstone of Honda Brand Honda has a relatively narrow and focused lineup for a mainstream brand. The Honda Odyssey is one of its cornerstones. The new 2018 Honda Odyssey is the fifth generation of the minivan. The fourth gen Odyssey was with us for seven model years which is long for a Honda product. Based on Honda’s Global Light Truck platform, the new Odyssey shares major components with the Honda Pilot crossover SUV and the Honda Ridgeline pickup. From AutoPacific’s assessment, all three of Honda’s new truck products are fully competitive and compelling. The new Odyssey checks most of the boxes to make it the best minivan available today.
Still a Soccer Mom Image Lets talk about minivans a minute. Minivans are the perfect vehicle for a family. They carry kids, their friends and their stuff. They are seen as suburban taxis driven by a mom schlepping her little darlings from LaCrosse practice to Little League to band practice. When we note in focus groups of suburban mothers that they should be driving a minivan, most women strongly disagree. When compared with the active image of even the tamest crossover SUV, the SUV wins and the minivan loses. The soccer mom image of the minivan cannot be avoided.
Evolutionary Design With Bold Cues The new 2018 Honda Odyssey comes pretty close to avoiding the minivan image as does the Chrysler Pacifica and the “swagger-wagon” Toyota Sienna. The styling of the new Odyssey is evolutionary but more interesting than before. Odyssey continues with the chrome “lightning bolt” window surround that has been a distinctive design cue since the previous generation. Now, however, the bodysides get a few more curves to add more personality to the design. The front end design is a swath of brightwork similar to the Pilot and Ridgeline. This look is being adopted throughout the Honda lineup and adds interest to the Honda “face”.
Magic Slide Seats Compete with Chrysler’s Stow-‘n-Go The interior is very comfortable and accommodating for any size family. Gone is any pretense of a walk-through from the front seats to the rear. There is now a very usable console including excellent cupholders and a deep console box. Honda has made interior flexibility one of its hallmarks. The very small Fit and HR-V crossover SUV have interior flexibility that can accept many different sizes of cargo. The Odyssey “Magic-Slide” second row seat counters the Chrysler Pacifica’s stow-‘n-go rear seating design.
In the Honda design the individual second row seats can be moved from side to side and fore and aft. The center position is good for children in child seats which can be fixed toward the center of the vehicle – a good location in a side impact. One of the rear seats can be positioned in the center and pushed forward so the driver and/or front seat passenger can tend to a baby in a child seat.
Ergonomics Top Notch, But Nav Screen Display Needs Work Ergonomics are always a Honda forte and the 2018 Honda Odyssey does not disappoint. The instrument cluster gauges are bright and easy to read. The center screen is large and bright with navigation by Garmin. I found the information display on the screen to be hard to read because the fonts were so small. While Garmin provided the guts, Honda designed the display graphics and could have made the font size bigger, contrast better and included the city name in addition to the road name on the display. (Why is it so hard to get the city name on the display? Everyone should do it!). I ended up using Apple CarPlay maps and streaming in lieu of the Honda system.
Loaded Odysseys Want for Nothing 95% of the 2018 Honda Odysseys (EX and above) will have the full suite of Honda’s safety features standard including Honda Sensing and blind spot monitoring with cross traffic monitor. The top level Elite model includes acoustic windshield and side glass that Honda contends makes the vehicle the quietest minivan on the market. In fact, when you opt for the Odyssey Elite, there is very little missing from its equipment list.
Engine Upgraded – 10-Speed Transmission The 2018 Honda Odyssey is powered by a 280-horsepower 3.5L single overhead cam V6. The additional 32 horsepower over its predecessor gives the new Odyssey the power to pass at will. On a long stretch uphill climb on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway on the Big Island, the engine strained a bit. On anything but steep grades the power is adequate. The Elite model includes a 10-speed automatic transmission – all others have 9-speeds. The shifting is transparent in the 10-speed model.
~$30,000 – $47,000 – Is There Room for a +$50,000 Model? The base price of the 2018 Honda Odyssey is $29,990 with a $940 delivery charge. The Elite model is $46,670. Honda pays particular attention to vehicle price points as do all manufacturers. As a high volume, mainstream brand keeping prices affordable is paramount. However, some automakers are wrestling with ways to charge even more for their top of the line products because buyers want more stuff. The Odyssey Elite is $46,670 – $3,230 below $50,000. Could there be a place for a $50,000 entry in the very price-conscious minivan market? While Honda competitors are moving mid-size SUVs into the low $50,000 range could there be a place for an even higher spec Odyssey? It would be interesting to do the analysis.