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Honda Odyssey Leapfrogs Minivan Competition

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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.

2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

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.

2018 Honda Odyssey Center Stack w/Apple CarPlay

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.


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Kia Borrego – Detroit Auto Show Introduction

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The all-new Kia Borrego, introduced at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, is Kia’s new flagship SUV. Named for California’s Borrego desert or the big horn sheep found there, Kia’s new range topper appears to be a fully competitive traditional SUV. No crossover here.

Kia Borrego F34.jpg

Over the years, Kia has shown an uncanny ability to plan, style and implement trucks that hit the center of their product segment target. The first example was the Kia Sedona, quickly followed by the Kia Sorento mid-size SUV. The Borrego promises more of the same.
Kia Borrego F34 Show.jpg

Clearly, the Borrego benchmarked the high volume body-on-frame Premium Mid-Size SUV of the era – the Ford Explorer. Borrego even looks similar. It is nicely styled. Conservative. Will not offend anybody.
Kia Borrego SV.jpg

Code-named HM during development, the new Kia Borrego is the first (large) mid-size SUV from Kia and features a body-on-frame construction. With seating for up to seven occupants, Kia identified a very quiet ride as a key for acceptance and long term customer satisfaction. Incorporating the latest NVH engineering, Kia targeted enhanced refinement as a goal. The Borrego’s third-row seating is designed to comfortably accommodate two adults. The operative words here are “comfortably” and “adults”.
Kia Borrego R34.jpg

The Kia Borrego will be manufactured in Korea and go on sale in its home market early in 2008, with sales in the USA and other export markets beginning in the late spring or early summer. The Borrego will be available with a choice of V6 or the company’s first V8 gasoline engines (depending on market) and will boast Kia’s largest-ever towing capacity.
Kia Borrego FV.jpg


Has Kia Missed by Producing a Traditional SUV Rather Than a Crossover SUV?

Showing Kia’s commitment to designing products to suit specific markets, the Borrego is primarily intended to meet the needs of consumers in the USA and there are no plans to market this model in Europe. But Borrego is introduced just as the American market is quickly shifting away from traditional SUVs and towards crossover (car-based) SUVs. The Borrego certainly will be competent in off-road and towing situations, but those are just occasional use prerogatives (to lift a phrase from Jeep). Next time around, Kia should test the crossover market, after all, the benchmark Ford Explorer will become a crossover SUV at its next major model change (see Explorer America).
Heritage from 2005 Kia Mesa Concept
The Kia Borrego styling is derived from the Kia Mesa concept vehicle first shown by Kia at the Detroit Motor Show in 2005 and is larger than Kia’s popular Sorento model.
We’ll drop in more information and additional photos from the showfloor next week.


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IIHS Top Safety Picks for 2007 Model Year

IIHS released the results of its 2007 Safety Pick Awards on November 20. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific feel that these results are important to communicate to our readers. Along with other awards for quality, satisfaction and performance, safety awards can and should be among the information sources a buyer uses when deciding which new vehicle to buy. After all, the Internet gives us almost perfect information.
While we do appreciate the safety value of electronic stability control, it will take years for the entire fleet to be equipped with ESC. For IIHS to eliminate all vehicles lacking ESC eliminates many otherwise safe vehicles from their analysis. This is too simplistic an approach.
2007 TOP SAFETY PICK award winners: award criteria are tougher; SUVs eligible for first time
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announces 13 vehicles that earn TOP SAFETY PICK awards for 2007. Winners include 4 cars, 7 SUVs, and 2 minivans. This award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute tests. Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC).
WINNERS
Large car
Audi A6 manufactured in Dec. 2006 and later
Midsize cars
Audi A4
Saab 9-3
Subaru Legacy equipped with optional electronic stability control
Minivans
Hyundai Entourage
Kia Sedona
Luxury SUVs
Mercedes M class
Volvo XC90
Midsize SUVs
Acura RDX
Honda Pilot
Subaru B9 Tribeca
Small SUVs
Honda CR-V
Subaru Forester equipped with optional electronic stability control


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Hyundai’s New People Mover: Entourage

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The Kia Connection Gives Hyundai a New Minivan
Hyundai‘s Entourage, the minivan that almost didn’t happen, was introduced at the 2006 Chicago Auto Show, where AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents took a first look.
Hyundai also used the venue to introduce the latest Accent hatchback, and both entries get Internet marketing support with their own websites. Entourage continues Hyundai’s the company’s formula of value pricing and high levels of standard safety equipment. Though Hyundai is comparatively late to a mature but also highly competitive segment, the Entourage offers a competitive package and checks all the necessary boxes. Our first look at the Entourage reveals a minivan with a competitive package, though the fit and finish are not at best-in-class levels yet.


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