2021 Honda Odyssey - Review by Larry Nutson
With a bit of a Makeover
By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
Before the Covid-19 pandemic gripped us all about 400,000 minivans were sold in the U.S. each year. You might ask: With the popularity of utility vehicles (UV) who is buying a minivan?
Well! Families with children under age 12 make up a big portion of minivan buyers. Minivans are also purchased by active lifestyle empty nesters. Today there are just four minivans on the U.S. market—the Chrysler Pacifica, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona (being replaced by the Carnival) and Toyota Sienna…that’s it.
Honda says the Odyssey is America’s best retail-selling minivan for 10 years running. American consumers have purchased more than 1.1 million Odyssey minivans during that time.
Minivans of today have evolved in design. They have a more refined look with more style and pizzaz. They’ve morphed to have some of the looks of a UV. There’s a longer hood, less-boxy side profile and slightly tapered rear.
The Honda Odyssey has been refreshed for 2021 with numerous updates to styling, along with upgraded technology and safety features. On the outside the grille and front bumper fascia both have a new design, to go along with new front LED headlights and fog lights. In the rear, black trim under the rear window is new. Wheel designs are also new.
In the cabin, the second-row seats now fold nearly flat for easier removal as well as improved cargo carrying. Restyled seats and new tri-color floor mats are on EX trims and above. EX-L trims and above receive a power lumbar support for the front passenger seat and contrast seat stitching. Odyssey Touring and Elite get new piano black trim on the dash, doors and front door handles.
A rear seat reminder comes on all trims and Cabin Watch and Cabin Talk—so you can see and talk to those young ones in the way-back, are equipped on Touring and Elite trims. All trims now have Honda Sensing driver-assist safety features as standard.
The Odyssey is offered in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring and Elite trims. All are powered by a 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission. The engine is equipped with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) that seamlessly switches between three- and six-cylinder operation for reduced fuel consumption. EPA fuel economy ratings are 22 mpg combined with 19 city mpg and 28 highway mpg.
The LX seats seven while all other trims seat eight. The Odyssey’s Magic Slide Multi-function second-row seats on these higher trim levels can be configured in five different arrangements to provide best seating and cargo carrying ability to suit different situations. The standard three-across mode offers enough room to fit three child seats, and each second row position is equipped with lower anchors and upper tethers.
2021 Odyssey pricing for the EX starts at $31,790 and rises to $47,820 for the Elite trim, plus a $1,120 destination charge.
For my drive experience in the Odyssey I drove an Elite trim finished in Forest Mist Metallic for $395 additional bringing the total to $49,335 including destination charge.
As it turned out my wife and I would be road-tripping in the Odyssey from our Chicago home around the southern end of Lake Michigan and across lower Michigan to the Detroit suburbs to visit our daughter and her family.
It was just the two of us plus some weekend luggage and a few items for the grandchildren, of course. We had plenty of room. Traffic was moderate so I made good use of the adaptive cruise control as well as lane keep assist systems. We enjoyed having Sirius XM for some good music listening and also Apple CarPlay to catch a couple podcasts.
The V6 engine is nicely responsive with a good torque curve for quick acceleration and highway merging. The 10-speed automatic is well calibrated for good up- and down-shifts and keeps the engine in an efficient range. I was actually nicely surprised by the real-world fuel economy on this trip. I hoped to get near the EPA highway rating of 28 mpg and actually was above it in the range of 29 to 30 mpg, in spite of actual highway speeds being well higher than the EPA lab test.
Our daughter and her husband have three toddlers. She drives a full-size SUV with a three-across center bench fitted with three child safety seats. She wishes she had power opening rear side doors on her daily-driver to ease getting her three children into place.
I’m convinced, and not alone in the thinking, that a minivan is the best vehicle to have if a family has toddlers. It is the most user-friendly and versatile vehicle for transporting those children. The low step-in height and low rear load floor are both more friendly than those of a high-riding utility vehicle.
More details on the Honda Odyssey can be found at www.honda.com. The 2022 Odyssey is already arriving in dealers with a newly available Radiant Red Metallic II color and a slight price increase on some trims.
The four minivans I mentioned earlier offer their own mix of equipment and features. They provide a lot of the same features and benefits found in a utility vehicle. V6 power, a hybrid drive train for low fuel consumption, all-wheel drive, seating for 6 or 7 or 8, a large flat cargo area, a large rear liftgate for easy loading, and an elevated seating position for good outward visibility. Young families today have lots of good choices. It is forecasted that minivan popularity will continue to rise.
© 2021 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy