USED: 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite Review: This Isn’t Just a Minivan, It’s a Family Member

Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

And with all the thoughtful things it does, it’s your best friend, too.

When my parents bought their first minivan, they gave it a name, Bear. It was brown and hulking so the name fit. But soon, we all referred to it as Bear, just as my mom was Mom and my dad was Dad. It was quickly part of the family.

The role the minivan plays in our lives endears it like any other member of the family: it gives your passengers plenty of room to relax and plug in; it puts conveniences at everyone’s fingertips; it accommodates everyone’s stuff, from the weekday routine of backpacks and violin cases to the road trip of a lifetime; and, it accommodates your handbag (minivans do this really well).

Minivans are getting better and better. With each new model year there are huge improvements; the minivan is the auto industry’s proving ground for innovating in-car technology and comforts, and it’s become high sport.

The 2018 Honda Odyssey is at the top of this game.

Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

Who This Car is For

  • Families, especially those of 5 or more
  • Families with kids in car seats
  • Drivers who are concerned about passenger comfort and convenience
  • Drivers who need a car with flexible passenger and cargo space
  • Buyers who want the most advanced features
  • Drivers who don’t mind driving a large car
Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

The view from the driver’s seat in the Honda Odyssey. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What it Costs

  • Base price for the LX model: $29,990
  • EX model, which includes Honda Sensing safety technology, 8 inch center infotainment screen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, Cabin Control remote sliding second row seats and heated front seats, HD radio: $33,860
  • EX-L model, which adds USB 12 V power port in the second row, leather seats (the rear entertainment system is an option): $37,360
  • Touring model, which adds the hands free liftgate, entertainment system and Cabin Watch and Cabin talk (keep reading for this!):  $44, 510
  • Elite model, which adds Cabin Watch and Cabin Talk, wifi hotspot, a household outlet, heated and cooled front seats, vacuum and the rear entertainment system: $46,670
  • Price of the fully loaded model we test drove, including delivery charge: $47,610
Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

We filled the cargo space with luggage for 2 weeks on the road and all my daughter’s college gear. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Putting the Odyssey to the Ultimate Test: Filling it With Family and Cargo

When you buy a car like this you don’t consider just your daily driving. You also consider driving to Florida rather than flying; the times you’ll take one car instead of two when your parents visit; taking your daughter and all her friends out for her birthday rather than hosting at home. Because with seating for 7 or 8 and plenty of cargo space, you can.

When we delivered our daughter to college, we needed room for us, our luggage for the two-week trip, and of course, to move her into the dorm. We would essentially be living out of the car for two weeks and also, shopping and storing things until we arrived at the University of Alabama. And, of course, during those two weeks life had to go on: I had to work and the kids couldn’t possibly miss a Snap or Netflix binge. We needed a minivan.

Not sure a minivan is for you? Check out the Honda Pilot.

Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

The Odyssey has the perfect spot for a handdbag on the floor in front of the center console. This cubby has a lip on it sos your handbag doesn’t go flying when you round a curve. Photo: Scotty Reiss

How This Car Took Care of Us

We had the opportunity to test out—really test out— the Honda Odyssey for a second time. The first time we were able to really live with it and delight in the car’s tech and features, which we really put to work.

Here’s what will endear this car to everyone in any family:

Flexible Space. This minivan has a ton of space and it was easy to manage. With the middle seat in the center row removed there was even more space for stuff. We put the third row down to haul my daughter’s belongings, and even with the car fully packed, we had visibility through the rear window.

Did I mention this car as a LOT of room? 86.6 cubic feet behind the second row, to be exact, and 32.8 cubic feet behind the third row. Even with the third row up and passengers in it we had plenty of room for luggage, shopping bags, boxes and more.

Lots of Places to Put Stuff. We also appreciated all the storage nooks. The first big YAY was where I put my handbag: in the cubby on the front floor between the driver and passenger seats just under the center console. While this cubby is on the floor, it has a lip on it so your handbag won’t slide under your feet when you go around a curve.

There is also ample space inside the center arm rest, a nice little shelf (that doubles as a wireless charge pad—yes, wireless!) on the top of the armrest and two sets of cup holders—one for front seat passengers and one for second row passengers. There are bottle pockets in all the doors, double seat back pockets on the front seats and cupholders in the third row.

A Purse Hook. YES! On the front passenger’s side there’s a hook for a handbag or trash bag. With my handbag resting in the floor cubby we used the hook for a garbage bag, but a larger tote or diaper bag would fit there nicely. YAY.

Cleanability. This car was easy to clean. There’s a vacuum in the back that stretches the entire length of the car so you can vacuum the front seat floor and between and under the seats. The surfaces were easy to wipe down and the leather seats also clean up quickly. Even the pretty gradient black and gray roll-top cover on the center console was easy to wipe down (it looked like it would be a challenge, but it wasn’t).

One caveat to the vacuum however: it has a smallish dust bag and while it had no problem sucking up a spilled bag of popcorn, I had to empty it frequently (though I could do that without changing the bag). Also, with bigger jobs like pet fur or grass, you might want to get out the Dyson or ShopVac for stronger suction.

The Doors. The sliding doors proved amazing not just for access for loading cargo and passengers, but for airing out the car on hot days. Many days as we approached the car we opened up the doors to let the hot air out before we got in.

We also loved the automatic lift gate, which can be programmed to open only to a certain height and has motion-activated hands-free access—kick your foot under the bumper to both open and close the gate!

The Seats. The front and second row captains chairs made everyone comfortable. But I really love that the second row seats are flexible: it arrives as a bench seat but the middle seat pops out to create captains chairs (or leave it in when you need it).

With the middle seat removed, the two captains chairs slide side to side and can be positioned where you want them; you can create access to the third row from either the side of the Odyssey, let your kids sit next to each other to watch a movie or create a center aisle between the seats. I love that this is standard on all but the base model, so sliding captains chairs are not a special order.

As if that weren’t enough, front and middle row seats are heated and the front seats are cooled in the Elite model; cooled seats are another great feature for hot summer days.

Last, as with all minivans, the seats can all be folded for maximum cargo space; even the sliding center row seats can be taken out (though not stowed in the floor).

Thinking of downsizing? Try the Honda Accord on for size 

Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

Cabin Watch lets you see passengers in the second and third row, even in low light. Photo: Scotty Reiss

In-car Technology. These features really won our hearts and made spending a whole day in the car seem like nothing. Here’s what made our trip a breeze:

  • An entertainment system with streaming and apps: I proudly admit that I reclined my seat and dialed up episodes of Get Shorty on Epix. I could have also plugged my Chromecast into the HDMI port and streamed Netflix.
  • Wifi: Odyssey owners can either buy a wifi plan for the car or use their phone as a hot spot. This is great for streaming the native apps on the built-in entertainment system, bring your own streaming via the HDMI port or simply stream to your own device.
  • The Honda App: The phone app lets passengers control the climate in the back seat, use their phones as a remote for the entertainment system, connect to the wifi and play each person’s  songs through the car’s entertainment system; there’s even a Social Playlist feature that lets everyone add songs to a central list the plays through the car’s sound system. I probably love the entertainment remote feature the most because *no one* has ever lost a remote in our house.
  • A great headphone system: The Odyssey’s entertainment system comes with two wireless headphones, but there are also headphone jacks in the third row. This means that when someone steps on the headphones and they no longer work, you can give your kids dollar earbuds and let them think about how to take better care of things (you can purchase additional wireless headphone sets, too). A headphone jack splitter can let you plug in multiple sets of headphones.
  • Cabin Talk: This in-car PA system lets front row passengers talk to and hear passengers in the third row. It also mutes the radio and interrupts audio feed to wireless headphones and those plugged into the headphone jacks.
  • Cabin Watch: Just so you can see your angels sleeping, pop on this camera and the image displays on the front touch screen. Its infrared camera lets you see in the dark, you can pinch and zoom for a better view and the image stays on the screen until you turn it off. If you have it on and put the car in reverse, you’ll see the back up camera image, but when you put the car in drive, Cabin Watch returns to the screen.

We found the Odyssey especially well suited for child car seats; here how the car made them easy to install:

This Minivan Lives Up to Its “Elite” Name

All the technology made us feel pretty pampered: No compromises. The household plug alone meant no one complained that devices were dying. And the array of charging and connecting ports is evolved: There are only two 12V cigarette adapter style charge ports, one up front and one in the cargo area.

With USB ports and a household plug, I don’t use the 12V port any more and I’m excited to see those start to shrink in number (and  providing fewer things for curious little people to stick fingers and toys into). Here’s how the charging stacks up:

  • A household outlet—a child-proof one, no less, with a plate that turns as you plug it in so little fingers can’t insert a toy or finger—in the front seat under the center console
  • A 12 volt cigarette adapter style port also under the front console
  • A USB port (and an AUX port) inside the center arm rest
  • Two USB ports on the back of the center arm rest for second row passengers (as well as an HDMI port)
  • A Qi wireless phone charge pad on top of the center arm rest. We used this and as is typical, found it to be slow. While my iPhone isn’t optimal for wireless charging, I love that this technology is in the car. I hate all the wires and support anything that pushes the technology.
  • Third row passengers will need longer charge cords and to ask passengers in the first or second row to plug in their devices (unless they can use the 12V port behind their seats).

We took a tour of the Odyssey–see what it’s like inside!

Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

Lane departure warning is among the helpful information in the driver’s information cluster

Stress Reducing Safety Tech Pampers Drivers, Too

There’s not enough I can say about Honda Sensing safety technology which is standard on all but the base model Odyssey. This suite of tech has you covered with leading safety systems. Some you’re used to by now, like a rear view camera and blind spot monitors. Others you may never know you have until someone points it out, like automatic high beam headlights (set it and forget it!). But these other features take the stress and fatigue out of a long trip:

  • Adaptive cruise control: Set your cruise control and ‘gap’ between you and traffic ahead and the car slows and speeds up with the ebb and flow of the highway
  • Lane keep assist: keeps you in your lane and nudges you when you start to drift
  • Collision mitigation braking and warning: This senses if a crash is about to happen; a warning light flashes and the car starts to apply the brakes
  • Stability and traction control: this system senses which wheels need more or less power and adjusts to compensate. This is great in a large car, especially if you’re towing a trailer
  • Paddle shifters: Yes, paddle shifters! This means not only can you have a bit more fun if you want to really put this minivan to the test, but (in a much more practical use) you can downshift and upshift on steep hills, especially when towing a trailer, and avoid burning out the Odyssey’s brakes.

Is your family about to expand? Here are the new car features you need to have. 

Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

Controls to the left of the driver’s seat. Photo: Scotty Reiss

So, About the Elephant in Your Driveway…

Yes, this is a big car. But hauling so many people and that much stuff in one car demands a certain size. The great thing is that driving the Odyssey was easy. It doesn’t drive like an oversized car (I typically drive a mid-sized 4 door car), it handles well and the V6 engine provides plenty of power, even when fully loaded. While fuel economy around town is pretty typical for a minivan, an estimated 19MPG, on the highway it’s rated much higher at 28MPG. This is about what we experienced during our test drive.

I generally found it easy to drive, easy to park— the higher seating position of a van and the rear view camera helped with this— and even when it was just me, easy to manage.

So while I was happy to have my whole family neatly tucked into their seats and plugged in for the day’s drive, there were times I ran to the grocery store or popped by Sephora for a quick browse. And in both circumstances, it was nice to come back to the parking lot and find this faithful member of the family waiting patiently to take care of whatever I needed next.

Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

I love this feature: A capless gas tank. No need to remove-or lose- the gas cap. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Loved

  • Flexible cargo space
  • A cubby for my handbag!!!
  • A handbag hook in the front seat
  • Lots of places to charge devices, including a household plug
  • Wireless phone charge pad
  • Moveable center row captains chairs
  • Foot-activated hands-free rear lift gate and sliding doors
  • Programmable height tailgate
  • Built in vacuum cleaner
  • Easy fold third row seats
  • In car wifi
  • Entertainment system includes streaming apps, remote and wireless headphones
  • Honda Sensing safety technology
  • Seating for 7 or 8—you decide, this is not a special order!
  • Capless fuel tank
Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

Wireless entertainment remote and headphones store in the double pocket seat back in the Honda Odyssey. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What You Need to Know

  • Push button gear selector can take some getting used to
  • Features vary by model; find out more here
  • Price of the model we drove: $47,610
  • EPA estimated fuel economy: 19 MPG city/22MPG highway
  • Regular gas recommended
  • 19.5 gallon gas tank
  • No all wheel drive option but there is  traction management snow mode
  • Spare tire included

What We Listened to in the Honda Odyssey

The Odyssey’s Social Playlist feature on the phone app is a great way to let everyone share their favorite songs. This is what our Social Playlist sounded like.

Honda Odyssey Elite Family Minivan

2018 Honda Odyssey Monroney

Disclosure: Honda provided the Odyssey for this review; all opinions are my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss