Could the Honda Odyssey Minivan Be the Best Family Car Ever?

Honda Odyssey Minivan

They thought of everything. Seriously, Everything.

If you were going to design the perfect minivan, what would you add? After all, these machines have gotten pretty perfect in recent years.

But not being one to shy away from a challenge, Honda has taken on the redesign of the 2018 Odyssey with just that in mind: Perfecting a minivan already loved by millions.

Honda Odyssey Minivan

Working in the Odyssey was made easy with a household plug, but bring a long cord; the household plug is on the front console. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A minivan for millennials and their tribes—or offspring

Honda thought about the newest customer who buys minivans: Millennials (don’t worry, they didn’t ignore current customers… they kept everything you love). Millennials are now having kids of their own and bringing their own set of wants and demands when shopping for a family car.

Honda Odyssey Minivan

The 2018 Honda Odyssey looks pretty under this Jacaranda tree. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Thinking about the customer inspires great cars

It’s almost like the people at Honda drive these cars, too. Oh, wait, they do. They brainstormed with each other and they surveyed customers, coming up with the challenges we all face in our cars and solutions to those problems. The team charged with the redesign, all based in Honda’s Columbus Ohio offices, took the assignment personally.

Here’s what Honda came up with to wow us (I almost wrote ‘woo’ and that would be appropriate, too) in the new Odyssey, all in these handy charts:

Seating and Cabin Innovations

A Girls Guide To Cars | Could The Honda Odyssey Minivan Be The Best Family Car Ever? - Seating And Cabin Innovations Honda Odyssey

Entertainment and tech innovations 

A Girls Guide To Cars | Could The Honda Odyssey Minivan Be The Best Family Car Ever? - Tech Innocations Honda Odyssey

Not all innovations are visible to the eye; some are visible to the ear

Cabin Talk is a great feature, but much of the innovation comes under the ‘skin’ of the car in a stronger, safer frame and a quieter, more comfortable ride. Sound engineer Andrea Martin and the design team used new technologies to build a frame that has tighter seals, more insulation and more carpet to reduce vibration, road and wind noise. Not only is it easy to have a conversation with people in the back, but the sound system sounds a lot better and you can hear everyone sing (or, turn the volume up so you don’t)

Honda Odyssey Minivan

Look where my handbag fit in the Honda Odyssey: there’s a shelf between the front seats where it fit perfectly. Photo: Scotty Reiss

You should feel safe and sound in a minivan right?

Honda thinks so, too, so safety is included in most trim levels (and available on all levels). Safety features (called Honda Sensing) include: 

  • Blind spot monitors
  • Forward collision warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Rear cross traffic monitor
  • Multi-angle rear camera

Honda Odyssey MinivanHere’s a novel feature: Paddle shifters—in a minivan???

Why, yes, my boat-towing, family-hauling, brake-burning friend: Paddle shifters finally have a practical use. Downshifting lets you control the stress on brakes when driving down steep grades such as a mountain roads. On our test drive we drove down a 2,000 foot descent over several miles and never hit the brakes or came too close to the car ahead of us.

I was able to downshift and use the engine’s power to slow the car (called engine braking) rather than ride the brakes.

Here’s the Odyssey’s  top competitor, the Chrysler Pacifica

Other features we loved

There are other features that have become popular, so the Odyssey design team added them, too:

  • A tire fill alert: When putting air in your tires an audible beep and flash of your parking lights let you know you’ve reached the optimal pressure.
  • Handsfree lift gate lets you kick your foot under the bumper to open the lift gate
  • Lift gate height adjustment lets you set how high the gate opens, making it easy to grab and close if you’re not all that tall, and keeping it from scraping the garage ceiling
  • Capless gas tank—just pop open the gas door and fill away; no gas cap to struggle with
  • Wireless charge pad for phones; the one that Honda chose works with both Qi systems and PMA, or Powermat, the wireless charging system you’ll find at Starbucks.
Honda Odyssey Minivan

There’s plenty of cargo space in the Odyssey, which means room for sports gear, groceries and more. Photo: Scotty Reiss

I also loved the third row

And yes, I sat in the third row. A lot. Because why not when you can have it all to yourself? I found the third row to be roomy, comfortable and filled with amenities. There is head room, leg room and plenty of space. It was easy to get in and out, which I preferred to do through the middle rather than sliding the center seat over because it gave me a seat to hold on to when climbing out.

Riding in the back was fine, too. I will admit, on some of the mountain roads I did tend to feel the hills and curves, but I felt them up front, too. I can say for sure that without the headroom and visibility from the third row, those winding roads would have have made me carsick.

Can the Odyssey top the Toyota Sienna?

Handling like a thoroughbred, with pricing just as competitive

When it comes to how a car handles on the road, you don’t think of a minivan as competitive. They are big, often with a soft feel to both the ride and the steering. The Odyssey was surprisingly responsive with both steering and acceleration, making this large car easy to manage on narrow, winding roads, on the highway and in parking lots. That can be a big plus in a big car.

Pricing was a surprise too. Pricing is very competitive and it’s structured in a simple way: no options, just a flat price for each trim level. Even the top level Elite trim is within reach of most customers. Here’s how pricing breaks down (see the chart below for details about what’s included in each trim):

  • LX: $29,900
  • EX: $33,860
  • EX-L: $37,360
  • EX-L with Navigation and rear entertainment: $39,360
  • Touring (the type we test drove): $44,510
  • Elite: $46, 670

Take a look at the Kia Sedona minivan, too

Not a minivan driver, no matter how much you like these new features?

Be patient; Honda rolled out a TON of new innovations in the Odyssey and it’s likely we’ll see many of these soon in the Pilot, CRV and other models. So go take a test drive of the Odyssey, try out these features and then let Honda know what you think and which of their cars you’d like to see these features in.

Can’t decide minivan or SUV? We can help

Get your Odyssey on!

The Odyssey is in production in Lincoln, Alabama and is hitting showrooms right now. If you can’t wait to see it, click on our playlist and enjoy the songs we listened to while we tooled around.

Disclosure: I was Honda’s guest for this test drive, with travel and accommodations provided. If my photos look amazing, that’s because the test drive was in Hawaii. The Odyssey must have been impressive because it took my attention away from Hawaii, and that is hard to do.

Honda Odyssey Minivan

Honda Listened To Consumers And Answered With The Latest Design Of Its Honda Odyssey Minivan. It Has Everything, Really Everything. Here'S Our Review.

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