TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR
The Odyssey VTi-L is Honda’s top-line family-sized van. As the most high-featured and most expensive version of Australia’s second most popular vehicle in the people mover segment, the $47,590 Odyssey VTi-L promises a more luxurious experience for family-bound buyers – but does the rest of the car impress as much as its lengthy list of features does?
- Comparatively compact. At a little over 4.8 metres long and 1.8 metres wide, the Odyssey occupies less space on the road than its chief rival, the Kia Carnival, while still packing plenty of space for seven adults. In terms of its ability to easily move through traffic and negotiate tight carparks, the Odyssey’s carlike dimensions make it feel less like a van than most other people movers.
- Well equipped. Considering its sub-$50K pricetag, the Odyssey VTi-L punches well above its weight when it comes to standard equipment. AEB, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise, heated front seats, rear ventilation controls, a 360-degree parking camera, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, powered side doors and satellite navigation are all standard on the flagship Odyssey, making it very compelling value for money.
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- Chairs fit for a captain. In the second row of the VTi-L you’ll find two individual ‘captain’s’ chairs rather than a traditional three-person bench seat. It’s a nice touch that might also keep bickering siblings from encroaching into each other’s personal space, and their ability to recline and slide independently is perfect for long trips. Retractable sunshades and dark tinted glass in the rear doors also provide extra privacy for your passengers.
- Cabin access. The Odyssey VTi-L’s power-operated sliding doors require just a light pull of the handle to activate, meaning there’ll be no wrestling with heavy doors on uphill-facing parking spots. There’s a rear door on each side and the aperture is huge, so getting into the back rows of the Odyssey is easy no matter whether you’re kerbside or not.
- Low floor. With the Odyssey taking power to the front wheels exclusively and its fuel tank being mounted under the front seats, Honda’s large van has an impressively low and flat floor in the rear two-thirds of its cabin. Fold the third row into the floor (more on that later) and flatten the second row backrests, and up to 1867 ltires of cargo space is yours for the taking.
- Comfy ride, decent handling. The Odyssey’s front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension may be mechanically basic, but the big Honda proves both capable in a corner and compliant over lumpy roads.
- Cabin comfort. You’d think something with such a roomy cabin would be the perfect place to be for long journeys, but the Odyssey’s flat seat cushions (on all rows) let it down as a road trip cruiser. Floorpan bulges to accommodate the fuel tank under the front seats also limit footroom for those in the second row, meaning they need to be slid backward a fair way to give good comfort – and thus intrude on the footroom of those in the third row.
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- Needs muscle. There’s only one powertrain on offer, and the Odyssey’s 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated four cylinder petrol is only really adequate when two or three people are aboard. Loaded up with a family-sized contingent it feels sluggish up hills and its CVT automatic has it flaring and revving hard in an effort to keep up.
- Stowing the third row could be easier. The Odyssey’s flat floor is welcome, but utilising it requires a multi-step operation to put that third row bench seat under the floor. If the roof-mounted middle seatbelt is in play then add another step, and once you’re done the only thing keeping the whole third row stowed is a single nylon tether
- Second row seats get in the way of cargo. While the third row tucks away flush with the floor, the second row captains’ chairs are more intrusive. The backrests can fold on top of the base and the seats themselves be pushed all the way forward, but that is all.
- Watch out for kerbs. Front seat passengers will need to be vigilant when parked next to kerbs. The Odyssey VTi-L’s doors reach very low, and will contact most Australian kerbs even if the car is parked a reasonable distance from them. Parking very close to kerbs can even foul the sliding rear doors, so watch out.
- No power tailgate. Despite having powered rear sliding doors, the Odyssey doesn’t have a power-operated tailgate – a feature that’s incredibly handy for modern parents who often have their arms full of children and/or groceries when they approach their car.
- In-car storage options. The Odyssey’s slide-away centre ‘console’ may allow easy travel from the first row all the way to the third, but it means there’s less in-cabin storage compared to other rivals.
- Clunky infotainment. Honda’s touchscreen infotainment software is in desperate need of an update. Even operations like pairing a new phone can be a needlessly complicated affair, while graphical presentation and touchscreen response time lag well behind more modern competitors.
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ANY OTHER RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
The Kia Carnival is the dominant player in the people mover segment, and boasts more size and more power than the Honda Odyssey. That said, putting yourself into a similarly-equipped Carnival will cost you much more than the Odyssey VTi-L’s sharp $47K sticker.
Other options in the market include the commercial van-based Volkswagen Multivan and Mercedes-Benz Valente, while the Toyota Tarago also competes. None boast the same level of value for money as the Honda, however.