2018 Honda Odyssey Range Review

The inviting Honda Odyssey is a well-made wagon with easy access for up to eight people. It has versatile seating, strong performance, sharp steering, and superb vision out.

Honda Odyssey VTi-L white
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Slick drivetrain
  •   Easy dash
  •   Roomy cabin
  •   Keen handling
Not so much
  •   Noisy ride
  •   Child-seat limitations
  •   Front-seat comfort

What stands out?

In the spacious and inviting Odyssey, Honda has created a well-made blend of wagon and people mover that’s easy for everybody to get in and out of. All eight (VTi) or seven (VTi-L) occupants will appreciate the versatile seating, ample storage and excellent ventilation, while the driver is likely to enjoy the logically presented dash, light controls, sharp steering, strong yet frugal performance, and superb all-round vision.

What might bug me?

If you have chosen the less costly of the two Odysseys, the VTi, and want to carry small children, the intrusion of child-seat tethers into third-row passenger space. The second-row seats do not have ISOFIX latches, and therefore you must run child-seat tethers back to anchors mounted in the ceiling above third-row occupants. Each strap bisects the third-row passenger space on that side. And while the anchors are shrouded, taller heads might contact the shrouds during hard cornering. Ouch! In contrast, from 2017 the capacious second-row captain’s chairs fitted to the more expensive Odyssey VTi-L provide ISOFIX latches for fast, easy and secure placement of child seats.

Discomfort up front on long trips: the Odyssey’s flat front-seat cushions are short on under-thigh support.

Finding space for big feet in the second row. If you’re long-legged, beware the odd placement of the (space-saver) spare wheel. It is directly beneath the front seat row, creating a hump that fouls second-row leg room.

On bumpy roads, an unsettled ride. Except on smooth roads, the suspension feels busy, and you hear a fair bit of road noise as well.

Driving under 80km/h on your space-saver spare tyre, until you can fix your full-sized flat.

What body styles are there?

Five-door wagon only, with seating for seven or eight.

The Odyssey drives its front wheels, and is classed as a people mover, lower priced.

What features do all Odysseys have?

An MP-3 compatible entertainment system with an AM/FM radio, CD player, USB and HDMI inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming, voice control, and six speakers, controllable from a 7.0-inch touchscreen. Speed sensitive volume, which rises as cabin noise intrusion rises.

Climate control air-conditioning with at least two zones (the driver and front passenger can set temperatures independently), and vents in the ceiling for passengers in the rear two seat rows.

Height and reach adjustment for a leather-wrapped steering wheel, from which you can operate the cruise control, the audio system and your phone (via Bluetooth). Height adjustment for the driver’s seat.

A reversing camera with normal, wide, and top-down views.

Headlights that switch on automatically when it’s dark, fog lights, and tail-lights and daytime running lights illuminated by long-lasting LEDs.

Power-folding and heated exterior mirrors.

Seating for at least seven people (the less costly Odyssey, the VTi, seats eight). Front and rear 12-volt power outlets.

A power-operated rear door, on the passenger side, which slides to open like the doors on many commercial vans. Third-row seats that fold away into an underfloor recess, releasing a flat luggage area.

Seventeen-inch alloy wheels (which look nicer than steel wheels and don’t need plastic trim), and a space-saver spare wheel. A tyre-pressure monitor, which could give you extra time to get a slow-puncture seen to.

Automatic transmission, with paddle shifters.

Hill-start assist, which helps you start on an uphill slope by controlling the brakes automatically.

Six airbags. Electronic stability control, which is mandatory on new cars and can help you recover from a skid. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Odyssey safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Odyssey is warrantied for five years and unlimited distance, and for six years against rust perforating the body.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Only one engine is available in an Odyssey, a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol. On the official test it consumes no more than 7.8 litres/100km (city and country combined).

This is a lively engine, which responds well to your right foot and delivers plenty of acceleration from city and normal highway speeds.

In a real-world comparison conducted for the October 2016 edition of Wheels magazine, an Odyssey VTi with this engine averaged 11.2 litres/100km – significantly less than the 13.5 litres/100km recorded by an accompanying Kia Carnival V6 petrol.

Every Odyssey drives through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Unlike conventional autos with fixed ratios, a CVT adjusts incrementally to the conditions and your demands, usually at a benefit to both performance and fuel-efficiency.

Both Odysseys provide paddle shifters, accessible from the steering wheel, which let you change up or down manually through a series of artificial ratio steps built into the CVT. For example, you can change down in preparation for an overtaking manoeuvre, so that the car responds more robustly to your depressing the accelerator when the right time arrives. (Note that the CVT will not allow you to damage the engine through over-revving, instead selecting a higher ratio automatically when required.)

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Odyssey, the Odyssey VTi, comes with fabric-covered seats, and the equipment in all Odysseys.

Spend more for an Odyssey VTi-L and you get leather on the seats, and power adjustment and heating for both front seats. There is a power-opening sunroof, which can be operated remotely from the key. Headlights use very bright and long-lasting LEDs rather than conventional bulbs, and auxiliary lights shine into corners when you turn the wheel. You can unlock and start the car without taking the smart key from your pocket or bag. And there is satellite navigation.

The Odyssey VTi-L also brings sensor-based active safety aids: Adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigating braking system, lane keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, and a rear cross-traffic alert. The reversing camera adds views from all sides of the car. And a Smart parking feature can guide you into parking spots.

The tri-zone air-conditioning in an Odyssey VTi-L supplies independent controls to rear passengers also, and adds floor vents to the roof vents for those in the third seat row. Shades and privacy glass help keep the sun off those in the back. And the sliding rear door on the driver’s side too power-opens at your touch.

The VTi-L replaces the VTi’s sliding and reclining 70-30-split three-person middle-row bench with a pair of captain’s chairs – bucket seats, each with armrests on both sides. Uniquely, these can slide sideways and back for limo levels of leg room. Each also comes with an in-built ottoman, for legs-stretched-out comfort. If you carry child seats, they also have ISOFIX latches for easy and secure placement.

Outside, side-skirts, spoilers, LED-strip fog lights and two-tone 17-inch alloy wheels tart-up the Odyssey VTi-L’s body.

The Odyssey VTi-L also has a 1000kg towing capacity allowing it to pull modest loads.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

Choosing the more expensive VTi-L means you can seat only two passengers in the middle row, reducing total seating capacity from eight people to seven.

Some people may prefer the softer and warmer properties of the standard VTi’s fabric seat upholstery to the VTi-L’s leather-faced material.

How comfortable is the Odyssey?

Honda has been building Odysseys since the mid-1990s, and this is evident from the moment those big doors open. Entry and egress is easy even to the rearmost bench, thanks to an intuitive one-step fold and slide middle-row nearside chair.

From the driver’s seat, deep windows, thin pillars and a low dash allow clear views out. The lofty yet still very car-like driving position is defined by the considered placement of the T-bar transmission lever within very-near reach, crystal-clear dials (with an expansive speedometer), volumous air vents (accessible in all three rows), and a versatile bin compartment and shelving unit with charging facility – the unit retracts to facilitate side-to-side or front-to-back access. Every seat row has storage, lighting, charging points and beverage holders within an easy arm’s reach.

While it takes a little effort initially in the VTi (or a simple push of a button in the VTi-L), the third seat-row’s acrobatic turn as it tumbles and tucks itself level with the cargo floor to reveal a sizeable luggage area makes the Odyssey a very practical family hauler.

Honda has tuned the controls to feel light and natural – from the progressive accelerator action and linear transmission, which make it easy to feed in power smoothly, to equally well moderated steering that is nevertheless eager enough to make this big car seem surprisingly small and agile. It takes no time to feel relaxed and in control behind the wheel. Unlike most tall vans, this people mover isn’t affected much by crosswinds, either.

Less good is the touchscreen unit’s fiddly volume control for the audio system or a Bluetooth connected phone, prompting you to prefer the secondary controller on the steering wheel. Front seat cushions are flat and feel unsupportive after an extended stay, lacking sufficient bracing and bolstering to be considered truly comfortable. Additionally, there is no driver’s lumbar adjustment. And you might find the old-fashioned foot-operated park brake cumbersome to operate – although it’s a space saver in that it does not take up precious real estate elsewhere.

Of more concern is the jittery and unsettled ride over anything barring the smoothest roads, and the suspension noise and tyre drone that often accompanies it. The resulting bumpy attitude can be tiresome after a while, particularly for third-row occupants.

What about safety in a Honda Odyssey?

Every Odyssey has the mandatory stability control, six airbags, auto-on headlights, LED daytime running lights, and a multi-angle reversing camera. It is a package that protects you in a crash, maximises your visibility to others, and allows you to check behind this big vehicle from the driver’s seat for risks when reversing.

Seatbelt reminders are fitted only to the front seats, however, and the Odyssey does not supply standard rear parking sensors (which could alert you to someone at risk behind you).

There are airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one outside each front seat to protect from side impacts at chest level; and side-curtain airbags extending the full length of the cabin, protecting those in all three rows of seats at head level.

The Odyssey VTi-L adds features designed to keep you in touch with what is happening outside the rear of the car.

A Blind-spot information system uses radar sensors to scan the road near your rear corners for adjacent or overtaking vehicles – which might not have appeared in your mirrors. Should you indicate to change lanes into the path of another driver, it will flash a light in the relevant exterior mirror and sound a warning.

A Cross-traffic monitor uses the same sensors when you are reversing – say from a driveway or shopping-centre parking space. If they detect the approach of another vehicle behind you, the Odyssey sounds a warning and seeks to show the danger on your touchscreen display.

Adaptive cruise control sticks to a certain speed but then slows to match the speed of a vehicle in front. This is coupled with lane keeping assist, which helps steer the Odyssey between lane markings.

The VTi-L also offers limited autonomous emergency braking, which scans the road ahead and brake the car automatically to reduce the impact of a collision with the car in front. A forward collision warning alerts you when it senses a potential impact based on the speed of the Odyssey and a vehicle in front.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Odyssey five stars for safety, its maximum, in May 2014.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Although it is an ageing powertrain with a hefty 1.8 tonnes to haul around, the Odyssey’s naturally aspirated 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is a strong and yet sweet performer, with eager off-the-line acceleration and enough power in reserve at highway speeds for fast overtaking manoeuvres. This unit loves to rev, and while it doesn’t mind making some noise doing so, it sounds lusty and lively. And that flaring of the engine revs common to many CVTs when you mash the go-pedal down is minimal in the Odyssey, with the paddle shifters also allowing some manual control.

That the Honda also returns reasonably impressive fuel economy is testimony to the quality engineering under the bonnet.

Likewise, the electric power-steering behaves better than the Odyssey’s boxy dimensions and considerable bulk suggest, with sharp and responsive handling and a pleasingly flat and controlled attitude through corners – even tight corners. There is sufficient precision and fluidity for a keen driver to really enjoy a fast back-road blast in this people mover, backed up by plenty of predictable grip. Achieving a low centre of gravity was one of the top priorities during this car’s gestation. Who knew!

Only the tetchy ride quality and tyre-noise intrusion detract from a sparkling performance dynamically.

How is life in the rear seats?

Sliding side-doors mean that accessing the middle row could not be simpler. Especially when they’re powered via remote control. Sashay in like a rock star!

Once sat, all three reclining and sliding middle-seat positions in the VTi provide almost opulent levels of spaciousness and comfort, with the bonus of better cushion support than the seats up front.

In a VTi-L, the captain’s chairs with their ottomans are like travelling business class on a plane. They too recline and slide, and also move sideways for added versatility. The general ambience back there is very pleasant, aided by that airy glasshouse, nearby face-level vents, and armrests galore. Limousine levels of room makes row number two the preferred way to travel – especially when the third-row seats are folded into the floor, allowing the middle chairs to slide nearly a metre further back. Future Uber drivers, take note.

The middle row seats’ ability to slide and tip forward in one easy move makes access to the third row a cinch, though it’s worth remembering all three rearmost pews (their backrests fold 40-20-40 for added convenience) are best for pre-teen kids rather than adults, who’d find trying to sit three abreast very squeezy indeed. All expected amenities are present, though in a VTi those child-seat tether anchors are sited wearingly close to taller scalps, so beware.

Road and tyre noise are most obvious in row number three, as is the often unsettling ride. Honda needs to sort the ride out.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Odyssey is a box-shaped wagon, so its ability to carry stuff is commendable. The low floor and high roof means there is a minimum 330 litres of (quite narrow and tall) storage behind the third-row backrest – about as much as you would have in a smallish hatchback. Fold and tumble that third row down into a cubby in the floor and push the middle-row seats to their most forward position, and space balloons to a sizeable 1332 litres floor to ceiling.

Aiding the Honda’s load carrying ability is a high tailgate aperture, while a low floor makes heaving heavy objects inside easier than in most wagons.

Note, however, that the Odyssey’s deadly rival, the Kia Carnival, is far better at carrying cargo, going from 960 litres to 2220 litres in five-seater mode, and a vast 4022 litres when the second row is also folded to create a two-seater mode.

Towing capacity only applies to the VTi-L and is 450kg for a trailer without brakes and 1000kg with brakes. That’s about half that of the Carnival.

Where does Honda make the Odyssey?

The Odyssey sold in Australia hails from Japan. Australia is one of the few countries in the world to receive this vehicle. North America also receives an Odyssey, but it is an entirely different and altogether larger vehicle based on the big Honda Accord V6 platform. That US model is closer in size and capacity to the Kia Carnival.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Possibly better fuel economy on long trips, from a diesel engine – which you can have in a Kia Carnival, for example.

Decent towing capacity. The Odyssey VTi-L’s braked trailer towing capacity is rated at just 1000kg while the VTi is unrated. You can tow twice as much as the VTi-L with any Carnival, for example.

Nine or more seats, such as you can have in the larger (but cruder) Volkswagen Caravelle, LDV G10 and SsangYong Stavic.

Autonomous emergency braking. Only the Volkswagen Multivan offers AEB in a dedicated people mover, and then only in Highline and Executive guises from about $80,000 plus. But it is available at lower price points in some seven-seat SUVs, and it is standard in every Mazda CX-9.

Maybe all-wheel drive. The significantly more expensive Volkswagen Caravelle 4Motion offers all-wheel drive in a people-mover – a boon in snow, sand, gravel or mud. So do many seven-seat SUVs.

Among other dedicated people movers you might consider are the Citroen C4 Grand Picasso and the Toyota Tarago.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Easy. The Odyssey VTi-L.

Though it is very much more expensive and loses the middle-row centre seat in the process, the captain’s chairs that replace the VTi’s three-seater bench have in-built ISOFIX child-seat latches, meaning you can carry small children without compromising third-row amenity.

Additionally, the heated and power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, sunroof, rear climate controls, sunblinds, keyless entry and start, active headlights, surround-view camera, and lane-change and blind-spot warnings with rear cross-traffic alert, help soothe that price-premium sting.

And from December 2017, the VTi-L also gained the ‘Honda Sensing’ driver assistance package as standard, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist.

Are there plans to update the Odyssey soon?

The current Odyssey was launched in 2014, and received the mildest of revisions early in 2017 – namely the ISOFIX child-seat latches in the VTi-L’s middle seats.

Another update in December 2017 updated the front end of the VTi to look more like the VTi-L. The VTi-L meanwhile gained the ‘Honda Sensing’ driver assistance package as standard, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist.

The VTi-L also received new design elements including LED strip fog lights while inside, the second row captain’s chairs are now fitted with more luxurious headrests and additional seat-mounted storage compartments, while up front sees new instrument panel and door trims, new engine start/stop button, and auto-folding electric door mirrors.

This review and models featured at the top of the page will be updated soon to reflect the changes. In the meantime you can read about them here.

We we can expect a complete rebody before the end of this decade – our bet is the second half of 2019 at the earliest.

From July 2017, Honda extended the warranty on new Odysseys to five years.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Slick drivetrain
  •   Easy dash
  •   Roomy cabin
  •   Keen handling
Not so much
  •   Noisy ride
  •   Child-seat limitations
  •   Front-seat comfort


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