By on September 9, 2015

2015 Honda Odyssey Bothwell PEI

We’re kidding. Yes, Odyssey sales were falling. Then we used our own money to pay for a new 2015 Honda Odyssey. Forthwith, Odyssey sales increased.

You know better than to connect the two, of course. Post hoc ergo propter hoc, and all that. But I can dream about the power of GoodCarBadCar.net and the sway of a single Jalopnik-recommended article on our Kinja page.

In July and August, 26,274 Americans registered new Odysseys, 12 percent more than in the same period one year ago. This is a strong end-of-lifecycle follow-up to the Odyssey’s 14 percent plunge in the 2014 calendar year and a 1 percent drop in the first half of 2015. Yet even to the sales-stats-obsessed founder of GCBC, the U.S. sales story is secondary, if only in this instance.

As of June 2015, we have a minivan, and I’m too busy loading ten-foot-long 2x4s in the back of my people carrier to care about the Odyssey’s best-selling status or the reasons for the uptick.

Recognizing, therefore, that LeBron James can’t even have an impact on Kia K900 sales, it’s safe to say that my position as a Honda Odyssey driver most assuredly does not propel consumers toward Honda stores. In fact, the one set of friends who were inspired by our new Odyssey to consider moving up their minivan purchase didn’t get an Odyssey. They bought a Toyota Sienna for their six-year-old twin boys and two-year-old girl.

2015_Toyota_Sienna_SE-6

Speaking of the Sienna, it seems that the people curious about our Odyssey decision don’t want more information about our actual van, but rather wish to know the reasons we didn’t choose a different vehicle. Let me answer those questions.

First, why didn’t we go with a different minivan? Grand Caravans should be way less expensive than an Odyssey, but Chrysler/Dodge dealers were completely unwilling to play ball with our Kia Sorento trade-in. Plus, between the two of us, my wife and I had four siblings with Grand Caravans. Stow ’N Go sounds great, but in two months I’ve yet to encounter a circumstance in which the Odyssey’s two outboard second-row seats needed to be removed. And it’s not as though they can’t be removed, if need be. Besides, the Grand Caravan drives like a van. I didn’t want a van that drives like a van.

Updated 2015 Siennas are very nice, as my review of an AWD XLE attests. Unfortunately, even with upgraded handling, Sienna SEs still feel relatively vast in action — Odysseys seem to shrink when driven hastily. And again, Toyota dealers couldn’t compete on price when the trade was taken into account.

The Kia Sedona is handsome, but it doesn’t seem like Kia quite finished the job in terms of ride and handling and rearward accommodations. Mazda 5? Too small, too noisy. Nissan Quest? This is no laughing matter.

2015 Ford Flex

If not a different minivan, why not a three-row SUV/crossover? The notion that a Honda Odyssey announces one’s child-rearing status and a Honda Pilot or any other family-friendly crossover doesn’t is, frankly, laughable. More laughable is the crisis of confidence afflicting legions of car buyers who can’t drive the best vehicle for themselves, regardless of what that vehicle may be. My neighbours don’t determine what I wear or where I work or when I eat. I’m not going to let them determine what I should drive. Although it helps that I periodically spend whole weeks with vehicles like the Audi S4, a 6.2L V8-powered GMC Sierra, and the Ford Mustang.

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have been happy with a Chevrolet Suburban or Dodge Durango or Ford Flex, all of which impress me, if the vehicles weren’t too expensive, too expensive, and too unavailable and too expensive, respectively. But far too many three-row vehicles offer no space behind the third row, something we routinely require.

2015 Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4 EcoDiesel

Why not a proper six-seater crew cab pickup truck? Odysseys seat eight, but six would have been enough. Unfortunately, a shedding 70-pound dog isn’t welcome in the passenger compartment, and the passenger compartment is the only place for her in a pickup truck.

We’re privileged to be driving manufacturer-supplied press cars every week, so our own vehicle is reserved for more abusive scenarios. Bikes, dogs, muddy stroller wheels, muddy bike trailer wheels, sandy towels, lumber. While much of that content works perfectly with a pickup truck, demanding that occupants share space with a wet dog is far from ideal. Moreover, affordable crew cab 4×4 pickup trucks are only just sufficiently equipped. The trucks also quickly become unaffordable when vital accessories are added to the MSRP.

I want a truck. My wife wants a truck. We will have a truck. But we will not have a truck this year.

In the end, our decision was made easier by friends who own the Centennial Honda store in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. The deal-making procedure, including the trade-in assessment, was completed exclusively by email and the vehicle was picked up during a visit at the grandparents. We ended up leasing, as the residuals on Odysseys are so strong (and the rates so low) that the sum total of our lease payments plus the buy-out is less than the cost of financing the van. Leasing isn’t for everyone, nor is it for every vehicle, but we only complete half of our mileage in our own car and the Honda’s ability to hang on to its value marries the right buyer with the right vehicle for ideal leasing.

A surprisingly driver-focused chassis, hugely impressive fuel economy, and near limitless flexibility combine with the affordability factor to make the Odyssey, at least in this particular instance, the best new car value I can currently think of. Put it all together, and we didn’t find ourselves like so many of our siblings and friends who said with regret, “We need a minivan.” We realized, with pleasure, that we wanted an Odyssey.

As for the Honda’s faults, they are few in number but important to note.

The dual-screen Honda infotainment unit is not intuitive. Yet I have found that HondaLink convinces me that an automotive reviewer’s time with a vehicle — even when I spend a full week with new cars — isn’t sufficient to render a verdict on the infotainment unit. I’ve criticized this system in multiple Acuras and Hondas, yet now there’s nothing about the system that truly bothers me. Getting to know the ins and outs took longer, which isn’t ideal, but I no longer give it a second thought.

The styling of the rear side window and sliding door cut line is awful. The transmission is coming into its own but was predictably clunky and confused early on, as I’ve often found in competing vans. Honda isn’t overly generous with features. Our Canadian-spec EX has power doors with built-in sunshades but no power tailgate and no sunshades in the third row. Quicker steering, not at all in keeping with the demands of most minivan buyers, would shorten my wishlist. And while power is more than acceptable, why is the Odyssey forced to soldier on with the 3.5-liter V6’s 248-horsepower output when the Accord, for example, produces 278?

More please.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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24 Comments on “Honda Odyssey Sales Were Falling, We Got An Odyssey, Now Odyssey Sales Are Rising...”


  • avatar
    Toad

    The economy is getting (a little) better, more people are having babies, minivan sales are increasing.

    New minivan sales are a lagging indicator of two parent middle class pregnancies. Used Kia and Chevy Caviler sales are a lagging indicator of unwed/teen/unplanned pregnancies.

  • avatar
    Willyam

    Welcome to the dark side. We have cookies.

    (It’s ok, as the Touring has a vacuum. You can eat them in the van.)

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    I’d totally rock an Odyssey, but it’s too big to fit in my parking space. Some people claim that it’s because car seats are so huge these days but I have three across in my Volvo wagon. My neighbor has a Forester and does three across too. Oh, and the Sienna is smaller than an Odyssey, so does that mean an Odyssey holds more car seats than a Sienna?

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Good luck with the Odyssey. I used to work in the hospital and many of the nurses had Odysseys over the years. I think almost everyone of them had issues with their Odysseys after 2-3 years of use. From ac, drivetrain, to electrical. But, It was Florida and the heat takes a toll on some models. I’m no Toyota fan boy. But the same amount of nurses owned Siennas and not one of them had any issues. In fact I currently work with someone that has a five year old Odyssey and he had to rebuild the back side of.the engine near the firewall. some kind of erosion issue on the back of the engine. Cost him over $4600. Him and his wife are selling it and buying a Sienna.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    Tim, is your plan to buy out the lease at the end of the term? It sounds like your family is hard on vehicle interiors, which my wife is as well. She’s about due for a new vehicle, and I’ve always assumed leasing would be a poor match for her since she’s definitely going to destroy the car’s interior.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      That’s a long way off, but I suspect it could be a buy-to-trade scenario. Our Odyssey deal included OEM seat covers for the rear, floor trays throughout, and a folding cargo tray in back, which really help. The condition of the vehicle won’t stop the dealer from wanting the van for its pre-owned inventory, ie, it won’t be going back to Honda Canada.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        The dealer was smart to include all of the seat and floor covers in the deal. When you turn the car in at the end of the lease the dealer can pull out the covers and with minimal cleaning the minivan should look like new.

        The covers themselves may be toxic waste by the end of the lease, but that’s not your problem :-)

  • avatar
    Fred

    I find that folks get use to using screens a certain way and if you change it in even the slightest way, they freak out. I’m still confused over the Microsoft ribbon menu. My brother hates his Iphone because he compares it his old Droid. We have no patience with change, at least when it comes to our computer screens.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    My wife and I had an irrational lust for a new Nissan Quest minivan after we found out we were going to have twins. Then we saw the crash test ratings and crash videos. That was a real cold shower. Nissan needs to put the Quest out to pasture or give it the safety updates it needs.

    Why do I mention it? Because, aside from the above, I believe the Quest is a better overall value than the Odyssey. And it probably has some hilarious JDM name where it originates from, too.

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      yes…we succumbed to our lust for the Quest early last year (before the offset crash test) and bought a used 2013 LE. We love it and have put 30k miles on it in slightly over a year, averaging 21mpg the whole time–good for such a big vehicle. I reviewed it for this site, actually. I just make sure to stay extra vigilant on two-lane roads!

      BTW, the JDM version is called the Elgrand, look it up it’s sweet. Riding pimped out versions of these JDM vans in Asia is what got me wanting the Quest in the first place.

      I like the weird vans and just bought a Ford Transit Connect passenger van this week, also. The Quest convinced us we both needed vans, and I wanted something that interests me, and was not another Quest. I’ll write something up for that, too, after I get some more time in it.

  • avatar
    EAF

    Great read. You mention the Ody gets “impressive fuel economy,” what sort of MPGs are you seeing? Is the’15 Ody equipped with VCM?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      We have a 2012 EX-L, without VCM. We typically see 20 MPG city, 25 highway. It replaced a Caravan which got 16-17 wherever you went, however you drove.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Yes, all Odysseys now have VCM and a 6-speed. Odyssey is rated at 19/28, 22 combined. We’re at 24.5 since we took possession, split fairly evenly between city, suburban, and highway.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Spot on with review and reasons we went with a lease on a ’14 Odyssey EX-L over other things for family conveyance. We rented a Town and Country for a week, but as soon as we drove an Odyssey, we were done. I was ending a Nissan lease, so I could have gotten a great deal on a Quest. But neither of us wanted one and we were sick of the CVT in the Altima, so no CVT for us.

    The Sienna is impressive enough. It is more refined (quieter, softer ride) than the Odyssey and I’ve been in the new van, the new Sienna interior is vastly improved. But the mood with the Sienna, as with the last time we compared a Toyota to a Honda (06 Camry vs 06 Accord) is this: The Honda’s are a more willing vehicle when the driving gets “spirited”. The Toyota’s aren’t. Not that we’re tracking a minivan, but when the road gets twisty or you want to hustle through some traffic, the Odyssey is much more willing to dance than the Chrysler or Toyota.

    Styling on the Odyssey doesn’t do anything for me, I actually prefer the more upright “classical” styling of the Chrysler. The transmission is my biggest complaint. After 14k miles, it’s still just as clunky and confused as when new. Honda’s transmission grade logic leaves much to be desired (always has) and the VCM can become noticeable. But I live with lots of hills and mostly city driving, it’s much better when it’s been to the flatlands.

    We’ve gotten as low as 13 mpg (winter, short trips, lots of idling) and as much as 25 mpg all highway loaded with stuff. We average 16 mpg around town, but again, the hills, traffic and roads of western PA aren’t kind to vehicles. Our much less capable 08 Mazda 5 only averages about 19 mpg, though we’ve seen as much as 32 mpg highway with it. But I’ll take the extra comfort, size and versatility of the Odyssey over the slightly more fun and frugal nature of the Mazda any day.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    A few months ago I was waiting to get my smog test while they were finishing up an Odyssey. I asked the lady how she liked it. She said it was really great and that she had 275,000 miles on it. I asked her how many transmissions so far. She gave me a embarrassed look and said that she was on her fourth one. Put a transmission cooler on your van ASAP.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      First of all, the key to remember is that the van has 275K miles on it. We should all be so fortunate. Secondly, Honda’s issues with automatic transmissions in heavier vehicles mated to the V6 are well known and were resolved a decade ago. If you look at Steve Lang’s database, it shows that the Ody’s defect rate has been below industry average since 2006.

      • 0 avatar
        an innocent man

        Mine is an ’05 with 135,000, and only one minor issue, no transmission problems at all. I wonder if the people with multiple transmission issues do any routine maintenance whatsoever.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          My daughter had a 2008 with 155K+ miles on it and NO issues at all.

          She traded that one for a brand new 2013 Odyssey EX-L, and continues to love her minivan.

          I suspect that once her need for a minivan disappears, she’ll buy an AWD Pilot to replace it.

    • 0 avatar
      VW16v

      I agree with you on the transmission and other issues. Did you ever know someone that said his car has been great. Then you ask how much they have spent on repairs. Then they start giving excuses for the issues. Yeah, that ac and transmission was $6000. But it has been a great car. Well I think that explains a few of these posts.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    Why anyone would choose a Pilot over this is beyond me. It does everything better. If you really need an SUV to do SUV things, buy one designed for it from the get to (like a Tahoe, 4runner or Grand Cherokee).

  • avatar
    deanst

    Can you even buy a Quest in Canada anymore?

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    take care of the “trade” yourself and youll have eliminated 1/4th of the maths on their 4-square sheet.

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