Honda Odyssey Mildly Massaged for 2021
Clearly aware of what the minivan segment is all about, Honda has refreshed the Odyssey for 2021 with an obvious focus on the fundamentals. Practicality is the name of the game here, and with the Chrysler Pacifica and Toyota Sienna both receiving updates this annum, Honda didn’t want to be caught napping. But that doesn’t mean the brand has snapped wide awake, either.
Odyssey sales were down last year, with Honda unable to break 100,000 deliveries inside the United States for the first time this millennia. While the 2021 refresh could remedy that, the minivan segment doesn’t enjoy favorable positioning at the present time. Its competitors offer more variety, and Odyssey still doesn’t come with all-wheel drive — presumably because Honda thinks it’s unnecessary.
While that’s technically true (snow tires are more useful when the going gets slushy), there’s a subset of car customers who feel it’s a must-have option that Honda will continue to miss. They’ll be heading into Chrysler showrooms to drool over the handsome Pacifica’s laundry list of options or visiting Toyota to weigh the Sienna’s many practical merits against its curious exterior styling and less-than-lovely interior. Honda’s changes are mostly about leaning into Odyssey’s strengths and nullifying its shortcomings, the latter of which weren’t terribly prevalent to begin with.
Your author’s biggest gripe with the Odyssey has always been the second row seating. Well positioned and perfectly comfortable to sit in, they’re sometimes a real pain to remove. In the past, this was as a hassle common with all minivans (until Chrysler mastered stow-n-go for the second row, raising expectations). For 2021, Honda says it has revised the seats so they now fold flat — allowing for easier removal. While this probably isn’t something that will sway final purchasing decisions, it’ll give anyone who has cursed removable seats for an hour straight something to think about.
Exterior changes bring the minivan closer to the brand’s current design language. The new front end features LED headlights and a restyled grille reminiscent of the Accord. Meanwhile, Odyssey’s lower fascia now has a singular air inlet in the center and stacked fog lamps at the edges. The Elite trim also comes with 19-inch wheels using a new design and auto-dimming side mirrors.
With the exception of upgraded climate controls, most other meaningful changes are linked to trim. The Pacifica has the ability to be optioned into downright opulence, and Honda appears ready to spruce up the interiors of its own minivan to counter. Elite models once again have it the best, now coming with unique leather seats adorned with contrasting piping and stitching. However, even lower trimmed Odysseys (EX and higher, anyway) benefit from tri-color floor mats and illuminated USB ports. Going up the ladder adds fancier seats and piano black trim on the dash, doors and front door handles.
Safety tech also gets a bump, with all grades of the Odyssey receiving the Honda Sensing driver-assistance suite by default. Adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking will undoubtedly be nice , though we’re skeptical that the improvements made by the manufacturer will prove sufficient in drawing buyers away from its rivals — and that’s to say nothing of those customers who could probably use a minivan but will ultimately find themselves leaving the dealership in a crossover.
It’s a modest effort to improve a solid automobile that’s fighting a losing battle. Minivans are great and deserve a lot more credit than they receive, but it’s hard to gripe about a manufacturer not fully committing itself to a segment that might not even have a future. What would you do in Honda’s shoes?
[Images: Honda Motor Co.]
Conundrum on Mar 10, 2020
Good quality car ruined by inept styling. It looks like an old-fashioned giant perambulator. Dig those sexy side scallops and the broken-back look! Could anyone anywhere beat that, huh? Since the "restyle" of a couple years ago, new ones are thin on the ground. They appeal to every reason Mom wouldn't be caught dead driving a minivan - abjectly poor styling on a loaf of bread. Makes the vehicle easy to dismiss from famuly wish lists. The JDM market Odyssey manages to do without the aesthetic virtues of the US model, and substitutes a grille of amazing chrome instead, kind of a shiny gleaming overly-perky "Hi how are yuh?" look, made by going apesh!t on the CRV front end, and what a great place to start from, eh? Honda styling is about non-existent these days. I think Subaru's got 'em beat. The Pacifica is the only adult-styled minivan. Too bad it's made by the ace wizard FCA Assembly Teams from local and globally source cost-reduced parts of doubtful quality.
GoNavy99 on Mar 11, 2020
On our 2nd Odyssey (currently have a '18 Touring Elite). Can't say enough good things about this van. Leased it, and love it so much we're going to buy it (helps that we have the version with the 10 speed transmission). I'm no car dunce either - I've had several BMWs, an Audi, a Porsche, a Lexus LS (still in the garage) and a pickup truck. I drive this Odyssey and have no complaints. Punchy engine, solid construction, good all around. Only grip is with infotainment system, but the truth is I still don't own a car with an infotainment system I'd write home about.
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