Life circumstances force some folks to buy minivans. Others do so for the utility – coolness be damned.
Regardless of why one buys a minivan, he or she probably anticipates that the driving experience will be far from fun. But that’s not always the case – Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid (review forthcoming) isn’t a chore to drive. And Honda’s Odyssey is more engaging than the Chrysler.
Relative to the class, of course. We’ll get to that.
Facing off against a stalwart Chrysler Pacifica and reborn Voyager, all-new Kia Sedona, and newly hybridized Toyota Sienna, the 2021 Honda Odyssey lopes into the coming model year with a mild refresh in tow.
Minor trim and content enhancements complete the mid-cycle overhaul, but Odyssey aficionados living north of the border are in for a shock.
It’s true that the once-hot minivan segment was shrinking rapidly even before the pandemic hit. Since then, things have only gotten worse for a vehicle type once seen as the go-to conveyance for growing families.
How bad is it? Our own Tim Cain recently traded in his Honda Odyssey for a shiny new Ridgeline pickup. We were aghast.
Well, this turn of events hasn’t stopped Honda from putting what it feels is its best minivan forward. For 2021, the Odyssey returns with a fresh(ened) face and new content. But can it budge the sales needle when it goes on sale next month?
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.
Ten speeds, that is. While the 2019 Odyssey only offered a 10-speed automatic in the lofty Touring and Elite trims, for 2020 the tranny becomes standard across the range. What’s the occasion? Well, a quarter century of life, for one, but the continued decline of the once-hot minivan segment can’t be discounted.
For buyers eager to unload an extra $1,500 on their 2020 Odyssey, Honda has a birthday package ready to go for all trims. Minivan ownership is already a special experience, but Honda wants owners to rub it in everyone’s face.
It’s best to just admit it: I have van envy. The educated among you will know that van envy, like many other communicable diseases, comes in a few forms. There’s Van Envy A, which is the traditional desire to have a boxy vehicle of some sort in the immediate vicinity for carrying children and accomplishing household tasks; this virus is typically found in the water supply of single-family homes. Van Envy B is indicated by repeated involuntary exclamations of “dajiban!” You catch that from accidental subculture immersion.
Van Envy MTB is when you can’t stop thinking about fitting out a fresh new Transit with a toolbox and internal bicycle mounts so you can take a quick trip to Ray’s Bike Park in Cleveland — or maybe Moab. The most virulent and damaging strain of the disease is Van Envy IG, which manifests in a gnawing sense of envy regarding attractive twenty-something couples who rootlessly travel the West holding drum circles and making love in converted high-roof Sprinters, subsisting on nothing but their income from selling woven bracelets at street fairs and an eight-figure trust fund.
Today’s question comes from someone who is suffering from precisely none of that. Instead, he has another condition. One marked by eroding telomere chains, drying skin, and a growing desire to watch Matlock. Chances are you have it too, although it might not be as severe.
A 16-year-old boy was killed last week after being trapped behind the third-row seat of a 2004 Honda Odyssey.
The incident happened Tuesday in Cincinnati. Initial reports indicate that Kyle Plush was trying to retrieve tennis equipment from the cargo area of his family’s van when the third-row bench seat, which he was reaching over, unexpectedly folded. He was turned upside-down and stuck beneath the seat.
He managed to make two calls to 911, but died of asphyxia by chest compression before authorities arrived.
Just about every sporting event I’ve ever attended – whether it’s hockey, baseball, or car racing – has been enjoyed from the cheap seats. Boiling it down to one or two reasons, I was either too cheap or too tardy to secure tickets closer to the action. Nevertheless, I always enjoyed it.
Honda’s newest take on the family hauler, and Tim Cain’s favorite topic, also has a set of cheap seats. It’s called the LX. Let’s see if they are closer to the sky lounge or penalty box.
2018 Honda Odyssey Elite Review - Innovative, Safe, Luxurious, and Powerful Eight-Seater; Yours for $48,000
You buy an iPhone 6 assuming you will like it more en-han you liked your old iPhone 5. You were excited to read Tender Is The Night because The Great Gatsby was a worthy tale. You had high hopes for The Godfather Part II on your Christmas holidays in 1974, having waited more than two years since The Godfather permanently altered cinema.
Expectations are everything, and my expectations for the 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite, a 280-horsepower, $47,610, eight-seater were high precisely because our garage houses a 2015 Honda Odyssey EX. My van isn’t perfect, but I’d happily buy another. And seven years after the fourth-generation Odyssey went into production, expectations for the fifth-generation model have grown significantly.
It’s 2017, not 2011. We expect quieter cabins, more powerful and more efficient engines, better interior materials, more standard features, and novel equipment.
In almost every facet, the fifth-gen 2018 Honda Odyssey is multiple steps beyond the fourth-gen Odyssey I own. But not every step forward is a step in the right direction.
Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that — all things considered — might just be the best choice for that particular model. Here’s a candidate.
Wait, wait, wait! Yes, this is a minivan … but before you scroll past this post to revel in Steph’s news reports or one of Jack’s adventures, consider this: when was the last time you bought something which truly made your life easier? Because that’s what minivans are all about.
They say the grass is greener on the other side. I say, just give me more grass on my side; any color will do.
I’m blessed with a job that enables me to work from home and drive a whole bunch of new cars. Strangely, even with a new vehicle delivered to my driveway each and every week, my desire to own a multitude of vehicles of different types – Miata and Wrangler, Mustang and Raptor, Suburban and M5, Volt and 911, Macan and GTI – only seems to increase. In other words, I’m not operating under the assumption that I’d find vehicular happiness if only I could have that vehicle. Rather, I’m under the belief that I’ll source vehicular happiness only if I own so many vehicles that I can always be able to exit my nonexistent garage/barn in the right vehicle for the right moment. This would require a Miata for sudden Friday night trips to the grocery store for children’s Tylenol, a Suburban for the holidays when all the family visits and wants to go out on our nonexistent boat, a Wrangler for those pointless off-road jaunts one takes when one owns a Wrangler, a Raptor for those pointless off-road jaunts one takes when one owns a Raptor and needs to pick up lumber on the way home, a Volt for the commuting I don’t do, a GTI for when we have a babysitter, a Macan for winter weekends away, and an M5 and 911 because, well, why not?
Alas, it is not to be. So we drive a 2015 Honda Odyssey.
TTAC commentator Land Ark writes:
Hello again Sajeev!
Before my new Honda question, just an update on the issue you helped me with previously. Short answer: I sold the Civic and made a few hundred bucks. The more I looked into it, the more I started to come to the realization that there likely was nothing wrong with the AC system, it was just not a good system.
On to my new question:
My coworker, who drives cars into the ground, recently lost his high mile 2006 Caravan to an accident. He asked me for some advice then ventured out on his own and bought a new van; a 2006 Honda Odyssey with 71k miles. As soon as I saw it I cringed.
Sajeev, I recently had a conversation with my cousin in Wisconsin. He claimed that cars assembled in North America are more rust prone than cars assembled in Japan or other oriental countries. Apparently his observation was based on several cars in our extended family: An elderly Dodge Durango and a not-so-elderly Honda Odyssey with the traditional clapped-out transmission.
I have never seen any statistics to support these ideas and really don’t recall reading suchlike statements in the TTAC in the past. That older American cars rust more than newer Japanese, and vice versa, seems natural and I recall seeing many old Japanese cars with severe corrosion damage, but what is the truth in this matter? Over to you and the B & B!
Stefan (’97 Fat Panther without a speck of rust)
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