1. What’s new for 2015?
This stylish and accommodating minivan is unchanged following a modest revision for model-year 2014 that included addition of a six-speed automatic transmission and the much-publicized HondaVAC in-vehicle vacuum cleaning system. This remains one of the top entries in a shrinking market segment. It’s distinctive look is highlighted by a lightning-bolt shaped character line at the rear side windows. Potential minivan buyers have been turning to SUVs for their more rugged image, yet the minivan remains in our opinion the ideal family transportation. They’re the easiest vehicles in which to buckle a baby or toddler into a car seat, even in a crowded parking lot, given the wide, slide-open (and power operated) side doors. Attributes also include large cargo holds, ample convenience features, and flexible seating that can accommodate seven passengers — eight in Odyssey’s case — or full sheets of building materials with the seats folded flat and/or into the floor.
2. How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?
Base-price range is $29,805-$45,430 including Honda’s $830 destination fee. This is one of the costlier minivans, though the 2015 Chrysler Town & Country starts a bit higher, at $30,990, and the Toyota Sienna’s top model lists for $47,035. This is hardly Honda’s highest volume vehicle, but industry sources have indicated its profitable to both the automaker and its dealers, with most going out the door loaded up with features. A hard-nosed haggler can certainly wrangle a decent discount. But don’t expect to see much, if anything, in the way of cash rebates or other incentives. A good deal, according to Kelley Blue Book, would be $2,079 off a midrange EX trim-level Odyssey priced by Honda at $33,985.
3. When will the next big change be?
Having just been refreshed for 2014, expect the next full redesign for the 2017 model year. As before it will likely share a basic structure and many components with the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX crossover SUVs. With the minivan’s price swelling considerably in recent years, look for the next generation to be designed with cost-cutting measures in mind. Reportedly these changes could include a revised suspension that takes a more-basic approach – perhaps with a lower-cost air suspension at all four corners. Power is likely to come from a version of the automaker’s Earth Dreams 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission currently offered in its Accord sedan. Expect a full array of family friendly infotainment features to continue, along with the latest high-tech accident avoidance systems, including a forward collision mitigation system with an auto-braking function.
4. What options or trim level is best for me?
Families on a budget will want to choose an EX-trim Odyssey to obtain most required features without reaching prohibitively far into the $30,000 range. This version includes a Bluetooth interface with full smartphone connectivity, text message alerts, and the ability to stream music from the Pandora Internet music service. It also comes with a backup camera, push-button entry/start, and Honda’s LaneWatch display that uses a camera and in-dash display to provide an enhanced view of the passenger-side roadway when the right turn signal is engaged. As with most Hondas, there are no factory installed standalone options; the only way to added features would be to choose a higher trim level. To that end, those with deeper pockets might want to consider the EX-L version with leather seats and both forward collision and lane departure warning systems for added safety; the EX-L RES model adds a rear DVD entertainment system. The aforementioned in-vehicle vacuum system is only available with the top Touring model (which also offers surround-sound audio with HD radio and few other amenities), but an inexpensive 12-volt portable unit purchased at an auto parts or department store can largely serve the same function.
5. What engine do you recommend?
The Odyssey offers only a single powertrain choice, in this case a competent 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a sufficient, though hardly stirring, 248 horsepower and a smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission. This engine is capable of shutting down select cylinders while at cruising speeds to help save fuel.
6. How does the Odyssey handle?
It handles surprisingly well for such a large and boxy vehicle, though it’s hardly considered sporty in that regard. It features easygoing steering for around-town use, yet feels stable at highway speeds. It rides on a suspension that’s tuned to absorb pavement bumps and jolts without unduly disturbing the vehicle’s occupants.
7. How is the fuel economy?
Rated by the EPA at 19/28/22 mpg city/highway/combined, the gas mileage is not particularly frugal, but it is at the top of the pack among minivans, not counting Mazda’s compact-sized four-cylinder Mazda5. The Nissan Quest comes the closest at 20/27/22 mpg. However, even the least efficient models in this class, the 2015 Kia Sedona and the all-wheel-drive version of the Toyota Sienna are not far off the mark, at 17/22/19 mpg and 16/23/19 mpg, respectively.
8. Are the controls easy to use?
The dashboard may seem a bit busy looking, but upon second glance you’ll find the gauges are large and legible, and both the center stack’s conventional controls and touchscreen display (the latter included with most models) to be reasonably easy and intuitive to operate. A number of buttons on the steering wheel for cruise control and other systems are particularly convenient, though less so are voice-activated commands that, as in most cars, can be hit or miss in their execution. The shift lever is situated on the dashboard, which frees up room in the center console for large cupholders and storage. Unfortunately either of the two dashboard LCD digital displays can become washed out in bright sunlight.
9. Is it comfortable?
As with most minivans, the Odyssey is designed with passenger comfort in mind. There’s plenty of room up front for the tallest passengers to ride without feeling claustrophobic, with second row seats likewise offering ample room for adults. The third row seat, however, is best suited for the kids, both in terms of legroom and passenger access. Fortunately the third row seatbacks can fold flat into the floor to expand cargo space as needed; when in their upright position a recessed cargo area helps contain groceries and other smaller objects.
10. What about safety?
The 2015 edition receives a top five-star rating for overall occupant protection in frontal and side-impact crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It likewise receives top “good” ratings across the board in frontal, side impact, roof crush, and head protection crash tests as conducted by the influential, insurance-industry-funded Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). This includes the Institute’s stricter “small overlap test,” which is designed to emulate what happens when a vehicle’s left-front corner strikes a pole or other obstruction. As such the minivan received a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS for 2015.
11. How’s the reliability and resale value?
Perhaps minivan owners are a particularly picky lot, but the Honda Odyssey received only two out of five possible “power circles” in the most recent (model year 2014) initial quality survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. On the other hand, it garnered a top five-circle score for overall performance and design, in the company’s most recent Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study. It received an average three circles for long-term reliability from J.D. Power, based on surveys of consumers owning model-year 2011 Odysseys. It fares well in terms of resale value, receiving a four-star (out of five stars) rating from the valuation experts at ALG. It also received a 2015 ALG Residual Value Award in the minivan class.
12. Is it better than the competition?
The Odyssey is a solid overall performer with ample interior room and comfort and is well worth consideration. Unfortunately it doesn’t offer as many clever features as come of its competitors, which is what tends to make one minivan stand out from another. The Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan, for example, include both second and third row seats that fold flat into the floor for maximum passenger and cargo carrying flexibility, and a DVD entertainment system with separate screens for both rear rows of seats. The Toyota Sienna remains the only minivan to offer optional all-wheel-drive for added traction in snow and over wet pavement and likewise is the only entry to make available a power operated access seat for the second row that extends outward and to the pavement for the benefit of elderly and infirm riders. The Sienna also can be fitted with a unique widescreen DVD entertainment system that can display video from two separate sources simultaneously in split-screen mode. What’s more, at 248 horsepower, the Odyssey’s V-6 engine is outclassed by all of its direct competitors, with the Town & Country and Grand Caravan being the segment leaders with 3.6-liter V-6 engines that generate a stronger 283 horsepower.