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Auto review: Honda Odyssey brings a lot of bang for your buck

March 17, 2014

   
The 2014 Honda Odyssey offers such interior amenities as a built-in vacuum.

At what age do you finally realize that you’re no longer young?

Is it when you no longer recognize a song in the Top 10? Is it when you enjoy a bit of peace and quiet? Or maybe it’s when you realize, to your ultimate shock and horror, that a minivan really is handy for hauling people and stuff.

For those who succumb to the inevitable, there’s one minivan that stands as the hippest vehicle in an un-hip category: the 2014 Honda Odyssey.

It’s been that way from the beginning.

When it was first introduced, Honda’s Odyssey stood out. It wasn’t as large as its competitors. Its engine had only four cylinders, not six. Its doors never slid open, but swung open. Clearly, the Odyssey marched to the beat of a different drummer. It was the minivan to drive if you hated minivans. But it never sold in the numbers more traditional minivans did. It seems that minivan buyers didn’t have the inclination to try something different. Honda obliged them by making the Odyssey more like its competition.

Given its conservative consumer base, it’s understandable why, for 2014, the current Odyssey, which debuted in 2011, undergoes modest styling changes. The refresh does little to offset the odd side styling, which stands apart from other minivans.

Because the Odyssey minivan is hardly mini, and is barely able to fit in a standard-size garage, it offers an amazing amount of space to travel in comfort. The front seats are wide, with enough adjustments to satisfy both short and tall drivers. In fact, this vehicle is wide enough to easily accommodate three passengers in the second row — as long as they’re not siblings. Even the third row is habitable for full-sized human beings. And check out all of that cargo space — perfect for trips to the warehouse club.

And the Odyssey is packed with convenience features, although how many you get depends on trim level. It starts with the base LX, and ascends through EX, EX-L and Touring trim levels before reaching the undeniably well-equipped Touring Elite. It is this model that has a particularly useful feature: the HondaVac.

For any parent who has spent too much of their lives vacuuming up wayward Cheerios, animal crackers and gummy bears, this will be worthwhile. For those of you who don’t want to spend so much money to get one, just stash a car vac in the cargo net.

Still, this option is more useful than some others. For instance, the rear-seat 16.2-inch widescreen DVD entertainment system seems worthwhile until you realize that sibling squabbles would be more easily banished by buying them each tablets, rather than listening to them fight over which movie to watch.

Other bells and whistles, such as a rear-vision camera, Pandora interface, Bluetooth connectivity, four-way power passenger’s front seat and optional flip-up trash bag ring, are joined by some worthwhile safety items, including a blind-spot display, which shows vehicles in your van’s blind spot, as well as forward collision warning and lane-departure warning. That’s in addition to electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution, brake assist, front and side-curtain airbags and active front seat head restraints.

Given this, it’s little wonder that the Odyssey has once again garnered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s top "Overall Vehicle Score" with five-star ratings for the front-crash safety test and both side-crash safety tests. In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a "Top Safety Pick Plus" safety rating.

When it comes time to start your own odyssey, the Odyssey still has the handling precision you’d expect despite the priority given toward ride comfort. The van’s size and weight is hard to mask in corners and the steering lacks feedback that prior versions had. But it’s precise enough to easily maneuver this big bus. The body leans somewhat while cornering, but not alarmingly so, and the ride absorbs bumps fairly well without excess body motion. Braking is adequate.

As in 2013, the 3.5-liter V-6 still produces 248 horsepower. Now, however, it’s hooked to a six-speed automatic transmission on all models. Last year, only the Touring and Touring Elite models got a six-speed. The others had a less-efficient five-speed.

The Odyssey’s V-6 is surprisingly up to the task of moving all of this metal. It always retains its air of refinement, even when asked for more power. The transmission shifts unobtrusively, smoothly and quickly. It goes about its job efficiently, just what you’d expect from a minivan.

And aside from its odd styling, the updated Honda Odyssey remains at the top of its class for handling, fuel economy, comfort, safety and features. If you have a family, and all of the baggage that comes along, a minivan gives you maximum bang for your buck.

And the 2014 Honda Odyssey is best in class.

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2014 HONDA ODYSSEY:

—Engine: 3.5-liter SOHC V-6

—Horsepower/torque: 248/250

—Wheelbase: 118.1 inches

—Length: 202.9 inches

—Weight: 4,613 pounds

—Cargo space: 38.4-148.5 cubic feet

—Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds

—EPA rating (city/highway): 19/28 mpg

—Fuel consumption: 24.5 mpg

—Fuel type: Regular

—NHTSA safety rating: 5 stars

—Base price, base model: $28,825

—Base price, test model: $44,450

—As tested, including destination charge: $45,280

 

 

   

  McClatchy-Tribune Information Services