Auto Blog

SATURDAY, DEC. 28, 2013, 7:58 A.M.

Honda Odyssey: The modern minivan

Minivans may have been last century’s big news, but you wouldn’t know it from behind the wheel of the 2014 Honda Odyssey. 

A mid-cycle refresh has the Odyssey feeling as fresh and contemporary as any of the crossovers that have displaced vans in the public’s wayward heart. 

The Odyssey (from $29,655, including destination) seats up to eight in a cabin that’s easily reconfigured to accommodate an apocalypse-worthy Costco run. Despite its large capacity, the Odyssey drives small. It’s responsive and easy to maneuver in traffic. On the road, it’s quiet and stable.

For 2014, mild sheet metal updates freshen curb appeal. A new six-speed automatic transmission replaces the five-speed found on last year’s lower trims. EPA ratings are a class-leading 19 city/28 highway/22 combined.

New infotainment features and a touch-screen control system modernize Odyssey’s twin-cockpit cabin. Controls for the optional navigation and infotainment systems are intuitive and user friendly.

All 2014 Odysseys include 8-inch color displays, Bluetooth streaming audio, Pandora radio and SMS text messaging. New lighting casts a soft blue ambience over upgraded cabin materials.

A four-way power front-passenger seat and one-touch turn signals are standard. The Expanded View driver’s mirror, also standard, reveals a field of vision that’s 19 percent greater than that of traditional mirrors.

The third-row bench slips simply into a well in the cargo-area floor and the three-piece center row can be removed piece by piece, creating a flat cargo floor and total cargo space of 148 cubic feet.

Rear-seat cinephiles will appreciate the entertainment system’s VGA screen resolution and split-screen capabilities. The ultra-wide screen of the Touring Elite trim ($45,280), has four times the screen resolution.

The Touring Elite also features the industry’s first in-vehicle vacuum cleaner. Housed in the cargo compartment sidewall, it’s powerful enough to clean up after hauling a load of firewood.

Assorted new features, both standard and optional, enhance comfort and safety. Among them: keyless ignition/entry, forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems.

Honda’s tres cool LaneWatch system shows a live 80-degree view down the length of the Odyssey’s passenger side when activated by the right-turn signal or a signal-stalk button,  

All Odysseys are powered by a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine with variable valve timing and Variable Cylinder Management. It’s paired with a new six-speed automatic that, despite its focus on efficiency, makes smooth, quick shifts.
Inland Northwest drivers might wish for an AWD option; Honda gives us only front-wheel-drive. 

Strategic use of high-strength steel boosts structural rigidity. An aluminum hood, fenders and suspension components help control weight.

Relative to crossovers, the Odyssey’s low center of gravity produces a stable, surefooted feel at highway speeds and through fast corners. Honda’s subtle, sure-handed approach to suspension and chassis dynamics give it a lively quality underhand. The ride is firm and controlled but compliant over rough surfaces. Steering is responsive and nicely weighted, with good on-center feel.

Though crossovers have stolen their box office thunder, the Odyssey gives buyers plenty of reason to reconsider the humble minivan. Sometimes old news is still good news.

2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite
Vehicle base price: $28,000
Trim level base price: $44,450
As tested: $45,280
Our fully loaded Touring Elite trim had no options.
EPA rating: 19 city/28 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

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Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.