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2021 Honda Odyssey: Country’s best-selling minivan loaded with new family friendly tricks

A true test of the 2021 Honda Odyssey would involve a clutch of kids and a pile of gear.

Load ‘em up and head out for a ski trip, a post-pandemic visit with the grands or a weekend or a weekend of camping at Priest.

Though there are just three of them, my now-grown children — with all their stuff and the family camping gear and a spare friend or two — would have put Odyssey to the test. 

These are the reflections of a man, now a grandparent himself, driving solo in an eight-passenger minivan. A rig with 163 cubic feet of passenger space and another 32 cf of cargo space behind the third-row seats.

Odyssey has more cargo space than the large SUVs and crossovers. Unlike theirs, its third-row seats are roomy enough for adults and easily accessed. 

Best-selling van in US

Thanks to its attention to detail, comfortable accommodations and broad array of tech features, Odyssey has been America’s best-selling van for the past 10 years.

Odyssey received a full make-over in 2018. This year, modest sheet metal updates and a slew of new family friendly features debut.

Redesigned front and rear fascias give Odyssey a trimmer and, to these eyes, more appealing look. 

Inside, reengineered second-row “Magic Slide” seats, standard on all but the base trim, boost flexibility of the seating arrangements.

New grocery-bag hooks are mounted to the third-row seatbacks. A standard rear-seat reminder system prevents parents from forgetting pets, groceries or even children they may have left back there.

Honda Sensing now standard

The Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist features is newly standard across the line. The forward-collision warning system now detects pedestrians. The adaptive cruise control system is recalibrated to works in stop-and-go conditions. 

A blind-spot warning system, with rear-collision detection, is now standard on the EX and above.

Odyssey is available in five trims: LX ($31,790), EX ($35,190), EX-L ($38,400), Touring: $42,500 and Elite ($47,820). 

Honda reduces the price of the Touring by $2,500 this year, creating more even spacing between the EX-L and the Elite. The move costs the Touring its hands-free liftgate and built-in vacuum (a true godsend after a weekend at the beach). 

Abundant power, mediocre mileage

Both features are now found only on the Elite.

Honda’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 powers all Odysseys. It is mated with a 10-speed automatic that shifts smoothly even during low-speed driving. 

The 4,500-pound van accelerates from 0-60 in the high 7-second range and has a 3,500-pound towing capacity.

The EPA estimates a middling fuel-efficiency rating of 22 mpg combined. If Honda wants to keep up with the Joneses, a hybrid is in order.

Odyssey’s easy-going ride tames the impact of all but the worst broken road surfaces. Its suspension holds body lean at acceptable levels in the curves. Steering is not as sharp as expected from Honda and is a touch vague on-center.

Quiet, comfortable, unassuming

Odyssey’s cabin is comfortable, remarkably quiet and completely unassuming. It prioritizes quality materials, impeccable fit-and-finish and ease of operation over a flashy layout or bold color schemes.

User-friendly infotainment controls are an easy reach and simple menus prevail. The base trim gets a 5-inch touchscreen. EX and above get an 8-incher, along with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and satellite radio.

Honda is the master of packaging and an amazing array of casual storage option flood Odyssey’s front cabin. A redesigned center console adds a clever cord-management system to detangle the power cords of multiple handheld devices.

Assorted cellphone slots, lockable bins and sliding partitions challenge families to fill them with endless odds and ends.

The top trims include a pair of parent-friendly features. CabinWatch uses a wide-angle lens fixed above the second row that provides a bird’s-eye view of the seats, including into a rear-facing child seat. CabinTalk lets you address your charges through the rear speakers and/or the headphones of the rear-seat entertainment system.

It’s too late for my kids and me, but not for me and my grandkids. When the pandemic ends, maybe I’ll round ‘em all up and head on out.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2021 Honda Odyssey Elite
Vehicle base price: $32,910
Trim level base price: $47,820
As tested: $49,335 (includes destination and handling)
Options: Forest Mist metallic paint
Tow rating: 3500 pounds
EPA rating: 22 combined/19 city/28 highway
Regular gas specified



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