The minivan: a dependable mode of transport for families worldwide since the mid 80's. They may be far from being an enthusiast's choice but when it comes to sense alone, they're hard to beat. Given our family-oriented values, it's safe to say the minivan suits the Filipino family rather well.
Along with MPV's, this decade sees a healthy offering of minivans in the local market today. You can get car-like refinement and handling with the benefit of carrying seven for under one million pesos. But what if you want more from your family shuttle? Enter the Honda Odyssey, the automaker's premium minivan.
We reviewed the Odyssey last year in top of the line EX-V Navi trim and we were impressed with luxuries and its design. Since that model's release Honda is now offering a more affordable version that takes away some of the toys. Will a de-specced Odyssey still impress? Honda hands us the keys to the entry-level Odyssey EX.
I said keys because the EX loses out on the smart fob found in the EX-V Navi. We'll get to that later but first, the exterior. The Odyssey EX misses out on the body kit from its higher trim sibling, as well as those handsome 17 inch wheels and chrome trim. Instead, it rides on smaller, 16 inch wheels and is mostly devoid of chrome. Draped in Super Platinum (silver), the color does no favors in sprucing up the Odyssey's exterior. It hides the Odyssey's well defined lines and, imagining it a livelier color, this minivan is a good looking car.
It's on the inside is where the Odyssey shines. The soft seats are a pleasure to sit on and there are acres of legroom in the second row. You can also slide the second row back for even more space to stretch your legs. Thankfully retained in the Odyssey EX are aircon vents for the second and third row seats — especially handy since the large windows let in a lot of heat. Speaking of windows, visibility is another strong suit of the Odyssey, leaving little blind spots and making the generous interior space feel even more spacious. The stowage of the third row seats were a source of amusement for me, it first tumbles forward, then pivots backwards, cleverly hiding it to create a flat loading bay.
In this trim level, Honda deleted the power seats, leather trim, triple zone climate control and the airplane-style Ottoman chairs for the second row. The Odyssey EX keeps the touchscreen seen on the EX-V Navi sans the navigation function. Those needing more seats won't mourn the loss of the Ottoman chairs since in their place is a more practical bench seat with a triple split function. It may lose a bit of equipment, but that extra seat may be the key for customers to opt for this variant instead. Also, the EX trim level retains the power sliding door on the left side, making entry and exit as easy as a push of a button or a pull of the handle.
Powering the Odyssey EX is the same 2.4 liter i-VTEC mill seen in the Accord. Packing Earth Dreams tech, it produces 175 PS and 226 Nm and is mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). It also comes with automatic stop-start to save on fuel during gridlocks.
Around town, the engine provides adequate power, although loading up the Odyssey sees it struggling to carry the extra weight. As with CVTs, a bit of patience is required when accelerating, but once you're rolling, the 2.4 liter engine is up to the task, loaded or not. It does steer well for an minivan, owing its front suspension to the Honda Accord.
Perhaps the benefit of rolling on smaller wheels is a better ride. While the Odyssey drives well, the second row is the place to be. The room to stretch out and the soft seats make it a great car to be driven in. Thanks to the sliding second row, third row occupants can still have a decent amount of legroom. Couple that with the good suspension damping and it may be enough for you to put down a reservation for one in your nearest Honda dealership.
While it can seat eight, this leaves just about enough space for cargo with all seats up. It can carry people and haul cargo, but not at the same time. On a higher note, cargo capacity with the third row stowed is cavernous, easily taking in a folding bike, along with groceries with room to spare.
Out on the highway, the Odyssey needs revs when merging from exits. The power may be enough for the city but a bit of planning is required when it comes to overtaking. Not that it's a weak engine, the Odyssey delivers its power higher up the rev range. With the purpose of carrying people, I think the Odyssey needs more low-end grunt. As a cruiser however, the Odyssey is an excellent one, staying quiet, composed and comfortable.
Fuel economy is decent for a 2.4 liter engine. Around town, I averaged 7.2 kilometers per liter with stop-start engaged along with an average of 18 km/h. On the highway, that figure jumps to 12.3 with cruise control set at 95 km/h. It's reasonably efficient but the Odyssey needs a bigger fuel tank as it lacks range for long distance drives.
There may be a lot of equipment removed from the Odyssey EX but I'm glad to report that Honda did not scrimp of safety features. It still has a multi-view reverse camera, Vehicle Stability Assist, traction control, hill start assist and curtain airbags.
As a minivan, the Odyssey is an excellent one, fulfilling the task of a family hauler and grocery-getter in one comfortable and refined package. At Php 1,948,000, the Odyssey isn't exactly a bargain when you factor in the lack of equipment. However, when you compare it against its chief rivals such as the Toyota Previa, Kia Carnival, Peugeot 5008 and, to some extent, the Chrysler Town and Country, the Odyssey EX is actually the value leader of the group. While it's not a direct competitor, the range-topping Toyota Innova V is an MPV and the pickup roots may turn off some people. At this point, the Odyssey EX suddenly makes sense.
The question “does an entry-level Odyssey still impress?” is a difficult one to answer. The premium you're paying for in the Odyssey EX is the versatility and comfort this minivan offers. If that's what you're looking for in a minivan — a premium one nonetheless — then it would have to be a 'yes.'