The Honda Odyssey defies the stigma of minivans as a collection of boredom on wheels. It may still be a vehicle driven often by overprotective youth parents late for youth soccer practice or a swim meet.

But the enduring Odyssey should be more fairly recognized. It’s among the industry’s most versatile vehicles.

Largely unchanged since the current generation debuted in 2018, the Odyssey is ideal for a family of one seeking a high-sitting, confident vehicle with plenty of space for friends, work equipment or leisure stuff. The three-row van also drives like a car and has a cavernous interior for a large family or even a sizable youth team.

Unveiled 30 years ago, the Odyssey is now in its fifth generation and is among a small, re-emerging segment that includes evolving competition. The category includes the Chrysler Pacifica and its hybrid sibling, the Kia Carnival, the Toyota Sienna, the Chevrolet Traverse and the new VW ID Buzz.

The 2024 Odyssey is available in EX, EX-L, Sport, Touring and Elite trim levels, all with seating for seven. A 3.5-liter V6 engine with 280 horsepower is matched with a 10-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive.

All trims have a healthy standard features list, with the reviewed Elite model offering eight features its siblings don’t have. The list: rain-sensing wipers, power-folding and auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a hands-free power liftgate, sound-reducing side and rear window glass, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, a wireless smartphone charging pad and an 11-speaker premium audio system.

The XL trim enhances the comfort and convenience offerings with an in-cabin intercom system and rear-cabin camera monitoring system. Rear-seat occupants can enjoy an entertainment system with a 10.2-inch screen, Blu-ray player and wireless headphones.

But also consider the base EX trim. It’s stocked with equipment not offered in some competitors’ top-line trims. Consider: LED headlights and foglights, heated exterior mirrors, triple-zone automatic climate control, second-row sunshades and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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Safety has long been a Honda strength. The Odyssey follows the brand’s reputation, forward-collision warning with automatic braking to lane departure mitigation and lane centering system to a blind-spot warning.

Minivans’ forte is versatility, not performance. The Odyssey advances from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds. It’s the segment’s standard effort. Gas mileage averages are 19 miles per gallon in city driving, 28 mpg on the highway. It may be the van’s only disappointment. With hybrids faring far better than gas-only models, Honda needs to improve its fuel efficiency.

The Odyssey’s versatility is defined by its comfort and configuration. Second-row seats slide forward, back and sideways, opening up lots of space when needed. Larger items will likely only fit if the second-row seats are removed, an inconvenient task. They maneuver well but are heavy. Honda calls the configuration, “Magic Seats.” But each seat weighs 68 pounds.

On the contrary, both rear doors open efficiently with a single push of the handle or via the key fob. The interior space is cavernous, large enough for standard sheets of plywood or a futon for a makeshift sleeping area.

The Odyssey’s best feature is the drive. The van’s high seating gives the driver a secure perch with great road visibility. Passengers ride comfortably. Road imperfections are handled smoothly, making the experience not too dissimilar from cruising along in a town car.

Honda makes superior vehicles, but it also remains adamant about offering its long-standing 3-year, 36,000-mile warranty. The Kia Carnival has the manufacturer’s 10-year, 100,000-mile policy.

The variance isn’t a dealbreaker. The top-line Odyssey is about a $51,000 purchase and it will serve a family of any size well.

James Raia, a syndicated automotive columnist in Sacramento, is the founder and senior editor of theweeklydriver.com. It features a free newsletter and podcast. Email: james@jamesraia.com.

 

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