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Auto industry, Cars, Fuel efficiency, Quality, Reviews

Driving the Honda Odyssey

Minivans take a lot of abuse. Not just from all the stuff they cart around, the parking lot dings they endure and the variety of bumps and scrapes they put up with from kids, bikes, potholes, etc. They’re also the subject of a great deal of psychological abuse. People love to hate them, even people who own and drive them every day. There are people — and I know a few — who grudgingly accept the fact that they’re in the minivan phase of their lives but still count the days until they can move up into the luxury SUV or sport sedan market.

Now, that attitude says more about the people than it does about their vehicles. But, what gets lost in all that self- and automotive loathing is just how darned practical minivans are. There are few vehicles that can easily haul a lot of stuff and get passengers (kids and adults) into and out of them without a lot of bending or climbing.

Take the Honda Odyssey for example. It’s quiet, powerful, easy to park and easy to enter and exit. Plus it’s loaded with cupholders — which still are, by the way, a key indicator of automotive quality for many people — as well as lots of smart and compact storage spaces.

When I say it’s quiet, I mean that it’s sealed so well that most road noise is blocked out. The engine makes nary a whisper. Sad news for hardcore gearheads, but happy news for people who are trying to carry on a conversation as they drive.

After spending two weeks driving the 2015 Touring (top of the line) edition, the Odyssey felt like a capable sidekick that was able to take on pretty much anything. Granted, the Touring edition, which starts at $48,410,  included pretty much every option available (including the much celebrated, by my daughter and her friends at least, rear widescreen DVD player).

The Odyssey easily holds its own on the highway and never felt like it was labouring under any load, even when I was carting seven girls to a birthday party. That was when the third row seats came in handy. Roomy, but not really meant for adults to occupy them for any stretch of time, the third row nonetheless is a great tool to have in your minivan toolbox.

But another bonus is the configurable second row. Not only can the second row accommodate three child seats, but the middle seat folds down as needed, giving the other two passengers a bit of elbow room. They can also slide fore and aft to give everyone a bit more leg room. And, once you fold the third row down into the floor and remove the second row, you have enough room (says Honda) to load in 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood. Want more convenience? The Touring model comes with a built-in vacuum cleaner.

The driver’s seat was extremely comfortable and all the controls were easy to reach. Another plus of the boxy shape of most minivans means great visibility with very few blind spots. Rear sliding doors on both sides made getting into and out of the van easy, especially when parked in tight spaces.

As important as comfort is, the Odyssey has power to match. The 3.5L V6 engine helped it pull away from stoplights like a pro and accelerate on the highway with no hesitation. Honda puts the Odyssey’s fuel economy at 12.3 L/100 km (city), 8.5 L/100 km. (highway).

The Odyssey is an all-round refined vehicle that serves many purposes. It’s hard to hate, so why not just enjoy the minivan years?

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About Paul Ferriss

Paul Ferriss is a writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He is editor of CAA Magazine (published for the Canadian Automobile Association by Totem, a custom content agency.) He's also Totem's director of creative and editorial. Previously he was executive editor at Marketing, a magazine covering advertising, media and marketing, where he also covered automotive marketing and managed an editorial team. He also works as a freelance writer and has written for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites including The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post and Canadian Business. He's the author of Never Too Fast: The Paul Tracy Story.

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