2020 Honda Odyssey review: Like a Swiss army knife on wheels
Why do you people keep buying so many damn crossovers?! If cargo capacity and seating space are top priorities, you should really consider adding a minivan to your vehicular stable.
I don't know which committee decreed that these storage totes on wheels are uncool, but I'd like to put them on the receiving end of some copious finger wagging and give 'em a stern talking to. When it comes to efficiently hauling people or payload, crossovers can never really match the versatility of a good minivan, let alone a great one, like this 2020 Honda Odyssey .
Commemorating a quarter-century
What better way to celebrate the Odyssey's 25th birthday than with a healthy slathering of bling? Yes, the Odyssey has been with us for a quarter of a century now, so to pipe a little extra frosting onto its minivan, Honda introduced a 25th Anniversary package, a dealer-installed option that's available on all versions of this not-so-mini van, from the base LX model to the range-topping Elite version you see here.
Consisting mostly of appearance-enhancing items, this option group adds chrome-plated roof rails, body side moldings and lower door garnishes to Honda's people hauler. It also brings illuminated sill plates, unique fender badges and a special key fob to the table, along with a few other things. As for pricing, all this nougaty goodness costs $1,500 on its own, or $2,800 with the available 19-inch wheel package.
Further improving the breed for 2020, engineers made a couple other tweaks to the Odyssey for this latest model year. Stop-start and a 10-speed automatic transmission are now standard across the lineup, a couple welcome additions that, frankly, should have been included sooner.
Next, let's focus on what makes this minivan so gosh-darn useful. Depending on how it's configured, the Odyssey has room for seven or eight people. So, go ahead and toss those contraceptives in the trash.
Comfort is one of the Odyssey's strong suits. Its relaxed-fit front bucket seats are plenty restful. Moving rearward, the second row is also quite nice, both spacious and plush. These seats also have a nifty trick up their sleeve: There's a removable center section between the outboard chairs. When this portion is eliminated, the outer buckets can slide from side to side. This makes it easier to get into the third row, keep tabs on a fussy child sequestered in a car seat or just sit closer to your neighbor.
In a major coup for comfort, the third-row accommodations are actually adult-friendly. That back bench offers unexpected amounts of room for both knees and noggins, plus there are cup holders and even air vents for those passengers traveling in the economy-class cabin.
In typical Honda fashion, the Odyssey is loaded with storage cubbies. From the front door panels to the giant center console to behind the rearmost seats, there are more nooks and crannies than a loaf of artisanal sourdough bread. Power ports are also aplenty, and there's even a wireless charging pad.
When it's time to haul payload rather than passengers, this van also excels. The back-most seat smoothly tucks into the floor with an easy pull of a couple lanyards, leaving a mostly flat surface in its place.
That's all crackerjack, but there is a problem. The second-row seats are a total pain in the neck… and back, shoulders, arms, legs and hands to remove. Clocking in at nearly 70 pounds each, according to my bathroom scale, these seats super awkward to extract or install. Once they're out, you've got to find a place to stash them where they won't get dirty, damaged or stolen. At least when they're removed, the Odyssey should be able to accommodate 4-by-8 sheets of building material.
Honda's second-row seats may be slightly more comfortable, but Chrysler 's Stow 'N Go system, which is offered in its Pacifica minivan, is a far better solution. Those seats fold right into the floor, completely out of the way when not needed, which is super easy and not at all a strain on the back.
Tech and more
Another feature of note, Touring and Elite-trim Odysseys come with a vacuum cleaner integrated in the rear cargo area. This thing is surprisingly effective at sucking up dirt, cracker crumbs and other common minivan detritus.
Beyond that HondaVac, top-shelf Elite models also get standard leather seating surfaces and an 11-speaker audio system. There's a Blu-ray/DVD player for entertaining rear-seat passengers and tri-zone climate control, plus the front seats are heated and ventilated.
In Elite trim, the Odyssey's requisite infotainment system is splashed across an 8-inch display. It also features integrated navigation and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto should you rather not use the embedded multimedia offering.
There are two other items of note inside the Odyssey. One is called CabinWatch, the other CabinTalk. The former lets you keep tabs on folks sitting in the rear seats thanks to a small camera mounted in the headliner. The latter is like an in-vehicle PA system. It lets you converse with said people and you won't even have to raise your voice to do it.
Keeping motorists safe and secure, EX and higher models get Honda Sensing, the automaker's excellent suite of driver aids. This includes things like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, road-departure mitigation and more.
The adaptive cruise control works well, as does the lane-keeping system. If you cross a line, the vehicle flashes a warning in the instrument cluster and gently nudges the steering wheel to get you back on track. My test Odyssey was also equipped with blind-spot monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, LED headlamps with automatic high beams and power-folding side-view mirrors.
An electric parking brake is standard across the range, as is one of my favorite features, automatic brake hold. This keeps the vehicle stationary, so you don't have to maintain pressure on the pedal when stopped, which is super convenient.
When traffic clears and it's time to put a wiggle on, the Odyssey accelerates with remarkable ease. No, it's not fast, but it's fleeter than you might expect for something this chonky.
Enabling that performance is a smooth-running, 3.5-liter V6, the only powerplant offered. It's rated at a healthy 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. As mentioned, it's matched exclusively to a 10-speed automatic transmission, routing twist to just the front wheels. If you want four-corner traction in your minivan, you best head over to your local Toyota store. The Sienna is the only minivan offered in both front- and all-wheel-drive formats.
When driven aggressively, this Honda makes a nice, snarly sound. It's neither too loud nor unrefined, but it doesn't have a problem letting you know it's working, and I love that.
Features like direct fuel injection and cylinder deactivation help improve fuel economy. Active engine mounts keep things smooth when you're running on fewer than six pots. No matter the model, you can expect 19 miles per gallon city, 28 highway and 22 mpg combined in the Odyssey. In mixed, fairly heavy-footed driving, I managed around 22.5 mpg during my week with this van, at least according to the digital readout in the instrument cluster. As always, your mileage will vary.
The Odyssey's 10-speed transmission makes the most of its available power. The gearbox is usually quite smooth, though it is reluctant to downshift. You really have to prod the accelerator to get it to drop a ratio or five. As you might expect, putting the transmission in sport mode lessens this tendency.
Chart-topping crash-test scores are another feather in the Odyssey's cap. It should be safe in a wide range of wrecks, making it about as solid as a bank vault.
Would you consider it?
It's not as rugged-looking as your typical three-row crossover, but it's also more useful and comfortable. Safe and efficient, pleasant enough to drive, roomy inside and loaded with technology, this minivan is an excellent transportation option for both families and other folks that want a veritable Swiss army knife on wheels.
When it comes to pricing, the Odyssey won't necessarily decimate your budget. Sure, the range-topping Elite model tested here checked out for a borderline princely $48,415, but if you ain't that fancy, you could always drive home in a base LX version for about $31,785. Both of those prices include $1,095 in delivery fees.