2021 Honda Odyssey: Kid Tested, Father Approved
Honda refreshed the Odyssey minivan for the 2021 model year. We told you about the updates in July. Overall, Honda kept changes to the Odyssey small. First, it gets a slightly changed design, though we’re not sure if it needed it. The techy Odyssey already looks like something out of a futuristic movie about soccer dads. There’s new black trim and new front lighting.
The Odyssey now gets the standard Honda Sensing safety suite of technologies, which includes low-speed follow, pedestrian emergency braking and traffic sign recognition. Those features join collision mitigation braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and a few other features.
Finally, the Odyssey now gets a rear seat reminder as standard fare, but it was really one of the few vehicles that didn’t need it, thanks to its CabinWatch features. CabinWatch trains a camera on the second row of seats to you can see what exactly the kids are doing back there, without turning your head. The video is displayed on the central screen, which is distracting, but cool. It even works at night when the kids are sleeping. You can watch their heads sway around with the g-forces as you clip the apexes of your neighborhood.
When the kids are awake, and noisy, there’s CabinTalk. It allows you to yell at them through the speakers, even if they’re wearing headphones. And the Odyssey has an auxiliary rearview mirror that focuses on the passengers. It’s placed where you’d typically find a sunglasses holder. Between CabinWatch, CabinTalk, and the mirror, seems unlikely to leave your kid in the car. But there’s definitely no excuse now.
My family has a Pacifica minivan, which we love. But one feature it doesn’t have are the Magic Seats. In the Odyssey, each side of the second row not only slides fore and aft, but also side to side. The first thing I did with Road Test Editor Jr. and Jr. Jr. was to slide those bad boys together to see how they reacted. As you can imagine, the feet and hands were flying the entire way.
These were playful kicks and smacks, of course. But as any parent knows, those playful kicks can quickly change to real ones. And hugs can turn into full headlocks at any second. My only complaint with the system is that the sliding function is manual. You have to get out, click the handle and slide. In a perfect world, I’d do that with a button. Still, it’s a fantastic system that neither Chrysler nor Toyota has.
A quick aside regarding those other vans. I assumed the Pacifica led sales, with Honda and the Toyota Sienna right behind. Wrong. The actual sales show that the old Dodge Grand Caravan is the sales leader with the Chrysler and Honda behind and nearly tied last year. The Sienna, a very good wagon, sold about two-thirds as many examples as Chrysler and Honda did last year. And they were about two-thirds of Grand Caravan sales. It’s even more surprising when you consider the Pacifica and Caravan have nearly the same starting price.
Back to the Honda and my messy kids entangled in headlocks. After a drive, I used the Honda vac, one of the best features in a van, to suck up a bowl of dry Cheerios. I was able to reach every corner of this beast. While the suction isn’t as powerful as your ShopVac at home, for loose, dry materials it works perfectly. If one had the wherewithal to use it weekly, I’d say they have a pretty good shot at keeping this van from becoming gross, which is what our Pacifica is now.
The 2021 Honda Odyssey keeps the 3.5-liter V6 and ten-speed automatic making 280 hp and returning 28 mpg on the highway. It’s fine, plenty quick, but I’m guessing most people don’t buy their minivans on the excitement of the powertrains. The Pacfica, this Honda, and the Sienna all have V6s and all are faster than most cars these kids will be driving in the near future, which is a good thing.
Just like with any car, when picking a minivan, you start with the features you and your family need, and work back from there. For instance, the Pacifica can fit a 4×8 piece of plywood, the Odyssey can’t. But Honda noted a study that found minivan owners rarely use their minivans like a pickup truck. That makes me an outlier, I suppose.
If you want to stow and go, Pacifica is your choice. If you want to be able to slide those kids together, or apart, and keep an eye on them in the dark, the Odyssey is there for you. And if you loved the Swagger Wagon campaign, the Sienna is the one to buy.
The 2021 Honda Odyssey starts at $31,790, a few grand more than the Pacifica, and goes up to $47,820 for the Elite trim with the vacuum, heated and cooled seats, a hands-free power tailgate and more. The Magic Slide seats, however, start on the EX trim, which is only $35,190. It could be the most important feature you ever spec.
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