The 2016 Honda Odyssey stands at the top of the minivan heap, with more design flair and more driving enjoyment than most other three-row rivals.
Family vehicles don't get any more purpose-built than minivans. The 2016 Honda Odyssey isn't only an example of a minivan done well, but it's also an example of a family vehicle done well. It handles multiple combinations of passengers and cargo, kids and diaper bags—all while managing to be slightly fun to drive, and earning some of the highest ratings for safety around.
The current generation of the Odyssey definitely stands out a bit more, with its "lightning bolt" beltline design; a refresh a couple of years ago fine-tuned the visual appeal, with a more deeply sculpted hood, a bolder grille, darker-finish headlamp housings, and some front appearance tweaks that included chrome-trimmed fog lamps. In back, the LED taillight bars sharpen up the look, while inside a new center-stack design and fresh finishes keep the Odyssey up to speed in an automotive market that's constantly upping cabin appointments.
With 248 horsepower and 250 pound-feet of torque from a 3.5-liter V-6, and a 6-speed automatic transmission, this front-wheel-drive minivan has enough on reserve for strong passing, even with a full load. Although you'll never mistake the Odyssey for a sport sedan, the Odyssey definitely handles more like an Accord than a Pilot. The ride is a bit firm, but the Odyssey manages to combine ride comfort and handling prowess better than most family-haulers.
Inside—what matters most for a minivan, right?—the Odyssey is a surprisingly quiet and refined space. Active noise cancellation and active engine mounts both quell any vibrations from fuel-saving cylinder deactivation, as well as excess road noise. Cubbies and bins abound, with the center compartment between the front seats designed to swallow large items like a purse or tablet.
The seating layout is highly configurable, of course. An available split second row allows for the two outboard seats to be moved toward the doors (Honda calls this wide mode) to make more space for adults sitting side-by-side. The second and third row can also move relative to each other to provide better access to the rear seats or more comfort for the second-row passengers. There are five official LATCH connections, and in all, compared to most other three-row vehicles, even, you get a lot more flexibility in where child safety seats can be placed.
The current generation of the Honda Odyssey has been a standout when it comes to safety. It's been one of the few large vehicles to achieve top ratings from both U.S. safety agencies. The IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick, and the Odyssey has all the safety-feature bases covered, with a standard rearview camera system on all models, and the top Touring Elite getting an Expanded View Driver's Mirror, a blind-spot warning system, forward-collision and lane-departure warning.
Features, and value for money, are areas where the Odyssey doesn't quite add up to a grand slam. The base Odyssey LX includes Bluetooth hands-free calling, Honda's intelligent Multi-Information Display, and an 8.0-inch screen, in addition to a USB audio port and 2 GB of audio storage and a USB audio port; but many of the most desirable features remain the exclusive domain of the Touring and Touring Elite models.
The top Odyssey Touring Elite model gets many of the best features in the lineup, including the HondaLink infotainment suite, which allows owners to use a smartphone app to access Aha Internet-based entertainment, or hear Facebook and Twitter updates via text-to-speech. There's also a 650-watt sound system with hard-disk storage, the ultra-wide-screen system, theater surround sound, and HID headlamps, and a standout 16.2-inch wide-screen entertainment system, which can even split the screen in half to display two separate inputs (including HDMI).
Perhaps the Odyssey Touring Elite's most enticing feature is the HondaVAC system—a powerful integrated vacuum cleaner located on the left side of the cargo compartment.
The Odyssey achieves fuel economy ratings of 19 mpg city, 28 highway, 22 combined, which is among the best in its class and only slightly lower than the Nissan Quest's 23 mpg combined rating.