Car reviews - Honda - Odyssey - VTi
Enormous cabin, handy electric side door, air vents for three rows, clever CVT delivers perky performance
Room for improvement
Poor engine and road noise suppression, lumpy and fidgety ride, flat front and middle seats, awkward seat-folding mechanism
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2 Jun 2017
Price and equipment
THE $37,610 plus on-road costs pricetag of the ‘17YM’ Odyssey VTi is unchanged compared with the pre-facelift model, but then very little has changed in the four years it has been on-sale.
On the outside there is a tweaked, darker grille applique, while inside there are now dual storage pockets on the backs of the front seats.
The eight-seat VTi misses the seven-seat VTi-L’s addition of Isofix child-seat anchor points and rear privacy glass, but the entry model is better value overall.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, electric rear passenger-side door, leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic headlights and wipers, and a reverse-view camera displayed on the 7.0-inch colour touchscreen.
The only omissions desirable even for the price are integrated satellite navigation, front and rear parking sensors and keyless auto-entry, all of which are, for $8880 extra, in the $46,490 VTi-L, as well as a panoramic sunroof, automatic park assistance and leather trim with heated front seats.
Gone is the low-slung mini-wagon dimensions of the previous-generation Odyssey, replaced by tall and long proportions that deliver cavernous cabin space in every direction. The closest rival to the Honda is its sales-chart nemesis, the likewise enormous and $3880-pricier Kia Carnival S.
The front seats of the VTi are set high, with excellent forward visibility thanks to a shallow dashboard design, but they are also very flat and overly firm pews that are less than comfortable. As expected from a Honda, fit and finish is excellent, however most plastics also feel cheap and the touchscreen is very basic, lacking the latest Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
At least the climate controls, woodgrain trim and leather-trimmed steering wheel elevate it beyond that of a typical ‘base’ model such as the Carnival S, which lacks all three items, although the Kia has a higher standard of finish and – most critically – surplus storage space that is lacking here.
Extra glitz and glamour especially fail to make up for the lack of seat comfort, however, given that the three-across second-row is as flat and unyielding as the fronts. Indeed, the third row is more appreciably tilted upwards to aid thigh support, although there is vast headroom and legroom in any position. The only exceptions concern a distinct lack of toe room under the front seats, while a rearmost trio will be shoulder-squeezed due to intrusive back wheel arches.
Also disappointing is a flawed second-row mechanism that tilts the backrest and slides the bench forward at the touch of a lever, but does not memorise the position settings when pushed back into place. The third-row offers a smarter and simpler tumble-fold mechanism, liberating extra boot volume beyond the standard, usable and small hatchback-rivalling 330-litre space.
Engine and transmission
In a people-mover with a kerb weight of 1727kg – before occupants – the very modest 2.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder should struggle, with only 129kW of power delivered at 6200rpm and 225Nm of torque produced at 4000rpm.
However, thanks in part to sharp throttle response working in tandem with a quick-thinking automatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), the Odyssey delivers perky performance when unladen and adept driveability even on steep hills.
While the VTi cannot match the brisk performance of the 3.3-litre V6-engined Carnival, it certainly punches above its weight. Unfortunately, the CVT also often forces the engine to work hard, which in turn means it is frequently spinning hard and using a lot of fuel.
Noise suppression through the firewall is limited in this people-mover, so a buzzy note at low speeds then segues into thrashy acoustics when extended, the combination of which is ever-present and becomes tiring. Some light hatchbacks at half the price offer greater drivetrain refinement.
Around town fuel consumption soared to beyond 15.0 litres per 100 kilometres, although it dropped to 10.5L/100km after a freeway stint – and closer to the 7.2L/100km combined-cycle consumption claim – thanks primarily to the CVT’s ability to drop revs to near-idle when cruising on flat ground.
Ride and handling
People-movers should arguably be smooth and quiet, in addition to offering vast room and ample seat comfort, but unfortunately this Honda only genuinely excels in delivering stretch-out space.
Despite modest 17-inch tyres, its ride quality is constantly restless and occasionally abrupt, even over ostensibly smooth surfaces. Even worse is the constant drone and rumble emanating from the wheelarches and undercarriage, which creates one of the loudest interiors of any new vehicle.
That lack of refinement became especially clear when driving over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and a caller on Bluetooth, despite volume being on maximum, had to be asked politely to speak louder.
Steering response is dull and resistant around town, but unexpectedly feels sharp and precise travelling on a winding country road.
The Odyssey likewise delivers surprisingly impressive handling, nimble and agile around town compared with other people-movers such as the Kia, and extending to a planted and secure disposition over bumpy backroads.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual front, front-side and full-length curtain protection), ABS, electronic stability control (ESC) and rearview camera are standard.
ANCAP tested the Honda Odyssey in 2014 and it scored 32.75 out of 37 possible points.
Bi-annual or 10,000km check-ups come at a capped-price cost of $1702 over three years, or an average of $284 for each of the six services.
Honda has confessed that the GFC impacted the company hard, and it has worked tirelessly to improve its dated model line-up with the new Civic and promising CR-V the comeback highlights.
However, in many ways this Odyssey is the unfortunate result of a cash-strapped era that saw research and development budgets slashed.
If supremely polished rivals such as the Carnival did not exist, then a case perhaps could be made that the supremely affordable pricing and enormous eight-seat cabin offset the obvious lack of refinement, sub-par seat and ride comfort, and even low active safety equipment – there is no autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and only the VTi-L gets a blind-spot monitor, for example.
This VTi misses the mark in too many ways, though, and although it is cheap, making the sub-$4000 stretch to the Kia must rank as among the best-value decisions in the business, particularly given the shorter (annual) servicing intervals and seven-year (versus three-year) warranty cover.
It is not the Honda Odyssey’s door configuration or van-like bodystyle that is the greatest issue, then – but rather the lack of ultimate depth and resolve in its execution.
Kia Carnival S from $41,490 plus on-road costs
A brilliant people-mover, with enduring comfort and quality to match its space.
Toyota Tarago GLi from $45,490 plus on-road costs
Old but not entirely aged, with more impressive NVH than Odyssey.
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