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Driven: New-gen Honda Odyssey rolls in from $39k

On rails: The new Honda Odyssey comes with sliding doors, unlike the outgoing version.

Seven- or eight-seater Honda Odyssey arrives with a big sales jump expected

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Honda logo11 Feb 2014

HONDA has set its sights on a much bigger slice of the people-mover market with its new-generation Odyssey, projecting sales to almost double over last year at an average of around 160 units per month.

Honda Australia director Steve Collins said while the current-generation Odyssey commanded 40 per cent of private sales in the people-mover segment, the brand was out to snare more volume with a vehicle aimed at fleet, rather than just private, buyers.

“The people-mover segment has 37 per cent of private buyers compared with around 57 per cent in other segments of the market,” Mr Collins said. “We’re still aimed at that 40 per cent (private) market share, but we want to expand sales into corporate fleets and limousine services.”

The eight-seat version of Honda’s fifth-generation Odyssey is packaged to appeal to traditional family buyers who need the flexibility of carrying extra passengers, while the corporate version – featuring a pair of airline-style reclining seats, sets more of a corporate image.

On sale now, the new Odyssey VTi, as the new base variant is known, is priced from $38,990 plus on-road costs for an eight-seat version that increases occupancy by another seat, but adds $3890 on top of the outgoing model.

At the high end, the Odyssey VTi-L, as the model formerly known as the Luxury becomes, adds $4700 over the old price, climbing to $47,620. This version becomes more like a four-seat luxury limousine with occasional third-row seating than a traditional people-mover.

For the extra outlay over its predecessor, you do get more for your money. The most obvious is that the entry-level VTi rolls on 17-inch alloy wheels, and not the 16-inch hoops of the model it replaces.

In terms of driver convenience, the VTi comes with dusk-sensing headlights, a new touch-screen interface that interacts with a smartphone (currently only an iPhone) to provide navigation functions, a Bluetooth phone connection, front and rear-seat climate control, power windows with an automatic function for the drivers seat, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control and a hill start assist system that automatically grabs the brakes while stopped on a slope.

The Odyssey’s move from conventional rear doors, too, brings its benefits.

Entry to the second row is now via sliding doors, which even on the base version includes electric opening and closing on the kerb side.

There’s still all the fancy bits, such as the LED rear tail-lights and halogen headlights on the base variant (but LEDs on the more upmarket version), but the new model retains the clunky foot-operated parking brake.

In terms of passenger comfort, the eight-seat base variant includes 10 drink holders, up from the previous version’s eight, two USB ports, and even a HDMI port so a video camera can play back vision over the multimedia screen.

All Odysseys come with six airbags, including a curtain bag that reaches all the way to the third-row seating. Honda says it expects to achieve ANCAP's maximum five-star safety score when the car is tested.

The more upmarket VTi-L adds electric adjustment and a heater function to both front seats, with the driver able to adjust eight different ways and the front-seat passenger four, while the seat trim jumps from cloth to leather-accented.

The big news, though, is in the second row, where the bench is replaced with a pair of reclining captain’s chairs that include a pop-out ottoman — or footrest, if you’re being less fancy. The captain’s chairs also slide rearwards, liberating what Honda claims is limousine-like rear-seat legroom.

The more upmarket variant includes electric sliding doors on both sides of the car, keyless start and entry, headlights that can peer around corners, fog lights, self-steering parking, a surround-view camera system, electric sunroof, sunshades on the sliding doors and a blind-spot warning system that warns of cross traffic if you’re backing out of a car park.

The Odyssey’s engine has stepped down in tuning compared with the old model’s 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, falling from 132kW of power at 6500rpm to 129kW at 6200rpm in the chase for fuel economy.

However, torque is improved to aid with city driving, stepping up from the old Odyssey’s 218Nm at 4500rpm to 255Nm at a much lower 4000rpm.

Gone, too, is the old five-speed automatic transmission, replaced in this generation with a rev-friendly continuously variable transmission, which is theoretically much better at keeping the engine in its power and torque sweet spots.

It all helps in terms of fuel savings. The old Odyssey officially used 8.9 litres per 100 kilometres, although real-world figures could soar a lot higher with a heavy right foot. The new one officially cuts that to 7.6L/100km for the VTi — a saving of 14 per cent over the outgoing model — and 7.8L/100km for the heavier VTi-L.

Those good figures for such a large vehicle are helped by an idle-stop system that shuts down the engine when the Odyssey is stopped in traffic, and restarting it as soon as the driver’s foot darts to liftoff the brake pedal.

Kerb weight jumps by more than 130kg — about two extra passengers — to 1776kg in the base model, while the more luxurious version steps up by almost 120kg to tip the scales at 1819kg.

However, this new Odyssey introduces some now-familiar Honda technology that trains the driver to be aware of fuel use, growing a tree on the dash as more fuel is saved.

The new Odyssey is about a 50 cent coin shorter than the model it replaces, and sits about 150mm lower to the ground than the outgoing one. Even so, the wheelbase has increased by 70mm.

It’s just as wide as the old one, but the more boxy, upright position of the exterior and a lower floor in part due to the packaging of the torsion-beam rear axle — this model abandons the previous one’s double wishbones all around, with Macpherson struts up front — means the fifth-generation Odyssey has much more interior space.

Headroom increases by more than 100mm in both the base eight-seat version, and the seven-seat one featuring the more luxurious version’s captain’s chairs in the second row.

Third-row headroom has also increased by more than 60mm, meaning the children using the fold-flat seats can grow a little more before becoming too large for them.

Options include a iPhone-based sat-nav app that, in the US at least, costs $US60 a year, floor mats, and a host of luggage area aids such as cargo nets and more rugged boot floor liners.

2014 Honda Odyssey pricing*
VTi (a)$38,990
VTi-L (a)$47,620
*Excludes on-road costs.

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