2021 Honda Odyssey first drive review: Spit shine

Honda’s Odyssey is probably the best minivan you can buy. Versatile and well thought-out, refined and comfortable, what more could you ask for in a family van? Aside from a built-in smoothie maker or a self-draining diaper pail (preferably not next to each other), probably not much. But that hasn’t stopped Honda from further refining this segment-leading minivan and giving it a good, old glory for 2021.

One look at the body of this machine and you may find it difficult to tell it apart from the 2020 model – the visual changes on the new Odyssey are so minor. Its face has been redesigned and given a classier grille that was cleaner than before. Next to this updated opening are new LED headlights that are standard across the range. Similarly, the front bumper and fog lamp surrounds have been redesigned, and 19-inch wheels in various styles are standard on high-end models. ‘All around the back, the hatch of this van was beefed up by a spear of black rim and overall the 2021 Odyssey doesn’t break new ground, but its design looks good and is less robotic.


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Look at that:

2021 Honda Odyssey first ride: Max Minivan


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Even within the Odyssey, there wasn’t much work to be done. Its interior is well made, responsive and loaded with lots of storage space. Touring and Elite trims now add piano black accents to the doors, while Elites also has beautiful perforated leather with piping and metallic-look trims on the dashboard.

The front seats on this minivan are supportive and the second row scoops are almost as comfortable. As before, these chairs can slide from side to side, making it easier to keep an eye on a child or to access the third row. Speaking of which, the aftmost accommodations on this Honda are spacious and comfortable for adults.

Some important technical improvements have been made to the 2021 odyssey. A back seat reminder is now standard so you don’t accidentally leave valuable cargo behind. Similarly, the Odyssey’s handy CabinTalk system, which allows the driver to communicate with people in the rear seats through the vehicle speakers, can now be used concurrently with CabinWatch, which allows passengers to be visually monitored. This improvement will also be made available to owners of appropriately equipped Odysseys for the 2018 to 2020 model year via a wireless update.

Honda Sensing, the automaker’s excellent line of driver aids, is now universally standard and has been upgraded for 2021. The Odyssey receives pedestrian emergency braking and traffic sign recognition. In addition, it has a slow chase feature which allows adaptive cruise control to work up to 0 mph in stop-and-go traffic. The lane-centering system makes the Odyssey track like a monorail, and the adaptive cruise control is also a winner as it works smoothly at all times.

If you were hoping Honda engineers added one Chrysler Stow ‘N Go-inspired seating system for the Odyssey as you would in the stylish PacificaIf the second row chairs collapse into the floor, you will be seriously disappointed. You still have to remove this van’s buckets for maximum cargo space and they’re still hernia heavy. At least Honda has made this task a little easier for 2021. The backrests now fold further down so that the seats in the second row are noticeably less unwieldy to squeeze through the sliding doors.

A crisp 3.5-liter V6 is still standard, delivering a powerful 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission offered is a 10-speed automatic transmission that transmits the torque exclusively to the front wheels. Expect 19 miles per gallon of city, 28 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined drivetrain from this Honda, just like before. While driving in the real world, I have an average of 24 mpg and am changing, even though that score doesn’t include a lot of stop-and-go traffic.

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The interior of the Odyssey is functional and well built.

With no under-the-hood changes, the Odyssey 2021 will basically drive like the 2020 model, and that’s not a bad thing. Its VTEC V6 sounds great, especially when you work hard, and delivers quick acceleration. Seriously, you will be surprised how quickly this van gets up to speed. Power is backed up by a smooth 10-speed automatic transmission that gets the job done without drawing much attention to itself. The downshift timing can be a little inconsistent at times, but this is a minor complaint as the gearbox calibration is otherwise excellent.

One of the only real mechanical changes made for 2021 is an update to this van’s electric brake booster. Pedal travel has been reduced by 20% for a safer feel, although it’s still pretty rubbery in action.

As before, the ride quality of the Odyssey is smooth and yet controlled. It digests bumps easily without putting a lot of harshness into the cabin, and the minivan never feels loose or sloppy. Handling is safe and predictable, making this van feel lighter than you’d expect from something this slim. Even at motorway speeds, the interior of the Odyssey remains calm.

2021 Honda Odyssey

A black stripe has been added to the Odyssey hatch for 2021. Can you recognize him?

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Really if there is bad news for 2021 Honda Odyssey is that prices have increased slightly. The LX entry-level version costs $ 1,000 more than last year and costs $ 32,910, including target fees of $ 1,120. Other models are up around $ 400. My top-notch elite tester is $ 49,335. The only option is Forest Mist metallic paint, which is an additional $ 395.

The Honda Odyssey has been America’s best-selling minivan for 10 years and owns more than 40% of that segment, according to automakers. With the changes Honda has made for 2021, I see no reason for the Odyssey dominance to wane. Examples should now be dealers.

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