Honda Odyssey a car for all the team

HONDA ODYSSEY: Choice of seven or eight seats.

One of my work colleagues wandered over to my desk the other day, he said something like: “Have you got the soccer team ready?’’

It took me a few seconds to think what he was referring to, but then the penny dropped and I realised he was making reference to the multi-purpose people-mover I had in the car park, a Honda Odyssey to be exact.

Yes, you could take half the soccer team in the Odyssey, its seven-seat configuration is a handy feature for those with a large family, or carrying a car load of kids to any event. They don’t have to be kids either, the Odyssey is cavernous, seven adults can carried easily, and if numbers really matter to you as a buyer, the Odyssey also comes in entry-level form with eight seats, more for less so to speak.

The evaluation car was the Odyssey LS (L Sensing) which includes a raft of new electronic kit for 2018, it is priced at $53,900, which is a bargain given its luxury-like level of specification. For interest’s sake, the eight-seater lands at $45,900.

Both models have been refreshed for 2018, there’s a bit of a facelift cosmetically, and adornments which provide a better aerodynamic package along with a more pleasing look aesthetically.

Inside, there are new seats, which are even more sumptuous than before, more storage compartments, and new trim on the doors and instrument panel.

However, the Odyssey hasn’t lost sight of its design concept, it is still the quintessential people-mover. The central row of seats have a lengthy distance of adjustment, even laterally, the rear row of three raise from below the floor level. Leather trim is utilised throughout, with heated seats up front. Other major features include satellite navigation, electric sunroof, electric sliding side doors, tri-zone climate control, paddle shift automatic gearbox selectors, a multitude of seating configurations, and plush décor.

While that seems impressive, what sets the 2018 Odyssey apart from previous generation models is the addition of a Honda Sensing suite of driver-assist safety features. Each feature has its own abbreviation which looks like an alphabet soup of acronyms, but spelt out they include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane department warning, road departure mitigation and lane keep assist.

All of the changes contribute to a safer and fresh feel. The Odyssey is a lot more dynamic without losing sight of its key role. I particularly like the low load area in the rear, effectively it means you don’t have to lift heavy objects far from the ground to get them into the cargo section.

The Odyssey also feels tighter on the road, it is more car-like to drive, and those on board are treated to a quality ride.

Under the bonnet sits a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine. It is a unit which finds its way through a lot of Honda product, but it has been constantly refined to the point where it is still state-of-the-art and perfect for the Odyssey’s role. Honda rates it at 129kW (6200rpm) with 225Nm of torque at 4000rpm.

Drive is channelled through a seven-step continuously variable transmission. It’s taken me a long time to accept CVT, but in the Odyssey the combination works well with its seamless ratio flow and ability to let the engine work unimpeded.

That, of course, has a beneficial effect on fuel economy. The Odyssey LS is rated with a 7.8-litre per 100km (36mpg) combined cycle rating, which fitted well with the trip computer readout during the time I had the test car. It constantly sat at around 9.4l/100km (30mpg) with an instantaneous figure of 6-8l/100km available at 100km/h (engine speed 1700rpm).

Honda strives to make fuel usage savings a high manufacturing priority, so features in the Odyssey such as idle stop-start and economy mode are there so that fuel usage is kept to an absolute minimum.

I took the evaluation car on my usual highway loop through to Hororata. The Odyssey is quiet and composed, dispensing the kilometres easily and promoting an easy driving experience. The seats are cocooning, and with electric adjustment up front, minute changes can be made to get the driving position exact. And that can be said of all the seats, the Odyssey LS is a true luxury car.

While sport utility vehicles have almost put paid to the traditional people-mover, full marks must be given to Honda for keeping the Odyssey available and affordable.

If you look at the pre-owned market, Odyssey has a huge presence, and given the newcomer will be with us for a long-time yet, that’s only going to make it more appealing to those who need to transport that soccer team or other large groups.

Price – Honda Odyssey LS, $53,900

Dimensions – Length, 4845mm; width, 1820mm; height, 1695mm

Configuration –  Four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, 2354cc, 129kW, 225Nm, continuously variable automatic.

0-100km/h, 9.5sec

Fuel usage – 7.8l/100km