Minivans are as docile as it gets, but the segment itself is home to a cutthroat ruthlessness usually reserved for reality competition shows. Year after year, the major players in the minivan universe aim to one-up their rivals by rolling out upgrades intended to provide a winning edge. This is because the segment represents big business for some of the automakers involved.
In total, minivans constitute a small portion of vehicle sales. Last year, 17.5 million vehicles were sold in the U.S., and of that number, 553,506 were minivans. That’s a drop in the bucket when compared to a category like the crossover segment, which saw sales of 6,928,972 units in 2016.
But for the two or three brands that dominate minivan sales, the numbers are robust. Toyota led the category in 2016, selling 127,791 units of its Sienna.
Honda sold 120,846 units of the Odyssey minivan last year, and the brand is gunning for an even bigger slice of the pie. For 2018, the Odyssey bares its fangs with a top-to-bottom redesign that brings upgrades designed to heighten the model’s appeal in the eyes of consumers.
The Odyssey is now in its fifth generation, and the current model gets a significant boost in output relative to its predecessor, up from 248 to 280 horsepower. There are also new transmissions on board, and the 5-speed and 6-speed automatic gearboxes seen on the outgoing model have been replaced with 9-speed and 10-speed automatic transmissions.
Minivans have built their loyal market by offering an exhaustive array of family-friendly features, and the Odyssey has historically been at the front of this charge. For example, the previous generation was the first minivan to offer an in-vehicle vacuum cleaner.
For 2018, the Odyssey adds a wealth of convenience features created with active families in mind. Some of these amenities are true innovations, and the Odyssey is currently the only model offering them across the entire segment.
Here are eight great traits of the 2018 Honda Odyssey… along with a flaw that you should keep in mind before signing on the dotted line.
If you’re a parent who regularly drives with kids, you probably often wish you had eyes in the back of your head. Kids can get up to all kinds of mischief in the back rows, and it’s hard to monitor them when you’re trying to keep your eyes on the road. This is especially true in minivans, since they’re large enough to put a significant amount of distance between the driver and those in the rear seats.
The 2018 Odyssey has engineered a smart solution. Called CabinWatch, this available feature uses a ceiling-mounted camera to help you keep a close eye on all back-row shenanigans. Images monitoring second- and third-row passengers are sent to the minivan’s central 8-inch display screen, and you’re able to zoom in and out for a better view. In a twist worthy of a Hollywood spy thriller, the camera also has infrared capability, allowing you to see what’s happening behind you even when the cabin is dark.
Things can get pretty noisy when you’re driving with little ones. Most kids have way too much energy to sit quietly and watch the world go by, especially on longer commutes. This inevitably requires you to issue firm warnings from the driver’s seat, and getting yourself heard over the din of road noise and carefree kids may call for a volume level that can quickly tax your larynx and fray your nerves.
Honda’s available CabinTalk is here to help. CabinTalk is a public address system that allows you to easily communicate with those seated in the second and third rows, and it’s like having your own personal megaphone when you’re behind the wheel. Your voice is broadcast via the headphones that come with the Odyssey’s available rear entertainment system, or via the minivan’s rear speakers.
With CabinTalk, shouting no longer becomes necessary, and family travel takes on a more civilized tone.
Smartphones play a central role in modern living, and we rely on these devices to keep us organized and connected. In recent years, automakers have honored this truth by rolling out technology designed to closely integrate your vehicle with your smartphone and with your other devices.
The latest advancement in this area is Honda’s available CabinControl app. With this downloadable app, you can easily use your smartphone to govern the Odyssey’s rear entertainment system, as well as heat and air conditioning settings in the rearmost rows. This feature enables up to seven passengers to upload their music choices to the minivan’s sound system via their phones. The CabinControl app also allows you to use your smartphone to send destinations to the Odyssey’s integrated navigation system.
A serene cabin that’s free of road noise makes it easier for you to communicate with your family when you’re traveling as a group. The Odyssey hasn’t always been a leader when it comes to cabin quietness, but that changes with the 2018 model.
The current Odyssey benefits from upgrades designed to block road noise and deliver a more tranquil cabin environment. Outside noise is kept at bay thanks a more tightly sealed body, triple-sealed doors, and acoustic exterior glass. Also, there are more sound-deadening materials used in the minivan’s interior than ever before.
These changes result in an amazingly peaceful cabin, and it’s a fact that impressed our editors during their recent adventures with the Odyssey.
Safety is a key consideration for many minivan buyers, and it should be. There’s no cargo more precious than your family, and it’s essential to choose a vehicle with the amenities to help you avoid accidents on the road.
The 2018 Odyssey comes with a full complement of driver-assistive technology that’s designed to keep you and your loved ones out of harm’s way. The list of available features includes blind-spot information, a rear cross-traffic monitor, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning.
New for 2018, the Odyssey adds available features such as collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and road departure mitigation.
Consistently smooth ride quality is something all family-vehicle shoppers want, and with the 2018 Odyssey, Honda pulls off this hat trick with expert facility. For 2018, the Odyssey features an upgraded 4-wheel independent suspension that employs vibration-damping sub-frames and the model’s first-even rear stabilizer bar.
These suspension enhancements bring noticeable improvement in ride quality. Even on rough road surfaces, the Odyssey feels stable and securely planted.
Mobile Wi-Fi allows you to stay connected whether you’re on a busy highway or a remote back street. For 2018, the Odyssey adds available 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity that keeps you in the loop during your daily travels.
The network is able to support up to seven devices, and it allows you to stream video content to the Odyssey’s available rear entertainment system.
Versatile seating can simplify your family commutes. The Odyssey is available with Magic Slide second-row captain’s chairs that allow you to configure and customize the minivan’s seating.
These seats recline, slide fore and aft, and feature padded arm rests. They can also be removed without tools for times when you need maximum cargo capacity.
A surround-view camera is a useful feature when you’re driving a vehicle that’s as large as a minivan. This amenity employs a camera system to give you a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle, and it can help take the stress out of tight parking situations.
The Odyssey provides a long list of driver-assistive technology, but a surround-view camera is conspicuously absent.
The Odyssey’s designers and engineers have a knack for identifying consumer pain points and coming up with innovations that address them. Features like CabinWatch and CabinTalk make it clear this is a minivan that’s fully invested in staying ahead of the curve.
Driving with young kids in tow has its challenges. The 2018 Honda Odyssey is built to graciously rise to the occasion, and it offers a wide range of features designed to make life easier when you’re on the road with your family.