The 2018 minivan is one of the segment's survivors.
Before three-row crossover SUVs arrived, the minivan was the vehicle of choice for many families, and, at one time, more than 20 manufacturers courted those buyers.
But minivans today appear to be an endangered species, with just a handful remaining and, from a retail sales standpoint, only three remain relevant: Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna, and Honda Odyssey.
Although Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has confirmed the Dodge Grand Caravan is going away at some unconfirmed date, it remains the best-selling minivan in the U.S. Pacifica and Sienna are right behind, but Odyssey still finishes in the money. So, for 2018, Honda presents us with an all-new edition.
The third product to ride Honda’s larger-vehicle platform – the others are Pilot and Ridgeline – Odyssey is offered in five trims, all motivated by a direct-injection, 3.5-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 whose power is sent to the front wheels via a nine-speed automatic in lower trims and a 10-speed in Touring and Elite models.
For this test, I drove the Elite and found its acceleration more than adequate (hey, if you want a hot rod, get a Civic Type R), and its multi-gear transmission a real smoothie, contributing to the cabin’s quiet demeanor. The ride was surprisingly firm, but the payoff was better than expected handling from this people hauler.
Regarding size, the fifth-generation 2018 Odyssey is virtually identical to its predecessor and, consequently, still provides generous room in rows one and two, and usable space in row three.
As far as cargo versatility goes, the third row folds into the floor with remarkable ease, but the second row doesn’t stow in the floor; nor does it fold and tumble on edge. So, if those middle-row chairs are in the way of cargo, the only choice is to haul them out (a real pain).
On the other hand, the Elite’s pair of fore/aft-adjustable middle-row captain’s chairs included a clever side-to-side movement, which allowed a host of seating options for siblings: one kid outboard, the baby in the middle and slid forward for easy access from the front passenger seat; the middle-row seats together for fun and games; or the seats separated to create a demilitarized zone between siblings.
Odyssey innovations for 2018 include CabinWatch, whose inboard camera lets front-seated mom and dad keep an eye on rear-seated kids via the center stack’s eight-inch display screen; CabinTalk, which enables the driver to talk to second- and third-row passengers through speakers or rear-entertainment headphones (you can now say, “Don’t make me come back there” with your inside voice); and Connected Rear Entertainment, through which second- and third-row passengers can consume PBS Kids, iHeart Radio, Spotify, and more.
With the intransigent middle row, this new Odyssey isn’t the most friendly ride in town for hauling cargo, but from a family convenience point of view, it’s a gem.
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Nov/Dec 2017 Issue
From a styling standpoint, the 2018 Odyssey retains the “lightning bolt” beltline but adopts the new Honda corporate grille. Honda Motor Company
Dan Wiese is an automotive freelance writer living in St. Louis, Mo.