The SUV is a disease; it’s a plague upon the American car buyer, luring them into thinking that these lifted hatchbacks are useful and cool at the same time. Ok, I might be over-exaggerating a bit—SUVs aren’t that bad.
But when you think about the rise of the SUV, and the fall of the minivan, it raises a serious question: what happened? On my mission to find out what lead to America’s disdain for the minivan, I drove over 500 miles in a 2016 Honda Odyssey with four family members, two dogs, and one serious stress headache all in the name of science.
This one is pretty obvious—the Honda Odyssey is spacious, duh. It seats eight, but seeing as we only had three people in the back seat (one in the front), the second row seemed pretty much pointless.
Taking out two seats in the center row wasn’t exactly what I’d call “easy.” The problem is that the damn chairs are so heavy, and trying to maneuver them out of the door takes two people, at minimum.
That being said, once the two seats were out, there was so much more room for activities. If you completely flatten everything behind the front row, there’s 148.5 cubic feet of usable space. We used about three-quarters of that for a cooler, to small dogs, and some extra luggage.
It Drives Well
My biggest fear was that it was going to drive like a tank. It didn’t, thankfully. It drove better than some large three-row SUVs, and handled more like a lifted wagon.
The 3.5-liter V6 under the hood was good for 248 horsepower, and only when you really put the petal to the metal did it start to wheeze a bit. The weight of the steering wheel felt good, and the handling was responsive. For the most part, it was an enjoyable thing to drive.
28 mpg highway and 19 mpg city is pretty impressive all things considered. It bests both its cousin, the Honda Pilot (20 city/27 highway), and the all-new Chrysler Pacifica (18 city/28 highway). And depending on how you spec them, they all weigh about the same.
Aside from efficiency, likely the second most important aspect for anyone looking to buy a minivan is safety. The Honda Odyssey is one of the safest. It gets a five-star front and side-impact crash rating, and an overall five-star safety rating.
The rearview camera is standard (as it will soon be on all vehicles), and the Honda LaneWatch system is extremely helpful for the passenger-side blind spot. A forward collision warning and lane departure warning system are options that everyone should choose.
To really appreciate the Honda Odyssey you have to drive it; and after five hours straight, it’s hard not to appreciate it. The amount of thought that went into and continues to go into the development of the minivan is amazing when you think about it. All that useful space, the abundance of storage compartments, the vacuum. It’s overwhelming, but in a good way.
Realizing that the minivan lost its “cool” factor somewhere along the way to the more stylish SUV is obvious. But learn to love the quirky, unique style of the Honda Odyssey—or all minivans for that matter—and you’ll have a vehicle that keeps on giving.
Photo Credit: Honda