A standout minivan among standouts
Even in a field full of very good family cars, the 2014 Honda Odyssey stood out.
The Honda Odyssey had the most family friendly interior, even compared to the other minivan in our test. It has the most LATCH points of any of the competitors -- three in the second row, and two in the third -- and could hold all three of our child seats simultaneously in the second row, handy for those times when you need lots of cargo space AND have to take the kids. The Odyssey Touring Elite's rear-seat entertainment system features Dolby 5.1 surround sound, and can support the built-in DVD player or your own Blu-ray or video game system via the HDMI input. Plus, the entire Odyssey minivan lineup scores exceptionally well in crash tests, there's an available blind spot warning system on the Touring Elite trim level, a backup camera with an available three view modes, a great audio system, the best third row, it can hold plenty of cargo, drives well, gets good fuel economy, and tastes like candy.
OK, maybe not that last one, but the rest is spot on, and it's easy to understand why the Odyssey remains such a popular family-car choice year in and year out.
Key Family Car Strength
The best thing about the 2014 Honda Odyssey literally sucks: the built-in HondaVac vacuum cleaner. Jointly developed with ShopVac, it's the only factory-installed vacuum cleaner you can get. Its powerful suction and long hose make it easy to clean even the front passenger footwell. The downside is that it's only available on the $45,000 top-of-the-line Odyssey Touring Elite trim; we think Honda should make it available on mid-level trims like the EX-L.
Key Family Car Weakness
On the road, even at low speeds, many of us heard a booming sound coming from the rear of the Odyssey. It was hard to pin down exactly when and where it showed up, but it was noticeable. It's a common enough problem that it appears in several owner forums online, with some suggesting the active-noise cancellation system is the culprit, although there's no official word from Honda on the matter. It's not a deal breaker, and it's easily covered with the audio system, but it's still annoying.
The Honda Odyssey minivan comes in a variety of trim levels to suit all but the smallest budgets. The base price for the Honda Odyssey LX is $29,655, which gets you the same 248-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission as the rest of the Odyssey lineup. It also includes a split flat-fold third row, room for seven, Bluetooth and even a backup camera. However, we think it's worth the extra $3,300 for the EX model, which adds 8-passenger seating, Honda's LaneWatch side-view camera, power sliding doors with body-colored door handles, and aluminum-alloy wheels. Odyssey EX-L models add leather for $2,500 more than the EX, plus your choice of a $1,600 rear-seat entertainment system or $2,000 navigation system. If you want both, you have to step up to the $42,710 Touring trim. Honda Odyssey Touring Elite models cost $45,280, and include HondaVac and a wide-screen rear-seat entertainment system with HDMI inputs, but it drops the LaneWatch for a blind-spot monitor instead. Note: All prices include an $830 destination charge.
Sliding doors give minivans unparalleled flexibility for loading passengers and cargo. The Odyssey's low floor means it's easy for little ones to climb in and out, and the seats fold quickly and easily for 3rd-row access, although the Toyota Sienna has a distinct advantage in 3rd-row accessibility. The Odyssey's third row is big enough for adults, with a fold-down center armrest, and support for two LATCH-equipped child seats. All the LATCH points, second and third row, were easy to use thanks to easily accessible lower anchors and plenty of headroom for cinching the seats down. For road trippers, we recommend the Odyssey's rear-seat entertainment system, available on EX-L models and standard on Touring and Touring Elite. The Touring Elite offers up Dolby 5.1 surround sound and a dual-mode ultra-wide screen. That way, if half your brood would rather play video games, the Xbox can plug into the available HDMI port, while the other half of the screen is devoted to a movie. Don't worry, the provided wireless headphones eliminate the cacophony, and you can bring your own wired headphones as well.
Cargo and Storage
The Honda Odyssey offers massive cargo space. The well behind the third row is deep and wide, and unlike the Toyota Sienna there's no seat hardware to snag cargo or get clogged up with dropped Cheerios. It's a draw on which minivan has the easiest folding third row, but when folded the Odyssey has the most cargo space behind the second row. To fully max it out cargo space you'll need to remove the heavy 2nd-row seats, but you're granted with a wide floor that slopes from the rear to the middle.
As for small storage, the Honda Odyssey offers up plenty of cupholders, bins, trays and cubbies, although we wish the Odyssey had the Toyota Sienna's dual-level glovebox. However, there's a huge bin between the front seats, and the Odyssey offers a "Cool Box" function on its lower console bin for refrigerating items like soda cans.
On the Road
Being family friendly is one thing, but doing it in a package you want to drive is something else entirely. Luckily, the Odyssey is a pleasure to drive. The parking sensors, backup camera with three viewing modes, big mirrors, and good sightlines make it easy to maneuver this minivan in parking lots. On the road, the Odyssey's road manners are equally good. The controlled ride remains comfortable, and only the weakest-stomached passengers risk carsickness. The 3.5-liter engine gets power to the ground quickly through the 6-speed automatic transmission, albeit with the occasional jerky shift. It also delivers fuel economy of up to 28 mpg on the highway, thanks to standard cylinder deactivation.
Minivans are the kings of family hauling, and the 2014 Honda Odyssey is the king of minivans.
More 2014 Honda Odyssey
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