16 Best Family Cars: 2016 Honda Odyssey
The fact that the 2016 Honda Odyssey, one of the oldest vehicles in our test, could garner a unanimous vote for inclusion speaks volumes about the underlying goodness of this minivan. And make no mistake: the other vans here offer more refinement (Kia Sedona) or family-friendly features (the all-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna) than the Odyssey. Nonetheless, neither of them -- in fact, no other vehicle in this test -- matches the Odyssey's combination of flexibility, seating, cargo and features, all while covering a price range that leaves nobody shortchanged.
Gold Medal Flexibility
The Honda Odyssey's flexibility starts at the back, with a huge third row that offers more legroom than even the roomy second row of a Honda CR-V, and nearly as much headroom. The upshot is that three kids fit without a problem, and it's about the only vehicle here that can fit adults without complaint. The second row is even better, offering three adjustable seating positions, and thanks to the Wide Mode seating and the fact that each seating position gets anchors and tethers, you can fit three LATCH-equipped child seats in the second row at the same time. It's more than a parlor trick; you can fit three small kids in the second row in their seats and still carry something huge -- like a washing machine -- in the cargo area.
When it comes to cargo, the Odyssey eschews fancy folding seats for a set of old-school take-'em-out chairs in the second row. However, unlike the Toyota Sienna's seats they're easily removable, and doing so results in a huge amount of cargo space. Even if you have a full load of passengers, there's plenty of cargo space behind the third row, and Honda keeps its seat folding hardware out of the cargo area, meaning fewer opportunities for luggage or other objects to get snagged. This flexibility is standard in all 8-passenger models, from the EX trim level up through the Touring Elite.
Features and Driving
But the Odyssey is more than just a kid-hauling box. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth with streaming audio, Pandora compatibility, USB and AUX inputs, cruise control, a backup camera, and a host of other features. This year, one of the Odyssey's standout features -- an integrated vacuum cleaner known as the HondaVac -- is available at a much lower price thanks to a Special Edition trim that also includes a rear-seat entertainment system and automatic climate control. Go all out for the $45,000 Touring Elite trim and you get leather seating, blind spot detection, lane watch, navigation, and a bunch of other features. Keep in mind though that the Odyssey's competition offers adaptive cruise, collision avoidance, and other high-tech options not available on the Honda.
However, neither the Sienna nor the Sedona can match the Odyssey when it comes to on-road dynamics. While the Sedona is quieter, and the Sienna SE arguably handles better, the Honda Odyssey strikes a compromise that isn’t a compromise at all. The steering feels sharp, the suspension secure, and the noise levels are perfectly acceptable. Best of all, the Odyssey delivers class-leading fuel economy, easily beating its competitors at the pump.
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