We're spending 12 months with this Honda Odyssey, reviewing the full ownership experience with ongoing updates. For 2019, the Honda Odyssey is our Minivan Best Buy Award winner.

 

Econ mode: It’s efficient and smooth 

by Andy Bornhop on December 14, 2018

Price: $47,610 | Price yours 
Current Odometer: 12,267 
Latest MPG: 22.70 mpg 
Lifetime MPG: 21.44 mpg 
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.35 
Days out of Service: 0

I’ve been driving KBB’s long-term Honda Odyssey quite a bit lately, and, contrary to most of my esteemed colleagues, I actually prefer driving it in Econ mode. Two reasons: It improves fuel economy, and it makes the whole Odyssey driving experience much smoother. As a frequent chauffeur, I feel I have the responsibility to provide Odyssey occupants (usually my family) with a dignified trip that doesn’t snap their necks every time the van takes off from a red light.  

Econ mode, as some may believe, doesn’t selectively deactivate individual cylinders to save fuel when the Odyssey is cruising down the highway. Rather, when you push the green Econ button on the dash (down low, just to the left of the shift buttons), it changes not only the Odyssey’s throttle response and cruise control but also its climate control and transmission shift points, all in the name of enhanced fuel efficiency.  

Smooth operator

A side benefit of the softened throttle response is smoother take-offs. While Honda’s award-winning van does feel noticeably slower in Econ mode, I’m a guy who could easily live with an Odyssey that had, say, 230 horsepower instead of 280.  

In Econ mode, when you encounter a long grade, the Odyssey is a bit reluctant to downshift, so the vehicle will actually slow down a bit before downshifting and resuming its specified speed.  

With automatic climate control on, the Odyssey’s air conditioning compressor cycles off more often in Econ mode, which is why it’s not recommended for use on extremely hot days. You also may notice greater temperature fluctuations within the cabin in Econ mode.  

Altered shift schedule

Lastly, the Odyssey’s 10-speed transmission switches to a different shift schedule in Econ mode. To save fuel, the automatic gearbox upshifts at lower rpm, and will downshift not quite as readily as it does when not in Econ.  

Also, when Econ mode is turned on, it stays on until it’s turned off, even through numerous starts and restarts. So, if you’re used to driving the Honda Odyssey in standard mode and then hop into it after somebody has switched it into Econ, it will feel a little sluggish.  

But trust me, you’ll get used to it and then stop noticing it altogether. You’ll also be pleased with yourself for maximizing fuel economy, while your passengers will thank you for driving in such a dignified manner. This, after all, is Honda’s minivan, not a Civic Type R.

 

Changing my mind about CabinTalk

by Andy Bornhop on December 7, 2018

Price: $47,610 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 11,926
Latest MPG: 19.61 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.40
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.35
Days out of Service: 0

A confession: When I first started driving KBB’s long-term Honda Odyssey, I thought the CabinTalk feature was a bit of a joke, an example of unnecessary “Why Tech” instead of genuinely useful “High Tech.”

What is Honda CabinTalk?

Not familiar with CabinTalk? It’s a communications system inside our Odyssey Elite. When the CabinTalk icon on the dashboard’s information screen is pushed, the driver or front passenger can speak at a normal level and have their voice broadcast over the Odyssey’s rear speakers for all passengers to hear.

After trying out this internal PA system, I had two initial thoughts: Is CabinTalk for real? And just how difficult can it be for the Odyssey driver to talk with rear passengers who are, what, all of three feet away?

Answers: CabinTalk is very much for real; it’s standard equipment on all 2018 Honda Odysseys with a navigation system. Also, based on several trips, we have found that it’s no problem whatsoever for the Odyssey's driver to talk with the van’s rear passengers while cruising down the highway.

Getting the message

Why, then, does Honda even bother to equip the Alabama-built Odyssey with CabinTalk?

It took me a while to figure this out, but then it finally dawned on me when I noticed the Odyssey’s overhead rear entertainment video screen: CabinTalk is an effective way for the driver or front passenger to clearly communicate with folks in back who are deep into a DVD and using the Odyssey’s wireless headsets. CabinTalk actually pauses the video and sound while Mom or Dad speaks their message.

Without CabinTalk, the kids won’t hear Mom or Dad, so they’ll miss out on a bad joke or possibly never even see the beautiful Painted Desert scrolling by outside the Odyssey’s side windows (a pity). But with CabinTalk, kids are guaranteed to get message, however silly or significant they might be.   

Personally, I can still live very easily without CabinTalk in my Odyssey, but I now understand why some parents will find it very handy.

Here’s a CabinTalk video from Honda providing a good look at the technology.

 

Road Trip: Odyssey Pros and Cons

by Andy Bornhop on November 30, 2018

Price: $47,610 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 11,843
Latest MPG: 27.35 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.46
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.35
Days out of Service: 0

KBB’s long-term Honda Odyssey van has been gobbling up the miles of late, most recently on an 853-mile round trip from Orange, California, to Livermore, for my great niece Bridget’s baptism. We had six people aboard the Odyssey for this Saturday-morning run up the San Joaquin Valley, in which we saw several truckloads of Teslas (including many Model 3s) being shipped south to the LA area from their Fremont factory. More relevant here, the Odyssey averaged an impressive 25 mpg on this trip, in which we cruised at about 70 mph and sat in a comfortable 2-2-2 configuration. Since we spent so much time in the Odyssey on this trip, I asked (tasked?) each of my five family members to supply a Pro and a Con about Honda’s family hauler. Here goes:

Patty (wife)

Pro: The Odyssey has great features for passenger comfort: rear air controls, charging ports, adjustable seatbacks, pull-up window shades, good storage space and lots of cupholders. 

Con: Price. But I guess you get what you pay for?

Gretchen (sister)

Pro: The interior. I like the cupholders, vents and center row of seats, especially with only two seats in use. I also really like how the tracks for the sliding side doors are hidden. 

Con: It’s difficult to get out of the 3rd-row seats. There’s a narrow opening and very little space to put your feet. 

Rosie (sister)

Pro: The Odyssey carried six adults with luggage over the mountains with apparent ease. The dash controls were easy – even for a Baby Boomer – to figure out. I also love the ability to override the kids’ headphones when using the Odyssey’s unique CabinTalk feature.  

Con: It’s difficult to exit the last row of seats.

Greg (brother-in-law)

Pro: The Odyssey’s very quiet inside, so conversation is easy while rolling down the highway.

Con: The middle-row armrests are too thin.

Christian (nephew)

Pro: There’s lots of space and headroom for all 5/6 of the Odyssey’s back seats.

Con: The door panels on the sliding side doors are hard plastic but have fake stitching as if they are leather. The materials used on the dash and in the front seating area are much nicer. 

 

10,000 miles into our Odyssey

by Andy Bornhop on November 9, 2018

Price: $47,610 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 10,030
Latest MPG: 23.11 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.04
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.35
Days out of Service: 0

This past weekend, somewhere on the I-5 between Carlsbad and Santa Ana, KBB’s long-term Honda Odyssey hit the 10,000-mile mark. Thus far, the Odyssey has had a smooth, trouble-free stint with KBB, and we’re happy to report that the only extra charge has been an $86.35 visit to our local dealer for an initial service that included an oil change. By all accounts, all staffers who’ve driven this Odyssey Elite enjoy it, especially as they get more and more familiar with its numerous handy features.

One feature, though, continues to befuddle a few of us – the switch for the electric parking brake. Located down low on the dash, to the left of the steering wheel, the switch is a small top-hinged rocker lever that can be pulled toward you or pushed away.

Counterintuitive operation

Herein lies the problem. Some of us, those accustomed to a traditional hand-operated emergency brake, are used to pulling up on a lever to set the brake, and then lowering it to release the brake. But with Honda’s switch, the actuation is opposite: to set the brake, you must push the small rocker switch away from you; to release it, you pull it toward you, a motion that feels more like setting the brake.

Even after 10,000 miles, some of us still have to consciously think before setting or releasing the Odyssey brake, and even then we still occasionally get it wrong.

Is Honda going to flop the actuation to a pull-on, push-off arrangement, based on this albeit minor KBB complaint? Not likely. But we do like what GM has done with the emergency brakes on its Silverado and Sierra pickups. GM uses a simple toggle switch: Push it once, the brake is on. Push it again, it’s off.

In other news, the wiper blade for the Odyssey’s rear glass popped off at a local automated carwash. We didn’t notice it until we got home, but when we went back to the carwash, there it was on the ground. It was easy to reinstall the blade, but in doing so we noticed that the plastic cover for the wiper arm’s securing nut had disappeared.

We’ll get that replaced at the Odyssey’s next service. 

 

Dude, where’s my spare tire?

by Andy Bornhop on November 2, 2018

Price: $47,610 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 9,700
Latest MPG: 19.8 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 20.98
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.35
Days out of Service: 0

Without question, one of the Honda Odyssey’s best traits is its deep rear storage well, located just inside the power rear liftgate. While this cargo area can swallow a huge 150-quart Igloo cooler (and even a portable air conditioner that you still need to bring to your sister Gretchen’s house in Long Beach), it’s also the place into which Honda’s clever rear seat folds and disappears to reveal a flat new, albeit raised, load floor.

This deep cargo hold, an excellent example of smart Honda packaging, does have one drawback: It makes the back section of the Odyssey, that area aft of the rear wheels, unsuitable for an underfloor spare tire, even a compact space-saver one.

Hidden spare solution

What’s Honda to do? My initial thought: Honda must fit the Odyssey with a tire repair kit. But such is not the case; the Odyssey minivan does have a real spare tire. I just couldn’t find it, even after snooping around a little bit.

So, like any wise KBB editor, I cracked open the owner’s manual and learned exactly where the space-saver spare is: It’s inside the van, hidden beneath the carpet in a sub-floor well just aft of the center console. The tire is completely out of sight (and mind) because it’s under a floormat and some heavily padded carpet that lifts to reveal a removable floorboard/cover made of pressed wood. The space-saver spare, nested with a jack and a lug wrench, lays flat in this sub-floor storage area, where it’s protected from the elements because it’s technically still inside the van.

While this hidden spare-tire location is not exactly convenient -- and it takes a bit of finagling to slide the tire rearward to remove it from the shallow well -- I’ll take a genuine spare tire over a patch kit any day of the week. Thanks to Honda for thinking like we do.   

 

Paddle shifters on a minivan? Yes!

by Andy Bornhop on October 17, 2018

Price: $47,610 | Price yours
Current Odometer: 9,389 miles
Latest MPG: 23.8 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 21.65
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.35
Days out of Service: 0

A confession: When I first learned that KBB’s long-term Honda Odyssey had paddle shifters, I chuckled. This Honda’s a minivan, after all, not a sports car. Would I ever feel the need to bang down a few gears to get a good launch out of the next corner? Not a chance. Cornering like that might strain the toddlers’ necks.

But then I began spending a lot more time in KBB’s Odyssey, a top level Elite model. Early on, I always let the 10-speed automatic shift for itself, which it does quite well. Each electronically managed shift, up or down, is smooth and well timed.

My daily commute, however, involves climbing and descending a fairly steep hill, and this is where I later came to appreciate the Odyssey’s shift paddles, which are mounted on the back of the steering wheel (downshift on the left, upshift on the right).

When the Odyssey is climbing the grade on Canyon View avenue, the 10-speed automatic does a great job of finding the right gear and keeping the 3.5-liter V6 in the thick of its powerband. Going down the hill, however, the 4,600-lb. Odyssey likes to pick up speed, which makes the driver rely heavily on the 8-seat van’s 4-wheel disc brakes.

While the Odyssey brakes clearly are up to that daily task, the mechanical empathy in me doesn’t like the idea of having scorching hot brakes at the bottom of that hill every day. Therefore, I do what other smart drivers do: I shift down a few gears with the left paddle to let engine braking save the brakes and keep the Odyssey from exceeding the speed limit.

It’s all especially easy, thanks to the paddles, so I’ve changed my tune: Paddles are fine on a minivan. Anything, in fact, that gives the driver added control should be welcome on any vehicle. Kudos to Honda for making them available on the Odyssey.

 

Time for the first service

by Andy Bornhop on August 15, 2018

Current Odometer: 6,905
Latest MPG: 24.57
Lifetime MPG: 21.71
Maintenance/Service Costs: $86.35
Time out of Service: 0 days

Just a few days after KBB’s long-term Honda Odyssey Elite returned to the office from Frankie Rogers’ camping trip to Idaho, a warning light popped up on the van’s instrument panel, telling us maintenance was due soon. It showed an “A1” code, an indicator that the oil needed to be changed. While 6,905 miles seems a little early for an oil change, it’s not that unusual for the Odyssey because the vehicle’s on-board maintenance minder calculates when the oil should be changed based on an algorithm that takes into account a variety of factors such as miles traveled, engine loads and driving conditions.

So it was off to David Wilson’s Freeway Honda in Santa Ana, California, for the KBB long-term Odyssey’s first service.

In the one hour and 12 minutes our visit took, Freeway technicians drained and refilled the engine oil, changed the oil filter, inspected the tires, and worked their way through a multipoint checklist that included items such as the brakes, fluid levels, battery, and air filter.

We’re happy to report that all checked out fine with our long-term 2018 Odyssey, which now has a fresh load (5.7 quarts, including filter) of Honda Genuine Ultimate Full Synthetic motor oil (0W-20) in its crankcase, freshly rotated tires, and 80 percent of its front and rear brake lining remaining.

The total for this initial dealer service, which included a complimentary wash, came to $86.35, with $66.95 of that being labor.

Worth noting: Freeway Honda set the Odyssey’s tire pressure at 32 psi all around, even though the decal on the driver doorjamb says it should be at 36.

Will this improve the Odyssey’s already-excellent ride quality? We shall see. Meantime, this highly refined Honda van is back to its usual duty cycle at KBB, where it serves as a family hauler and occasional staff shuttle for outings to Angels games and those all-important lunch runs to In-N-Out Burger.

Ready for more? Here's where you'll find a more in-depth look at the 2019 Honda Odyssey.

 

Time to hit the road

by Frankie Rogers on July 13, 2018

Current Odometer: 5,778
Latest MPG: 27.93
Lifetime MPG: 21.57
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

Time for a summer road trip in the 2018 Honda Odyssey. A planned camping trip in northern Idaho seemed like the perfect road test for cargo capacity and ride comfort. Departing the Inland Empire early on a Sunday morning, my husband and I settled in for the 13-hour drive to Boise where we would spend the night at a friend’s house and then make our way to the campsite the next day.

Room to spare

The main reason for choosing the Odyssey for this excursion? Its cargo capacity. With 144.9 cubic feet of space to fill up, there would be plenty of room. After removing the second-row passenger’s seats and flipping the third-row seats into the floor, we packed Honda’s minivan with three ice chests, two over-sized camp chairs, a four-person tent, two extra-large plastic bins filled with cooking gear, two sleeping bags, two suitcases, a duffle bag, a camera bag, groceries for four days and some birthday gifts (for my husband). Even with all that we still had space for more, but we didn’t want to get too carried away.

Our friends towed a folding camping trailer with their Jeep. We planned to sleep in their trailer, but the snoring from our bunk mates on that first night got so loud that we considered escaping to the Odyssey. However, after noting the hump on the floor where the second-row seats attach, set up our own tent. (We used the floaty movements of the trailer and my motion sickness as an excuse for moving out...)

A quiet ride

While the Odyssey had more than ample space for our gear, the ride quality and overall quietness proved remarkable. This van offers sedan-like ride comfort and impressive driving manners, thanks in part to 4-wheel independent suspension that’s mounted on vibration-damping front and rear subframes. This Honda is a remarkably quiet van, and it handled vast stretches of highway -- sometimes smooth, sometimes rough – with excellent composure. The Odyssey even felt good on the gravel road to our campsite.

Nor did the twisty mountain roads present a problem. With its improved body structure, the Odyssey didn’t pitch or roll in the curves, and the compliant suspension allowed me to focus on steering while keeping an eye on other drivers who sometimes rode the double-yellow line and looked as if they were going to come into my lane.

Fortunately, this never happened. But this 1,668-mile trip did prove to me that our 2018 Honda Odyssey is quiet and capable, a spacious and refined van that gobbles up the miles with ease and excels at hauling campers and their gear.

 

Look at all the buttons

by Frankie Rogers on May 23, 2018

Current Odometer: 1,702 miles
Latest MPG: 21.19 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.34 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

We’ve had the Honda Odyssey for a couple of months now and have nothing but praise for its driving ease, seating capacity and tech features. The center stack with its sleek 8-inch touchscreen and selection of climate control buttons and switches also has four new additional buttons due to the change from a gearshift knob to a column of buttons. This not only saves space but according to Honda was necessary for its new nine- and 10-speed automatic transmissions which are controlled electronically through shift-by-wire technology. This new lay-out provides a clean and more modern look to the dash, however, the position of the push button engine start/stop seems a little close to the new PRND buttons. Twice during a recent outing I found myself accidentally shutting the vehicle off rather than shifting it into Drive. Now it could just be that I wasn’t paying close enough attention to what I was doing, but when I did the same thing a second time I thought maybe it’s the placement of the buttons. A bright, red start button might help by calling attention to the fact that’s it a start/stop button and not something else. In any event, I will pay closer attention to the start button from now on to prevent that mistake from happening again. 

 

It's All in the Seats

by Lyn Woodward on May 7, 2018

Current Odometer: 1,149 miles
Latest MPG: 17.79 mpg
Lifetime MPG: 22.34 mpg
Maintenance/Service Costs: $0
Time out of Service: 0 days

Our long-term 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite comes chock full of goodies. Tech options such as interior cabin cameras and Smartphone connectivity reek of innovation and convenience. Safety alerts ding and dong as frequently as a hand-bell ensemble at Christmas. With all possible seats deployed, the Odyssey also comes chock full of space for up to eight passengers. All these features are no doubt designed to make the minivan owner’s life easier. However, should you choose to remove some of those seats, suddenly we can’t tell exactly whose side the Odyssey is on.

With the tug of a strap, the third row stows cleverly into a rear cargo hold, easy. Removing the second row, however, might be more challenging in Honda’s Odyssey than Odysseus’s 10-year struggle to get home in Homer’s Odyssey. If powerlifting is your sport, each rear seat weighs in around 70 pounds, then you might be able to muster it. However, the angle at which the seat physically comes out of the sliding side doors makes for an awkward heaving position and might be better solved by trajectory experts at NASA.

To circumnavigate this challenge and make entrance into and exit from the third row easier, Honda offers up Magic Slide seats. Remove the middle seat and the two captain’s chairs in the second-row glide toward or away from one another as desired. Golden. Pile in everyone!

If you anticipate leaving that second row in most of the time, the Odyssey offers flexible space within the configuration set up to haul stuff as well as people. However, if your intention is to constantly be removing those seats and utilize all 145-cubic feet of this minivan’s cargo space, might we recommend a membership to Gold’s Gym or a Honda Ridgeline. Here’s hoping no one at the KBB editorial office needs to move large furniture over the next year.

 

Introduction

by Matt DeLorenzo on April 30, 2018

There are few, if any, family haulers that comes as highly recommended as the 2018 Honda Odyssey. For further proof, you only need to look no further than the 2018 Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards where the Odyssey finished first in the minivan category. Its combination of styling, useful interior and high- tech features led us to the conclusion that this is perhaps the best family vehicle in the world.

For 2018, the Honda Odyssey has been totally redesigned and much of it, including the new 10-speed automatic transmission mated to the 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, figured along with excellent resale value in our award decision. While we ran the Odyssey through extensive testing during our Best Buy exercise, we also decided that it would be worthwhile to add one to our long-term test fleet to get a taste of what the Odyssey ownership experience would be like.

New features worth exploring

Among the new features that whetted our appetite to see how well they hold up under everyday use is Odyssey’s new Magic Slide second row. This seating configuration allows the outboard seats to move not just up and back, but also side to side. Passengers can either sit shoulder-to-shoulder or far apart if they are slid to the outboard positions. You can also slide the seats to one side or another greatly increasing the access to the third row. Other rear seating highlights include a roomy, three-person third row and LATCH accommodations for up to five child safety seats.

We also want to test the practicality of Odyssey’s new in-cabin camera, which allows the driver to see what’s going on in back and there’s a feature that allows the driver’s voice to be heard through the speakers and headsets. And a new CabinControl app enables control of the front audio system, rear entertainment system and rear climate control right from passengers’ smartphones. The infotainment system’s “How Much Farther?” app, built into the rear seat entertainment system, counts down time and distance to the destination on an animated screen.

There’s also a new infotainment system which has tile-based touch buttons with tap, swipe, pinch and zoom capability. And we’re thrilled that there’s even a volume knob to twist. We’ll see how easy this is to use on the fly since a lot of these touch-intensive systems can be distracting when trying to find various functions. A big plus here is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Well-equipped Elite model

For our test, we selected a 2018 Odyssey Elite, which comes with just about everything you’d want in a family hauler. It includes a leather trimmed interior, premium sound system with 11 speakers, display audio with navigation, voice recognition and multi-view rear camera. Other features include tri-zone climate control, push button start, heated steering wheel, the Magic Slide second row, and the family favorite Honda Vac onboard vacuum cleaner.

Also of note is the inclusion of the Honda Sensing suite of driver assist and safety technologies which boasts adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, collision mitigation braking and road departure mitigation. We hope not to test the latter two items.

All these features and more are included in the base sticker price of $46,670, which with $940 destination brings the all-in price of our 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite to $47,610.

In our initial driving impressions of the Odyssey we observed that the V6 pulls smoothly and quietly off the line and that the shifts of the new 10-speed transmission are seamless. It’s easy to drive without feeling heavy, there’s a nice light touch to the steering and the visibility out of the vehicle is exceptional. The Odyssey has made a great first impression—we’ll continue to report on its performance in the months ahead.

More 2018 Honda Odyssey

See full review and pricing information for the 2018 Honda Odyssey or build and price your own to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own, and more.

 

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