Minivan Best Buys of 2018
Odyssey reclaims the throne with an impressive redesign
In our first review of the totally redesigned 2018 Honda Odyssey we called it the best family car in the world. After a thorough back-to-back evaluation alongside the other class leaders, we’re only more convinced.
But that’s not to say earning this year’s Minivan Best Buy award was a walk in the park for the new Honda Odyssey. The defending-champ Pacifica put up quite a fight, as did some of our editors on its behalf. Like the Odyssey, the Pacifica is exceptionally pleasant to drive, offers a ton of cool features and has an appealing and flexible interior. In fact, the Pacifica’s available Stow ‘n Go seats could be a big draw for some buyers, and it’s the only minivan that also offers a plug-in hybrid powertrain.
But money matters weigh heavily in our annual Best Buy Awards, and that’s where our resale value and 5-Year Cost to Own data once again played decidedly in Honda’s favor.
Features and Utility
The 2018 Honda Odyssey is a technological playground built on an exceptionally functional foundation. The minivan basics are all there: sliding doors, room for eight people and cargo at the same time, easy entry and exit, and plenty of cup holders and storage nooks. But that’s just the warm-up.
The Odyssey’s new Magic Slide second row features outboard seats that move not just up and back, but also side to side. Two friends can sit shoulder to shoulder without either of them having to sit on the hump, while siblings can slide the seats outward to sit safely away from each other. Or slide the seats to one side and all the way forward for extra-wide access to the third row. They might also be the most comfortable second-row seats in the segment. Other rear seating highlights include a roomy, three-person third row and LATCH accommodations for up to five child safety seats.
Speaking of little ones, the Odyssey’s new in-cabin camera makes it easy for the driver and front passenger to keep an eye on the action in back, and it’s positioned in such a way that it can even see newbies in rear-facing car seats. And at the touch of a button the driver’s voice can be broadcast loud and clear through the rear speakers and headsets.
Pay a monthly fee for a built-in cellular data connection and you can turn the Odyssey into a Wi-Fi hotspot and stream video content to the 10.2-inch rear-seat entertainment system at the push of a button. You can also pop in a DVD or Blu-ray disc, or plug in an Xbox or AppleTV, for instance, via the Odyssey’s HDMI input and wall-type power outlet.
The new CabinControl app allows passengers to control the front audio system, rear entertainment system and rear climate control right from their smartphones. They can also look up a destination and send it to the vehicle’s navigation system, and send songs from their phone to a new Social Playlist. And here’s a fun one: The “How Much Farther?” app built into the rear seat entertainment system counts down time and distance to the destination on an animated screen.
The parent-pleasing HondaVac, a built-in vacuum cleaner that makes it easy to tidy up whenever and wherever the need arises, returns in the new Odyssey.
Driving and Comfort
Here’s how we captured the driving experience in our first review of Honda’s new minivan: “The 2018 Honda Odyssey is smooth off the line and glides through gears. On city streets and in parking lots it changes direction with the ease and willingness of a smaller vehicle, and stops in the same manner. On the highway it is quiet, comfortable and confidently controlled. It’s the best-driving minivan we’ve ever driven.”
And here again, technology plays a key role in the Odyssey’s Best Buy win. About 95 percent of Odysseys sold -- all but the base-level Odyssey LX -- come equipped with the Honda Sensing suite of driver assist and safety technologies. Adaptive cruise control watches the vehicle ahead and adjusts speed accordingly, while lane keeping assist helps with the constant little corrections required to steer a car straight down the highway. Collision mitigation braking and road departure mitigation are two Honda Sensing features you don’t really want to use, but you’ll be very glad to have them if you do.
Additional assistants include blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors and a multi-angle rearview camera that makes it easy to see down the parking-lot aisle you’re backing into.
This Honda also introduced the automaker’s impressive new infotainment system. Featuring a tile-based user interface with tap, swipe, pinch and zoom functionality, you can organize the tiles however you like and there’s a favorites bar into which you can put three tiles/apps for easy access at any time. Yes, it’s very much like your smartphone. In combination with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, Honda’s new system is among the best in the industry.
5-Year Cost to Own
If you want to shop like an expert, you have to include our invaluable 5-Year Cost to Own data in your research. All too often we see shoppers going for the “great deal” on a car that will ultimately cost them more than if they’d paid a little extra up front for a more desirable model. While our cost-to-own figures take into account expenses like fuel, insurance and maintenance/repair costs, it’s the resale value component that typically contributes to the biggest differences in total ownership cost. It’s the main reason a great $30,000 car can cost less in the long run than a good $25,000 car.
Today, a used Honda Odyssey sells for many thousands more than a comparably equipped version of the Pacifica’s predecessor, the Chrysler Town & Country. And while we indeed expect the much-improved Pacifica to start closing that gap, several factors will continue to fall heavily in Honda’s favor for the foreseeable future.
Given that families have more important things on which to spend their money (and plenty of less important things, too), the Honda Odyssey’s lower total ownership costs go a long way in helping it claim this year’s Minivan Best Buy Award.
Video Tour: 2018 Honda Odyssey
More 2018 Honda Odyssey
More 2018 Best Buys