When Ulysses set off on his famous Odyssey it was in a fairly barren wooden ship, comfort was minimal, ride quality poor and ultimately it would take years to get anywhere. By contrast Honda’s Odyssey is a vessel aiming for the exact opposite. Since its first generation in 1995 the Odyssey has been a trendsetter in the people mover marketplace. It was the first to use a flat-folding third row seat and to fuse together sharp styling and car-like dynamics with minivan practicality. Fast forward to 2009 and Honda has released its fourth generation Odyssey that boasts improvements over the popular outgoing model. Available in two variants the base Odyssey S and the luxury Odyssey L, it was the high-spec model that we took on a voyage of discovery.
Before getting on-board it’s hard not to admire the Odyssey’s exterior aesthetic. Despite the Odyssey’s practical requirements there is a clear defiance at dull safe styling and it stands out when viewed from any angle. The grille and bumpers have been restyled mixing an aggressive look with the Honda corporate face. Straight flat sides push into wrap-around jeweled taillights that are a feature point of the rear. Twin chrome tail pipes and flashy 17-inch alloys cap off the ultra-modern look. Overall, it’s sculptured, sleek and a radical departure from the brick-on-wheels people mover styling still used by some competitors.
Once inside, the cabin feels very roomy and the leather seats are wide and comfortable. It has three rows and seven seats in total all of which are a usable size regardless of passenger body type. The seating layout is exceptional with decent leg and head-room combined with a clever “V” shape seating pattern and a raised back row meaning visibility is good for all occupants and commanding for the driver.
The dashboard is a unique design that visually won’t appeal to all but instruments and controls have typical Honda intuitive functionality. The only exception is the stereo that sounds fine but has a bland dated look and is positioned a distant reach from the driver. Moving the seating is a breeze with the third row folding flat into the floor with the push of an electronic button. Perfect for using the Odyssey as a wagon, go a step further and fold the second row of seats flat into the floor and you have huge van like space, long enough to lay down and wait out any stormy weather.
The dashboard-mounted gear stick functions well as does the centre storage tray that can be folded down if you need to access the rear seats and check on the crew. Other storage options and cup holders are numerous. Fit and finish is very good generally and there is a genuine feeling of durability to the cabin. The equipment list is also impressive, featuring cruise-control, MP3-compatible six-CD stereo, trip computer, power sunroof, electrically adjustable heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, automatic HID headlamps and fog lamps. The only noticeable omissions are Bluetooth, a ceiling-mounted DVD player and satellite navigation. Overall, it’s very pleasant being on-board but how does it feel to captain Honda’s latest transport ship?
What’s most impressive about controlling the Odyssey is its car-like driving dynamics, and this starts with the motor. The 2.4-litre i-VTEC sends 133kW of power through a 5-speed auto transmission and onto the front wheels. The engine is smooth, whisper quiet but still packs enough power to move the Odyssey along rapidly if required. The auto transmission is relaxed and precise in its changes but with a full load the throttle will need to be worked to keep it awake. At the helm the power steering is accurate but very light which is great for any low speed maneuvers, however it can feel vague during more spirited driving.
Ride quality in the Odyssey is exemplary thanks to a lack of wind, road and engine noise and also excellent suspension. The double wishbone setup can feel on the firm side round town but it’s compliant and really comes into its own during cruising where few bumps and dips in the road are passed onto occupants. Move onto twisty roads and the Odyssey sits reasonably flat in corners and offers good grip at the front shifting only into slight understeer when pushed. The Odyssey has an uncanny ability to disguise its length and general size, and when driving it’s made easy to forget the two rows of seats behind you.
If conditions worsen and you’re heading for the rocks the Odyssey has its safety bases covered. Front, side and curtain airbags are ready to pop and an Electronic Stability Program uses Traction Control and ABS with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist. There are also three-point seat belts on all seven seats. To appease the environmental gods Honda has chosen materials for their recyclability and environmental compatibility.
Overall, the Odyssey has a signature effortless charm where no function feels like a chore. This simple factor is pleasant for any driver but for those who are mobilising a large family on a daily basis it’s a huge selling point. Combine that with exterior looks to charm Poseidon himself and the drivability to outrun an angry Cyclops and you have transport far beyond Ulysses’ long boat. The Odyssey has been class-leading from its first generation and this latest version successfully reinforces that reputation.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.
Price: from $48,800 as tested $59,400
What we like:
- Sharp exterior design
- Spacious comfortable cabin
- Excellent driving dynamics
What we don’t like:
- Stereo look and placement
- Vague steering feedback
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Honda Odyssey (2009) – Specifications
Engine Type 16-valve PGM-Fi
Maximum Power – kW 133 @ 6,500rpm
Maximum Torque – Nm 218 @ 4,500rpm
Transmission Type Automatic 5-speed automatic transmission, Grade Logic Control, Turning Logic and Transmission Lock-Up Control
Steering – Gear Type Speed sensitive power assisted rack and pinion steering with VGR
Suspension – Front/Rear Independent double wishbone with coil spring and front and rear stabiliser bars
Wheels 16″ Steel wheels. 16×6.5JJ AL
17″ Alloy wheels.
Tyres 215/60 R16 tyres (S Model)
225/55 R17 tyres (L Model)
Braking System – Front 300 mm ventilated discs
Braking System – Rear (with ABS) 305 mm solid discs
Exterior Length (mm) 4,800 (S Model) / 4,810 (L Model)
Exterior Width (mm) / including door mirrors(mm) 1,800/2,068
Exterior Height (mm) 1,545
Interior Length (mm) 2,822
Interior Width (mm) 1,536
Interior Height (mm) 1,220 (S Model) / 1,183 (L Model)
Wheelbase (mm) 2,830
Track – Front / Rear (mm) 1,560/1,560
Ground Clearance (mm) empty / laden 119/110
Turning Circle(metres) / Radius (metres) 10.8/5.4
Boot capacity (VDA litres) rear seat up 245L
Boot capacity (VDA litres) rear seat down – second and third rows / third rows. (Up to window line) 1056L/674L
Kerb weight (kg) 1665
Maximum warrantable towing weight (kg) 1000
Fuel Tank Capacity 60 litres
Recommended Fuel 91-octane
ADR Combined Consumption 9.3 L/100km
Optimal NZ Drive Test 6.5 L/100km (S Model) 6.7 L/100km (L Model)
EnergyWise Rally ’08 unavailable
Fuel Saver Infomation
Make and Model: Honda Odyssey 7 Seat 2.4L 5 Door 5 Spd Auto
Star Rating: 3½ stars out of 6
Yearly Cost : $2,410
Mileage : 9.3 Litres per 100 km