The thought came to us on our drive into the office today. We saw a charcoal grey 2018 Honda Odyssey just a couple of lanes over on the expressway, and the way the sun bounced off of it, it looked like it was trying too hard to mask its purpose. Honda's way of making a minivan "racy" comes across as an overwrought item that's supposed to be eminently practical. Instead, it comes across like a carbon fiber fanny pack, a burly bouncer wearing skinny selvedge denim, or a rhinestone garden shovel.

2018 honda odyssey silver profile
No matter what color you choose, there's just a lot going on (image: Honda)

The problem with minivans are myriad. First of all, in order to be competitive, they actually have to transport people and gear better than just about any other vehicle segment, shy of actual city vans like the Ford Transit Connect, so they're going to box-shaped. Secondly, they're not generally great to drive. because of their size, weight, and dimensions. What we're saying is, they're just not sexy, period. Automakers can make them semi-attractive, but the Honda Odyssey is just over the top in terms of styling drama. 

2018 chyrsler pacifica
The 2018 Chrysler Pacifica embraces its minivan shape and looks better as a result (image: FCA)

Put the new Odyssey next to the current Chrysler Pacifica, and you'll see what we're talking about. The Pacifica has a single, tasteful body crease than runs along the doors and drops off in the rear quarter panel. The front fascia is also simple with fluid lines, and nicely tapering headlights that flank a handsome grille. The Odyssey, by comparison, has lines everywhere, numerous creases, and an overly complex fascia.

honda odyssey front
The front end of the Odyssey has more layers than a turkey club sandwich (image: Honda).

Whatever happened to the proud minivan? Okay, so we don't mean to say that any minivan has ever been an object of automotive lust. Those feelings are reserved for sports cars like the Porsche 911 or the Ferrari GTO. Hell, even a sporty crossover is sexier than a minivan. But minivans like the old Toyota Previa or even the VW Microbus were head and shoulders above the new Odyssey because they're not trying to cover up the fact that they're people haulers. Honda seems to have forgotten about this. 

toyota hiace
Though the Toyota Hiace van isn't sold here, it's a fine example of doing the minivan shape right (image: Wikimedia Commons)

We wish Honda would go back in the other direction and take inspiration from their first versions of the Odyssey. Back then when it hit the scene, it was clean and unobtrusive. Bordering on classic, the mid-to-late '90s version and a single character line that extended from the front wheel to the taillight, and the 360-degree visibility was superb. The result was a minivan that still looks great thirty years later. 

1996 honda odyssey profile
This 1996 Honda Odyssey was one of the best versions of any minivan (photo: Consumer Guide).

At least some manufacturers have taken the high road by embracing the minivan ethos with minor dressed up details. Case in point, the Kia Sedona. It's not exactly flying off the showroom floors because it's not as well known as the Odyssey or the Chrysler Pacifica, but it's a fine example of how to keep the minivan shape while minding the little details. The lean headlights, the prominent grille, and the fancy wheels aren't so noticeable that they try to mask its minivan shape. 

kia sedona
It's not a huge seller, but the current Kia Sedona has great styling cues in a minivan shape (image: Kia).

At the end of the day, a minivan is a minivan. Parents everywhere aren't exactly in a rush to get into one, and they're ready to move on from them as soon as their kids are old enough to drive themselves. So, owners need to simply bite the bullet if the need to buy one is paramount. Give up racy design, stop trying to hide the fact that it's a minivan, and definitely don't try to pass one off as cool or edgy. Honda, take note for your next generation Odyssey. Less is oftentimes more. 

Find Local Discounts on the Honda Odyssey

Find Local Discounts on the Chrysler Pacifica

Find Local Discounts on the Kia Sedona