2021 Honda Odyssey Elite Review

The aging family hauler shouldn't be counted out


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Tons of room, excellent configurable 2nd-row seating, high-grade interior in top trim, potent V6, solid driving manners.
Negatives: Front end looks more vanilla after refresh, busy styling elements in the body, no available all-wheel drive.
Bottom Line: The Odyssey is an excellent minivan that holds its own. It's capacious, easy to drive, and has some nice added techy bits. It's too bad the styling is disjointed after the refresh, and competitors now have all-wheel drive.
Minivan sales count for a small percentage of the auto industry in America. Even though they're better looking, better driving, and come packed with more features than ever before, they take a back seat to SUVs and larger crossovers. Nevertheless, automakers continue to update and redesign them. The Honda Odyssey used to be one of the top sellers but has since slid to third place after the new Toyota Sienna and the best-selling Chrysler Pacifica. For 2021, the Odyssey gets the Honda Sensing suite of active safety features and driving aids standard on all trims, as well as a refreshed front fascia more in line with its Pilot SUV. We drove the top trim Elite for a week to see how it stacks up against its better-selling rivals. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

7.5

 

Nobody expects a minivan to be fun to drive. The Odyssey is no exception. It is, however, surprisingly good to drive for a minivan thanks to some Honda DNA and a good chassis. The V6 engine is potent, and the overall driving experience is better than some large crossovers.

Ride Quality: The ride is very comfortable and handles undulations and gaps with good dampening and shock absorption.

Acceleration: The Odyssey is no slouch when it comes to putting the power down. The 0-60 sprint takes about 6.5 seconds, which is pretty darn quick for a family hauler. The transmission is thankfully a 10-speed auto and not a CVT. It shifts quickly and manages downshifts well when called upon to do so.

Braking: The Odyssey applies braking forces evenly and without drama, plus the pedal travel has been reduced, making stopping more confident.

Steering: The Odyssey's steering is light but very accurate. It lacks feedback, but overall is quite satisfying and never feel ponderous.

Handling: You won't autocross this big boy, but its body control is good for something this size. Understeer is manageable as long as you don't push it too hard.

Technology

8

 

Honda's infotainment system is just average. They're more in line with the likes of Nissan and Subaru when it comes to visuals and ease-of-use, rather than following brands like Hyundai, Kia, GM, and Ford, who all have great in-car technology. We scored the Odyssey higher than other Honda's because of its nifty (but not necessary) Cabin Talk and Cabin Watch features that keep you connected and communicating with your precious occupants. The convenient HondaVAC makes cleanup easy. Too bad it's gone for 2022 due to supplier issues.

Infotainment System: The screen is clear even in direct sunlight, but the graphics and menus are less user-friendly. The screen could also have a better response rate. The rear entertainment system in our tester was a huge hit with its wireless headphones and big screens.

Controls: The array/cluster of buttons on the center stack are confusing, and you have to hunt for them when you're driving. We especially dislike the push/pull button gearshift that isn't intuitive. The Pacifica's rotary knob is much better and can be operated without looking. Honda's not so much. The steering wheel controls are confusing. Audio volume and track advancing are on different button modules, making it confusing to operate.

Styling

6.9

 

The Odyssey's refresh results in a more SUV-like nose, which we could take or leave. The rest of the minivan is still a bit overstyled for our liking. At least the Elite's interior gets fancy, contrast-piped leather and nicer trim.

Front: We're kind of on the fence because it looks tougher than last year's model with its ample chrome and multi-bar grille, but it's also less distinct.

Rear: This is the Odyssey's best angle with the unifying taillight bar and handsome taillights.

Profile: There's a lot going on here due to the numerous creases and the floating roof. We get that Honda wanted to make its minivan look racy, but we think it's overdone and doesn't quite go with the new front fascia.

Cabin: Cabin materials are nicer, but there's still a lot of busyness going on in the dash.

Comfort

8.9

 

Pretty much every minivan on the market has a ton of room, and the Odyssey doesn't disappoint in all three rows. There's some hard plastic trim bits, but for the most part, the Odyssey shines. Elite trim takes things up a notch, as well.

Front Seats: The perforated leather seats with heating and ventilation are comfortable and accommodating with wide cushions and seatbacks.

Rear Seats: The highly configurable Magic Slide Captain's chairs make occupant and cargo variation easy. There's also good room in the third row for adults.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Odyssey is hushed at highway speeds, and the build quality is very good.

Visibility: Big windows all around and an ideal seating position make for clear sightlines in every direction.

Climate: The climate system works very well in the Odyssey, and we had no problem generating heat quickly when we needed it.

Safety

9.4

 

Families don't just want space and tech, they also want great safety ratings, which the Odyssey nails. In fact, with the excellent set of standard Honda Sensing safety features and its test scores, it's almost perfect.

IIHS Rating: The Odyssey earned the Top Safety Pick+ rating, pretty much getting top scores in every category. Its only demerit is the "acceptable" score for headlights.

NHTSA Rating: It earned five stars from the federal government.

Standard Tech: The Odyssey comes standard with Front and Rear Parking Sensors, Smart Entry System with Security System, Remote Engine Start, Walk Away Auto Lock, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation. Our tester also came with a Blind Spot Information System and Multi-View Rear Camera.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

9.7

 

When it comes to space and storage, the Odyssey is the reigning king of minivans and defeats just about every contender. Honda gave it cubbies, nooks, pockets, and trays to hold tons of gear. The cargo area will also swallow just about everything you need to toss in there.

Storage Space: The center console has large trays and a deep storage compartment. The door pockets are also huge, as is the floor storage tray between the seats.

Cargo Room: 144.9 cubic feet of total storage space makes it bigger than the Sienna and the Pacifica. It even beats the massive Chevy Suburban by a smidge.

Fuel Economy

7

 

Now that the Toyota Sienna is hybrid only, pretty much no minivan can touch it. We didn't expect great efficiency from the Odyssey, but it actually did better than we thought it would.

Observed: 22.3 mpg.

Distance Driven: 121 miles.

Audio

8.1

 

Our Elite tester came standard with an 11-speaker premium audio system that sounded very good, if not great. It has good clarity but could use more bass. It's nice to have this as standard equipment in the top trim.



Final Thoughts

In terms of style, the Odyssey manages to be a good minivan. We think the Sienna and the new Kia Carnival look the best. The Odyssey is clearly aging, even with the refresh. But where it shines is in its drivability, space, and safety. There isn't a minivan that's as capacious and configurable. We just hope Honda works on its ergonomics and infotainment in the near future.
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