For the last three years, chances are you’ve been seeing a lot of examples of the Honda Odyssey, particularly if you live in or drive past the Metro’s many gated communities with any regularity. It’s not difficult to see why the Odyssey is so popular: an MPV that brands itself as a luxury transport will sell well, especially since its a far more affordable option than a Php 3M+ Peso Alphard from Toyota.
Now Honda has a newer model for the year: the Odyssey EX-V Navi, and it has quite a few upgrades over the ones we drove in 2015 and 2016.
Spotting the external differences compared to the first version of this Odyssey is actually trickier than it sounds. Body-wise, it’s not a major change, but the details did. The grille is new, and definitely not as bright a shade of chrome as before; Honda says it’s dark chrome now. There are revisions to the bumper particularly with the foglamp area which are now fitted with LED strips. The wheels are also new; more spokes means the new Odyssey has a more classic look despite its sleek and modern overall design.
Inside the Odyssey, the first thing that strikes you is the lack of that reddish faux wood trim. I’m not a fan of it, though much of the Odyssey’s chauffered target market do. Personally, if you’re going to put wood accents in a vehicle, it’s better that they be actual wood. Nevertheless, I like that it’s more of an ash/dark gray style grain that serves as accents for the 2018 Odyssey EX-V’s cabin instead of the brown/reddish hues of before.
The changes aren’t big in here apart from the wood accents, but they didn’t really need to anyway. The dashboard is the same, the steering wheel is the same, the position of the T-bar shifter on the dash is the same, as are the controls and that movable center console that you can raise or lower to the floor, allowing you to actual move from the front row to the back. What I did notice was the large armrest for the front row; that’ll be useful for heavy city traffic, and can fold away if you want it to.
The key thing about the Odyssey EX-V’s interior is luxury to the touch. All seats, upholstery and door trim in this variant are, of course, wrapped in very supple leather. There’s a touch-sensitive panel for the triple zone (front driver, front passenger, rear cabin) climate control system; neat, but I still prefer buttons. At the center of the dash is the 7-inch touchscreen audio unit with GPS navigation, and you can watch videos if you’re seated at the back via a 9-inch drop down monitor that they managed to squeeze in between a sunroof in front and a bigger motorized glass roof in the back.
What customers really pay for with the Odyssey (and any other similar luxury/premium MPV) is the middle row, which are customarily fitted with captain’s seats; you know, the kind with armrests on either side, making you feel like you’re in charge and riding in comfort. The Odyssey has those, and they can recline for comfort and even come with ottomans that prop your legs up too. Those seats have been upgraded with new headrests with side bolsters so you can doze off more comfortably.
There are actually seats for three more people in the third row and there are A/C vents in the ceiling, but really, the middle row is where it’s at. Another great feature about the Odyssey is the space for when you shop or have to bring big items. With the third row up, there’s a recess in the floor to accommodate baggage and even tall items like potted plants. With the third row stowed into that space, you’ve got a long load space up to the back of the captain’s seats. Personally I was easily able to fit a folded 6-foot Lifetime table in there, complete with stacking monoblock chairs.
The Odyssey fires up with a push of a button, as before, thanks to the smart key. You can just keep the key in your pocket, and you can even remotely open the motorized sliding doors from the key as you walk up to your Odyssey in the parking lot. That’s useful if you’ve parked in the sun; open doors will let out that really hot air from the cabin.
The Odyssey is no fast or quick MPV; that much is clear. The 2.4 liter i-VTEC engine is good for 175 horsepower and 226 Newton meters of torque. The power and torque are enough for mundane city driving like taking the kids to school or soccer practice, attending church, or going to the nearest mall or supermarket.
That’s the Odyssey’s daily grind most of the time; and together with the CVT, that nets anywhere between 6.0 to 6.5 kilometers to a liter in our heavy traffic (19 km/h average). Mind you, that’s with myself in the vehicle, and with the automatic idle stop turned off. These auto start/stop systems are great for fuel economy in urban driving, but not in our brutal heat as the A/C compressor will not cool down the air going through it.
What I do like about the Odyssey in the city, apart from the comfortable driver’s seat, is the ease of maneuverability. While smaller than it’s American cousin of the same name, the Odyssey is still a relatively big vehicle, but the visibility around the vehicle makes it feel so much smaller to maneuver than it really is. The glass area (greenhouse) is very good, and even comes with those triangular portholes on the A-pillars to aid in negotiating 90-degree city corners.
The more high-tech solution is the system of wide-angle cameras the Honda put on the front, the rear, and the side mirrors to allow the driver to easily see what’s around him. Together with the sonic sensors around the vehicle and dynamic guidelines, you’d really have to be so careless to ding a neighboring car at the parking lot. The Odyssey even has a system that allows it to park itself (either perpendicular or parralel to the road) while you watch and observe.
The spec sheet of the Odyssey EX-V is extensive; something you realize when you look at the safety features. Anti-lock brakes are, of course, standard, but you’ve also got things like stability control, hill start assist, and airbags that can protect every occupant. But the ones that proved very useful are the blind spot alert system (nifty to avoid contact with cars or motorcycles on your rear flanks) and the cross traffic alert system (warns you of crossing traffic as you back out of a parking slot). Yes, they really geared this to be as safe as they can, which is good.
Despite the Odyssey’s widespread use as a daily city car for the urban upper class, it does have some exceptional manners on the highway. That engine, while not particularly quick, does seem willing to accelerate and rev. And the CVT works well to keep the RPM low at cruising speed; expect fuel economy on expressway cruising to hover around 11 to 11.5 km/l if you have a steady right foot.
When you enter a road with fast corners, you can enjoy the decent handling that Honda dialled into the Odyssey. No, it’s not a sportscar, but it doesn’t feel like you’re going to understeer off a cliff as you make your way up or down the mountains. No, it doesn’t feel like the American Odyssey that our market used to get before
Overall, the changes made to the Odyssey EX-V Navi are minimal, but they do make the experience much better as a luxury MPV. At PhP 2,433,000 it’s pretty good value, and stands to reason why many customers that previously would have bought an executive midsize sedan are gravitating towards driving an Odyssey.
Not that the driving matters much; most Odysseys for local consumption will probably be driven by family drivers or corporate chauffers because, quite frankly, we’d all rather sit in the La-Z-Boy in the back.