Choosing a new family car is nowhere near as easy as you might think. Five seats, Seven seats, child seats, anchor points these are all important things to consider, not just the fuel economy and look of the car. Before buying my own new family car a few years ago the Honda Odyssey was high up on the short list and a family trip away in a Honda Odyssey confirmed for me why there are so many of these things on the road – it’s a great family car.
When I bought my Holden Berlina Sportswagon we had two kids, one in a “booster” seat the other in a “baby” seat. So space wasn’t a huge concern in terms of seats – we were looking more at overall space and configuration. When child number three came along shortly there-after I was glad the Commodore platform could fit three seats side by side in the back seat. When I decided to road-test the Odyssey with the whole family on board I didn’t expect there would be a problem because this is a big seven seater – However that doesn’t mean you can put your child restraints in any configuration.
With anchor points for the third row seats two kids could be way back there, however with anchor points for the second row positioned on the roof at the very back of the car the use of the third row is ruled out immediately. Add to that the problem that with the third row in use the luggage space was minimal and you’re left with three child restraints in the second row all strapped to the roof at the back and the third row seats folded down to give you a station wagon!
The 10 minute test-drive
In station wagon configuration I don’t feel like we had the same space available to us in the Commodore, however the Odyssey has some nifty storage options because of its third row of seats like a sunken storage area behind those seats and some smaller compartments on the sides. Porta-cot and luggage stored we were safely strapped in and ready to roll.
Sitting in the driver’s seat you feel a long way from the windscreen thanks to the deep dash and rather non-standard dashboard layout. With arm-rests on the front driver and passenger seats there is a laid back feeling to the drive.
Foot operated park-brake and dash-mounted gear-stick leave an open space from driver to passenger while the center console between is collapsible to make the seats sit even more independently of the entire dash and console setup – the purpose of either is questionable.
On the road it’s a smooth drive, you don’t get the feeling of size from the vehicle and the gear changes are smooth and the engine quiet. There is a level of ease about the whole driving experience.
Taking the Odyssey out from the dealer for a few kilometers is all you need to get the true sense of this car. I drive it over 1500km’s and never questioned those initial thoughts from the first moment out of the driveway – that’s a good thing to get from a family investment.
Nope, it’s not a sports car, far from it, this is not the car to challenge your mates at the lights – even if they’re in a seven-seater of their own. For example it doesn’t touch the powerful and refined Mazda CX 9 EFTM recently experienced on a lengthy drive to Macksville, NSW. But complaining about performance is missing the point. The Odyssey is built to a purpose and will do exactly what you require from a vehicle of this nature.
In’s and out’s
As mentioned earlier, the seven seats are there for the taking – if you don’t need child-restraints or luggage space. Even the rear child restraint anchor points are at the rear of the “boot” space not at the back of the seats so by putting your child restraints back there you’re compromising what little luggage space you had. The second row seats are adjustable forward and back to allocate leg room as you choose between the second and third row passengers which is handy if you’re putting older kids or adults in that back row.
The low and sleek approach to the seven-seater design is its major point of difference to a traditional SUV. Is it a van? Is it an SUV? Is it a station wagon? Honda have basically managed to incorporate features of all three.
Under the bonnet is a 2.4 cylinder 132kW / 218 Nm paired with a 5 speed auto. An extra cog is sadly missing and is a pretty ordinary omission in light of the competition.
Potential buyers may also seriously consider Toyota’s Tarago, sliding door access is a huge plus for large tribes.
Certainly with the potential configuration options you’re getting good bang for your buck, but with the restrictions on child restraints you need to be certain about what you are going to want before shelling out the cash.
“Can you pick my son up from school, I’m running late” – it’s a common call among parents of school aged kids – so with that extra row of seats you will become the supermum or superdad with your generous offers of rides. However, you may also get sick of those calls after a while – so be careful!
The lasting impression
Sure it’s not amazing to look at from all angles, but there are some good angles too, you’ll feel like you’ve got something different to the rest with your sit back and relax style front seats with center arm-rests and the ease of drive will impress you.
The hip pocket
At $37,000 or there about, it’s a low-cost seven-seater no matter how you look at it, plus the overall fuel economy (which for me was around 8.l4/100k after 1500k’s on the road) is better than most SUV’s by far.
EFTM rubber stamp
The Odyssey is a great option for families in the market for a people mover or those few extra seats. For the younger family though it’s a bit deceptive so be wary about the age and requirements of those up to seven passengers before you commit. With that as the main gripe I have, the Odyssey is a PASS from EFTM.