MPV, people mover, mum bus, van, and even the venga bus; all valid names for what many associate to be something they will never buy because of the stigma associated with owning a passenger van.
Is the 2018 Honda Odyssey VTi going to change that? Is it going to make you think again about buying that seven or eight seat, four wheel deal?
We know you don’t want it to, right. But damn it, it just might, because it gets into your bones with its practicality, seduces you with its usability and then finally locks you in with its charm.
Charm? How does a car have charm, especially when it’s a people mover?
We don’t know. It just does. OK. It must have. Because you want to dislike the Odyssey immensely for its terrible body shape, it’s 90’s style interior and its dated technology. You might even want to hate it.
You don’t want to like the 2.4-litre DOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder Earth Dreams engine either, even though it delivers a respectable 129kW of power, but an average 220Nm of torque, and is married to a CVT gearbox.
Because while the gearbox is smooth and responsive, it makes the engine work hard for the money when you require some get up and go. To top it off, the Odyssey has a complete disregard for how much crap families carry around today.
Now here’s where that charm starts to kick in. The VTi is an 8-seater (while its upmarket twin the VTi-L is a 7-seater), and it has an incredible small footprint for a people mover, unlike its physically larger competitors like the Kia Carnival and Hyundai iMax.
As a result, it doesn’t feel like an MPV at all, it feels like a large family car, but that dynamic size difference comes at a price. There is no storage, except for the glove box, there is literally nothing.
No door pockets, no centre console bin, which is strange because the space is there for it, and nowhere to put baby wipes. The wide open space might be good for ice cream classic catches, but not so much when you need storage.
Everyone gets a small cup holder and that’s it. If you stick a bunch of kids in this regularly, it is going to be a rubbish tip inside. That said, you do get pockets behind the front seats.
But wait, for some reason they have been sewn down the middle to create two uselessly small pockets. Even the boot space is tiny and would be lucky to fit a couple of medium suitcases in there.
You can fold down the rear seat into the floor to gain a decent cargo area, but you will loose the whole rear row of seating as it is a bench with no split. The seat uprights split 40/20/40 but that doesn’t actually offer much functionality.
You don’t get any anti-death and destruction devices in the VTi either, except for the brakes (including ABS and electronic brake distribution), air bags in the front and sides, and a rear facing camera.
If you want all the safety gadgets like parking sensors, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking and ISOFIX child restraints, you have to get the VTi-L.
Other things you miss out on in the VTi include dual side electric sliding doors (there’s a passenger side electric sliding door), heated and electric front seats, an aero kit, chrome trim, a sunroof and rear privacy glass.
You also don’t get an auto dimming rear view mirror, tri-zone climate control (just dual zone in the VTi), key less entry and start, and SatNav. But, and it’s a big but, the VTi-L costs around $10,000 more than the VTi.
The technology across the range feels like it’s three years old, with an LCD based display for the temperature controls, and a rudimentary and basic 7-inch touch screen interface for the infotainment system.
The sound system is good though and you can get it pumping for those rare trips without the kids, but there are no bells and whistles. Bluetooth connectivity is there, but it’s basic.
Now for the good stuff, you can, as we said, drive it like a car, and it’s incredibly easy to park. It handles city streets with ease and is stable and comfortable on the open road. There is a bit of a lack of torque though, but it does have Earth Dreams.
If you have a passion for the environment but need a large car, this is the one for you. The engine has been worked on heavily to make it one of the leanest petrol engines to date.
It’s emissions are low and it’s fuel economy is fantastic, boasting 7.6 litres/100km (combined), low carbon emissions, and stop/start on the engine, which switches the engine off when you are stopped and then starts it up when you take off.
The car can literally run on the smell of an oily rag. Work it hard and that oily rag goes out the window though. Hold on there though, as it’s not as bad as it sounds, the 2018 Honda Odyssey has a genius little gimmick.
We calling it “Honda’s green eyes of judgement”. Either side of the instrument cluster are two green lines, which look at you like someone does when they are deciding whether they are going to trust you or not, you know, with squinty eyes and pursed lips.
When you drive the Odyssey within in a specific range these lines stay green, but as soon as you give it the beans, the lines change colour to white, reminding you that you are hurting the environment and Mother Nature will be waiting for you at home with punishment.
At first we paid no attention to the judging eyes. But there they were, unwavering, constantly in our line of sight, saying; “Little too much there pal, better slow it up” and “Do you really need to accelerate that fast?”
It worked. We found ourselves driving the car more and more conservatively so as to not displease the green eyed overlord staring back at us from the dash. Massive hats off to Honda for this initiative too.
It is a simple but effective method of getting people to treat there cars appropriately.
You would be forgiven for thinking that we were not real keen on the Odyssey, because if you are a large family looking for a good people mover to get you around and take you on holidays you are right.
And that’s purely because of the storage issues. You are going to struggle with fitting in prams, baby bags, toys and everything else that potentially needs to come on a trip to the shops, let alone a holiday.
But, and this is important, if you live in the city with kids, especially if they are older than toddlers, and you need something to get them to all the things they need to get to, and do it with ease of parking and handling. Then this is the vehicle for you.
For that target market, the Honda Odyssey is right up there with perfect. It will tick all your practicality boxes, and deliver as a vehicle fit for purpose. But it’s not going to wow you, and does it really need to?
The short answer is no it doesn’t, because it’s everything it needs to be. Affordable. Practical. Reliable. It will grow on you, and you will find yourself loving your 2018 Honda Odyssey for reasons you wont quite understand.
The 2018 Honda Odyssey VTi will set you back $41,838 on the road or $51,812 for the VTI-L. This includes a 5-year unlimited kilometre, fully transferable warranty.
It comes in a range of very nice colours, all of them pearl except one, including Premium White, Cobalt Blue, Twinkle Black and our favourite, Premium Spice Purple. The non-pearl colour is Metallic Super Platinum.
Our road test vehicle was supplied by Honda Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Honda Odyssey VTi, visit your local Honda dealer.