So your family is growing, and it’s time for a minivan — but which one? Almost every option in the category is spacious and reliable, but for every buyer there are features that are dealmakers and dealbreakers.
The 2016 Honda Odyssey, made in Lincoln, Alabama, has great build quality, standard Bluetooth, ample cargo space and is even available with a built-in vacuum. Buyers love the Odyssey’s power sliding doors and versatile seating configurations. It’s one of the most refined and well equipped minivans, but it’s also one of the most expensive. And for all the money you spend, the Odyssey has one of the most maddening control interfaces on the market.
Is the Honda Odyssey the best minivan for you? We’re here to help you quickly decide whether a test drive is worth your time.
2016 Honda Odyssey Fast Facts
Seating: 7 Standard, 2nd row middle seat increases to 8 (EX trims and above)
• Built-in rear vacuum (SE and Touring Elite)
• Power sliding doors with driver’s seat controls (EX and above)
• DVD entertainment with remote and headsets (SE, Touring, Touring Elite, Available on EX-L)
• Standard backup camera, Honda LaneWatch blind spot camera (EX trims and above)
• Frustrating dual-screen controls
• Second row seat doesn’t fold into floor
• Steep price for top features
• No AWD
Dealmakers: Honda Odyssey’s Top Lifestyle Features
The Odyssey is one of the best equipped vans in the segment, offering smart storage solutions, tons of cupholders, and even an available vacuum. Read on for details on the Odyssey’s most compelling dealmakers.
Dealmaker: Dynamic Seating for up to 8 & Tons of Cargo Space
All trims but the base LX have seating for 8 (the LX seats 7). The middle row features a “wide mode,” which spreads the outboard seats about 1.5 inches in either direction. This is key when trying to get just a bit of separation among the little ones on those long drives. When you fold the second row and remove it (no easy task; more on that dealbreaker later), it opens the Odyssey up to 148.5 cubic feet of cargo space, which is second among minivans, behind only the Toyota Sienna (150 cubic feet of cargo space). The Kia Sedona follows the Odyssey, at 142 cubic feet, while the Pacifica closely trails the Kia at 140.5 cubic feet. The Quest is a distant last, at 110 cubic feet of cargo space. A Car and Driver review put that space into perspective, noting, “The Odyssey’s massive passenger space and cargo hold is a boon for road trips,” and “If you’re looking for the best way to haul a family with small — or even large — children, as well as their varied paraphernalia, look no further.”
Dealmaker: Cinematic Entertainment
A DVD entertainment system comes standard on SE and Touring trims, and is available on the EX-L trim. This is a great way to occupy the kids on long trips, it comes with two pairs of wireless headphones, a remote and you can control the system from up front. A widescreen version of the system is standard on the top-tier Touring Elite trim, providing a cinematic feel for movies.
Both types of screens drop down from the ceiling, which keeps them out of prying hands. A similar system (albeit the smaller variant) is offered in the Nissan Quest. The Kia Sedona has a screen that flips up from the bottom of the center console that is just asking to be broken.
The Toyota Sienna offers dual seat-back DVD entertainment systems. Meanwhile, the all-new Chrysler Pacifica offers dual seat-back touch screens with individual hard drives. You can even play (educational) games between the two screens. The Odyssey’s system will do, but there’s no matching the ability to occupy two children as offered by Chrysler’s system.
Dealmaker: The All-Seeing Mirror
The conversation mirror (standard on EX trims and up) is a wide-angled piece that deploys from the roof console. It lets the front-row occupants (read: parents) see what all the rear-seat occupants (kids) are up to, and it’s very helpful.
Dealmaker: 14-Plus Cup Holders
We counted 14 cupholders, but we wouldn’t be surprised if some hidden cubby holds several more bottles of water. The available “Cool box” (standard on EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite) is a chilled compartment that can hold multiple water bottles. The center seat of the middle row folds down, revealing three of the 14 cup holders, and there are additional ones in every door, and even multiple cup holders for the third row. The Sienna, Quest, and Sedona all have 12 cup holders.
Dealmaker: It’s Got a Vacuum
The SE and Touring Elite trims come standard with with HondaVAC, a built-in vacuum, which is great for spot-cleaning small spills of dry items. But parents know all too well that few spills are small, or dry. When dealing with a car full of kids, you’ll need to supplement the small vacuum with something more substantial in the garage. The Chrysler Pacifica also features a vacuum.
Dealbreakers: Honda Odyssey’s Worst Lifestyle Features
Living in the Odyssey is not all rosy. The touch screen system is clunky and even distracting. Meanwhile, you’ll need to do some heavy lifting to take full advantage of all the cargo space.
Dealbreaker: Frustrating Duel-Screen Controls
In the last several years, Honda is on a crusade to change how you interact with your car. Many new Honda models feature a “dual screen” setup in the center console. This makes the interior look bright and futuristic, but the menu layout for even basic functions is clunky and unintuitive. Even the most tech-savvy shoppers will find the Odyssey’s dual-screen setup distracting. And that distraction is a legit safety concern when precious cargo is factored in.
Luckily, there are redundant controls for the audio and climate controls. And if you opt for the base LX, the controls layout is much more simple and easy to use, but then you lose all the other great features in the upper level trims.
A Consumer Reports roundup on infotainment systems puts HondaLink on the bottom end of “Average” infotainment systems — and within a stone’s throw of “Back to the Drawing Board.” Their research was based on consumer surveys as well as hands-on testing. According to the report, “Our tests found the onscreen buttons and menus to be unintuitive.” That’s putting it lightly.
Dealbreaker: Heavy Bench Must Be Removed for Full Cargo Space
The rear seats fold away for added space, but the second row does not fold completely into the floor, like the Stow-n-Go seating on the Chrysler Pacifica. If you want to take full advantage of the Odyssey’s cargo area, you’ll need to remove that second row. Not only can that prove tough if you are doing it on your own, but you have to be at home or someplace where you can safely store the second row.
Dealbreaker: Top Features Come at High Price
The Honda Odyssey comes standard with Bluetooth connectivity for hands-free calling, streaming music from your smartphone, and more cupholders than any other van in the segment. But availability of some of the most desirable features depends on the trim level you select, and the top trims don’t come cheap. If price is an issue, this could be your dealbreaker.
LX: (MSRP: $29,550) Bluetooth calling, Bluetooth streaming audio, i-MID 8-inch customizable screen, Pandora capability, SMS text function, USB audio interface, Remote entry, 12-volt power outlets (front row & cargo area), rear seat heater ducts, illuminated steering wheel mounted controls, cruise control.
EX: (MSRP $32,700, includes everything from LX, plus) Audio touch screen, HondaLink connectivity, multi-function second row center seat, Honda LaneWatch, power sliding doors, 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat w/ power lumbar support, tri-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, wide-angle conversation mirror.
SE: (MSRP $33,650, includes everything from EX, plus) Rear seat entertainment entertainment system, 115-volt 3rd row power outlet, integrated vacuum, SiriusXM radio.
EX-L: (MSRP $36,200, includes everything from SE, plus) Forward collision warning, lane departure warning, one-touch power moonroof, power liftgate, chilled storage bin, leather seating, leather wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats.
Touring: (MSRP $42,455, includes everything from EX-L, plus) Fog lights, auto tilt-down side mirrors, acoustic windshield, ambient footwell lining, satellite-linked navigation system.
Touring Elite: (MSRP $45,025, includes everything from Touring, plus) 650-watt premium stereo with 12 speakers and subwoofer, HD radio, Honda DVD ultrawide rear entertainment system with HDMI technology.
Dealmaker: The Minivan That Drives Like a Car
A V6 engine and front-wheel drive is the norm among this class. Some offer AWD, which the Odyssey does not. But fret not, because even within the fairly unsurprising powertrain layout, the Odyssey finds ways to edge out the competition.
Handling: The Sports Car Minivan?
As minivans go, the Odyssey is one of the smoother-driving options. According to CarGurus, “Handling in a minivan can be awkward, almost truck-like, but not with the Odyssey. It falls somewhere between an SUV like the Pilot and a sedan like the Accord, leaning more toward a sedan.” This car-like ride should inspire a great deal of confidence.
The engine of the Odyssey makes 248 horsepower, which may not seem like much for a vehicle that has to carry around 8 occupants and all their gear, but the V6 in the Odyssey does the job well. According to KBB, the Odyssey “never feels strained or overburdened, even with a full complement aboard.”
Drivetrain: Powerful & Sure-Footed
All Honda Odyssey 2016 Models come with a strong enough engine to tow as much as 3,500 pounds, which is enough for a small boat or camping trailer. And with traction control and other safety traction gear, the front-wheel-drive Odyssey can manage tricky footing.
• Engine: 3.5-liter V6
• Output: 248 horsepower / 250 lb-ft of torque
• Transmission: 6-speed automatic
• Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive (no AWD option)
• 0-60 MPH: 7.7 sec
• Towing: 3,500 lbs.
• Fuel economy: 19/28/22 (city/highway/combined)
Dealmaker: Odyssey Is a Top Safety Pick
There are two major safety organizations that test road cars and publish scores. They are the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). NHTSA scores vehicles out of five stars, while the IIHS scores on a scale of Poor, Marginal, Acceptable, and Good. Additionally, the IIHS offers “Top Safety Pick” recommendations, as well as “Top Safety Pick +” for vehicles with advanced crash avoidance and mitigation features.
The Honda Odyssey is tied among the safest minivans in the market today. Divining the unrivaled best is a bit harder than it might seem. Among the five minivans, only three have been tested by NHTSA, and of the two untested, one earns the highest safety accolade from the IIHS of “Top Safety Pick+.” The Odyssey has strong crash test ratings, earning five stars for all NHTSA tests, save for rollover, in which it earns four stars. It also earns a score of “Good” across the board from the IIHS. Despite this, other models, like the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica, have more active safety equipment such as forward collision avoidance/mitigation.
Crash Test Safety: Tied for Best
The Odyssey earns Five Stars overall in NHTSA testing*, and an overall score of “Good” from the IIHS, including a “Top Safety Pick” recommendation. The EX-L is available with forward collision warning, but not avoidance/mitigation which can autonomously brake the vehicle. The Toyota Sienna (when equipped with the Technology Package) has this functionality, which would have pushed the Sienna ahead of the Odyssey in safety ratings, were it not for the front small overlap crash ratings, where the Sienna scores only “Acceptable.”
NHTSA Crash Test Data
|Minivan||NHTSA Overall Rating|
|Honda Odyssey||5/5 Stars|
|Kia Sedona||5/5 Stars|
|Toyota Sienna||5/5 Stars|
|Chrysler Pacifica||Not Rated|
|Nissan Quest||Not Rated|
The Sienna is the closest competition. The Kia Sedona earns Five Stars from NHTSA, and “Good” in every category from the IIHS, also earning a “Top Safety Pick” recommendation. It features an optional collision warning system, which stops short of autonomous braking (like the Odyssey), thus keeping it just out of reach from a “Top Safety Pick +” rating. The only other vehicle to earn the IIHS “Top Safety Pick +” rating is the Chrysler Pacifica, but comprehensive testing of the Pacifica has not been completed by NHTSA yet.
IIHS Testing Awards
|Chrysler Pacifica||Top Safety Pick+|
|Honda Odyssey||Top Safety Pick|
|Kia Sedona||Top Safety Pick|
Though the Nissan Quest has been on the market for some time, it has not been tested by NHTSA. It has been tested by the IIHS, where it earned a score of “Poor” for front small overlap testing, “Acceptable” on roof strength, and “Good” in all other areas.
The Odyssey comes standard with a full array of front and side impact airbags, child proof rear locks, and LATCH anchors for safety seats in the second and third rows. It also comes standard with backup camera, Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control, and tire pressure monitoring system.
Safety Tech: Comprehensive, if You Pay More
All trims but the base LX get Honda LaneWatch, which is like a backup camera for your right blind spot. A camera build into the passenger side mirror is projected in the center console, and even provides distance markers to see if it is safe to merge. This feature is very helpful when there is a lot of traffic and the kids are providing plenty of distractions.
EX-L, Touring, and Touring Elite all come standard with forward collision warning and lane departure warning, providing the greatest level of safety awareness in aiding the driver.
Reliability: Better Than Ratings Suggest
Honda has a strong reputation for reliability. In a recent J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey the Odyssey scores low points for accessory features and design quality, but scores well for mechanical reliability — the most important component of the survey.
Tiebreakers: Comparing the Odyssey to the Competition
The Odyssey is a high-quality minivan with refined performance and premium features, but if you can’t get past one of its dealbreakers, there’s a competing option for you. The Sienna offers all-wheel drive, the Pacifica has seating that fully stows into the floor, the Sedona is bargain priced — and all three have a more logical control panel.
Toyota Sienna (MSRP $29,750-$47,310)
The Sienna has long been the closest rival to the Odyssey, with similar quality, pricing and features. But it offers certain options that could be dealmakers.
Sienna vs Odyssey:
• Offers AWD (Odyssey doesn’t)
• 2nd row needs to be removed, but can also slide forward in a pinch, or slide back for greater legroom
• Better control layout (Odyssey’s worst feature)
Learn more about the Toyota Sienna here.
Chrysler Pacifica (MSRP $28,595-$42,495)
Replacing the dated Town & Country, the Pacifica has sharp new styling. While the outgoing Town & Country was the bargain basement option, the more competent Pacifica roughly matches the Odyssey on price.
Pacifica vs. Odyssey:
• Seating stows into floor (Odyssey requires bench removal)
• Better control layout (Odyssey’s worst feature)
• Dual seat-back touch screens (versus Odyssey’s dropdown screen)
Learn more about the Chrysler Pacifica here.
Kia Sedona (MSRP $26,400-$39,900)
As the least expensive option in the segment, the Sedona has a surprisingly quiet and luxurious interior. But many critics pan its sluggish highway acceleration, and handling that feels a little “off.” If you are looking for a van on a budget, the Sedona is the ideal option.
Sedona vs. Odyssey:
• Better control layout (Odyssey’s worst feature)
• Lower price than Odyssey
• Falls short on performance
Learn more about the Kia Sedona here.
Nissan Quest (MSRP $26,580-$43,230)
Positioned as the upscale option, the Quest does feature a high-end interior, with standard push-button start and available leather seating that is incredibly soft. But it has fewer seats than other options in the class, and those seats can be neither be removed nor folded into the floor. It also has far and away the least cargo space. This is a minivan for carting adults around.
Quest vs. Odyssey:
• Far less cargo space than Odyssey
• Inflexible seating configuration
• Luxurious leather available
Learn more about the Nissan Quest here.
Should I Buy a Honda Odyssey?
The Odyssey remains one of the most refined, best equipped offerings in the segment. But there are some other things to consider before buying.
So Which to Buy?
• If you love Honda quality, features and performance: Honda Odyssey
• If you require easily stow-able seating: Chrysler Pacifica
• If you want the latest safety and infotainment tech: Chrysler Pacifica
• If you must have AWD: Toyota Sienna
• If you’re on a tight budget: Kia Sedona
Odyssey Dealmakers vs. Dealbreakers Final Tally
Dealmaker: Standard backup camera, available Honda LaneWatch blind spot camera
Dealmaker: Refined interior, lots of standard features
Dealmaker: Seating for 8 with tons of cubbies and space management, including 14 cupholders, and the “conversation mirror”
Dealmaker: Drives and handles like a car
Dealmaker: IIHS Top Safety Pick
Dealmaker: Available power sliding doors with driver’s seat controls
Dealmaker: Available DVD entertainment with remote and headsets
Dealmaker: Available built-in rear vacuum
Dealbreaker: Frustrating dual-screen controls
Dealbreaker: Second row seat doesn’t fold into floor
Dealbreaker: Steep price for top features
Dealbreaker: No available AWD
Final Tally: +4
Market Average: +3.8
If you’re a Honda loyalist, there’s no talking you out of the Odyssey, but the Pacifica offers better features, more usable controls and the latest safety and entertainment technology, while the Sedona is your choice if you’re looking for a bargain. If you go for the Odyssey, the EX trim is the best compromise of price and features, while the Odyssey’s EX-L, Touring and Touring Elite trims are some of the most luxurious ways to bring the kids to soccer practice in style.