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The 2014 Honda Odyssey: This isn’t your mother’s minivan

2014 Honda Odyssey

• Type. Four-door, 7- or 8-passenger full-size minivan

• Engines (hp). 3.5-litre V6 with cylinder deactivation (248)

• Transmission. Six-speed automatic

• Base price. Base $29,990, as-tested $32,045 (plus destination)

At one time, minivans were the top choice for family vehicles, but they fell out of favour as buyers went to SUVs and crossovers. Still, you can’t beat them for moving a full load of passengers and cargo, and Honda’s Odyssey is a standout.

It’s pricey, ranging from $29,990 for the base LX to a high of $48,050 for the top-line Touring, but you do get a lot of features for the money. My tester was the SE, the next trim up from the base model, at $32,045.

The Odyssey uses a 3.5-litre V6 engine with a nifty cylinder deactivation feature. When you don’t need full power, such as when you’re cruising at a steady speed, the engine can run on four or even three cylinders to save fuel. It happens automatically, and so smoothly that it’s almost impossible to feel the engine switch over. I averaged just 9.2 L/100 km in it, which is pretty good for a van this size, especially since I drove it most of the time with it loaded up.

Part of that fuel economy is also due to its six-speed automatic transmission, which is now used on all trim lines. On the 2013 models, only the top-end Touring had it, with all others using a five-speed automatic.

For its size, this minivan handles extremely well, with light but accurate steering, and a car-like ride that’s smooth, but not so soft that it wallows around turns.

The Odyssey is definitely designed for practicality. There’s a lot of room for accessing the third row, and the seats are very easy to fold flat when you need extra cargo space. The front console box can be taken out if desired, and the middle seat in the second row slides forward so those in the front can attend to a child in that seat.

Even the base trim line includes power front seats, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, and USB interface. Before you automatically head to the SUVs, give the minivan one more look.

Market position

Only a handful of competitors remain in this segment, and manufacturers offer numerous features — along with incentives — to woo buyers away from alternatives. Honda scores with an excellent powertrain and roomy interior.

Points

  • The top-line Touring includes an integrated vacuum cleaner to handle the inevitable minivan messes.
  • Improvements to the 2014 model include minor styling changes, four-way power passenger seat on all models, and on the EX and up, a blind-spot display that shows up in the centre screen.
  • The set-back front centre console leaves enough floor space so a purse or pack can be kept within easy reach.

Interesting features

Rear-view camera, second-row climate controls, eight-way power driver’s seat, Bluetooth streaming audio, front-seat anti-whiplash head restraints, three-row curtain airbags with rollover sensor.

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