I don't care what you or anyone else says, minivans are great. They're roomier than an SUV, usually cheaper, have better convenience features and almost totally fly under everyone's radar. In this underappreciated vehicle genre, the Honda Odyssey has always stood out as being particularly good, and guess what? There's a new one.
Well, mostly new. OK, maybe only sort of new — but it looks a little different and has more standard safety features, and that's fine because I don't know that I could handle more than one revolutionary minivan debut in a calendar year. So what exactly is different about the 2021 Honda Odyssey?
Pricing, for one. You're likely now wondering what all this minivan goodness is going to cost you if you just have to park one in your carport. Well, the bad news is that prices did go up a bit from 2020. The good news is that it wasn't by a crazy amount, which means that the 2021 Odyssey is still pretty affordable. The base LX model will set you back $32,910, including destination, while the top-flight Elite model with its leather seats and piano-black interior finery will cost $48,940, also including destination.
In visible changes, the Odyssey gets a new and improved nose. The outgoing 2020 model's grille was fine, but the 2021's hearkens back to Hondas of old with a cleaner and simpler look. I'm a fan. The change is subtle but welcome, in other words. The rest of the Odyssey's looks are mostly the same as before, which I'm not complaining about.
Thankfully, there are more substantive and exciting changes once you climb inside. Chief among those is the change to the second row of seats, because now when you fold them, they fold nearly flat. This makes them easier to remove if you have to haul something big, which is convenient. They're still not exactly Stow 'n Go levels of brilliant, but it's a big improvement nevertheless. Honda's neat Magic Slide system is still along for the ride, which is a good thing.
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Honda is also making a new rear-seat reminder feature standard that is separate from but can integrate with its CabinWatch system. You can also now use the CabinWatch and CabinTalk features simultaneously, so you no longer have to choose between amplifying your dad jokes or zooming in on your kids in the back seats dropping food into hard-to-clean areas. It's as close to omnipotence as a minivan driver is likely to get. Also notable is that this combined functionality is coming to the 2018 through 2020 Odysseys as well via an over-the-air update.
Probably the most important upgrades to the Odyssey come in the company's move to make Honda Sensing standard across the range, as well as adding features to the already pretty good driver assistance suite. Honda Sensing now gets low-speed follow, pedestrian emergency braking and traffic sign recognition added to the already robust set of driver-assistance systems.
2021 Honda Odyssey minvan gets more standard safety and a new nose
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Other small but notable changes include Honda's addition of even more bag hooks in the cargo area, redesigned front seats on upper trim levels, available piano-black trim, new tricolor floormats and power-adjustable lumbar support for the front passenger seat on EX-L trims and above. Not bad. Oh, and you know the HondaVac is still around because it's amazing.
Things haven't changed mechanically, so you still get the Odyssey's 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6, which produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. That engine is still bolted to Honda's totally decent 10-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels only. That helps the Odyssey achieve EPA-estimated fuel efficiency figures of 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The 2021 Honda Odyssey is set to hit dealers on Aug. 3.
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