Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila
AS far as per-capita comfort goes, few vehicles come close to Honda’s enduring and endearing Odyssey — the minivan that has been getting people from here to there since 1994. But first, some housekeeping is in order. There are actually two kinds of Odysseys huffing and puffing around the world: a more compact JDM version (which is the one we have here), and a slightly larger one earmarked for the North American market. Our Odyssey “lite” has spanned five generations, the last all-new version unveiled back in 2013 (but our current model has been refreshed); its American sibling’s fifth iteration was released just last year as a 2018 model — 13 inches longer, almost seven inches wider, and 0.8 inch taller than our locally sold Odyssey.
The inevitable question though is, do you need an Odyssey? After all, isn’t this nameplate a relic from that halcyon age of soccer-mom vans?
• Well, yes, and don’t you forget it. Honda has sharpened its chops through this era — mastering the art of movement while keeping demanding passengers of all ages shushed. “Are we there yet?” No, but you can watch a movie on the nine-inch overhead screen. “But I want to watch what I want!” Fine, plug in your doohickey into that HDMI socket on the third row and stop bother me because I’m driving.
• Beyond bells and whistles, the Odyssey is a truly refined exemplar of transportation bliss. I rarely find myself struggling to choose my preferred seat in a vehicle (I’m the default driver, anyway), but with this MPV (yes, that’s the millennial-age term for the minivan, thank you very much) I actually yearned to travel on either of the second-row captain seats. They’re comfortable, and the legroom is spot on. In these parts, some car companies usually loosely interpret the term “seven-seater” into “five normal-size (whatever the heck ‘normal’ is) adults and two small kids.” In the EX-V Navi, seven means seven, sans qualifiers. Occupants also get their own dedicated overhead A/C vents, so no more dirty looks for your big sister who bogarts the vent.
• Completing the elegant and spacious interiors are thoughtfully located USB ports and other jacks, remote-controlled sliding doors, an impressive reverse camera system, and automatic three-zone air-conditioning.
• The driver can basically enjoy his or her own piece of nirvana as the rest of the passengers sit back in comfort.
• Odyssey’s Earth Dreams is smooth operator that steadily supplies the grunt (173 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 226 Nm @ 4,000 rpm) without much fanfare. The safety accoutrements in this price point also make an appearance: parking sensors, blind-spot information, cross traffic monitor, and a smart parking assist system. I also simply adore the multi-view reverse camera system. It affords you a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle and 360 degrees of its periphery — a feature I first experienced in the Honda Legend. You could even switch the cameras on while you’re moving forward.
• When split-folded 60:40, the second-row seats give way to even more storage space (though I found the recessed rear storage compartment surprisingly roomy on its own).
• The 2.4-liter power plant of the Odyssey isn’t particularly sprightly even on Sport Mode, but who would have the compulsion to accelerate like an SOB aboard a van, er, MPV?
• Particularly fastidious car owners will fuss over the fingerprint-prone touch display screen. The tachometer presentation is somewhat unattractive, and the manually operated tailgate is a disappointment.
• The lower ride height can be seen as both boon and bane. It’s a thoughtful convenience for differently-abled or elderly passengers (who will also doubtless appreciate the aforementioned powered rear sliding doors on both sides of this Honda). But it unfortunately also makes this expensive vehicle (P2.498 million for this variant) almost at eye level with smaller vehicles. That’s something just doesn’t, um, sit well with me. I like my vans elevated and authoritative.
• All told, there’s fun (and space) in spades to be had by every occupant aboard this classic nameplate that’s been brought to the here and now. Now, let me get my feet on that ottoman.
Honda Odyssey 2.4 EX-V Navi
Price: P2.498 million
Engine: 2.4-liter inline-four, gasoline; 173 hp @ 6,200 rpm, 226 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
Wheels/Tires: 17 inches, 215/55
Key features: Smart entry with push-button ignition; multimedia with seven-inch touch screen panel, navigation and HDMI, Bluetooth and USB connections; rear entertainment system with nine-inch monitor, DVD player and HDMI connection; middle row captain’s chairs with ottoman; triple-zone automatic climate control; power-operated sliding doors; reversing camera; multiview camera; smart parking assist; blind spot information; cross-traffic monitor