IN­SIDE INFO Specs and rat­ings Model:

Friday - - Society Living Leisure - 2014 Odyssey 3.5-litre V6 Sixspeed auto, FWD 250bhp @ 5,700rpm 343Nm @ 4,800rpm NA NA Dh129,999 (base) Large cabin, com­fort­able seats, easy to drive Staid im­age

in­di­vid­ual seats that can be ad­justed separately and, thanks to the MPV’s in­cred­i­ble 2,011mm width, can fit three child seats with ease.

All three seats slide for­ward and back so the rowdy brood is never out of arm’s reach. And if you have only two pas­sen­gers in the se­cond row, fold that mid­dle seat down and it dou­bles up as a wide cen­tre arm­rest com­plete with cup hold­ers.

Un­like many SUVs and crossovers on the mar­ket, the Odyssey’s third row is not meant for gnomes. It is spa­cious enough to ac­com­mo­date up to two adults and a child in com­fort. And as in other MPVs and SUVs, if you have more cargo than pas­sen­gers, the Honda’s third-row seat folds neatly into the floor in a 60:40 split.

But the best thing about the Odyssey is the way it drives. For a ca­pa­cious eight-seater fam­ily car, it drives like a much smaller ve­hi­cle. Thanks to the MacPher­son struts in the front and a dou­ble-wish­bone rear sus­pen­sion, the ride is prob­a­bly more com­fort­able and re­fined than the Pilot SUV’s, while it han­dles more like the Ac­cord sa­loon.

Honda has also done well to keep en­gine and road noise at bay, thus leav­ing the cabin sur­pris­ingly quiet. It’s still hauled by the 3.5-litre V6 en­gine fea­tur­ing Vari­able Cylin­der Man­age­ment that shuts down two to three cylin­ders ac­cord­ing to the power re­quire­ments, im­prov­ing the Odyssey’s fuel ef­fi­ciency.

In the pre­vi­ous model, only the top-end Odyssey Tour­ing came stan­dard with a six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, while the lower mod­els had five-speed ’boxes. But for the 2014 model, Honda has made the smooth-shift­ing six-speed auto stan­dard across the range.

The Odyssey’s hy­draulic power steer­ing au­to­mat­i­cally bumps up the power as­sist when you’re pot­ter­ing around town or park­ing in a tight space, while nicely weigh­ing up as the car gath­ers speed, of­fer­ing more feed­back than you’d ex­pect from a mini­van.

There are loads of new fea­tures in­side in­clud­ing a bev­er­age cooler built into the bot­tom of the dash­board, while new touch-panel au­dio con­trols via a screen help re­duce the clut­ter in the dash and make it less but­ton-heavy.

The Odyssey EX-L and Tour­ing grades also get a smart en­try sys­tem with a start but­ton. One new fea­ture I found es­pe­cially handy is the Honda LaneWatch sys­tem with a blind-spot mon­i­tor that adds ad­di­tional safety when chang­ing lanes. This fea­ture, which de­buted in the lat­est Ac­cord sa­loon, pro­vides a sweeping view of the car’s blind-spot area on the 8.0in LCD screen us­ing a cam­era mounted un­der the right wing mir­ror and ac­ti­vated by the right-turn in­di­ca­tor switch. Other safety fea­tures like anti-lock disc brakes, sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trol, ac­tive front head­rests and a num­ber of airbags make sure you and your fam­ily are pro­tected from all an­gles.

Al­to­gether, Honda has man­aged to make this al­ready fan­tas­tic MPV even bet­ter with the 2014 changes. It’s much more prac­ti­cal and com­fort­able than any cross­over and is a lot more fuel ef­fi­cient than any SUV with com­pa­ra­ble space and com­fort.

If you’re con­sid­er­ing some­thing big­ger than your cur­rent car to ac­com­mo­date a grow­ing fam­ily, and if you think driv­ing an MPV is a dif­fer­ent kind of style state­ment, then there aren’t many fam­ily cars out there that are bet­ter than the new Honda Odyssey.

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