Honda gives its pop­u­lar MPV a styling and tech­nol­ogy over­haul. Have these changes made the new Odyssey a bet­ter fam­ily hauler than it used to be? wheels’ Sony Thomas finds out

Friday - - Contents - PHO­TOS BY STEFA N LINDEQUE

A look at Honda’s spruced-up fam­ily hauler Odyssey.

It’s not just in its name that Honda’s Odyssey is epic. As au­to­mo­biles go, the Odyssey’s pro­por­tions are epic too. No won­der then in nearly two decades since its in­tro­duc­tion, the Ja­panese fam­ily hauler has had a heroic run in al­most all the mar­kets it’s been on sale in. Honda has shifted nearly 3 mil­lion of these MPVs glob­ally across its four gen­er­a­tions. This larger-than-life per­sona that the model has cre­ated for it­self ex­plains why Honda has not been ad­ven­tur­ous with its gen­er­a­tional up­dates. In fact, the Odyssey’s mas­sive 3,000mm wheel­base has re­mained the same since the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion, al­though the 2018 edi­tion sees the ar­chi­tec­ture move to the lat­est plat­form that also un­der­pins the Pi­lot SUV.

There isn’t much that de­sign­ers can do to add verve into the looks of an MPV. But within their lim­i­ta­tions, Honda’s stylists have man­aged to make the lat­est Odyssey look less mun­dane than its pre­de­ces­sor, and ar­guably most of its ri­vals too. Apart from the kink in the belt­line that starts from just be­fore the C-pil­lar, the pro­file also has quite a few creases travers­ing its length. These, along with the re­designed front grille and LED head­lights and tail­lights all add a rea­son­able amount of dy­namism to the Odyssey’s ap­pear­ance.

But styling is among the least sig­nif­i­cant of con­sid­er­a­tions for an MPV buyer. And Honda doesn’t dis­ap­point with util­i­tar­ian cre­den­tials ei­ther. In fact, with the raft of new tech­nol­ogy fea­tures that have been in­cor­po­rated into the Odyssey, it’s hard to find an­other ve­hi­cle that can outdo it. The slid­ing rear doors can be opened from out­side by press­ing a but­ton on the key fob, and re­veal a cabin that’s ex­tremely spa­cious and ver­sa­tile.

The Odyssey is de­signed to seat eight pas­sen­gers, but if you don’t need to carry that many, the cen­tre seat of the sec­ond row can be re­moved to add more space and flex­i­bil­ity within the cabin. In fact, the sec­ond row can be cus­tomised into four dif­fer­ent po­si­tions

– Full, Wide, Su­per and Buddy modes as Honda calls them. In Full mode, the Odyssey ac­com­mo­dates eight pas­sen­gers, while all the other three modes will seat seven as the cen­tre seat will be re­moved. Wide mode leaves a walk-through space in be­tween the sec­ond row seats, while Su­per mode pro­vides easy ac­cess to the third row. The Buddy mode brings both the cen­tre row seats to­gether in the mid­dle and slid for­ward so that these are within eas­ier reach of front seat oc­cu­pants. Over­all, the level of cus­tomis­abil­ity of­fered in seat­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion leaves noth­ing to be de­sired.

There are some great new tech ad­di­tions to the Odyssey that will be ap­pre­ci­ated by

Cabin Talk lets you use the ve­hi­cle’s speaker sys­tem or wire­less head­phones to talk to rear pas­sen­gers who have head­phones on

par­ents who travel with kids. The first is Cabin Watch, which lets the driver and front pas­sen­ger keep an eye on the rear pas­sen­gers via the 8.0in dis­play on the cen­tre con­sole. The wide an­gle footage is shot us­ing a cam­era with night vi­sion ca­pa­bil­ity so it works well even when it’s dark in­side the cabin. An­other handy fea­ture Cabin Talk, which lets you use the ve­hi­cle’s speaker sys­tem or wire­less head­phones to talk to rear pas­sen­gers who are us­ing the en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem. En­gag­ing this over­rides the en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem, so the kids can’t pre­tend they didn’t hear you while watch­ing their favourite car­toon on the 10.2in rear screen.

The Odyssey is still pow­ered by the good old 3.5-litre V6, but now it’s mated to an all-new 10-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion that sends 280bhp and 355Nm to the front wheels. The Odyssey has al­ways been known for its sur­pris­ingly good driv­abil­ity. MPV’s size. But the brakes are a bit squishy and not con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing when try­ing to stop, es­pe­cially from high­way speeds.

Our top-spec Tour­ing tester comes packed with the Honda Sens­ing suite of safety tech, which in­clude col­li­sion mit­i­gat­ing brak­ing sys­tem, for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, road de­par­ture mit­i­ga­tion sys­tem, blind spot in­for­ma­tion sys­tem, rear cross traf­fic sys­tem, pedes­trian de­tec­tion sys­tem, and adap­tive cruise con­trol among oth­ers. These, along with airbags all around and the high­strength ACE body struc­ture, make it a very safe fam­ily ve­hi­cle.

If you are con­sid­er­ing buy­ing a large SUV just for its util­ity value, and do not in­tend to make use of its off-road ca­pa­bil­i­ties, then the new Honda Odyssey war­rants a closer look. There is no SUV on the mar­ket that can give you the lev­els of prac­ti­cal­ity and ver­sa­til­ity that the Honda MPV of­fers at this price point.

It can’t get more util­i­tar­ian than this.

And de­spite the move from an Ac­cord plat­form to the Pi­lot base, it still feels taut for a ve­hi­cle of such gen­er­ous pro­por­tions. The steer­ing is also notably pre­cise and the turn­ing ra­dius be­lies the

The new Odyssey is packed with fea­tures, mak­ing it the most util­i­tar­ian ve­hi­cle in the seg­ment

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