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In the market for a mini-van this year? You might have thought to yourself, "Wow, there aren't too many choices." And you'd certainly be making an astute observation. The mini-van market is dwindling down as more people are making the jump to buying SUVs. But mini-vans still serve their purpose, and the 2021 Honda Odyssey does it better than much of the competition.
But just what makes the Odyssey the mini-van to buy this year? Does it have any drawbacks? And just how do its rivals compare? We will go through all of that, so be sure to read through to the end of this review to learn more about the 2021 Honda Odyssey.
What's New for 2021?
The 2021 Honda Odyssey gets a slight refresh when it comes to styling. The front grille has been revamped in order to look more like the grilles that can be found on the Ridgeline trucks and Pilot SUVs. Also, Honda Sensing - which bundles a number of different driver aids - now comes standard on every trim level. Other upgrades to the interior include new perforated leather upholstery for the Elite trim level. Everything else carries over from the 2020 line-up.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2021 Honda Odyssey – The Pros
1. The Second Row is Easy to Use
Maneuvering a second row of seats is not always an easy feat in a mini-van, but the 2021 Honda Odyssey makes it relatively simple to do. The second row of seats is spacious enough for kids or adults, which is a nice bonus. You can slide them to the side, which makes getting in and out of the third row a lot easier. The second row is able to recline as well, lending another layer of comfort during a long ride. Moving the seats requires very little effort, so kids and adults alike can move the second row as needed.
2. A Spunky V6 Engine
Most mini-vans have somewhat bland performances from their engines. The Odyssey, however, gets powered by a spunky 3.5-L V6 engine that generates 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. This engine, coupled with the 10-speed automatic transmission, is able to get the vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.6 seconds, which is a decent showing for a mini-van. Even when you load up the cabin with passengers and trunk with cargo, the Honda Odyssey has no problem speeding up to get onto the highway or to pass other vehicles.
3. Precise Steering and Handling
The powerful engine creates a great driving performance, but the steering and handling make it even better. The steering feels nice and precise, even though it definitely cannot be considered sporty. Handling is secure, and you can confidently round through difficult turns inside of this vehicle. This mini-van feels balanced and sturdy but not like you are driving a boat. Overall, the way this mini-van performs should inspire driver confidence.
4. Smooth Shifting from the 10-speed Automatic Transmission
As we already mentioned, the 2021 Honda Odyssey is powered by a standard 10-speed automatic transmission. This transmission provides some seriously seamless shifts between gears, never appearing to get stuck looking for them. It always selects the correct gear for the situation without being obnoxious about it, and there are paddle shifters mounted onto the steering wheel for drivers who like to do some manual gear shifting.
5. A Quiet Ride
Honda knows how to insulate its vehicles from road, wind, and engine noise, and the Odyssey is no exception to this rule. In fact, the Odyssey is probably the quietest vehicle in its segment. Road noise, engine growls, and the wind hardly make their way into the cabin, even when you take it up to speed on the highway. You should have no problem hearing what your passengers are saying in the backseat. Even so, you can still use the optional intercom system to make sure that they hear you.
6. The Optional Cabin Intercom System and Camera
Speaking of the intercom system, this is a 'must-have' for parents with young children. Kids sitting in the third row will have no problem hearing you, and you will be able to hear them too. You also can get a rear cabin monitor, which comes in place of the sunglasses mirror. This lets you see exactly what is going on in the rear, so if your kids are screwing around, you will know about it. This system comes standard on the line-topping Elite trim but is optional on the rest.
7. Sliding Rear Doors
Sliding rear doors are one of the best things to have ever happened to vehicles. The 2021 Honda Odyssey has sliding rear doors that make accessing and exiting this mini-van super easy. They definitely beat the standard doors that you get on an SUV, especially when you have kids virtually flying in and out of the vehicle on a regular basis. The Odyssey's sliding rear doors can be easily opened with the push of a button, and passengers can quickly slide right into those comfy third row seats or access the seats in the third row without much hassle.
8. The Responsive Infotainment System
Infotainment systems can be pretty hit-or-miss these days since the technology behind them is still very much evolving. But Honda gets it right in the 2021 Honda Odyssey. While some of the functions (including voice recognition) come with a slight learning curve, once you have it down, it is fairly easy to use. The digital buttons are large enough to press without a problem while driving, and they make customization of the layout a simple task. Also, the response to every input is rapid.
9. The Cargo Space
Cargo space is a huge 'plus' on a mini-van, but the Honda Odyssey goes above and beyond. At 155.8 max cubic feet of cargo space, the Honda easily bests its competition. Not only do you get a lot of space, you get space that is cleverly designed. Behind the third row, there is a deep cargo storage well that can fit and securely hold groceries. There is a strap handle set-up that lets you manually lift and lower the third row of seats, taking much of the labor out of a manual system. The second row is a little difficult to move due to its size, but you can easily slide the seat back and forth in order to access the rear.
10. The LATCH System
Parents of young children are probably familiar with the complexities of the LATCH child car seat safety system. In some vehicles, it is downright tiring to install car seats. Inside of the 2021 Honda Odyssey, you can access the lower anchors without any trouble, which is a huge bonus when you have multiple little ones to strap in. Older children who are in booster seats will easily be able to strap themselves in.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2021 Honda Odyssey – The Cons
1. Sluggish Responses from the Driver Aids
Turning off certain driver aids is essential here. The 2021 Honda Odyssey has the Honda Sensing suite of standard driver aids on all trim levels - a nice touch from this automaker. Unfortunately, some of them (namely, adaptive cruise control) like to issue false warnings, and that itself can be a distraction while driving. At least you are able to turn them off as desired.
2. Outdated Garmin-style Navigation Graphics
The Garmin-styled navigation system is something that crawled out of the bowels of yesteryear and planted itself into an otherwise contemporary infotainment system. While the graphics are not totally atrocious, they seem too clunky for a high-tech, current-gen system. Drivers will likely feel more comfortable with using their smartphone app integration functions through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
3. The Blind Spots
As you might expect, the Odyssey is a big vehicle with some sizable blind spots. But the vehicle's design makes them a little too large for the liking. The bulky roof pillars hinder the driver's rear-view visibility, and the side mirrors are chunky in all the wrong ways. You will have to rely on the standard rear-view camera, but, unfortunately, a 360-degree surround-view camera system is not available at all on the Odyssey.
4. The Optional 19-inch Wheels Create a Firm Ride Quality
Stick with the standard wheels. The 19-inch wheel option makes for an overly firm ride quality. The smaller wheels have tires with sidewalls that are better able to absorb an array of bumps and other road surface irregularities. The 19-inch tires let a few more bumps in even though the suspension is capable of smoothing many of them out. Still, the smaller wheels are definitely geared for a cozier ride.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition:
2021 Honda Odyssey vs. 2021 Toyota Sienna
The 2021 Toyota Sienna is a formidable opponent for the Odyssey but comes up short in a few key areas. The Sienna has a V6 engine that provides ample power, creating a quick enough acceleration. Also, if you want all-wheel-drive, you can opt for it on the Sienna (whereas you cannot on the Odyssey). The ride quality is highly compliant and comfortable too. However, the Sienna suffers from an outdated control layout as well as just not offering as many standard features as the Odyssey. The second row of seats is difficult to move due to how bulky it is, and you get a lot more wind and road noise in the Sienna's cabin than you do inside of the Odyssey's.
2021 Honda Odyssey vs. 2021 Kia Sedona
The 2021 Kia Sedona is another popular choice for the model year. It is the more affordable option, and it offers a more SUV-esque vibe with its cockpit layout. For the cost, you get a ton of standard features. But the Sedona has a busy ride quality that can feel jarring at times, and its cargo capacity does not come close to what the Odyssey offers.
The 2021 Honda Odyssey is a top choice in the mini-van segment, continuing its trend of domineering over the competition. If you want more cargo space than what you get in an SUV, then the Odyssey is a vehicle you need to check out. While it has a few drawbacks, most of them are negated by the Odyssey's powerful engine and smooth ride quality.
• Why buy a 2020 Honda Odyssey? w/ pros vs cons