Minivans aren’t for everyone — or anyone really — unless you need them. While the minivan segment is a stable niche category, most automakers have bailed out from building them. A re-thinking of the minivan, however, is leading to a re-do on the minivan. More automakers are expected to re-enter this segment. Honda cites a Global Insight research report that predicts double-digit growth in the minivan segment (by 13 percent) through 2012.
Honda never turned its back on the minivan and the families who need them. The Odyssey is a leader in the mommy-mover category — and now the fourth-generation minivan appeals to almost every socio-economic class.
Designed for a range of family budgets, Honda’s 2011 minivan is offered in four primary models with prices starting at $27,800 for the Odyssey LX and climbing into the higher-income class with the premium Touring Elite at $43,250.
A lower, wider, improved aerodynamic shape and an available six-speed automatic transmission — a first for Honda — deliver improved fuel economy. The revised shape results in a more spacious and functional three-row interior that can seat up to eight people.
The Odyssey is powered by a 24-valve, 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 248 horsepower and 250 lb.-ft. of torque. The standard transmission is a five-speed automatic on the LX, EX, and EX-L.
Linked to the automatic five, the V-6 will return EPA-rated fuel mileage of 18 miles per gallon city and 27 mpg highway. This represents an improvement in gas mileage over the previous model by +2 and +4 mpg, respectively. Our Odyssey tester, the Touring Elite, featured the standard-equipped six-speed automatic transmission with higher fuel economy ratings of 19/28 mpg (+2 and +3 increases over the old model).
Honda builds a quiet engine that shifts smoothly while moving along city streets and cruising the freeways effortlessly. Odyssey has improvements to body rigidity that allow sound-deadening materials to better isolate road noise, resulting in a quieter cabin.
The fourth-generation model is inspired by the engineers who used the previous model for their own families. Living with an automobile day-in and day-out has led to inspired features that are no-brainers, such as a flip-up trash bag ring. The sleeker exterior design, featuring a lower roofline and lower beltline result in improved all-around visibility, particularly for third row passengers.
Big improvements are in the widened and accommodating interior. The second row features a 3-Mode design, allowing passengers to slide out and expand the distance between seats. The middle seat slides forward, closer to the front; convenient for the front-row passenger to feed the baby, example. And the 3-Mode design features a big middle armrest when not in occupant use.
New technology highlights include an 8-inch high-resolution color display and 60 gigabyte hard drive that replaces the DVD-based system. The rear entertainment system comes with an ultra-wide display screen at 16.2 inches.
In late January the Honda Odyssey underwent the federal government introduction (starting with all 2011 models) of a more stringent crash-testing program that combines scoring in frontal, side (front/rear rows) and rollover accidents. This brand new Overall Vehicle Score program requires vehicles to do well in all crash scenario combinations to be awarded five star safeties. How did the 2011 Odyssey measure up? Five stars. — Connie Keane
Manufacturer photo: The completely redesigned Honda Odyssey enters 2011 with a more distinctive style, higher fuel economy and better interior versatility. Prices start at $27,800 for the Odyssey LX and range up to $43,250 for the top-of-the-line Odyssey Touring Elite.
2011 HONDA ODYSSEY TOURING ELITE
VEHICLE TYPE_________________ 8-passenger FWD minivan
BASE PRICE___________________ $43,250 (as tested: $44,030)
MOTOR TYPE___________________ 24-valve SOHC V-6 w/MPFI
HORSEPOWER (net)_____________ 248 at 5700 rpm
TORQUE (lb.-ft.)_____________ 250 at 4800 rpm
TRANSMISSION_________________ 6-speed automatic
WHEELBASE____________________ 118.1 in.
OVERALL LENGTH_______________ 202.9 in.
TURNING CIRCLE (curb-to-curb) 36.7 ft.
FUEL CAPACITY________________ 21.0 gal.
EPA MILEAGE RATING___________ 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011