Minivans are the sports cars of family vehicles.
Around the turn of the millennium, mankind invented the three-row crossover SUV. Sure, they provide space for many children and a car-like driving experience, but they do neither of those things as well as the humble minivan does. While the minivan market has shrunk significantly since its peak, a few manufacturers are still dedicated to providing the best in family transportation. To cleanse our palates after so many crossover SUVs, we tested the refreshed 2022 Honda Odyssey Touring and came away generally impressed.
On the outside, the Odyssey receives a few changes for 2022. There’s a new front fascia, a new grille and new headlights, seemingly just for the sake of having them. While the old model was sleek and cohesive, the front fascia on this new one is blocky and nondescript. Equally nondescript are the largely dark grey alloy wheels which fade into the abyss in a manner not dissimilar to the current middle class zeitgeist.
On the inside, the 2022 Honda Odyssey is a practical, comfortable living room on four wheels. The seats are simultaneously cushy and supportive, there’s enough room in all three rows for real adults and the cargo area with the third row up is a deep, useful cavern. Particularly interesting is the operation of the second-row seats. The centre section lifts out and then both outer seats can be slid closer together for better access to the third row or farther apart to separate fighting children. What’s more, unlike in some competitors, the Odyssey’s second row can still be removed to carry large sheets of building materials inside with the hatch closed.
As for in-cabin tech, the Odyssey has a lot going on. There’s an intercom system that lets the driver scold third-row occupants for poor behaviour, there’s a camera trained on the rear seats that lets you see exactly which one of your children is throwing bogeys at you and there’s a rear-seat entertainment system with Spotify integration so you can be driven absolutely mad by Baby Shark playing for hours on repeat. All very impressive stuff that any parent currently driving an SUV will look at and think “Oh, I could really use that.”
However, for some previous Odyssey owners, there is something missing from this new model. Something that sucks. See, a few years ago, Honda looked at the massive amounts of dirt and pebbles and dropped Cheerios that children often leave in vehicles and thought “hang on, let us deploy our genius.” The result was an integrated vacuum, a feature that’s unfortunately since been cut from the team due to supplier issues.
In reality though, the only issue with the Odyssey’s tech is the infotainment system. It manages to be disorganized, unreliable and surprisingly low-res all at the same time. During our testing period, the audio system crashed completely, requiring a reset of the whole vehicle. The infotainment also couldn’t pick up a phone call to save its life, featured generally poor CarPlay connectivity and simply didn’t have enough redundant controls to avoid driver distraction.
However, if you just set the infotainment system and forget about it, you’ll probably find the 550-watt 11-speaker dts-enabled surround sound system on our Touring-trim test van to be absolutely lovely. It’s rich and warm and surprisingly crisp for the segment, rising head and shoulders above the available premium audio systems in most three-row SUVs.
Powering the Odyssey is Honda’s familiar 3.5-litre V6. It makes 280 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. of torque, and raucous VTEC noises at higher RPM. If this sounds extremely familiar, it’s because the old Odyssey had exactly the same engine. The big news in the powertrain department is the inclusion of a ten-speed automatic gearbox across all trim levels. It’s a massive step up from the old nine-speed which had some really annoying logic and behavioural issues.
With the new gearbox, if you put your foot hard down from a cruise, third gear only takes a moment or two to engage as opposed to three-to-five business days. For grown-up boy racers and teenage idiots, paddle shifters are on offer to assist in both gaptizing Civic owners and pretending you’re Jason Statham in The Transporter. Suddenly, it all makes sense that the Odyssey is the only minivan with a factory-backed racing program (seriously, look it up).
As with before, power goes exclusively to the front wheels. We found acceleration to be more than adequate and overall refinement to be excellent. Said refinement also extends to the Odyssey’s ride quality, which simply irons out potholes and frost heaves without a hint of floatiness. It’s genuinely a better ride than on most three-row crossover SUVs and it’s unlikely to cause motion-sickness.
As for fuel economy, the Odyssey employs a few tricks like ultra-long overdrive gears and cylinder deactivation to eke out surprisingly good mileage. We averaged 10.4 L/100km over a week of mixed driving, a perfectly reasonable figure for a V6-powered minivan and just a tick better than the government’s combined estimate of 10.6 L/100km.
But how about the price? Well, it’s certainly not peanuts. The basic 2022 Honda Odyssey EX-RES starts at $43,405 and a fully-loaded Touring model scans through at $54,305. Decked-out, that’s nigh-on the same price as a fully loaded Toyota Highlander. But while the Highlander features all-wheel-drive, it doesn’t really have any of the family-focused tech that the Odyssey has and the Highlander’s third row seat isn’t really suitable for anyone over the age of nine.
Truthfully, minivans are the sports cars of family vehicles. A class of family hauler so ruthlessly-optimized for the task at hand that sacrifices in style and driven wheels are often necessary. Then again, winter tires beat all-wheel-drive for snowy conditions and if you think you’ll look uncool in a minivan, you’ll definitely still look uncool in a three-row crossover. Just buy the 2022 Honda Odyssey Touring. Your local Honda dealer will be happy to help.