2018 Honda Odyssey Review

It’s perfect! But do I really want to buy one?

“I don’t want to drive a big-bum minivan.”

Those are the exact words from my wife’s mouth when I suggested we buy a Honda Odyssey.

Despite her comments, she and I can be considered members of the minivan appreciation society. Over the years, they’ve been our go-to road trip vehicles from the local fleet of cars to review, opting only for an SUV or large crossover when no vans were available. And every single time we drove a van, we were thankful, regardless of which automaker made it.

SEE MORE: 2017 Kia Sedona vs 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe

And yet, when it comes to actually owning one, there’s still some stigma. So can the obvious advantages of a minivan overcome the drawbacks? I needed to find out because my family and I are legitimately about to pull the trigger on buying either an Odyssey or a Pilot in the next few weeks.

So, of course, when I got the chance to be one of the first people in the world to review the new Odyssey, a test that involved bringing my whole family to the Big Island of Hawaii, I jumped at the opportunity. There just couldn’t be a better test case than my family of four.

New Interior Has Fantastic Technology

2018 Honda Odyssey

Prior to driving the Odyssey, we had pretty much settled on the Pilot. The previous Honda Odyssey just couldn’t compete when it comes to safety, technology, and convenience features. But most of all, it has just aged so poorly inside.

The new 2018 model changes all that and adds a few extra features we might not be able to live without. Engineers walked me through pretty much every new trick the Odyssey has added to its repertoire and driving it felt incredibly natural.

Standout features include all the work done to improve sound deadening, from the thicker carpeting, acoustic glass and spray foam, making in-cabin conversation easy — even with our soft-spoken kids (we’re lucky, we know).

SEE MORE: 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring L Plus Review

Improving that experience further, Honda has borrowed a trick from Toyota’s playbook, and now offers what it’s calling “CabinTalk.” With the push of a button on the new display screen on the dash, the driver or front passenger’s voice can be projected through the cabin speakers. And to make sure you’ve reached the attention of everyone, it also overrides the car’s headphones for the entertainment system.

For some reason, my kids couldn’t get enough of testing this feature.

This comes combined with the CabinWatch feature. With a camera mounted above the second row, it gives a perfect vantage point to parents as to what their kids in child seats (particularly rear-facing seats) are up to. That said, it really only does seem to be useful for parents of infants.

2018 Honda Odyssey

Getting back to that display screen, at eight inches and standard on all but the base model, it’s hard not to be impressed. Mounted high on the dash, it’s a focal point in the cabin and deserves to be. It looks as modern as the latest smartphone and, shockingly, works just as well.

Automakers continuously promise phone-like interfaces that respond as quickly as we’ve all become used to. And this is a car that finally delivers on that promise. Swipe several times and the screen responds immediately. Plus, if it ever does have issues, Honda will offer over-the-air updates, so you don’t have to bring it in for service. The apps can also be moved from screen to screen by holding and dragging, so you can customize your most popular apps on the first page, just like you’d do with a smartphone.

SEE MORE: All-New 2018 Honda Odyssey Offers Quieter Cabin, 10-Speed Transmission

Taking another technological step forward, there’s now an available Cabin Control App that allows you to adjust the rear heat and A/C, control the rear entertainment system and send destinations from your smartphone to the car’s Nav system. While not new to the industry, it’s nice that it’s standard equipment. In a race to find a destination, smartphones are always faster than in-car Nav. Another advantage of this new app is that second- and third-row passengers can have it as well, and permissions can be given to allow (or not allow) control over certain aspects.

And perhaps most fun is the Social Playlist feature that lets up to seven people send songs from their phones to a queue, so everyone can get a chance to hear their favorite songs — and parents can veto songs they don’t want to hear, or, more likely, songs they don’t want to hear for the 45th time in a row.

On top of all this, the new Honda Odyssey gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Back Seat Magic

2018 Honda Odyssey

As with every new generation of Odyssey, perhaps the best feature is reserved for passengers.

With the previous generation minivan, Honda introduced its Wide Mode seating functionality that allowed the second-row seats to be pulled apart to make room for three child seats. That concept has now been evolved further with the Magic Slide second-row seats. With the center seat removed, the two remaining captain’s chairs can slide sideways up to 12.9 inches each way – even when child seats are installed. The seats require surprisingly little effort to slide and feature locking positions roughly every three inches.

Designed to allow the best possible access to the third row, parents might agree that the real magic will be on road trips when you can slide the seats together so your kids can entertain each other, and then slide them apart when they start to get on each other’s nerves.

SEE MORE: 2017 Honda CR-V Long-Term Test Update: Road Trip Edition

Another peacekeeping option is the in-car entertainment system. Gone is the 16.2-inch split screen setup from past top-trim Odysseys, as Honda says consumers found it confusing. Instead, there’s a smaller 10.2-inch setup that includes a BluRay player and can run streaming video thanks to an available 4G LTE setup.

In a world of tablets, this setup might seem outdated, but I appreciate the inclusion because one of my kids gets motion sickness from using a tablet in the car, while in-car TV screens have never been an issue.

Living With a Van

Over the course of two days, we really lived with our Odyssey, installing child seats (which was super easy), loading and unloading the trunk with beach supplies, and going on a multi-stop road trip that involved plenty of getting in and out.

2018 honda odyssey review

Sliding doors continue to be one of the best automotive inventions ever, and my 6- and 8-year-old were hopping in and out with ease. They’ve only ever really known the manual sliding doors of our Mazda5 (or a loaner van) and I’ve seen them struggle to get into and out of SUVs, so it was a welcome sight to watch the ease with which they hopped into and out of the low step-in height of the Odyssey.

Both grown-ups were glad for the addition of the hands-free tailgate that pops open by kicking your foot under the rear bumper (standard on Touring and Elite trims). And backing out of parking spaces, it’s nice that Honda finally added its rear cross-traffic monitor to the Odyssey, a feature that’s been available on the Pilot for two years and had me (until now) leaning in the Pilot’s direction.

Putting the car into reverse takes a little getting used to now, thanks to the unique “trigger” button on the dash (a feature borrowed from the Acura lineup).

2018 Honda Odyssey

Popping it into a forward gear (of which there are now either nine or ten depending on the trim level) is a simple push of the “D” button. More gears help gain another highway mpg compared to the previous version, a disappointingly slim improvement. A modified engine does deliver an extra 32 hp for a total of 280, but I can’t say you ever really notice the difference.

The big van does hustle up to speed reasonably well and certainly never feels lacking for power. And it’s just so smooth and quiet, which, when you consider the price of a fully loaded Odyssey, there’s no reason it shouldn’t feel like a luxury sedan.

With so much glass around you, it’s remarkably easy to maneuver, and my wife, in particular, couldn’t get over how it doesn’t feel all that big when you’re behind the wheel.

2018 honda odyssey review

One the road, the transmission is remarkably smooth, though the same can’t be said from a start. My biggest complaint with the Odyssey was the considerable clunk our 10-speed tester made (just as often as not) when put into gear. Then there’s the stop-start system, which I’ve begrudgingly learned to live with on modern cars. The off-the-line delay really is an annoyance, though, and a particular gripe of my wife.

Other notable additions for 2018 include available ventilated front seats and wireless charging, plus, finally, a heated steering wheel.

Then there’s the styling. No one buys a minivan to look cool, swagger wagon or not, but the new van is considerably more handsome than the outgoing model. This is, in part, due to the LED daytime running lights on most trim levels, while the top two trims get LED headlights and fog lights. The biggest change to the overall aesthetic is what’s been removed, with the sliding door track now hidden in the design of the windows, rather than being cut across the side of the van’s body.

The Verdict: 2018 Honda Odyssey Review

2018 Honda Odyssey

Driving the 2018 Honda Odyssey didn’t immediately help us make up our mind. In fact, it did the opposite. Two weeks ago, the minivan was pretty much an afterthought, and now it’s forcing us to rethink exactly what we want in a vehicle.

From the TV to the power sliding doors to the ease of access and, yes, CabinTalk, both of my kids are sold.

While it still doesn’t have AWD (a definite reason to opt for a crossover), the styling is no longer a concern. With the latest technology, exceptional (if not downright excessive) cargo room, the latest innovations and, of course, the reliability that makes any Honda so compelling an option, it comes down to the drive.

And as my wife will most certainly get the last say in whatever we choose, it only makes sense to let her have the last say here, too.

“I’ll give the Honda engineers credit. I don’t know how they made that thing not feel like a big-bum van, but it doesn’t.”

Discuss this story at our Honda Odyssey forum

  • pbug56

    Used to be that you bought the Ody for its reputation as highly reliable – until owners found the self destructing trannies. Not sure that was ever really fixed.

  • Andy

    Hate to burst your bubble, but nobody thinks a Pilot is cool either. It’s clearly just a less useful family vehicle. Not sure either of these are necessary for only two kids, but for those who actually need three rows every day, just get the dang van. You can pretend to be cool again when they’re grown.

  • ColumWood

    Very true! All of it. I actually don’t even really like the look of the Pilot, but I like what it has to offer. And yes, neither are necessary for two kids, but a third row is always helpful.

  • Rocket

    Can you say “over-styled”? I count five distinct creases on the sides alone. I never cared for the lightning bolt belt line, and the floating roof trend can’t die soon enough. Overall, I’d consider the styling juvenile at best.

    Mechanically, I’m disappointed that the new 10-speed does’t appear to be fully sorted out. Probably better than the ZF 9-speed, but what gearbox isn’t? And when are automakers going to make auto stop/start fully defeatable?

    I like the look of the center stack, but the shifter configure is too gimmicky. It’s probably better here than on the console though.

    Despite the Odyssey’s improvements, I’d still go for the Sedona if I were in the market for a minivan. It’s by far the most stylish, and the Sedona Limited’s interior punches way above it’s price class. Too bad it’s such a gas hog. For a non-minivan people hauler, I’ll take a Flex EcoBoost. An even bigger has hog, but a fun one.

  • Andy

    We have a Sedona SXL. Fuel economy is the one downside, but 17-18 city and 24-25 highway is acceptable given its size, comfort, and power. And agree nobody is buying a van for looks, but the Sedona is clearly the most attractive imho.

    I am often irritated when it’s left out of the discussion as the Odyssey, Sienna, and Pacifica are debated. It won the last Motor Trend comparison. Sales are relatively low compared to the others but the long warranty got it on my short list, and the wife and I were both instantly impressed.

  • AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT! I’D STILL GO FOR THE ODYSSEY BECAUSE IF I WERE A MARKET FOR A MINIVAN THAT CAN DO EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!

  • Rocket

    Everything … including turning one’s stomach. It’s putrid.

  • Mike011

    I used to work for Honda, but this time I have to say that whoever designed it is really short of any design skills…Ugly exterior, confusing interior…I simply couldn’t see having one on my driveway every day…From a company with such great history and potential, this is a complete miss…

  • Mike011

    …and when you add Motor Trend’s one year review of Pilot, no wonder Honda made mistake by going with 9 speed unreliable tranny that had to be replaced after 20k’s of driving…Honda used to make simple, fun to drive cars, seems to me they are out to lunch coming to performance/exterior/interior design ratio (other than Civic R, off course and to some extent Accord V6)…

  • easy rider

    fkin lesbian can buy her POS Honda.

  • AND YOU ARE A FKIN BULLSHIT!

  • …AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!

  • SILENCE, YOU BULLSHIT!

  • Mike011

    seek some medical help please.

  • sorry.

  • SatelliteGalaxy

    Honda’s now have Forced Lighting. This means that on a hot, sunny day you are running lights unnecessarily, and burning additional gasoline. Unlike most other cars they cannot be switched off on a Honda. Very dumb!

    If waiting for someone outside at night I may not want my lights on. I also like to go to drive-in movies, people react badly when you’re shining lights in their eyes.

    Toyota has chosen the proper approach. If you want to drive with lights on during the daytime, you can, if you don’t want to, you can turn them off. Makes everyone happy.

  • adobepro

    Wow, ugliest mini van I’ve ever seen. There must be a design the ugliest vehicle imaginable, but they’ll still buy it because it’s a Honda, competition going on between the Pilot and Odyssey. The Odyssey clearly wins this round. My next lease will be the Chrysler T&C.

  • Frank

    what is Forced Lighting? Daytime Run Lights? these have been standard on many cars for a number of years, and are a safety issue. LED DRL’s are much more efficient, and you’re not burning more gas by running them. No, you cannot switch off DRL’s in most vehicles today, that’s the point.

    Re: “waiting outside at night” – you can turn your headlamps off anytime.

  • Frank

    If Toyota can make the Sienna AWD, there’s no reason the Odyssey should lack AWD. As far as the features, they’re nice, but you have to spend almost luxury car money to get into the trim that gives you what a lot of vehicles are beginning to offer as standard. The start-stop system (“ECO” mode in my 2009 Ody) literally chews up pistons inside the engine, and there’s been a lawsuit and technical service bulletin over it. Honda needs to meet those CAFE standards though, so they haven’t fixed the problem. There is a fix to install yourself to make the ECO mode (cylinder bank shut-off) go away for the most part so it doesn’t destroy your engine, if you message me I’ll direct you to it.

  • Derek Williams

    went to a drive

  • Derek Williams

    went to a drive-in once with the older minivan. the owner told us how to diasble the running lights: a) shut van off, b) one click of the parking brake, c) turn van back on – running lights are off.

  • Derek Williams

    I’ve been reading about this. our 2007 had that problem. our 2012 is bulletproof so far with 100k miles.

  • Derek Williams

    after many trips from AZ to CA, and all up and down the eastern seaboard, I am sold on a minivan – the honda in particular. our ’12 is rock solid and feel luxurious with the leather seats and tight suspension. a 1000 mile round trip from MA to MO with 6 people solidifies any questions about ability and confort.

  • Kyle4318

    Apple Car Play ???????

  • Dick

    Tell me how to shut off the ECO mode

  • Ed 3 P0

    YOU ARE A BULLSHIP!!!!!!@#$%#$^! JK, That Richard guy is a Dick.

  • ColumWood

    It has it. Or are you asking what Apple CarPlay is?

  • ColumWood

    Except almost no one buys the AWD Sienna so there’s no reason to offer it.

  • Kyle4318

    If it has it?
    Note: Being able to play from an Apple is not the same as having apple car play.
    I love the car play in my Civic, added Pioneer AVIC 8100NEX, I Did NOT consider Adding after Market to my 2007 Odyssey, system too integrated with rear DVD, Nav, Sub-woofer, Noise canceling, and Other car features. The Odyssey does not lend itself well to aftermarket Modification, due to the complexity of the system.

  • Frank

    was not aware…I don’t see a ton of them here in the boston area, but I’ll admit it’s far from half of the ones I see on the road. Still, why not offer it, especially in areas where sales may be lost to SUVs that do have it?

  • Frank

    I loved the idea of a Flex back in the day, are they still selling it/plan to continue?

  • Frank

    hey Richard, eff off.

  • Frank

    I have two kids and once you get used to the cavernous interior of any minivan plus the sliding doors, it’s hard to go with anything else while they’re young. I still don’t get the anti-minivan sentiment just because it has sliding doors.

  • Frank

    self destructing trannys, and on my generation (2005-2010), bad steering pumps, bad pistons and cylinders that get dirty due to the awful ECO system which shuts off a bank of cylinders for “fuel efficiency” (that was a fun trip to the dealer, luckily they covered it out of warranty due to the lawsuit that had occurred years earlier to extend the powertrain warranty)…I do not associate Honda with reliability any more than I do any other auto maker these days.

  • Rocket

    There will not be a next generation Flex. It’s been reported that it won’t live beyond 2020. I expect the 2019 Explorer to get a little larger to better accommodate the minivan haters and essentially fill in for the Flex, and it makes sense that the extended 3-row Edge will make its way to America to fill the gap between the Edge and Explorer.

  • pbug56

    Daylight running lights are a huge safety step up and often get a cut in insurance. For 2002 Honda made them available in Canada but not on US models made in Canada.

  • pbug56

    DRL’s are usually on if car is in gear, not otherwise.