Space for everything. The 2021 Honda Odyssey focuses on what minivans do best: carrying lots of people and things. Honda’s van gets a mild refresh this year, with a redesigned front end that brings the Odyssey further in line with models like the Honda Pilot and Honda Ridgeline.
The interior received a few tweaks, too. Honda redesigned the second row to make the seats easier to remove, which helps cargo space expand from a respectable 32.8 cubic feet behind the third row to a cavernous 144.9.
The cabin is comfortable for people, too. All trims except the base LX seat eight, and the second row’s “Magic Slide” system allows the outward seats to move aside for easier ingress when the middle seat is removed. The third row is one of few that happily seats adults, with 38 inches of leg room.
Newly standard safety. The other big change for 2021 is newly standard safety technologies. The Honda Sensing suite of active safety features is now standard across the lineup, which should be good news for family buyers. The bundle includes advanced features like advanced cruise control, and even blind-spot monitoring is standard from the EX trim upward.
That technology joins already strong crash test scores. The NHTSA has given it a five-star overall safety rating. We expect last year's Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS to carry over as well.
The Odyssey even has a new party trick this year – as automakers work to eliminate deaths of infants left in hot cars, more brands are creating rear seat reminder systems. Honda goes a step further by adding an in-car camera that monitors the second and third rows on top trims.
Just the one engine. The new Odyssey is the same old van under the hood, chugging along with a 3.5-liter V6 that makes an adequate 280 horsepower. The 10-speed automatic transmission is smooth and capable around town.
We don’t have many complaints about the existing powertrain, but we do wish Honda would consider adding another. The Odyssey has no hybrid option, which puts it at a disadvantage against the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica. Both of these models can also come with all-wheel drive, another option the Odyssey lacks.
The Odyssey does handle its bulk well, with accurate steering and a quiet cabin. The ride is naturally geared toward comfort rather than cornering, but that’s a good thing for family road trips.
Good features … mostly. The base Odyssey LX almost makes an excellent value, coming equipped with power seating and automatic climate control. It’s let down by the infotainment system, which is stuck with a 5-inch display that looks small next to competitors.
That’s why we recommend moving up to at least the EX trim, which gains an 8-inch screen and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The EX also gets blind-spot monitoring and three-zone automatic climate control, which make it good bang for the buck at just over $36,000.
Upper Touring and Elite trims get even more luxurious, with features like an in-car PA system and a built-in vacuum. However, their prices push well past $40,000, at which point rivals like the Pacifica starts to look sharper.
Final thoughts. As the options in the minivan segment have dwindled, the remaining competitors have upped the ante. The 2021 Honda Odyssey’s main rivals come from Toyota and Chrysler, and the Odyssey is at a disadvantage without all-wheel drive or a hybrid option.
All the same, the Odyssey has it where it counts: comfort, practicality, and safety. For many buyers, we think that will be reason enough.
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