When one mentions “luxury Japanese MPV”, the first model which comes to our minds is probably the Toyota Alphard.
But what if the Alphard is too common or too big for one's liking?
The Estima was also being offered by UMW Toyota Motor some time ago but that too has been discontinued, and all we have are recond units.
But what if you want a luxury Asian seven-seater which is more generous with technology and features?
Fortunately, the time when there weren’t many alternatives to the Alphard and the Estima has changed, as many newer and updated models have made their way into the luxury MPV segment and broadened the spectrum of choices for the buyer.
For instance, those who want maximum seating capacity have the Weststar Maxus G10, and buyers who want something slightly smaller but just as practical have the Kia Grand Carnival, but if safety and technology are on top of your priority list, the Honda Odyssey 2.4L EXV right here may just be the model you’re looking for.
The updated 2018 Odyssey seven-seater MPV made its Malaysian debut in February this year, with Honda Sensing advanced driving assistance system features as well as a few cosmetic updates.
The updated Odyssey is the third model in Honda Malaysia's portfolio to get Honda Sensing after the CR-V and the Accord.
Unlike the outgoing model which had two variants, the current Odyssey is only offered in one trim level - the 2.4L EXV which is priced at RM258,896 (OTR without insurance).
The big news with the updated Odyssey is the inclusion of the Honda Sensing, which includes the following features:
However unlike the CR-V, the Odyssey does not come with Low Speed Follow, as the function requires an electric parking brake. The Honda Accord, which also uses a conventional mechanical parking brake, also does not come with Low Speed Follow.
Powering the Odyssey is the same powerplant package as before - the Honda Earth Dreams 2.4-litre DOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder petrol engine producing 175 PS and 225 Nm, paired to a CVT-type automatic gearbox.
Measuring 4,840 mm long, 1,820 mm wide, and 1,695 mm tall, the Odyssey is slightly smaller than the Alphard which is 4,945 mm long, 1,850 mm wide, and 1,895 tall.
Features wise, a lot has changed compared to the pre-facelift Odyssey. The 2018 model we’re looking at now comes with LED projector headlights, new LED fog lamps, new bumpers, a new front grille, new bumper, new LED taillights, LED fog lights, 17-inch dual-tone alloy wheels, as well as Auto Retractabe Door Mirrors.
Despite having all these new features, the Odyssey still looks quite conservative, and doesn't really attract much attention like the sleeker and sportier 2012 Odyssey Absolute.
That being said, there’s nothing much to shout about the new Odyssey in terms of exterior design except for the striking front end with a generous dosage of chrome.
Despite being one of the smalIer models in the luxury MPV segment, the 2018 Odyssey is generous with space and practicality inside.
In typical Odyssey fashion, one can walk from the front to the second row between the seats, and since the model is a 7-seater, we could also walk all the way to the third row. However, we had to bend a little whenever we were moving from row to row to prevent knocking our heads on the roof.
The seats are all clad in leather but only the front row and second row seats come with foldable arms rests which really adds to comfort during long hauls.
The second row captain’s seats, which are the main highlight of the Odyssey, also come with retractable leg-rests and window blinds. Plus, these seats can also be moved sideways to widen the “walkway” between them.
The third row in the Odyssey, unlike the plush ones in the Alphard or Elgrand, didn't really feel luxurious, but the saving grace was that there is ample leg room thanks to the moveable second-row seats.
In the driver’s seat, comfort and visibility was top notch. The huge windows, leather seats, high seat height, and the quiet cabin made it feel like we were travelling in a luxury coach some times.
Our favourite feature in front was the small centre console with two cup holders and a tray on the lower half of the dashboard which could be raised to a more usable height. This tray came in handy whenever we needed space to store our smartphones, Smart Tags, keys, and what not.
Adding to the whole atas feel was the dashboard which had almost no physical buttons or levers on it. Almost everything was accessed using a touch-screen interface, including the air-cond controls.
While we had two USB ports, an HDMI port, and a 12-volt socket in front, all the second and third row passengers had was one USB slot and two 12V sockets in the third row, which was rather disappointing.
In this day and age where smartphones have become the next most important thing in life after the oxygen we’re breathing, a couple of additional USB chargings slot in the second and third rows would’ve earned the Odyssey more brownie points.
Another key feature in the Odyssey is the ease of putting the third row of seats away. All one has to do is lift a handle, pull it, and the seat folds flat on the floor, freeing up quite a bit of storage space.
After spending a few days with the Odyssey, we found it to be an absolute delight to drive. The engine was very smooth and quiet, and only became audible when we pushed it hard.
The CVT was alright too when we drove it calmly, but when we worked it harder during overtaking and accelerating, the rubber-band effect became more apparent, but it wasn’t that bad.
Thanks to the big windscreen and windows, visibility was top notch. We could see everything around us so clearly that the Lanewatch camera seemed redundant.
Manoeuvring it through parking lots and tight spots was not an issue as well, thanks to the four parking sensors, the multi-view camera with aerial view, and the tight turning radius of 5.4 meters.
On the road, NVH level was low and the Odyssey felt more planted than we expected it to be. There was still noticeable body roll but as long as we drove it like how an MPV was supposed to be driven, it felt quite balanced.
Besides all of the above, what sets the Odyssey apart from most MPVs in the game and puts it in a league of its own, is the safety features it is equipped with.
The 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, BA, HSA, and VSA aside, the Odyssey comes with Smart Parking Assist System which allows the MPV to basically park itself, Cross Traffic Monitor system which alerts when there is a vehicle approaching while it is getting out of a parking spot, a multi-angle rear-view camera, Blind Spot Information, and the Honda Sensing package.
The Honda Sensing package, which includes Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), basically keeps the Odyssey in its lane, prevents it from rear-ending a vehicle in front in case it stops suddenly, and also allows the Odyssey to follow the vehicle in front while adjusting the speed accordingly without the driver having to intervene frequently.
As for the passengers, there is nothing much to complain except for the fact that there is only one USB charging slot in the second row, and that the third row feels less “special” than the seats in front.
Overall, the 2018 Honda Odyssey has improved a lot from the outgoing model. There is no doubt that it is a worthy option for those who are looking for a luxury seven seater MPV which is smaller than the Alphard, Elgrand, or the Kia Grand Carnival.
There is still room for improvements. For instance, the third row seats can be upgraded to be a tad more luxurious like what we get in the Alphard, and a roof-mounted screen, as well as more USB slots can be added to make things better for the rear occupants.
But on the bright side, the list of safety features and driver assistance offered in the Odyssey is mighty impressive. With so many systems keeping things in check while the Odyssey is on the move, the degree of peace-of-mind you get while piloting the Odyssey can only be matched by a few vehicles out there, and they cost much, much more.