It's best to think of the 2021 Honda Odyssey as the ultimate piece of parenting gear rather than a car. From novel features like its "Magic" sliding second-row seats and available onboard vacuum to common-but-indispensable traits like remotely opening doors and gargantuan cargo space, it's far more akin to a BOB Rambler, Chicco KeyFit30 or MamaRoo – cleverly engineered items specifically designed to make parents' lives easier. While being oriented towards kids and parents might seem obvious for a minivan, none are so unabashedly centered on that goal than the Odyssey.
While competitors attempt to hide their van-ness, the Odyssey lets its van flag fly. There was no attempt to add sporty or SUV-like flourishes outside, while inside, the dash has all the visual appeal of a washing machine. The driving experience is similarly indifferent, characterized by loose steering and a pillowy ride (unlike earlier Accord-like Odysseys). It's all about the kids here, and they don't care if you're getting feedback through the wheel or your eyes are treated to an interesting-looking dash. They also probably don't care about fuel economy, but that's one of the few objective areas where the Odyssey trails its competitors. While its V6 engine is perfectly fine relative similarly powered vans, the Chrysler Pacifica offers an exceptional plug-in hybrid model while the all-new 2021 Toyota Sienna is only offered as a hybrid that gets an estimated 36 mpg combined. The Odyssey gets 22, and while it's more powerful, we're guessing acceleration is hardly a priority for those buying what is basically the ultimate stroller.
What's new for 2021?
The Odyssey gets a multitude of updates for 2021. The restyled grille and front fascia are more streamlined and attractive. The interior looks the same, but upgrades include second-row seats that fold flatter, grocery bag hooks mounted to the back of the third-row seat, an updated center console with a cord management system, and extra seatback storage pockets for the EX-L and higher trims. New tech features include a third-row USB port on the Touring and Elite trims, and a rear seat reminder system on all trim levels. The forward collision warning system has also been enhanced to detect pedestrians, while the adaptive cruise control system can work in stop-and-go traffic.
What's the Odyssey interior and in-car technology like?
If you've just test driven a Chrysler Pacifica, 2021 Toyota Sienna or even the Kia Sedona, the Odyssey cabin is bound to seem a bit dull. Materials quality is acceptable, and there's no faulting Honda's ability to screw things together, but the aesthetic is one of pure functionality.
To that end, though, it's incredibly functional. There's a walled gutter between the front seats that lets you securely plop down your purse. There's a hidden drawer that can be partitioned to keep things from sliding about, plus another bin under the console's roller door and a wireless charging pad on top trim levels. There are highly functional holders for cups and bottles alike in the console and doors, while you'll find dedicated places to stash your devices in the doors and seatbacks. Top trim levels even come with a built-in vacuum (though so does the Sienna now).
The touchscreen infotainment system found on all but the base trim is easy to see and reach, and generally straightforward to use. We like the crisp graphics, intuitive menus and configurable tiles that let you put functions where you want them. We've had some freezing when using the standard Apple CarPlay, however, especially when also trying to use the car's native navigation system (which is also a disappointingly sparse affair). We also generally prefer the Pacifica's Uconnect touchscreen along with the Sienna's available widescreen interface.
However, neither of those offer one of the Odyssey's more novel and surprisingly useful features: CabinWatch. Included on Touring and Elite, this wide-angle lens above the second row lets you see what's going on in each of the seats, including into a rear-facing child seat. It's paired with the CabinTalk system that lets you project your voice through the rear speakers and/or rear seat entertainment system's headphones (Toyota offers something similar). Threats of "don't make me stop this car!" shall never be missed again.
How big is the Odyssey?
On the outside, the Odyssey is effectively the same size as the Pacifica and Sienna (though it does weigh less). Their interiors are also so enormous that differences are basically moot points. That includes the amount of space behind their third-row seats, which we found to be even more immense than expected in the Odyssey. You can fit more back there than in the cargo areas of most compact and midsize crossovers (and exponentially more than you can behind the third rows of large crossovers).
Really, the differences between vans comes down to the functionality of their second-row seats. They all utilize different concepts, which cater to different owner needs and preferences. The Odyssey differs with its "Magic Slide" second-row seats found on all but the base LX. We go into it in depth in this Odyssey Driveway Test, along with their excellent ability to accommodate infant car seats, but in short, it's a brilliant idea and well suited to parents of young children. Older kids would probably appreciate the Sienna's "Super Long Slide" seats that provide far more sprawl-out space (the Odyssey's limited fore-aft adjustment also results in a smaller gap between the seat and pillar for third-row access), while those in need of cargo versatility should look to the Pacifica's fold away Stow 'N Go seats.
What are the Odyssey's performance and fuel economy?
Every Odyssey gets the same powertrain combination: a 3.5-liter V6 that sends 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission. The engine has the ability to shut down a bank of cylinders to save fuel as well as automatically stop and start when the van comes to a stop. It achieves an EPA-estimated 19 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
What's the Odyssey like to drive?
The Odyssey's steering is surprisingly loose on center for a Honda and lacks precision. It required more attention and corrections when driving on a winding rural highway than we'd prefer (the lane-keeping assist system rears its head an awful lot), and doesn't instill a great deal of confidence, let along engagement. Odysseys were once described as driving like big Accords. That's not the case with the new one, and we prefer driving the Pacifica, Sienna and Kia Sedona more.
Now, with that big old caveat noted, the 2021 Odyssey is nevertheless supremely comfortable and quiet. Your passengers will be perfectly snug, happy and undistracted from whatever's playing on their devices. The vast visibility and short front end make it easy to park, as does that loosey goosey steering. There's also no shortage of power. Its 280 hp is more than enough to spin rubber from a stop with a heavy foot, and to get out of your own (and anyone else's) way pulling out onto a road with limited visibility or merging with highway traffic. It actually sounds just macho enough to make you feel good about flooring your family hauler from time to time. Its standard 10-speed automatic transmission helps keep the revs in check in calm driving. There are even standard paddle shifters you can feel free to ignore unless you’re traversing steep hills or towing something behind you.
What more can I read about the Honda Odyssey?
We take a deep dive into the Magic Slide second row seats and see how an infant car seat works with the Odyssey.
Did we know all our luggage would fit behind the third row? Oh yes. Were we still surprised by just how much space was left over? Also yes.
Covering everything that changed for 2021 plus our first impressions on whether they made a difference.
What features are available and what's the price?
Pricing starts at $32,910 for the base Odyssey LX, which includes the $1,120 destination charge. This is significantly less than the Toyota Sienna and significantly more than the Pacifica's Chrysler Voyager budget-model sibling, but their standard equipment lists are not equal.
The LX comes standard with 18-inch wheels, every driver assistance system available except blind-spot warning (see Safety section), rear privacy glass, automatic LED headlights, single-zone automatic climate control, power front seats (eight-way driver, four-way passenger), two USB ports, a traditional radio faceplate with 5-inch color screen, and a seven-speaker sound system.
It's not an insignificant price jump to the EX, but it does add a lot of equipment we think most parents, ah, drivers will find indispensable. These include power-sliding doors, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, proximity entry, tri-zone climate control, the Magic Slide second-row seats (and therefore eight-person capacity), second-row sunshades, driver seat lumbar adjustment, heated front seats, an extra USB port up front, the 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and satellite radio. The EX-L's main upgrades are a sunroof, a power liftgate, an extra USB port, and leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel.
Beyond that, the Touring and Elite slather on "would be nice" items that few would deem necessary. This includes things like the Honda Vac, CabinTalk and CabinWatch, in-car WiFi, and the rear seat entertainment system. You can find a full breakdown of features, specs and local pricing here at Autoblog.
What are Odyssey's safety equipment and crash ratings?
Every Odyssey comes standard with forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control (includes lane centering steering and stop-and-go capability). Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning are included on all but the LX.
The Odyssey received perfect five-star crash ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gave it the best possible rating of Top Safety Pick+ for its top marks in every possible category but one: headlights, where it got an "Acceptable" grade. Even its LATCH anchors were given the best-possible rating of Good+ for their ease of use – something we can definitely confirm.