Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.
Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.

ROAD TEST: Honda Odyssey VTi-L gains extra safety tech

WHEN starting to show your age, wouldn't it be nice to get a few new features to put some extra spring in your step. Honda has done exactly that with it's Odyssey people-mover.

New tricks up its sleeve include the latest safety technology - vital inclusions for those hauling a big family.

This current generation has been around for more than four years, and for many design eyes it took the Odyssey from swan to ugly ducking.

The fifth generation people-mover grew in proportions, and it morphed into the now familiar box on wheels. Preceding that the Odyssey looked like a sleek, wagon (the Europeans would have called its something fancy, like a shooting brake or an estate), with a long bonnet, tapered rear and premium proportions.

But now it has a frumpy front end flat butt...functionality outweighs fashion. Still, it's not dropped-pie ugly, rather run-of-the-mill - not that any others in the family hauler realm can lay claim to Victoria Secret status.

Getting into the range-topping VTi-L version, it starts from $47,590 with on-roads adding about $4000.

Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.
Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.

VALUE

Key additions in the safety realm are autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, semi-automated parking and blind-spot monitoring. Collectively it all works to avoid a collision if the driver doesn't act quick enough, most importantly slamming on the brakes automatically if a crash (in forward or reverse) is detected or steering the car back into its lane if straying without indication.

This top-shelf derivative gains some solid kit for the coin, like a seven-inch colour touchscreen with satnav that has live traffic updates, full phone and audio bluetooth connectivity, tri-zone aircon and leather seat trim.

It goes without smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, although it has Siri eyes free mode which improves functionality.

Servicing is old-school short intervals, at six months or every 10,000km. The average price of $283 means you'd be up for more than $500 annually.

Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.
Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.

ON THE ROAD

Light in the steering and comfortable under easy acceleration, the Odyssey does a solid performance job.

Tackle a hill or push with urgency and the Odyssey sounds like an asthmatic teenager stumbling across a nudist beach. The 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine works hard to haul around the 1800kg kerb weight, but with four on board and faced with a sharp incline it had to dig deep to maintain momentum.

Part of the issue is the continuously variable transmission, which hunts up and down ratios to meet driver expectations. It's an age-old issue with CVTs, engine revs flare without much result. The benefit is fuel efficiency, and using standard unleaded it should sip about eight litres for every 100km.

On the highway, winding rural roads or around town it remains composed where steady use of the throttle is required.

Around vehicle vision is impressive, ensuring changing lanes is simple, and progress has also been made with in-cabin serenity.

Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.
Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.

The dash-mounted shifter means there is space between the two front seats, enabling ease of shifting from the back into the front. Perfect for parents strapping in kids without having to get outside the vehicle.

Centre row seats in the VTi-L offer outstanding comfort with the pair of pews having armrests, plusher new headrests and a footrest. There's even a storage compartment in each chair, and they can recline or slide.

Both are the only positions to offer Isofix child seat connection. They also have top tether points, and there are another pair in the third row.

The three rear seats drop into the floor in one piece, with a flimsy strap latch to hold it flat into the floor, which expands the load space from 330 litres when all seats are used.

The cabin has a modern feel, with black woodgrain across the dash, digital driver's display, while the touchscreen has an interesting background which appears to mimic stars in space but just makes it look dusty.

People-movers always triumph in commonsense, and the Odyssey has eight cupholders, electric sliding doors on both sides (which can be controlled via a switch up front, pulling once on the door handle or a button on the key fob), while it also has a low ground height which makes entry and exit simple.

The seven-seater also has a 1000kg towing capacity with a tow ball weight of 50kg.

Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.
Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.

SAFETY

The five-star rating was awarded when it was launched in 2014, and as well as the other new gizmos its also armed with smart parking assistant which can automatically steer the Odyssey into parallel and perpendicular spaces.

Cameras provide a 360-degree panoramic view and there is a handy button on the indicator stalk which projects the vision onto the touchscreen or enables the driver to switch between perspectives.

Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.
Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.

HEAD SAYS

Handling better than a people-mover should with a low centre of gravity, it's frugal on fuel and cheaper than the key rivals.

HEART SAYS

Under acceleration the Odyssey can be underwhelming but people-movers really aren't designed to get the heart racing - from the outside or with their performance.

Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.
Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.

ALTERNATIVES

KIA CARNIVAL SLI $57,200 DRIVEAWAY

Australia's top-selling people-mover due to its popularity with the rental market, has a seven-year warranty, seating for eight and the option of 206kW/336Nm V6 petrol or diesel power. It's bulkier than the Odyssey, but also has a five-star crash-test rating and is equally easy to drive - albeit with much more power.

VW MULTIVAN COMFORTLINE $52,990 DRIVEAWAY

Currently on special, it's only available with a 103kW/340Nm diesel. Seats are embedded on a rail system which offers some benefits, but it's not as quick and functional as the Carnival or Odyssey. It's worth noting ANCAP hasn't crash-tested a Multivan.

LDV G10 EXECUTIVE $36,990 DRIVEAWAY

Comes with good kit, like a seven-inch colour screen, leather trim, three sunroofs, seven seats and a thirsty turbocharged 165kW/330Nm four-cylinder petrol engine. The big caveat is you have to accept an ordinary three-star ANCAP rating.

Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.
Honda's range-topping people-mover, the seven-seat Odyssey VTi-L.

THE VERDICT

Solid specification, and high levels of comfort courtesy of two lounge-style chairs in the second row as long as a low entry and exit point, the Odyssey is a reliable choice. The performance can be underwhelming, but with a steady right foot it remains honest and it's easy to drive.

AT A GLANCE

HONDA ODYSSEY VTi-L

PRICE $51,527 driveaway (good)

WARRANTY AND SERVICING 5yr unlim km wty (OK); average service price $283 (short intervals)

SAFETY 5-star, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Road Departure Mitigation System, Lane Keeping Assist System (good)

THIRST 7.8L/100km

SPARE Space saver (not great but expected)

LUGGAGE 330 litres (OK), rear seats fold flat



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