2011 Honda Odyssey Touring
2011 Honda Odyssey Touring
2011 Honda Odyssey Touring. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2011 Honda Odyssey

If you’re shopping for a minivan, you probably have a specific reason, such as the need to transport seven, or even eight, people in decent comfort. That’s a feat that few large crossovers can manage, despite having replaced minivans as many families’ vehicle of choice. It’s for those practicality-minded buyers that car companies continue to build minivans at all.

Honda is one of just six manufacturers selling them now, along with Dodge (Grand Caravan; parent company Chrysler sells the Town & Country, whose fundamental differences are limited to trim), Kia (Sedona), Nissan (Quest), Toyota (Sienna) and Volkswagen (Routan, which is also a near-clone of the Grand Caravan).

With all the convenience items that have become must-haves in minivans – think dual-sliding side doors and hide-away rear seats – the design teams tasked with coming up with new doo-dads must have to work around the clock to come up with something the “other guys” won’t have. In that vein, the Odyssey’s second row seats not only slide fore and aft, but the outboard chairs can each move 1.5 inches side-to-side, which, says Honda, allows for the installation of three child seats in the second row (in wide mode) or for easier third-row access (in narrow mode). The second-row seats don’t fold away under the floor, so they have to be removed if you want ’em out of the way. Releasing them from the floor is easy enough, but they’re heavy, so getting them out is a tough job for one person.

The Odyssey eschews the power-folding third row seats offered in some of its competitors, instead sticking with its “Magic Seat,” which is simplified for 2011 and can now be lowered into the floor with a single motion.

Another new feature, if a minor one, is a garbage bag ring at the rear of the centre console. It folds away when not needed, and, as in other vans, the entire console (standard in EX models and higher) can be removed to allow for walk-through space between the front seats.

Visually, Honda attempts to differentiate the Odyssey from the other boxes-on-wheels with its so-called “lightning bolt” belt line, which it claims also improves visibility. If nothing else, it’s a distinctive feature that makes this van easier to find in the sea of SUVs and minivans in a typical suburban parking lot.

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