The roomy and comfortable riding Honda Odyssey family van is starting 2014 much the way it finished 2013 — on top.
The 2014 Odyssey has the top combined city/highway fuel mileage rating from the federal government among vans that have seats for more than six people — 19 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway for a combined 22 mpg. The Odyssey earned top, five out of five stars overall in federal government crash testing. Without requiring the removal of heavy, bulky interior seats, the Odyssey also offers the maximum cargo room — 148.5 cubic feet — among seven- or eight-passenger vans.
And the Odyssey is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine where predicted reliability is average.
The Odyssey also won a Good Housekeeping Very Innovative Product Award this year. Only six awards were bestowed. No others were in the automotive segment, and Odyssey was recognized for its onboard vacuum cleaner that makes cleaning dirt, crumbs and pet hair from the interior easier. No other passenger van includes a vacuum. Odyssey also has collected other, more automotive-oriented awards in 2014, including best residual value for a passenger van and best family minivan.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $29,655 is on the high side, too. This price is for a base, front-wheel drive, 2014 Odyssey with 248-horsepower V-6 and six-speed automatic.
In comparison, the 2014 Toyota Sienna has a starting retail price of $27,780 with 266-horsepower V-6, six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive. The front-wheel drive, 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan has an even lower starting MSRP, including destination charge. Offered in American Value Package trim, the Grand Caravan starts at $21,590 with 283-horsepower V-6 and six-speed automatic.
To be sure, the Odyssey comes with a lot of standard features.
The base 2014 Odyssey includes standard fabric seats, remote entry, front and rear air conditioning, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, rear camera with directional guide lines, heat-reflecting glass, front seats with power adjustment, 240-watt audio system with Pandora capability, illuminated vanity mirrors, sunglasses holder and split, 60/40 rear seats that fold easily into a cavity in the floor. Other features, such as rear entertainment system and navigation, are on upper trim models where prices can soar to more than $38,000.
For 2014, all Odysseys have a new kind of side curtain airbag with a front chamber designed to provide better passenger protection in offset crashes, not just straight side crashes.
The Odyssey continues to have six air bags, traction control, electronic stability control and antilock brakes as standard safety equipment. Forward collision warning and lane departure warning are available on upper trim levels for 2014.
No offense to the people at U.S. News & World Report who named the Odyssey best minivan for families this year, but there's nothing mini about the vehicle. The Odyssey is big, stretching nearly 17 feet in length. It looks and feels big, despite some subtle styling updates for 2014.
As a result, door openings, including the two sliding side doors, are large and help all sizes of passengers get inside. Seats, especially the two up front, have generously sized seat cushions. And there is so much legroom to be distributed among the two back rows — seats in the middle row move forward and back on tracks — that even third-row passengers don't have to feel constrained.