The Inside

Minivan interiors have cleaned up nicely these days, and the Odyssey ranks among the best. Even five years into this generation, the overall design still feels contemporary. Its dashboard has sharp-looking gauges and attractive low-gloss plastics. The buttons, dials and stalks operate free of sloppy wriggles. The Toyota Sienna may have richer materials, but its dash looks like it was designed five years ago. Chrysler's minivans — the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan — have a more contemporary layout but the quality of the controls is nowhere near as upscale. The Kia Sedona is mediocre in both areas. I'm calling a winner: The Odyssey serves up the best combination of style and quality.

Unfortunately, functionality doesn't rank as high. Temperature knobs for the automatic climate control, something the Chrysler twins use, would be easier to operate than the Odyssey's rocker switches — especially when the yowling kids in back want it cold, now. The center console comprises a flip-down tray with molded cupholders. It's easy enough to leave a purse or briefcase on the floor, or to convert the area to a pass-through, but the Sienna and Chrysler vans offer enclosed consoles that can better accommodate assortments of smaller items. To lock up the car via the key fob, you have to wait for the second-row sliding doors — power-operated on most trim levels — to latch shut. Chrysler's vans can be locked while its doors are still motoring shut. The Odyssey's optional moonroof lacks one-touch express operation, something most competitors offer. The rear-quarter windows don't open. Annoyances, annoyances.

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