On the Road

The Odyssey is more fun to drive than most minivans, but that's not because of its acceleration. Honda's widely used 3.5-liter V-6 provides enough oomph around town, but it falls short of Chrysler's 4.0-liter Town & Country and Toyota's fleet-footed Sienna. (The Kia Sedona, which I reviewed last fall, lumbers roughly apace with Honda.)

What's more, Honda's automatic transmissions are an inconsistent bunch. Some are remarkably responsive; the Odyssey's, unfortunately, is not. It finds the right gear to power through a corner or get back up to cruising speed faster than the Sedona's slow-witted automatic, but on the highway it takes too long to kick down. Both the Sienna's and Town & Country's automatics feel more responsive.

Characteristic of Honda, ride quality is a bit firm. Some, I suspect, will find it uncomfortably so. At higher speeds, wind noise is contained, but road noise can encroach. My test car had 16-inch wheels, too; the Odyssey Touring swaps them for 17-inchers and lower-profile tires, which may worsen ride quality.

The Sienna has a more forgiving ride, and it's quieter on all fronts. Chrysler's minivans ride softer, too, but all the ones I've tested have exhibited a bad case of the creaks. The Odyssey's payoff comes in handling: The steering wheel exhibits the sort of turn-in precision no minivan deserves to have, and the minivan's resistance to body roll is admirable. It feels planted on the road, and if soccer practice is at the park down a curvy mountain road, the Odyssey is what you want. The steering wheel's 36.7-foot turning circle is best-in-class. In comparison, a Honda Accord sedan requires 37.7 feet to turn.

Gas mileage, at 16/23 mpg city/highway for the LX and EX, is among the worst for minivans. EX-L and Touring versions get a cylinder-deactivation system that shuts down three or four of the six cylinders in certain conditions to save gas. It bumps mileage up to 17/25 mpg, competitive with the best minivans, but, again, you'll have to buy a more expensive trim to get it.

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