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2018 Honda Odyssey Minivan and Car Seat Safety Video Review

The updated 2018 Honda Odyssey is here. How well will it fit you and your most precious cargo? Does it stack up against its competitors? Check out our videos and summary to see if it’s the best family hauler for you!

2nd Row Seating:

3rd Row Seating:

He Said:

We took the ’18 Odyssey on a long family road trip with 6 passengers and a weekend load of luggage. It easily handled everything we threw at it, from gravel roads to bumpy railroad crossings to Illinois expressway construction nightmares. Perhaps it isn’t quite the minivan handling king like the Odyssey from a couple generations ago, but the trade-off is reduced road noise and a more comfortable ride for everyone. The power was plentiful, even fully loaded, and the fuel economy has improved nicely as well. The auto stop-start engine mode might be disconcerting if you’ve never experienced it, but the short delay from a full stop to getting full power didn’t bother me, even coming from a hybrid where the transition is smooth.  I can say that I’m not a fan of the push button gear selector.  I know it frees up space and that everything is electronic now anyway, but if this is the future it just seems wrong.  I had no issues with bluetooth connectivity, but I mainly used it for calls only.  The XM Radio Beatles Channel kept us entertained for our trip!

I removed the 2nd row center seat and stowed in in the garage, then moved each 2nd row captain’s chair in one notch on the Magic Slide feature. This still leaves enough space in the middle for kids to squeeze through but also leaves more shoulder room on each side and a little extra buffer to the sliding doors as well. The previous generation Odyssey had a “wide” mode seating feature in the 2nd row that was great for 3-across carseat installs. The new 2018 model no longer has that, but the middle seat is still wide enough that it only loses a little in terms of 3-across car seat installation potential. The Magic Slide feature more than makes up for this change for most families, in my opinion! We did find that the leather seats in the front row of our Elite trim level were firmer than we prefer, and overall less comfortable than the previous generation Odyssey.

The 3rd row is pretty typical for minivans. While larger and much more comfortable than the 3rd row in a midsize SUV, it’s still narrower than the 2nd row. That means that while some 3-across carseat setups are possible, it will require careful selection and can be tricky in some cases. Fortunately, the arrangement of seat belts and LATCH are reasonable and there are top tether anchors in all three positions. It’s also reasonably comfortable for two adults or teens in the outboard seats as well. The middle seat is best suited to older kids in narrow boosters or pre-teens who no longer need boosters.

So how does it compare? I also like the Chrysler Pacifica that was a runner-up in our 2017 Safest Minivans and 3-Row SUV award and is arguably the safest minivan available, at least until the 2018 Odyssey is fully crash tested. The Pacifica’s styling, inside and out, is fresher and more refined. I liked its handling a bit better, too. The Stow ‘n Go feature will appeal to many families, but a myriad of minor issues for carseats keep it from being my favorite family hauler for those with more than a few small kids in back. The Pacifica’s narrow 2nd row middle seat doesn’t stow, so you still have to remove it like the one in the Odyssey. The 2nd row captain’s chairs in the Pacifica are not as comfortable as Odyssey’s, but the Stow ‘n Go cargo area in the floor is handy for long trips. The Odyssey’s arrangement of LATCH, top-tether anchors and seatbelts is more carseat-friendly overall. Perhaps most importantly, you have to fork over for a top trim level and pricey options package totaling $42,000 or more to get all the active safety features on the 2017 Pacifica that the 2018 Odyssey has standard for less.

So, kudos to Honda for making Honda Sensing standard from the EX trim level and up. This makes all the active safety features easier to find on dealer lots and easier to afford as well! With top overall safety ratings from both the NHTSA and IIHS*, the 2018 Odyssey is also a top contender for CarseatBlog’s upcoming 2018 Safest Minivan and 3-Row SUV award. The lack of some active safety features was a notable omission from the previous generation Odyssey and it did not qualify for the 2017 award.  -Darren

She Said:

Sadly, I only got the Odyssey for two days so I didn’t get to play with it quite as much as Darren did, but I sure enjoyed the time I had with it. My very favorite feature was the sliding seats. They’re amazing! I probably spent five minutes pushing them this way and that, simply because I could. Being able to move them around–even with car seats installed–would be a huge benefit to anyone with kids.

Carseat installations went very well, for the most part. The lower anchors in the captain’s chairs are easily accessible, and the headrests didn’t cause any problems. The middle seat in the second row seems narrower than before, so there might be some compatibility issues there. My 8-year-old fit fine in a BubbleBum, between a Graco Atlas and a Britax Boulevard ClickTight, but larger boosters might not work, especially in between other seats.

We were able to fit an infant seat (a gb Asana) there, as well, in between a Nuna Rava and an Atlas.

Everything we tried fit well on the outboard seats. We also didn’t have any trouble with the seats we tried in the third row: A Safety 1st Incognito between a Maxi-Cosi RodiFix and a Radian.

We’ve generally avoided vehicles with entertainment systems because they always seemed like a pain to get set up, plus we’re under the delusion that our kids can otherwise keep themselves occupied on long trips. The system in the 2018 Odyssey is ridiculously easy to use, though. And it kept the kids so quiet. The Odyssey Elite also has an available hotspot, which offers lots of streaming directly to the entertainment system, and it can be used for your other devices. (Additional rates apply.)

The push-button transmission seemed weird at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly. I think I’d still prefer a “real” transmission, but it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker.

I didn’t love the idle-engine feature. I thought the time from “off” to “on” took too long for my taste, although if I had more time with it I probably could have gotten used to it. The nice thing is that it’s also easy enough not to use if you don’t want to. (The feature works by idling the engine when the car is in drive, but stopped. To activate the feature, you wait until the car is stopped and then push down harder on the brake pedal. To start the engine up again, you let up on the brake pedal or turn the steering wheel.) It seems like the feature would best be used when you won’t need to make a sudden start: not great if you’ll need to turn quickly into traffic or if you’re the first car at a stoplight. 

The lane keep assist was great, as was the blind spot detection. Our current vehicles don’t have either feature, but I’ve tested enough cars with them that I’ll never again buy a vehicle that doesn’t have them. With the lane-keep feature, it almost felt like the Odyssey was driving itself at some points.

The Cabin Talk feature (where you can use a microphone to talk to backseat passengers) was really nice. In our current (2010 Odyssey) there’s a lot of road noise, and we wind up having to yell to communicate with our 13-year-old in the third row. Cabin Talk (and a generally quiet ride overall) should eliminate that problem.

The Cabin View system, that lets you see backseat passengers during the day and at night, is amazing. Yes, as Child Passenger Safety Technicians, we stress keeping your eyes on the road and not on your kids. But sometimes you NEED to check the back row, and it’s a lot safer to glance at a screen in front of you than whipping your head around. On long road trips, there are many times that my two youngest kids start kicking or throwing things at each other, and even though I’m typically in the front passenger seat, I hate having to turn around to find out what’s going on. Cabin View makes it soooo much easier to keep track of things like that. And! Although it won’t show you a rear-facing kid’s face, the camera is angled in such a way that you can still get a pretty good view of a rear-facer, possibly eliminating the need for a mirror.  This may be particularly handy for newborns!  (The image below was much clearer in person without the glare from the sun, but it shows an empty forward-facing seat, and a baby in a rear-facing-only seat.)

I did have a few concerns:

First, there’s fabric surrounding the lower anchors. The anchors are visible, which is great, but at least in this Elite trim model there was some fabric surrounding them. On two occasions, I got fabric stuck in a push-on connector. The first time I noticed it right away and was able to fix it. The second time, I didn’t notice until much later. (In that instance, it was with a booster and no kids had ridden in it at the time.) That could be a huge problem if someone installs a harnessed seat with lower anchors and doesn’t realize the connector is attached to fabric instead of/in addition to the anchor. People should be very careful to make sure they move the fabric out of the way (or use LATCH guides), especially when using premium, push-on connectors.

Second, my Bluetooth connection kept cutting out in our pre-production demo vehicle. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor problem, but I listen to music/podcasts from my phone all the time, and honestly, that would be a deal-breaker for me if it is a common issue on retail production models. At one point I counted 17 times that the sound cut out for a second or two over the course of a 5-mile drive, and that was pretty standard. I checked some Odyssey forums and found some other people with the same problem. It doesn’t seem to be widespread, necessarily, and I imagine there’s probably a fix, so I’m not at all writing the van off yet—just saying it’s something that needs to be addressed if it hasn’t already been resolved.

Third, I wish there were a way to get to Cabin View and Cabin Talk from controls on the steering wheel instead of having to use the center touchscreen. Needing to poke around on the screen seems like a recipe for distraction. I did figure out how to get the Cabin View icon on the first page of the home screen, and I figured out how to add it as a shortcut to the top of the screen, so that cut down on the number of needed swipes/pokes, but I’d still like to see something more integrated.

Those are all fairly minor and/or manageable issues, though, and overall I absolutely loved this van. We’re looking to get a new minivan in a year or two, and right now the 2018 Odyssey is by far the frontrunner on our list. -Jennie

Pros:

  • 5-Star results from NHTSA in all crash tests
  • IIHS Top Safety Pick+ with standard equipment*
  • Shortage of power ports for devices in EX trim
  • Magic Slide 2nd row seats are awesome
  • Good visibility all around for a minivan
  • Reasonable 3-across carseat options in 2nd row
  • Flexible seating; decent 3rd row access
  • 5 LATCH positions plus one extra top-tether anchor
  • Good fuel economy for a minivan
  • 4G LTE hotspot on higher trim levels is nice
  • Easier than average to use the entertainment system
  • Quiet, comfortable ride on all types of roads
  • Good power with smooth transmission, even for 6 passengers plus luggage
  • Cabin Talk/Watch feature on higher trims is handy, even for babies in rear-facing carseats
  • EX Trim has all important active safety features and Magic Slide 8-passenger seating for $34K

Cons:

  • Seat fabric partially covers otherwise accessible lower anchors in captain’s chairs
  • 3rd row middle seat is very narrow and best suited for pre-teens and smaller teens
  • Possible issue with Bluetooth connectivity for streaming music/video
  • EX-L and Touring editions get leather seats, but they are not ventilated
  • Relatively firm front seats
  • Funky push button gear selector

Verdict:

The Odyssey remains our pick for the most flexible family hauler, especially if you have more than a few small kids. It still offers options for 3-across car seat installations in the second row and a third row design that is reasonably good for two car seats as well. The great Magic Slide feature expands on this, making all sorts of options possible for 3rd row access. Worried about side impacts? You can even remove the 2nd row center seat and move both captain’s chairs inward leaving more space to the doors on both sides! We recommend the EX trim as the sweet spot, with a full load of active safety features for under $35,000. It’s quiet, it’s comfortable, fuel economy is improved, it seats seven in comfort and eight in a pinch. What’s not to like?  With top safety ratings from the NHTSA and IIHS, we expect Odyssey will be one of our award winners for the safest family minivans and 3-row SUVs for 2018.

*A frontal crash prevention system with auto-brake is standard on EX trim level and up.  Only the Touring and Elite trims have headlight ratings high enough to earn the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award, though this headlight system is standard on these two trim levels.  All trim levels including LX earned top results in every actual crash test from the IIHS and NHTSA.

Thanks to Honda and G. Schmitz & Associates for the 2018 Odyssey Elite loaned to us for this preview.