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Yes Yes Yes oh Yes:

driver aids, captains seats, low fuel consumption, capacious cabin, copious cabin tech.

Oh dear me no:

It is still a people mover

Cast your mind back a few years and you’ll remember those happy queens who asked us to test Honda’s Odyssey for them. They wanted to run boozy gay wine tours complete with gingham table cloths and  lightly chilled Chenin Blanc. They bought the Honda, which at last notice was serving them well. No end of camp fun has been had with many a hazy day spent in the NSW wine districts.

The people mover is never going to be the car of choice for upwardly mobile boys and girls in the city unless they are wanting to mass-move like-minded chums from bar to bar. Perhaps that’s a business idea just waiting to be exploited someone with a keen eye. 

Before I move onto the joys of finally being able to mirror an phone, I’d like to take a moment to mention the car itself. The Odyssey is a people mover. The term “people mover” instantly casts most of us into spasms of apoplexy. Sticky fingers, ice-creams on leather, screaming from the back seats, and moans of “are we there yet” abound, and that’s just with the adults. Recently, Honda took space-race sized steps into the 21st century by cramming their cabins chock full of the goodies which we savvy drivers have come to expect. We are a fickle lot and we now expect big things from our modes of transport. For example, the Odyssey will park itself, and has electric side doors, and has the coolest infotainment system which will mirror some of the apps on your phone. It also has a 360 degree camera, blind spot detection, and cross traffic detection (when backing out of supermarket parking spots).

The self parking:

I’ve tested lots of vehicles with similar features. Ford’s Focus, Volvo’s V40 and Holden’s Commodore all use a system that requires a press of a button. You drive the car forward and follow the instructions. They are not to precise about where you start and stop and all have you parallel parked in a space you’d never be able to get into on your own without scuffing your alloys and having a nervous breakdown. Honda’s system is slightly different in that it gives you little boxes on a screen into which the car steers itself. You press the button once you see a spot to park. It shows the position it requires and you monitor the pedals as you normally would when attempting such a maneuver. Many think system does that for you but alas no, and would you want it to? One of my chum’s had a friend back his shiny new Focus Titanium into a parked car because he thought the brakes would kick in for him. Perhaps he should have received quick rundown first.

This is where I found the Honda set up a little frustrating. If you go even a hairs breadth past the afore mentioned box on the screen, the system cancels leaving you half way through meaning you have to finish it yourself. It’s not a big thing but very annoying and terribly fiddly. There is no way to start it again without driving to where you started and beginning to procedure again. I have no doubt that you would get better with practice but should you really need to?

The infotainment system:

The Screen is large enough to be read from anywhere in the cabin. It is a smooth sheet of glass in which the touch controls can be found. Volume and station selection are just a slide of a finger away, and after installing a few Honda-link apps, satnav and streaming music can also be had. The music streaming requires an internet connection so if you are in a patchy area best you stick with stored music. In order to use the Satnav, you must have the app. You are not yet able to use Google Maps or any other nav programs as yet which is an Achilles heal. Also, connection is via an adaptor and uses an HDMI and USB cables together. There phone will sit in a cradle which the owner supplies and as yet only works with Iphone 5 and up. You can also ask Siri questions and use it to dial contacts without having nervous break downs or having to confirm every little request in triplicate. The system takes a bit of getting used to but on the whole is brilliant. You can also operate the radio etc from the steering wheel while the main screen is occupied doing other things.

To use the system you use a bridging app which gives access to your Iphone. You can then operate from the main screen. This is the first of such attempts and only works with Iphone 5 and up. If you have an androgynous android you’re fresh out of beans. Honda says it is in talks to feature android phones in future upgrades. Presumably this means current HondaLink operators will also gain the freedom to choose which phone they use. NOTE: this is the only option for SATNAV. An inbuilt option is now unavailable meaning you’re no longer saddled with an outdated set of maps or software needing big hugs every time you try to update it.

360 degree camera:

Most cars have a reversing camera on board but Honda has a brilliant system. You can select a mode that looks like there is a little man on your roof pointing cameras down at the ground. You get a perfect view and even without the parking assistant you can get into very tight spaces. You can also use the cameras while on the move. The outcome of that could be disastrous if there is a cute boy nearby. You also score blind spot and cross traffic detection. Reversing out of a car park will see the beeps warn you of oncoming traffic you haven’t noticed. This should be on all cars.

A people moving is never going to be sexy. I well remember the first Odyssey whose advert featured a middle aged couple getting-jiggy-wit-it in the driveway causing the leather seats to squeak hideously. It was fifty shades of EEEWWW and caused my lunch to make a brief re-appearance. However if you hold your head just right, the new Odyssey feels rather like a posh limo. Imagine a trio of gay couples rolling through the verdant OZ landscape scouting for a suitable veld as the venue for a cosy picnic. As the limo pulls up, the electric sliding doors slip open. The happy couples spill onto the grass with their Boss Black blankets, carefully crafted canapés, and bottles of fizzy booze which have been safely stowed starboard. In a thrice the place looks like a scene from picnic at hanging rock minus the lilting screams and missing schoolgirls. Though, I’m not absolutely sure the lilting screams would be completely absent. The trip would have started in some controversy as a fight erupted over who would take the middle row. You see, the middle row’s captain’s seats recline as low as you like and have big generous footrests to prop up tired legs. In the Odyssey, the fight for the front seats doesn’t mean the a for the best seats.

The ride is quite decent and the handling acceptable for a people mover. Honda is going after the VIP transport, airport transfer, and luxury bus sector. And why not. It isn’t a sports car and doesn’t pretend to be. If you think of it more as a stately limo rather than a sharp hot hatch you won’t be disappointed. The 5 speed auto has gone and a CVT has taken its place. I loathe CVT but they are becoming more and more the norm as car makers chase fuel economy. Most of the time it wouldn’t worry you but your engine is rarely in the right rev range and with only 129kw you have to stand on the pedals if you want to be quick. Loaded with beefy lads, it performed ok. With the rear seats deployed, the luggage space is somewhat bijoux. You’d need a trailer for anything more than a few small bags. Honda call the Odyssey sexy. While I wouldn’t go quite that far myself, it is a very good vehicle. It is loaded with tech and the middle row of seats (if fitted with the captains chairs) are a real hit. In fact for the entire week my better half refused to ride anywhere else. I felt rather like I was transporting the Queen of Sheba and her entourage.

Would I buy one? No, but I would recommend it for those needing to carry a lot of people in style and comfort. People movers are no longer an embarrassment. 

Price: $42,916 to $51,895 on road
Engine: 2.4L petrol 129kW/225Nm
Transmission: CVT auto, FWD
Thirst: 9.1L/100km combined during the test