As covered in our news piece on the latest Odyssey, Honda hasn’t messed with what works, engineering-wise. The Odyssey gets a facelift for 2021, its second and a more major one, but this time around the looks have been more shook up.
Honda’s changed tack this time round and the prominent, tall grille gives the Odyssey an increased road presence that fits the times well. You’ve surely read about SUVs almost supplanting sedans as the most popular car type here, so it’s no surprise that the Odyssey receives cosmetic changes with an emphasis on verticality and implying soft-roader styling.
Even without putting the new and old cars side by side, there’s no missing that big, square grille.
Whereas the previous-gen Odyssey and pre-facelift model have gone for a more shovel-nosed, streamlined look when compared to bigger, boxier MPVs like the Toyota Alphard. By moving the grille from its previous position close to the ground, and now smack between the headlights.
Speaking of those, both front and rear lights becoming more prominent and square. When viewed from the side, the new front end is also more blunt and vertical, and all of these cues clue us in to the idea that Honda wanted to ‘SUV-ify’ the Odyssey a little. Don’t believe us? To us, the new nose looks very similar to Honda’s US-only truck, the Ridgeline.
As a 2021 update, the main changes here are to digitalisation. The main infotainment system goes up and inch, to 8.0-inches, but more importantly the system is all-new. Honda’s previous Display Audio system was decent, but not outstanding in any way, and the new system is more responsive to touch, has better graphics, and a more intuitive menu system. As expected, it now plays nice with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It’s matched by the 7.0-inch driver’s display. Previously the Odyssey had a more conventional instrument panel with a smaller, digital mid-segment, but now the display panel takes up the left side of the cluster, with the right side a conventional dial. It’s clearly presented and simple to use.
A single jog dial on the steering wheel controls allow you to scroll through everything from music playing to safety systems. Another bonus is that navigation cues from your phone (like Android Auto) appear in the digital display – something not all cars do.
The rest of the cabin is unchanged, but what we enjoyed about it remains the same, perhaps even more enjoyable in this age of try-to-do-everything-SUVs. The seats are very comfortable, with padded armrests and a tall, commanding view of the road (again, who needs an SUV here?).
Honda Sensing, the brand’s suite of active safety systems, continues to pull duty here and is still a welcome feature. It comprises Adaptive Cruise Control with Forward Collision Warning, adding to that is the Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS, basically auto-brake), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and Road Departure Mitigation (RDM).
What we liked about Sensing is the major systems (adaptive cruise and lane keeping) are easily toggled via steering wheel buttons – for example, a click on the LKAS button switches it from actively correcting, to warning, or off entirely, and a glance at the driver’s display reflects the status clearly. So active safety doesn’t ironically become a hazardous distraction.
The updated Honda Sensing is also standard on all Odyssey models – the one driven here is the less expensive, eight seat EX model, with the higher-grade EXV to come shortly. Over the EX model it has two captain seats (instead of a third-row bench) and sunshades for those seats, blind spot monitoring, a handsfree tailgate, a sunroof, LED cornering lights, and independent air con zones for the first, second, and third row seats.