Honda Odyssey J

Family's special recipe

"J stands for "Joy" and the model is Japanese made"

"We've seen a great blend of fair luxury and efficient packaging inside the Odyssey J, which itself will take the model a step ahead of rivals. No wonder the Honda team is confident" said Ershad

"The minivan concept literally has the perception of it being a family car"

"A segment that has room to grow in the Middle East market"

Just about a year ago, I had my first MPV drive in a Honda Odyssey. It was a nice experience, knowing it was a segment which I felt had room to grow in the Middle East market. First of all, there aren't many rivals up in this part, and secondly, the minivan concept literally has the perception of it being a family car. With the launch of Odyssey J in Dubai, Honda has made it very clear that the new direction to address is a piece just below the Odyssey at an affordable reach.

Odyssey was impressive for its comfort, space and utility features. The next generation minivan Odyssey J is not far away from having an extra edge in sophisticated features and more glamour. Middle East is the only region where both Odysseys are on deck. By the way, J stands for "Joy" and the model is Japanese made. There are two variants: EX and the top grade EX-V. We took the EX-V for a spin over a weekend stay in Al Ain, which was an ideal test mat.

The designers had a good bit of work to create a shell with all possible frills. Our EX-V tester was a seven seater wrapped in peachy keen leather. It had "Captain Cradle Seats" in the second row with adjustable foot and armrests that could move front, back and even sideways. The second row could fold completely straight, allowing the passengers to lie down flat on their back. All you had to do was fold the entire third row into the floor as a piece. You also gained extra room for cargo. All in all, a first class experience!

The normal EX comes with a bench seat setup for the second row, so it can put up eight passengers. Third row passengers get individual headrests, which is a great aspect. The front seats also have armrests and there is some space to walk through in the middle to reach the second row; you don't see this in a regular 4X4. Odyssey J has a seven inch touchscreen display for audio system and a whole host of other features like a rearview camera, map light, front and rear A/C and third row ultra vents with touch type A/C control panel. The gear shifter finds a place on the dash just below the display and there's a fancy tray assembly for storage. We've seen a great blend of fair luxury and efficient packaging inside the Odyssey J, which itself will take the model a step ahead of rivals. No wonder the Honda team is confident.

The minivan was dressed up like a jewel. LED headlights, DRLs and a mondo chrome grille added to the glittery feel upfront. There were LED tail lamps, a sunroof and a set of 17 inch wheels to round up the upscale look. The highlight, however, was the ultra-low platform which in fact is the lowest in its segment, allowing easy access in and out. The floor sits only 300mm above the ground, good enough to avoid road humps. Power sliding doors with a one touch technology was another standout feature. You can either touch the door handle or just press a button on the key. How cool is that!

Unlike the Odyssey which had a V6 block, our tester Odyssey J had a 4 cylinder, 2.4 liter Earth Dreams Technology engine, DOHC i-VTEC with a CVT. You get a torque of 225Nm at 4000 rpm and an output power of 173hp at 6200 rpm.

Safety features include six SRS Air Bags, Honda's Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE), Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), Anti-Lock Brake Systems (ABS), Electronic Brake Distributor (EBD) and Hill Start Assist (HSA).

Being on a very low platform has a direct sequel. You never feel like you are driving a minivan. For the most part, it was a smooth ride in city circles. Things were stable for the front row occupants and pretty much ok for the back benchers. You need to get hold of a threshold. Anything above 100kph is a dragging affair, still manageable until 120kph. I think that's where you set the cruise control and let the car take control. Overriding above that speed is inviting noise and letting down harmony. Handling was great when you stayed on limit and it did a decent job in corners; however, it couldn't sort out the understeer in tight corners. Blind Spot Information (BSI) system added some extra civility in me as a driver to mind the danger chasing me. You would hear a large beep sound and an indicator light on the side view mirror if there was an approaching vehicle, and hence, to keep a safe driving distance. Brakes were ok and the steering was light and good enough for daily maneuvers.

Verdict
Odyssey J is a special recipe compared to its elder brother Odyssey. It's cooler and cheaper. It's got lot of room for passengers and cargo. Power sliding doors and flat chairs will not go unnoticed. As long as the driver is aware about the power limits, here's a cruiser in the new Odyssey J that can perfectly fit the bill for a family carrier.

Pros: handling, captain cradle seats, economical, spacious 
Cons: engine noise after a threshold 120kph, front grill needs little trimming   
Rivals: Kia Carnival, Toyota Previa, Chrysler Grand Voyager
Engine: 2.4 liter Earth Dreams Technology engine,DOHC i-VTEC, 173 hp @ 6200rpm, 225Nm @ 4000rpm 
Transmission: CVT, FWD 
Performance: 0-100 kph: 11.5 sec, 7.5 L /100 km, top speed: 200 kph 
Weight: EX (1,753 kg), EX-V (1,847 kg) 
3.5 STARS

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