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The 2012 Honda Odyssey minivan, which received a full redesign in 2011, delivers a quiet, comfortable ride with good acceleration, a versatile interior and decent fuel economy for a family van.The Bad
According to a great number of new owners, the 2012 Odyssey does not live up to the previous generation in a number of important ways, and exhibits flaws in both design and build quality, leaving many recent buyers frustrated and underwhelmed.
The CarGurus View
Honda's reputation for superior build quality takes a big hit with the 2012 Honda Odyssey. New owners are reporting all sorts of problems with the vehicle, like door handles and rocker plates breaking off, doors not opening, batteries not working properly, sloppy transmission shifts and even a failure to start up when the driver turns the ignition key, resulting in numerous return trips to the dealer, often only weeks after purchase. A number of owners also report that the newly redesigned Odyssey does not have the same level of performance, steering feedback or storage spaces that the previous generation had. Therefore, prospective buyers should carefully check the warranty before signing on the dotted line and even consider buying an older-generation Odyssey, which performed well and delivered a higher level of build quality.
At a Glance
Following a full redesign in 2011, the Honda Odyssey minivan receives only minor updating for 2012. Specifically, the mid-level Odyssey EX trim receives a few new standard features, including Bluetooth, a multi-information display with an 8-inch screen, a USB audio interface and a 2GB CD library, and the upper-end Odyssey Touring trim comes with a new exclusive exterior color, White Diamond Pearl.
Unfortunately, Honda did not do much to address the myriad quality-control issues cropping up with the redesigned Odyssey in the past year or two. Manufacturing problems are usually very rare for Honda, but the latest Odyssey has the majority of drivers crying foul. Some of the issues owners have encountered are surprising, such as a door handle falling off when the vehicle was only a few weeks old, and repeated failures of the engine to start. Many owners have reported the need for multiple return trips to the dealer for service work on their vehicles.
For 2012, the Honda Odyssey comes in entry-level LX, mid-level EX and EX-L, and upper-end Touring and Touring Elite trims. Despite numerous negative comments on build quality, owners continue to appreciate the Odyssey for its versatility, thanks to such features as the new "3-mode" second-row seat design, which enables all trims except the LX to carry up to 8 passengers. During the 2011 redesign, Honda also gave the Odyssey new, sleeker exterior design with a "lightning bolt" beltline, a more powerful V6 engine and improved fuel economy, as well as a number of new tech features.
The exterior design update resulted in a more aerodynamic shape for the Odyssey, with a tapered roofline and a swept-back windshield. The staggered, lightning-bolt design of the beltline just below the side windows not only gives the Odyssey a sportier look, but provides better visibility for the driver and passengers. Prominent fender flares, as well as features such as slanted projector-beam headlights, LED taillights, power side mirrors (heated from the EX up), rear privacy glass and form-fitting foglights, give the 2012 Odyssey a clean, contemporary look. However, not everyone is a fan of the new design, and the exterior styling remains controversial.
Power for the Honda Odyssey continues to come from the 3.5-liter i-VTEC V6 introduced with the 2011 redesign. It produces a fairly respectable 248 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque and includes Variable Cylinder Management, which shuts down certain cylinders when they're not needed, such as when cruising or decelerating, to help conserve fuel. The engine links to a 5-speed transmission in all Odysseys except the Touring-level trims, which receive a 6-speed automatic. When mated to the 5-speed transmission, the engine manages fuel economy numbers of 18/27 mpg, which uptick slightly to 19/28 with the 6-speed shifter.
Despite the engine's fairly acceptable horsepower and torque, the Odyssey still feels underpowered to some owners, especially off the mark, prompting some drivers to wish it had more low-end torque. Part of the problem might be the 5-speed shifter, since some reviewers note that the Odyssey accelerates more quickly with the 6-speed transmission found in the Touring trims. The 6-speed also performs better when downshifting, some reviewers note. A manual-shift mode on the automatic transmission might have solved the problem, but Honda doesn't offer that feature on the minivan. Overall, however, reviewers and owners alike agree that the Odyssey's powerplant delivers acceptable performance around town and even responds well when stepping down on the accelerator pedal during passing situations at speed.
Ride & Handling
Nearly everyone agrees that the Odyssey represents a huge improvement over rough-riding minivans of the past, and many equate its ride and handling with that of a large sedan. Some even go so far as to call the Odyssey's handling "sporty" and compare it a sports car. The steering is precise and effortless, and the Odyssey exhibits minimal body lean in corners. In addition, it handles road imperfections with confidence and stability.
The Odyssey sits on a 118.1-inch wheelbase with a fully independent suspension consisting of MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink configuration in the rear, allowing each wheel to act on its own when in contact with the road. This is an improvement over the torsion beam-style rear suspensions found in some other minivans, the automaker notes, and results in the Odyssey's superb ride. Add in variable power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, and you have a chassis, suspension and steering system that ranks among the best on the market today for a minivan.
The Odyssey also gets good marks for its comfortable seating in all three rows, which make longer trips with the family a little easier to manage. In all trims but the LX, the Odyssey features a versatile second row, with two wide seats for adults. However, the center middle seat can easily be turned into a third middle seat, expanding passenger capacity to 8. The third row offers plenty of legroom for older kids and teens, thanks to the 1 inch of extra room added during the 2011 redesign. On the downside, some drivers who owned an earlier-generation Odyssey say the redesign did reconfigure or do away with a number of popular interior storage cubbies, although the Odyssey still offers plenty of interior storage spaces, including at least 10 and as many as 15 cupholders, with 5 cupholders for front-row passengers alone.
All Odyssey trims ride on 17-inch wheels except those at the Touring level, which get 18-inch alloy wheels.
Cabin & Comfort
The Odyssey's spacious, comfortable interior seats up to 8 passengers in three rows. Most reviewers agree that the interior is well-designed, emphasizing versatility and style, but new owners have a slightly different take, noting a number of issues with fit and finish. In addition, while reviewers like the interior's soft-touch surfaces, some owners consider them cheap-looking and feel as if Honda is skimping out on quality.
The 2012 Odyssey offers a strong standard features list, with such amenities as air conditioning, power windows and door locks, a tilt/telescopic steering wheel with illuminated cruise control buttons, an audio input jack and a One-Motion 60/40-split third-row Magic Seat standard on all trims. The entry-level LX also includes an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat, wide-mode adjustable second-row seats, and a 5-speaker, 229-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with a subwoofer. The LX comes with 10 cupholders located throughout the cabin.
Stepping up a notch, the EX trim adds a tri-zone automatic climate control system with humidity control, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, 2 additional speakers for the audio system and a multifunction second-row center seat with a beverage-holder tray that folds down when the seat is not in use. Honda also adds Bluetooth, a 2GB CD library and a multi-information display with an 8-inch screen to the EX's standard package for 2012. In addition, the cupholder count increases to 15 in the EX, with 7 in the middle row alone.
At the EX-L level, Honda adds leather upholstery for the first two rows, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, as well as a Cool Box chilled storage area. In addition, the EX-L gets SiriusXM satellite radio with its 229-watt audio system, and its multi-information display adds a rear-view camera. When owners opt for the available satellite-linked navigation system with voice recognition, a high-resolution 8-inch screen, 15GB hard disk drive and upgraded 246-watt audio system are included in the package. Owners can also add an optional DVD rear entertainment system.
At the top of the line, the Touring trim gets the satellite-linked navigation system, 15GB hard disk drive, DVD rear entertainment system and high-resolution screen as standard features, and also adds ambient footwell lighting and memory settings for the driver's seat. In addition, the Touring gets the 7-speaker, 249-watt audio system, while the Touring Elite adds a 12-speaker, 650-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with surround sound to its standard features package. Living up to its name, the Touring Elite also gets a DVD ultrawide rear entertainment system and a blind spot information system.
With all that equipment, the Odyssey's dash and front console can get mighty crowded, with dozens of button and knows, and some owners admit it's a lot to learn and navigate. Even tech-savvy drivers say it's a bit overwhelming. To balance it out, Honda has made it incredibly easy to reconfigure the Odyssey's interior. The second-row outboard seats can slide 1.5 inches to each side to give passengers more room, and by tugging a handle, the third-row Magic Seat automatically tucks itself away. Cargo space in the Odyssey ranges from 38.4 cubic feet with all three rows in place to 93.1 cubic feet with the third row folded down and 148.5 cubic feet with both the second and third row folded down. For the record, that's a lot of cargo space, which is one of the vehicle's biggest draws for families.
The Honda Odyssey was named a Top Safety Pick for 2012 by the IIHS, due to its top score of Good in three types of crash tests, including frontal, side and rollover. It also earned 5 out of 5 stars from the NHTSA, receiving 5 stars in each crash test category except the rollover test, where it received 4 stars.
Standard safety features for the 2012 Honda Odyssey include Vehicle Stability Assist with traction control and antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist. Airbags include dual-stage front and front side units, as well as three-row side-curtain airbags with a rollover sensor. Other standard safety features include a tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.
What Owners Think
Owners seem to have a lot of beefs with the 2012 Odyssey, with negative comments far outweighing positive ones. On the plus side, they like its smooth ride and easy, precise handling, as well as the versatile interior. In addition, owners seem pleased overall with the Odyssey's performance, although a few would like to see a little more pep off the mark. The pedal responds well when passing, they say, and the brakes are responsive as well.
The problems come with the mechanical systems and build quality, in particular parts falling off or breaking down, sometimes only weeks after the vehicle has left the showroom floor. Glitches appear to be everywhere, from the navigation system to the door handles to the battery, engine components and the overall fit and finish of the cabin. Perhaps, as production has continued, Honda has been able to iron out some of these kinks, but perhaps not. Overall, owners who have experienced no problems with their Odysseys are very happy with the vehicle, but for those who have experienced a range of problems, the Odyssey is causing unwanted headaches. Prospective buyers will want to look closely at any Odyssey they're considering and take a look at competitors as well, such as the Toyota Sienna, Mazda MAZDA5, Chrysler Town & Country or Kia Sedona.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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2012 Honda Odyssey Top Comparisons
Users ranked 2012 Honda Odyssey against other cars which they drove/owned. Each ranking was based on 9 categories. Here is the summary of top rankings.
Cars compared to 2012 Honda Odyssey
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- EX-L FWD
- Avg. Price: $12,385
- EX-L FWD with DVD
- Avg. Price: $11,724
- EX-L FWD with Navigation
- Avg. Price: $11,825
- LX FWD
- Avg. Price: $9,580
- Touring Elite FWD
- Avg. Price: $13,368
- Touring FWD
- Avg. Price: $13,043
Honda Odyssey Experts