2006 Honda Odyssey
This 2006 review is representative of model years 2005 to 2007.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Which minivan has the best fuel economy rating for 2006?
Hint: It's the same van that led all others in fuel economy for 2005 in government ratings.
It's also the minivan that was a Consumer Guide's Best Buy for 2005, Money magazine's Best Minivan for 2005 and one of only five "Best Trucks" for 2005 by Car and Driver magazine.
The answer is the 2006 Honda Odyssey.
According to figures from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the 2006 Odyssey is the top van again with a rating of 20 miles a gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway.
The Odyssey comes with one powerplant—a 244-horsepower V6 mated to an automatic transmission.
In comparison, the second-best van, the 2006 Dodge Caravan with 150-horsepower, four-cylinder engine mated to an automatic transmission, is rated at 20/26 mpg.
Think about it. The Odyssey's larger and more powerful engine—a 3.5-liter V6—is able to match the fuel economy of a 2.4-liter four cylinder and even eek more out of a gallon of gasoline at highway speeds than the Caravan's base four-cylinder engine. (Both the Odyssey and Caravan use regular unleaded gas.)
This is despite the fact the second-ranked Caravan, which is a base, shorter-wheelbase version of the Dodge Grand Caravan, is smaller and lighter weight than the Odyssey.
Perhaps, then, it's no wonder that without hefty incentives, Odysseys continue to sell strongly.
Pricing isn't low
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price for the base 2006 Odyssey LX is more than $25,000, and prices approach $40,000 when rear-seat entertainment system, leather seats and navigation system with voice recognition are added in.
In contrast, the 2006 Caravan starts at less than $19,000 for an SE model, and the base, 2006 Grand Caravan, which comes with a V6, starts at just over $23,000.
Odyssey's lasting appeal
In its reincarnation, this comfortable-riding, front-wheel-drive van was the first to pioneer third-row seats that flip and fold down easily into a cavity in the floor at the back of the vehicle. Honda officials called this rear-seat unit the "Magic Seat," and it was quickly appreciated by exhausted moms everywhere who had come to hate lifting out the big, bulky third-row seats of other minivans whenever they needed room for large cargo. Today, the Odyssey still has the flip-and-fold third-row seats. They've been copied by other car companies, too.
The Odyssey is the first minivan in this country with a nifty, fold-away center console tray between the front seats. It's a feature that continues today.
The Odyssey also was one of the first with second-row seats that could quickly be positioned as separate seats or slid together to form a roomier second-row bench. Today, the Odyssey has two separate seats in the second row and can accommodate a third person in a stowable middle seat that doubles as a large armrest and console when not in use. This gives the Odyssey the option of eight-passenger seating.
The Odyssey also has power roll-down windows in its second-row, sliding side doors, which are unusual in this segment (Toyota's Sienna has them, too). These windows provide plentiful fresh air to riders in the back—be they youngsters or the family dog.
The optional navigation system has a large screen that sits up high on the dashboard for convenient viewing. And there's voice recognition software, so a driver can give some verbal commands, rather than distractedly using hands all the time at the nav screen, to find and set locations.
The Odyssey's interior quietness can be akin to that in a luxury car, thanks to noise-cancellation technology that's included in some uplevel models.
Basically, "anti-noise" balances out engine noise by broadcasting the sounds through Odyssey's audio system speakers, thus cancelling out any incoming engine noise. No other minivan has this.
Parents should be aware, however, that the Odyssey noise cancellation is not programmed to cancel out children's voices, though there might be times when it would come in handy.
The Odyssey's V6 is no exception. Though it has to power a rather heavy vehicle—weighing more than 4,300 pounds—the Odyssey powerplant developed a healthy, 240 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm in the test Touring model.
It was enough to move the van in a sprightly manner, both in the city and on the highway, and the five-speed transmission managed shifts smoothly.
Here's a key reason why this V6 can be so thrifty with fuel: It has Honda's Variable Cylinder Management system that deactivates three of the six engine cylinders automatically when the van is cruising. In essence, the Odyssey in those times is running on just three cylinders.
Drivers aren't likely to notice when this occurs. In fact, in the test Odyssey, the only indication I had of the three-cylinder mode was when the bright green letters "eco" popped up in the instrument panel. There was no sensation of lost power and no shuddering or hesitancy as the V6 disengaged and re-engaged the cylinders.
A safety leader
The 2006 Odyssey also earns the top, five-star rating in both frontal and side crash tests by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Odyssey's rollover rating is four out of five stars.
It's easy to see why this van is so highly rated. Even the eighth person in the Odyssey, in the middle, optional seat in the second row, has a three-point safety belt.
Indeed, every 2006 Odyssey comes standard with a full complement of safety features, including curtain airbags for all three rows of passengers, front-seat side airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control.
Unlike the Toyota Sienna, though, the Odyssey does not offer all-wheel drive.
Odds and ends
In the test Odyssey, they annoyed me with their slow open-and-close motions, and when I tried to help them along by manually yanking on the door handles, they resisted my efforts.
Another frustration in the tester: A code was needed to activate the nav system and display.
I don't know how I did it, but I hit some button or something on the dashboard one day in the test van, and all of a sudden all I could get on the display screen was a message asking me to enter my "code." I didn't have it and ended up traveling all day without the use of the nav system.
Moral of the story: Make sure you have the code with you.