Honda Odyssey

Though it may not be the coolest ride around, the venerable minivan is the most efficient, most comfortable and most affordable way to move large numbers of people, or even large quantities of stuff.

One of the best minivans for the last decade or so has been the Honda Odyssey, which has been completely redesigned. The most noticeable change is its looks. Though by necessity, a minivan is going to be fairly boxy, the new Odyssey adds some styling flair, most noticeably a dip in the beltline behind the rear door and a sharply angled rear-window pillar.

Interior flexibility is where minivans really shine, and the Odyssey has about eight different passenger/cargo-carrying combinations that can accommodate a 4 X 8-foot sheet of plywood or up to eight passengers. The secondrow seats, which have to be removed from the van for maximum cargocarrying capacity, can accommodate two adults comfortably. The third row seats three and also is comfortable for two adults and a child, plus they split and fold into the floor to create additional cargo room. With the third row seats up, there’s a decent sized cargo area in back with a deep well.

Amenities abound in the Odyssy, including innumerable cupholders, a sunroof, heated front seats, a back-up camera, multiple storage bins (including one at the bottom of the center console that’s a small refrigerator), dual automatic climate control, power rear doors and power rear liftgate, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and a video display for the back-seat passengers who also enjoy their own air vents and ventilation controls. A myriad of safety features ensures family safety.

Powering the Odyssey is a 3.5 liter V-6 engine that pumps out 248 horsepower to the front wheels through a 5-speed automatic transmission. Power is plentiful and handling is pretty good for a relatively large vehicle, thanks to a nice tight suspension that also provides a comfortable ride. Mileage is 18 city, 27 highway.

According to Honda of Frontenac salesman Matt Kiefer, “The Odyssey offers safety, convenience, and functionality; it’s the most practical vehicle on the market.” Prices for the Odyssey range from about $27,000 to $41,000 depending on trim level and equipment.

Another great minivan that was completely re-styled last year is the Nissan Quest. Like the Odyssey, the Quest offers tons of versatility and utility. The Quest actually has become more conservative in its styling, going from a futuristic, wildly styled van to a very conservative, but more functional box.

One nice feature is an available blind-spot warning system that illuminates a light on your side mirror when a vehicle is in your blind spot. A back-up camera helps eliminate a big blind spot when reversing. A convex mirror that descends from the roof allows the driver and front-seat passenger to see every seating position behind them, making it harder for kids to get away with anything. Power doors and liftgate make loading easy, as does a button in the cargo area that folds down the third-row seat to expand the cargo area. Expected comforts include tri-zone automatic climate control, a DVD screen for rear-seat passengers that includes wireless headphones, a mirror compass and plenty of cupholders. The radio display is in the center of the dash and easy to use, but the controls are a bit of a reach.

Second-row passengers have plenty of room, while the third-row seats fold forward at the touch of a button to increase cargo-carrying capacity, allowing you to keep everything in the rear under-floor storage compartment. If even more capacity is needed, the second-row seats also fold down, creating a flatload floor above the seats. Heated front seats are roomy and comfortable, with lots of storage areas at hand. Dual sunroofs are optional.

Driving the Quest is easy and comfortable. Power comes from a 3.5 liter V- 6 engine that sends 260 horsepower to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission. Power, braking and handling are all more than adequate for a minivan and it has a very smooth, comfortable ride. Gas mileage is 19 city, 24 highway. All the latest safety features also are included.

Bommarito Nissan’s Steve Colesworthy says, “Nissan brought the feel of a luxury car to a minivan, but kept the utility and added a number of great features that make it an affordable package for the whole family.” Quest prices range from about $28,500 to $42,000 for a loaded top-of-the-line model.

Robert Paster ( also is an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.