It’s true that the once-hot minivan segment was shrinking rapidly even before the pandemic hit. Since then, things have only gotten worse for a vehicle type once seen as the go-to conveyance for growing families.
How bad is it? Our own Tim Cain recently traded in his Honda Odyssey for a shiny new Ridgeline pickup. We were aghast.
Well, this turn of events hasn’t stopped Honda from putting what it feels is its best minivan forward. For 2021, the Odyssey returns with a fresh(ened) face and new content. But can it budge the sales needle when it goes on sale next month?
This is one of those times when a before-and-after comparison is necessary to help illustrate the design refresh. The 2021 model is on top; ancient pre-refresh Odyssey on bottom:
But we’ve covered the new Odyssey’s cosmetic alterations already. Arriving at dealerships next week, the ’21 Odyssey asks an extra $1,000 for its base LX trim, retailing for $32,910 after destination.
The extra dough covers the addition of a standard Honda Sensing suite of driver assist features that incorporates such niceties as lane keep assist and collision-mitigating braking, as well as adaptive cruise. All Odysseys gain a rear seat reminder function to prevent kid tragedies. Elsewhere in the cabin, outboard second-row seats can now fold nearly flat (in EX trim and above), aiding their removal from the vehicle. These available Magic Slide seats can be pushed together after the center seat is removed, or bumped to either side of the cabin.
Useful additions to a well-regarded minivan, but what are Honda’s chances? Odyssey sales sunk 6.8 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year, dipping into the five-figure range for the first time since 1999. From 2012 to 2016, U.S. volume topped 120,000 units each year. Back in the late 2000s, Odyssey sales topped 170,000 each year.
The first half of 2020 showed a pandemic-accelerated dip of 24.4 percent compared to a year earlier, ensuring that this year will make 2019 look like a dream. The refreshed 2021 model faces a steep challenge, to say the least.