Review update: 2021 Honda Odyssey does not abhor a vacuum


This is the strange case of the 2021 Honda Odyssey minivan. The crime? A missing vacuum cleaner. The culprit? The pandemic.

In January, after just five months of sales, Honda pulled the plug on the 2021 Odyssey so it could roll out the 2022 Odyssey. 

Why so soon? Supply constraints caused the elimination of the HondaVac on the top 2022 Elite trim. Elite has accounted for 20% of Odyssey sales since it was introduced for 2014, Honda spokesperson Lynn Seely told me, and the HondaVac contributed to the trim’s popularity. 

I’m a lucky one. I tested a rare 2021 Honda Odyssey Elite with the HondaVac. Is the little sucker good enough to persuade car shoppers into the $48,995 Elite, which is the same price for 2022 despite the, ahem, feature vacuum? 

The Odyssey’s limited V-6 front-wheel-drive powertrain leaves Honda chasing much more than an in-car vacuum. With a 36 mpg combined EPA-rating, the redesigned 2021 Toyota Sienna has caught up to the 2021 Honda Odyssey’s TCC Rating of 6.8 out of 10. The 2021 Chrysler Pacifica and its 7.2 rating stakes claim as our Best Minivan To Buy 2021 for the fifth year in a row. The Pacifica can be had as a plug-in hybrid with a 32-mile electric range, ideal for around town. And both the Sienna and Pacifica can be had with all-wheel drive.  

Yet Honda’s excellent packaging, versatile seating arrangements, and overall roominess present a compelling option, with or without the vacuum. In a week of testing the 2021 Odyssey Elite in Stormtrooper white on black, with winter melting into spring, I used the HondaVac more than I would’ve used AWD. 

2021 Honda Odyssey

2021 Honda Odyssey

2021 Honda Odyssey

Hit: HondaVac

It sucks in all the right ways. Tucked neatly into the driver-side cargo wall in back, it has an 8-foot hose that stretches to the front. Turn on accessory power, turn on the vac, and get cleaning quickly, no matter where you are. From the back, I tossed the hose over the second row, then walked around to the second row seats and was able to vacuum the front cushions. Using the long, narrow head, the vac reached all the way to the passenger footwell. The OCD among us will truly value this little sucker. 

Miss: Navigation screen 

The standard 8.0-inch touchscreen seems smaller than it is, especially with navigation. The static top menu and lower navigation menu reduce the height of the map to about three inches. Apple CarPlay doesn’t have the same menu squeeze, so it’s larger but still not as effective as in the Pacifica and, presumably, the 2022 Kia Carnival, formerly known as the Sedona. Wide bezels frame the unit, further squeezing the screen.

Hit: Rear seat reminder camera

A camera in the ceiling faces the two rear rows, and can be projected through the touchscreen so you can check on a sleeping baby or referee sibling squabbling. When you press the ignition off, the rear-seat camera projection appears in the touchscreen. It’s a more effective reminder  than a simple chime or message alert in the cluster. 

2021 Honda Odyssey

2021 Honda Odyssey

2021 Honda Odyssey

Hit: Packaging

The 2022 Carnival claims best-in-class cargo and passenger volume, but the difference is negligible in the Odyssey; it has 144.9 cubic feet of space behind the front row to 151.2 cubic feet in the Carnival. Until I go for a ride in the Carnival, I’ll give the space advantage to Honda, who optimizes space with clever storage in all its vehicles, especially the Odyssey. 

Up front, the crammed center stack with a smooshed gear selector opens up to a wide center console with storage nearly down to the floor. The console between the front armrests has two sets of cup holders, a wireless phone charging pad, and a storage cubby as deep as those in some trucks. The doors have two storage levels as well. It’s enough to forget more of what you brought than to remember what you forgot. 

The rear seats move easily, as well. The third row 60/40-split bench folds easily enough into the floor that my 13-year-old daughter figured it out herself, and, from the third row, it’s easy to pull the strap or the latch on the second-row seat to slide it forward. 

The second-row seats slide forward and back as well as side-to-side on a track system. It’s easy to remove the middle seat that can double as an armrest and realign the outboard seats to your liking, such as sliding the passenger side next to the driver-side rear seat to allow for easier access to the third row, or to let those same squabbling siblings make up and play travel Battleship. 

Miss: Driver-assist features

Adaptive cruise control with active lane control provided a shaky 10-15 seconds of hands-free driving, but, like Bartleby the Scrivener, it would prefer not to. On the highway, it read the dotted lane markings to maintain center, but in the far right or left lane it crossed over a solid line and flashed warnings in the cluster instead of correcting course like it did between dotted lines. 

Hit and miss: The $50k minivan is the new norm

The loaded Elite costs at least $2,000 less than the Pacifica Pinnacle and Sienna Platinum; with front-wheel drive, those models crest $51,000. Only the 2022 Kia Carnival, and its $47,275 SX Prestige trim undercut the Odyssey Elite. 

The feature sets are nearly identical at this price but the Carnival not only has the perfect name for a minivan, it’s also $1,700 less at the top end. The Carnival SX Prestige has second-row captain’s chairs with footrests, and Kia’s infotainment interface is better than Honda’s. 

That appeals to my pragmatic side more so than the HondaVac. For total pragmatism, however, the Sienna’s 36 mpg combined can’t be topped. 


2021 Honda Odyssey Elite

Base price: $48,995 including $1,175 destination

Price as tested: $49,930

Drivetrain: 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 with 10-speed automatic and front-wheel drive

EPA fuel economy: 19/28/22 mpg 

The hits: HondaVac, packaging, roominess, seat versatility 

The misses: Navigation screen size, no hybrid or AWD, shaky safety tech 

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