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November 28, 2012

CARS: Odyssey still best driving van on the market

— The Honda Odyssey has always stood out in the minivan market because it feels so different from the driver's seat.

Most minivans drive like a plate of limp spaghetti. They're floppy, squishy and boring, which makes sense when you think about it. Nobody buys a minivan because they want an invigorating driving feel, just like nobody buys a sports car for the cup holders.

If you care about that sort of thing, though — which I do — you can't help but love the Odyssey for what it is: a solid, practical family hauler that just happens to drive with the precision of an Accord.

It has a reputation for dependability, too, which is one reason Odysseys are so expensive when you try to buy them used.

Ten years ago, Odyssey was head and shoulders above every minivan on the market. You would shut the sliding door on the Honda, hear the solid thud that sounded like a single slab of stone, and think, "This thing is going to last forever."

You could do the same thing on a Dodge and think, "I'll be lucky if this lasts a week."

The other minivan manufacturers have caught up with Honda recently, though, and you don't see as wide a gap between them anymore.

The products from Toyota, Nissan, Dodge and Chrysler have all been redesigned, presumably with the Odyssey in their sights. It certainly feels that way when you drive them and realize how much more Odyssey-like they're becoming with each passing year.

Even today, the Odyssey still stands out as being the best driving van on the market, despite the tougher competition. It accelerates, brakes and turns instantly, without the slightest delay that gives most minivans their rubbery, annoying feel.

All minivans are designed for families, so it's no surprise that the Odyssey is packed full of cup holders and storage compartments that make traveling with children easier.

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