Honda Odyssey VS Kia Carnival
- Handsome styling
- Plush first- and second-row seats
- Frugal fuel usage
- Lacklustre engine
- Dull CVT
- Foot-operated park brake
- Cavernous interior
- Striking design
- Great to drive
- Thirsty V6
- Average cloth seat trim
- Dorky turn-key ignition
Nearly every car brand has jumped well and truly onto the SUV bandwagon in 2021, offering models in small, medium and large varieties for buyers of all budgets and lifestyles.
To try and fill that gap, Honda has updated its Odyssey people mover with fresh looks, more safety and new tech to not only compete against the Kia Carnival and Toyota Prius V, but also the likes of the Toyota Kluger, Mazda CX-8 and Hyundai Santa Fe.
Can Honda’s Odyssey still cut it in a world that has gone SUV crazy? Let’s find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The seven-seat SUV’s rise in popularity makes sense. SUVs are on trend, a lot of them now look fantastic, and many of them are as good around town as they are on the freeway, or when sent on some light off-roading duties.
This has had a side effect of shrinking the people-mover market. Now seen as dorky and unnecessary, the poor people mover has contracted in popularity to the point where there are few options left, and few of them are tailored as well for the Australian market as cars like the Toyota Tarago once was.
Kia faces those adverse conditions head on with its new-generation Carnival. Now the most popular people mover in Australia, this new one enters the scene with SUV-like looks, the brand’s dramatic new design touches, and a better practicality promise than ever.
Should it win your heart over a seven-seat SUV? Let me make the case as to why it might.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
The Honda Odyssey isn’t a bad choice for those looking to ferry around a large gaggle of people, but its far from the best option.
The first two rows are great and are supremely comfortable for those four occupants, but third-row usage will depend on how much those passengers are susceptible to motion sickness.
However, the Odyssey’s biggest weakness might be its sluggish engine and mundane CVT, with rivals like the new Kia Carnival and even Toyota Prius V offering better performance and better economy, respectively.
Still, the Honda Odyssey, and people movers in general, remain a solid option for those that don’t want another SUV or value the practicality and space afforded.
Kia’s Carnival rightfully asserts its place at the forefront of the people-mover market. It might be huge, but it’s still brilliantly packaged and put together in such a way that it’s surprisingly easy to live with, even in close quarters.
Priced between its rivals and with a compelling safety offering, too, the only reasons you should be choosing a seven-seat SUV over one of these is if you’re seldom going to use the extra row, you plan on actually using all-wheel drive capabilities, or you’re staunchly against vans.
Gone are the days where people movers could be considered daggy or uncool. No, please, don’t click away, we’re serious!
The 2021 Honda Odyssey features a new front grille, bumper and headlights that combine for a much more imposing and aggressive front fascia.
The chrome highlights look especially good against the 'Obsidian Blue' paintwork of our test car, at least to our eyes, and between this and the new Kia Carnival, people movers might just be cool again.
In profile, the 17-inch wheels do look a little small next to the massive doors and huge panels, but they do feature a funky two-tone look.
The chrome touches also follow along the Odyssey’s flanks and are found in the door handles and window surrounds to break things up a bit.
From the rear, the Odyssey’s large dimensions are hard to hide, but Honda has tried to jazz things up with a roof-mounted rear spoiler and more chrome around the tail-lights and rear fog light surrounds.
Overall, the Odyssey looks handsome and confident without straying into the ‘trying too hard’ or ‘over the top’ territory, and if anything, at least it’s not another high-riding SUV, which are quickly overtaking streets and car parks the world over.
Step inside and the Odyssey’s layout is nothing special, but gets the job done.
The first- and second-row seats are plush and comfortable, while the dashboard also features woodgrain touches to lift the interior ambience.
The 8.0-inch multimedia screen sit proudly in the centre stack, while the shifter is on the dashboard to maximum interior space.
Can a people mover really be trendy? Kia dares to find out, with the Carnival just the second car to wear its latest design language. There are some who will never find a people mover attractive, but you have to at least see the Carnival in the metal before you judge. I think our test car looks particularly fetching in the Snow White Pearl premium paint (a reasonably-priced $650 option). There’s something very satisfying about the way the striking, angular design - with its abundance of subtle black highlight pieces - complements this particular shade.
From the front three-quarter, the Carnival meets the eyeballs with the prowess and stance of an SUV. The grille and squared-off A-pillars give it that illusion of toughness, with the LED DRLs intricately and seamlessly lining the edges of its face.
It’s instantly reminiscent of the Sorento, without being exactly the same, giving it a healthy dose of its own character.
The side profile is unavoidably a van. It’s a giant oblong, there’s no way around it, but the massive sheet metal has been shaped by highlight pieces to stop it from being a solid block of car, like Toyota’s Granvia. The way the cutaway for the door runner, typically an eyesore on vans like this, integrates with the rear lights and beltline is a stroke of design genius. To really round out the side profile, Kia has framed the rear window with a real highlight piece, rendered in satin silver, imprinted with a hint of its new motif, which is found in the interior not just on this car, but the Sorento, too.The slimline LED light clusters run from the sides all the way across the back, giving this car a strongly defined line through its body, no matter where you view it from. In a final statement of Kia’s intent, the Carnival badge is rendered in a new, Porsche-esque cursive font.
Again, not everybody is going to be sold on the look of a people mover. My partner certainly didn’t fancy it. I understand that, but the fact that Kia has built one not just to look interesting, but actually as a design statement is worthy of applause.
Even the inside is stylish, with its low dash highlighted by scaled satin silver panels, gloss black, and that massive multimedia screen. Although the Si doesn’t have a digital dash cluster where the design leads you to think it should, there’s something satisfying about the way the analogue dials are inset into the gloss. Rounding it all out was a two-tone finish in our car, and a lovely integrated climate panel.
I’ve talked it up a lot, but the Carnival Si isn’t without its failings. It’s rude that this car gives you a turnkey ignition yet has a plastic filler panel where the push-start should be, and again the downright average design of the seats, with their lack of side-support, lack of pattern work, and blunt edges, feels really out of place in such an upmarket-styled cabin.
Measuring 4855mm long, 1820mm wide, 1710mm tall and with a 2900mm wheelbase, the Honda Odyssey is not just an imposing behemoth on the outside, but also a spacious and practical people mover on the inside.
Up front, occupants are treated to plush and comfortable seats with electronic adjustment and individual fold-down armrests.
Storage options abound, with deep door pockets, a dual-chamber glove box, and a tricked-out centre storage console that can retract into the centre stack and features two hidden cupholders.
Because of the compact engine and transmission package, and the fact the centre console tucks away, there is actually just empty space between the two front occupants, which is a missed opportunity.
Maybe Honda could have put another storage bin there, or even a cooled box for chilled drinks on long road trips. Either way it’s a notable, unexploited cavity.
The second-row seats are probably the place to be in the Odyssey, though, with its two captain’s chairs offering supreme comfort.
Adjustability is also plentiful, with forward/backwards, recline and even left/right positioning available.
However, while there are cupholders and roof-mounted climate controls present, there really isn’t much else to keep second-row occupants, well, occupied.
Would be nice to see some charging ports or even entertainment screens to keep kids and adults placated on long journeys, but at least the head, shoulder, and legroom is generous.
In the third row, it’s a tighter squeeze, but I managed to get my 183cm (6'0") frame comfortable.
The three-row bench is the least comfy place to be, but there is a charging outlet and cupholders back there.
Those with child seats also take note, the second-row captain’s chairs top-tether anchor point is very low down on the seat back, meaning you might have to max out the strap length to get it there.
Also, because of the captain’s chairs, the top tether strap can be knocked off quite easily, as the inner shoulders of the seats are smooth offering nothing for the strap to catch onto if pushed towards the middle of the car.
And you can’t even install the car seat in the third row because the bench seat doesn’t feature any ISOFIX points.
With all seats in place, the boot will happily swallow 322 litres (VDA) of volume, more than enough for groceries, school bags or even the stroller.
With the third-row folded, though, that cavity is filled in and the Odyssey features a completely flat floor then able to take on 1725L of volume.
Honda has even found a place for the space saver spare wheel, though it’s not underneath the car or tucked into the boot floor as you'd expect.
The spare is under the two front seats, and requires the removal of some interior carpets and trim to access.
It’s not in the most convenient of places, but props to Honda for getting one in there when other seven-seaters just opt for a puncture repair kit.
Very. Have you seen the size of this thing? Even then, it’s possible to make poor use of all that space. That’s hardly something Kia is known for, though. As you might expect, almost every thought has been given to maximising the usefulness of the Carnival’s cabin, and there are surprise finds, like the USB ports on the backs of the front seats for second-row passengers.
The front seats are manual adjust in the case of the Si, but have a huge range of movement, thanks to long rails and a tall roof. The steering also has telescopic adjust, although the way the instrument binnacle is placed might limit certain adjustments.
There are a whopping nine cupholders and four bottle holders in the Carnival’s cabin, with two cupholders in the centre console and two bottle holders in the doors, mirrored for second-row passengers. The third row, meanwhile, scores three bottle holders (two on one side, one on the other).
Front passengers can also make use of a large centre-console box, and two bays to suit phones or wallets, one under the climate controls, which also houses three USB ports, and one in front of the console box.
Second-row passengers have access to their own climate zone, accessed via a panel on the right hand side roof, plus the aforementioned USB ports on the backs of the front seats. Adjustability is good for this row, too, with long rails.
The key advantage of the Carnival is being able to sit eight adults in relative comfort. The cabin has not only enough length for everyone to have healthy knee room, it has enough width to make even the centre seat in the middle row useful.
Accessing the third row could be a little easier, with some manual sliding and adjustment needed for the second-row seats. It would be nice to see a one-press release here, but the Carnival is still a stellar offering for the amount of space on offer.
Where the Odyssey and Granvia fall short, the Carnival still offers a cavernous 627-litres (VDA), larger than most mid-size SUVs, with all the seats up. Interestingly this space is a bit narrow but deep, as the space-saver spare wheel is stowed under the right-hand side sliding door; a notable advantage of the Carnival’s front-drive layout. With the third row stowed, you get a huge 2785L space, and still have room for five people!
Price and features
The 2021 Honda Odyssey range kicks off at $44,250, before on-road costs for the base Vi L7, and extends to $51,150 for the top-spec Vi LX7, which we have here.
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As standard, the 2021 Odyssey is fitted with 17-inch alloys, keyless entry, push-button start, second- and third-row air vents, and a powered rear passenger door, while new for this year’s update is a 7.0-inch customisable tachometer, fresh leather-wrapped steering wheel and LED headlights.
Handling multimedia duties is a new 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, as well as Bluetooth connectivity and a USB input.
Stepping up to the top-spec Vi LX7 nets buyers tri-zone climate control with second-row controls, powered tailgate, gesture controls to open/close both rear doors, heated front seats, a sunroof and satellite navigation.
It’s a good list of equipment, but there are some notable omissions such as a wireless smartphone charger and rain-sensing wipers, while the handbrake is one of those old-school foot-operated ones, which is a shame to see in 2021.
Nevertheless, even the top-spec Vi LX7 we have on test here is still relative affordable compared to rivals, and offers plenty of space for the price.
The Carnival hits the market in not one, not two, but four trim levels. Already offering an awesome amount of choice for what could be a quite niche product, we’re testing one in mid-grade Si guise with the V6 engine option.
Wearing a drive-away price of $55,790 (Kia doesn’t deal in before on-road MSRPs any more) this Carnival undercuts Toyota’s gigantic new Granvia (starts from $64,090 MSRP) by a significant margin, while sitting above the slightly smaller, soon-to-arrive Honda Odyssey update, which will wear an MSRP of $51,150 for an equivalent top-spec Vi LX7.
You can probably tell from the images that the Carnival’s new design language wouldn’t look quite as amazing without such standard spec items as the full LED front lighting and 18-inch alloy wheels. Other impressive spec items include a 12.3-inch multimedia touchscreen, 4.2-inch supervision cluster (notably no digital dash, though), wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support with built-in navigation, an eight-speaker audio system (up from the base Si’s six), dual-zone climate control for front passengers with a third single-zone area for rear passengers (including third-row vents in the roof), leather trimmed wheel and shift-lever with less-good base cloth seats, and keyless entry but no push-start ignition.
Apart from some odd omissions, then, the Carnival Si is pretty well equipped and sits comfortably between its rivals. The two things that really detract are the lack of push-start ignition (seriously, how many cars don’t have this now?) and the fact that the base cloth seats are spongey enough, but have a particularly average design. All Carnivals also have healthy active safety suites, but we’ll cover that off in the Safety section of this review.
Engine & trans
All 2021 Honda Odysseys are powered by a 129kW/225Nm 2.4-litre ‘K24W’ four-cylinder petrol engine, which drives the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT).
Peak power is available at 6200rpm, while maximum torque is on stream from 4000rpm.
Honda diehards might note the K24 engine designation and be reminded of the rev-hungry 2.4-litre unit of the Accord Euro from the early 2000s, but this Odyssey’s powerplant is built for efficiency rather than performance.
Compared to the likes of the Kia Carnival (which is available with a 216kW/355Nm 3.5-litre V6 or 148kW/440Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel) the Odyssey is noticeably down on power.
The Australian Odyssey also doesn’t feature any form of electrification, such as the Toyota Prius V, which would excuse the lower outputs and push the Honda people mover more into green territory.
The Carnival has an uncharacteristic-for-a-people-mover 3.5-litre V6 non-turbo engine, producing a whopping 216kW/355Nm. Power is not something any V6 Carnival owner is going to complain about.
All of that thunder is sent through the front wheels alone (alarming, I know) via an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
Those concerned about the potential fuel implications here can always choose the alternate 2.2-litre diesel engine option.
The 2021 Honda Odyssey, regardless of grade, will return a fuel consumption figure of 8.0 litres per 100km, according to official figures.
This betters the fuel economy of the petrol-powered Kia Carnival (9.6L/100km), as well as the Mazda CX-8 (8.1L/100km) and soon-to-be-replaced Toyota Kluger (9.1-9.5L/100km).
In our week with the Odyssey Vi LX7, we managed an average of 9.4L/100km in a mix of inner-city and freeway driving, which isn’t too far off the official figure.
Though the fuel consumption isn’t too bad for a naturally aspirated petrol engine, those who want to save costs at the bowser should look to the petrol-electric Toyota Prius V hybrid, which sips just 4.4L/100km.
The fuel consumption of such a large engine pulling a car with such a big footprint is intimidating. It’s rare to see consumption figures hit double digits, but the Carnival gets pretty close, with an official combined figure of 9.6L/100km. Its ‘urban’ official is all the way up at 13.2L/100km.
Over my week of varied testing, I was pleasantly surprised to land on a figure of 12.3L/100km during driving I’d consider to be mostly urban. This is still high for today’s standards, but again, if fuel consumption is a big factor for you, it’s probably worth considering the diesel, as it clips the official combined figure all the way down to 6.5L/100km.
The Carnival has a reassuringly large 72-litre fuel tank, and this petrol V6 version will happily consume entry-level 91RON unleaded fuel.
Though the Honda Odyssey looks like a bus on the outside, it doesn’t feel like one behind the wheel.
The Odyssey drives differently to an SUV, which is a good thing, feeling more hunkered down and connected to the road compared to the wallowy and bouncy nature of some high-riders.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Honda’s best handling model, but there is certainly enough feedback in the steering wheel to know exactly what’s happening underneath, and the Odyssey always feels predictable, regardless of road condition.
And because visibility is excellent all around, the Honda Odyssey is just an easy, no-fuss car to drive.
The second-row is also great while on the move, and might actually be the better place to be.
The seats do a great job at soaking up little bumps and road imperfections, and there is plenty of room to stretch out and relax while someone else handles driving duties.
It’s a shame, then, that there isn’t more going on in the second row to keep passengers happy.
The third-row seats, though, are nowhere near as comfortable.
Maybe it’s the fact they are positioned right over the rear axle, or it’s the thick and vision-obscuring C- and D-pillars – or a combination of both – but time in seats five, six and seven, aren't ideal for those prone to motion sickness.
Maybe kids, or those with stronger stomachs can get comfortable in the third row, but for us, it was not a pleasant experience.
The Carnival might be gigantic, but from the driver’s seat the Korean brand has done an exemplary job of making this eight-person barge not only feel just like an SUV, but a reasonably agile one at that.
The steering, ride, and overall responsiveness are excellent from the Carnival, and the brash V6 in this version tugs its huge body along with enthusiasm. Excellent visibility and featherweight steering make it a breeze to point around corners and even park, although ultimately, you’re reminded of the sheer length of it when peering into the rear-view mirror or negotiating tighter city streets.
It’s almost comical how fast the Carnival is, and how good it sounds under heavy acceleration, with big V6 engines now largely relegated to performance cars like the Stinger. Thankfully though, some formula of transmission tune, traction control, and weight balance generally keeps the front wheels from unexpectedly spinning when handling the large torque number on offer, an often unwelcome surprise that previous Carnivals were prone to.
Where Kia has most improved this version is the excellent handling and almost luxurious ride. I say “almost” because the Carnival seems to have soft springs but firm dampers. This grants it some pretty unreal body control in the corners, considering its shape, but its otherwise floaty ride is interrupted by smaller, sharper bumps penetrating the cabin.
Still, this is nothing short of a Korean limousine for eight. If you can look past the Si’s pretty average seat trim, the Carnival really is the best-to-drive people mover on the market by some margin.
Even its benefits over an equivalent Sorento or other seven-seat SUV are notable. Apart from its stellar practicality offering, when driving the Carnival around a crowded city you’ll also have the benefit of sliding doors to provide access to the rear rows easily, even in tight parking lots. And the interior is just as nice to look at and use when cruising on the freeway as this same design in the new Sorento. While a seven-seat SUV might be good for when you’re in a pinch or with some extra kids in tow, I know which Kia product I’d rather have if there was a possibility I’d often be ferrying six or more adults.
The 2021 Honda Odyssey wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from its test in 2014, as the current model is a heavily revised version of the fifth-generation car that launched seven years ago.
While back then the Odyssey did not come with advanced safety features, a key part the model’s 2021 update is the inclusion of Honda’s 'Sensing Suite' comprising, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist and adaptive cruise control.
The long list of safety is a huge boon for the Odyssey, and with it featuring a third-row of seats, also comes with curtain airbags that extend to seats in the rear.
There are some omissions to the safety list though, with a surround-view monitor not available and the third-row seats missing out on ISOFIX anchoring points.
For this Carnival, the lion’s share of Kia’s active safety items are standard, even on the base car. This includes auto emergency braking up to 85km/h with pedestrian and cyclist detection up to 65km/h, lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, driver-attention alert, and safe-exit warning.
Good stuff, and it’s especially nice to see the Carnival’s curtain airbags cover even the third row, something that its seven-seat Sorento stablemate misses out on. There is also a driver’s knee airbag, making for comprehensive coverage in the event of an actual collision.
What is missing is today’s common new centre airbag which – depending on the size of the car – could be crucial for a five-star ANCAP safety rating. The Carnival is yet to be rated, so watch this space.
Like all new Hondas sold in 2021, the Odyssey comes with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, with six-years of rust protection assurance.
Scheduled service intervals are every six months or 10,000km, whichever occurs first, but this is much sooner than the industry standard of 12 months/15,000km.
According to Honda’s 'Tailored Service' price guide, the first five years of ownership will cost buyers $3351 in servicing fees, averaging out to around $670 per year.
The Kia Carnival petrol meanwhile, is about $2435 to service over five years, averaging out to be about $487 per year.
The Toyota Prius V also needs to be serviced every six months/10,000km, but the cost of the first five years of ownership totals just $2314.71 – more than $1000 less than the Odyssey.
Kia’s stellar seven-year warranty continues to lead the pack, ahead of the industry-standard five years, and here in the people-mover space it is without rival.
Regardless of engine option chosen, the Carnival will need to be serviced once a year or every 15,000km, whichever occurs first.
The service schedule for our V6 varies between $324 and $779 per yearly visit, or a total cost over seven years of ownership of $3596, averaging out to about $449.50 per year. It’s not the most affordable ownership prospect, but it's certainly not unprecedented in this class, or for a V6 powerplant.