On the spectrum of desirable machinery, the humble MPV lies somewhere at the dull end, in the ‘you shouldn't have skimped on the quality of your condoms' category. And buying one is a decision made by your head while your heart sits in the corner sulking. But when children have taken over your life and sex is all but a distant memory it's an MPV that will be parked on your driveway.
And than along came Honda with its practical-as-Tupperware and yummy-as-Elle seven-seat Odyssey to turn all those frowns upside down. Not only was the precious-generation Odyssey very easy on the eye, but it was also a very decent drive. And I mean that; I'm writing this with a straight face and everything.
But fast-forward to now and while the all-new Honda Odyssey is a much better vehicle in just about every way, it isn't a better looking one. Where the old car looked as crisp and cool as a mountain stream, this one looks like a bloated Accord. If the old car was Elle Macpherson, this new one is Kate Fisher.
Still, the Odyssey remains the MPV most likely to win a beauty pageant. It's also, like the old car, the class leader when it comes to ride and handling.
There's only the one engine to choose from, and there's no talk of a diesel. So the Odyssey makes do with a new 2.4-litre DOHC iVTEC four-cylinder punching out 132kW (up from 118kW) and 218Nm. Fuel consumption is a reasonable 8.9L/100km (combined), and you can blame that on the fact you've got to rev the Odyssey's four-pot to get at its best, and it weighs, in Luxury guise, at least, a portly 1700kg.
It's true you've got to keep your hoof buried to motivate the Odyssey, but in typical Honda fashion, the unit's a smooth spinner and despite packing the kind of torque you'd expect to find in a much smaller car, the Odyssey wafts along nicely. It's not a neck-snapper, but accelerating hard is a bit brisker than you'd expect, and when the VTEC kicks in there's a nice hardening to the engine note.
There's absolutely nothing to worry about on either the motorway or a winding back road, because Honda's boffins have tuned the gearbox so kick-down is nice and quick, and the torque lock-up has had its range expanded so it's not constantly hunting between gears on hills or in twisty stuff.
Unlike a lot of other MPVs which tend to wallow around like a pig in mud, the Odyssey sits quite low, meaning it doesn't roll much and the steering is sharp and fairly communicative. Multi-link rear suspension means the Odyssey rides better, sticks better and manages both broken bitumen and highways with aplomb. It won't worry and S2000, but it will out-handle any other similarly sized MPV out there.
While being a reasonable steer is great for all those blokes out there worrying over the prospect of replacing the V8 with something mumsy, it really is the amount of room that matters most. And that won't be a problem in the Odyssey because, as a ‘proper' seven-seater, there's plenty of room for every passenger.
One of the things I like most is the flexibility of the interior; the seats can be bent and folded more quickly and easily than a Chinese gymnast.
Indeed, each of the second-row seats can be folded independently, while the third-row folds flat beneath the floor when not needed, giving a handy 706L of boot space. And to improve access to the back row, Honda has made the rear door a little wider and fitted the second-row with a tilt and slide mechanism. Even my lanky frame could climb in through the opening without drama.
The plastics are of a reasonable quality, but more importantly they seem to be hard-wearing and it's easy to imagine a large family failing to trash them, no matter how hard they try. My one gripe with the interior, though, is how far away everything is from the driver; just to reach the radio you've got to stretch so far forward that it should have come with a remote control.
The new generation brings with it some valuable additions to comfort and safety, including better forward vision thanks to thinner A-pillars, a wider boot opening, greater insulation, standard-fit Vehicle Stability Assist, and better pedestrian-injury protection.
At the end of the day, this yarn will appeal to relatively few of you, but if you are buying cheap condoms - or the fates have delivered you triplets - then keep the Odyssey in mind, because as far as MPVs go, it's the exception to the rule.