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A silver 2023 Honda Odyssey Elite is shown driving on an open road.

Honda Odyssey vs Honda Pilot: 7 Pros and Cons of Buying a Minivan

Minivan or SUV? That is a question that many car buyers find themselves asking when it comes time to upgrade to a larger vehicle. These days, most drivers were already driving a compact SUV before they needed something larger, leading them to buy a three-row SUV without fully considering the alternatives. But minivans like the 2023 Honda Odyssey offer numerous advantages over large SUVs like the Honda Pilot. With their expansive interiors, easy access to the rear seats, and plentiful convenience features, minivans are purpose-built for busy families, carpooling commuters, rideshare drivers, and anyone else who needs a spacious and practical vehicle.

Of course, a minivan isn’t the best choice for everyone. Although they have more benefits than most people give them credit for, minivans still have their share of disadvantages when compared to large SUVs. If you live in an area that routinely sees severe weather or have hobbies that often take you out of the city and into nature, then an SUV will likely be the superior choice. Not sure which vehicle type is the best option? The Honda Odyssey and Honda Pilot are two of the most popular options from these competing segments, and since they are built by the same manufacturer, they make for a great apples-to-apples comparison.

Pro 1 – Cabin Space

Arguably the single largest advantage of buying a minivan is the incredible amount of cabin space for passengers and cargo. The 2023 Honda Odyssey, in particular, excels in this area, with its best-in-class 158 cu.ft. of cargo volume. That’s nearly 50 percent more cargo space than the 109.2 cu.ft. available inside the 2022 Honda Pilot. In fact, the Odyssey even offers more cargo space than the full-size Chevy Suburban, demonstrating just how spacious a minivan can be. While minivans are commonly considered family cars, this huge amount of space makes them a great fit for many different types of drivers. If you regularly transport large objects that you don’t want to be exposed in the back of a pickup truck, consider buying a minivan.

A silver 2023 Honda Odyssey Elite is shown parked at a baseball field as children get out of the vehicle.

Pro 2 – Sliding Doors

One of the trademark features of a minivan is its sliding side doors. Honestly, it isn’t clear why more vehicles don’t copy this feature because it has many advantages over the more traditional swing-out doors. Because the doors remain flush against the sides of the vehicle when open, you never have to worry about not having enough space to open the doors fully and can take advantage of narrow parking spaces. If you have children or inattentive adults in the back, you also don’t have to remind them not to slam the doors into any nearby obstacles. Sliding side doors also don’t get in your way when loading up the back of the vehicle, taking some of the hassle out of securing car seats or ensuring everyone has what they need before hitting the road. Most modern minivans, including the 2023 Odyssey, will have power-operated side doors, allowing you to open and close them with the touch of a button for added convenience.

Pro 3 – Load Height

The taller ride height of an SUV is commonly seen as a major advantage, but it also has some important downsides to consider. Because minivans sit closer to the ground, they are much easier to enter and exit, especially for small children. Even if you don’t have little ones, the lower height of a minivan has benefits. From grandparents to family pets, not everyone enjoys having to climb up into an SUV, and the lower load floor also means more room to move around inside the vehicle since minivans and SUVs tend to have a similar roof height. Even loading up the trunk with cargo is easier in a minivan since you don’t have to lift objects as high. However, both minivans and SUVs have similar rear liftgates for access to the trunk. Honda offers a hands-free liftgate on the Odyssey and the Pilot, so loading up cargo is equally convenient if the extra height doesn’t bother you.

Pro 4 – Magic Seats

So far, we’ve mostly covered features that are common to all minivans, but this one is specific to the Honda Odyssey. Honda’s rear “Magic Seats” not only fold down like in a normal minivan or SUV but can also move forwards and backward and even slide sideways. This may seem gimmicky at first, but it adds a level of convenience and flexibility that you will never want to do without again. In contrast, the Honda Pilot has your standard SUV seating arrangements, offering either a second-row bench or optional rear captain’s chairs. While both vehicles are comfortable for rear-seat passengers, the Odyssey simply offers more options to modify the cabin on the fly to meet your needs for the day.

Con 1 – Front-Wheel Drive

Now that we’ve covered some of the major advantages of minivans, it is time to turn to some of the disadvantages. One of the big ones, of course, is all-weather and all-terrain performance. Like most minivans, the 2023 Honda Odyssey is only available in front-wheel drive. There are some all-wheel drive minivans, such as the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica, but even those models lack the performance of SUVs like the Honda Pilot. In fact, the Pilot has one of the more capable all-wheel drive systems on the market, utilizing a twin-clutch rear drive unit that can channel torque laterally for improved traction and sharper handling. The Pilot’s traction management system adds another level of capability, fine-tuning the all-wheel drive system for different terrain types.

A blue 2022 Honda Pilot EX-L is shown parked in front of a modern house.

Con 2 – Ground Clearance

Going hand in hand with the superior traction of an SUV is its higher ride and improved ground clearance. While the 2023 Odyssey offers just 4.5 inches of ground clearance, the 2022 Pilot boasts up to 7.9 inches of ground clearance in its off-road-oriented TrailSport trim. That’s a pretty substantial difference, and the Pilot is far from the tallest SUV on the market––the Ford Bronco offers an astounding 11.6 inches of ground clearance, though it obviously makes sacrifices in other areas to achieve that sort of performance. If you often find yourself heading down dirt roads to go hiking, mountain biking, or camping, then a minivan probably won’t be a good fit for your lifestyle simply because you’ll be banging up the undercarriage every weekend.

Con 3 – Towing Capacity

Another major downside to minivans is their general lack of towing capacity. Now, this won’t be an important consideration for many drivers, but if you often find yourself hooking up a camper, boat, or other small trailers, then an SUV will be a much better choice for your needs. Even though the 2023 Honda Odyssey and 2022 Honda Pilot are both powered by the same 3.5L V6 engine and offer an identical 280 hp, the Odyssey tops out at 3,500 lbs of towing capacity while the Pilot can handle up to 5,000 lbs of towing. The Odyssey isn’t an outlier here either––every minivan on the market has a similar towing limit. Meanwhile, the Pilot is actually on the lower end for a three-row SUV, with options like the 2022 Dodge Durango able to pull up to 8,700 lbs.