Should You Swap the 2021 Honda Pilot for the Honda Odyssey?

Ah, the age-old question for parents – is it time to buy a minivan? The 2021 Honda Pilot three-row SUV and 2021 Honda Odyssey minivan are top choices for families. But only one is the right fit for you.

Minivan popularity peaked decades ago, and midsize SUVs like the Honda Pilot have become the standard for families. However, these family haulers have transformed over the past few years and are more appealing than ever.

So, which three-row vehicle should you entrust to take on the responsibility of taking care of your loved ones? When comparing the Pilot to the Odyssey, it all comes down to a few significant factors.

Advantages of owning a 2021 Honda Pilot

A dark red 2021 Honda Pilot parked on rocky terrain
The 2021 Honda Pilot on display | Honda

Honda’s midsize SUV looks more rugged than the Odyssey, but these vehicles are more similar than you’d initially think.

Both models feature a standard V6 engine that kicks out 280 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque. Honda mated this powerplant to a nine-speed automatic transmission in the Pilot and a 10-speed automatic in the Odyssey. However, the 2021 Honda Pilot puts this powertrain to better use.

Notably, both vehicles achieve similar fuel economy. The EPA estimates that the Odyssey gets 22 MPG city/highway combined, while the Pilot achieves 23 MPG combined.

Adventures families who plan on going on rugged weekend getaways should favor the Pilot. It offers an available intelligent all-wheel-drive system, and it is capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. Additionally, its available drive mode selector can adjust to snowy conditions for safer traveling. AWD-equipped models gain mud and sand modes, too.

Meanwhile, the 2021 Honda Odyssey only comes with front-wheel drive, making it ill-equipped to take on rugged terrain. Plus, this minivan’s towing capacity maxes out at 3,500 pounds.

But while Honda SUVs have a stellar reputation, it doesn’t mean you should overlook its other models.

The case for choosing the 2021 Honda Odyssey minivan

A silver 2021 Honda Odyssey driving down a highway road
The 2021 Honda Odyssey in action | Honda

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Parents of young children know that every ride can be an adventure. That’s why the Odyssey is so aptly named. Whether you’re putting in a car seat or cleaning up a spill in the back, minivans are designed to provide easy access to the back seats.

Those who drive SUVs will more than likely have to contort themselves awkwardly when entering the back. These vehicles’ higher ground clearances certainly aid the off-roading experience and provide a better view of the road. But this higher stance can makes it more difficult to access.

However, the 2021 Honda Pilot lessens the burden with its available one-touch second-row set. This feature lowers and raises the middle row with a quick press of a button.

Once you finally get your family situated inside the vehicle, you’ll want a relaxing drive. Thankfully, the 2021 Honda Odyssey delivers. Its cabin offers more than 10 extra cubic feet of passenger volume than the Pilot has. This spaciousness allows everyone to stretch out and enjoy the ride – no matter which row they’re sitting in.

And its roomy seating doesn’t come at the cost of cargo space. The Odyssey holds an enormous advantage over the Pilot in that category. However, you’ll have to completely remove the second row from the Odyssey to make full use of this space. Meanwhile, you can just lower the Pilot’s rear two rows, which is much less frustrating.

The better family-focused vehicle is clear

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It’s no surprise why many shoppers would consider purchasing the stylish 2021 Honda Pilot over its minivan sibling. However, this could be a mistake.

SUVs are known for generally being safer than minivans. But that’s not exactly the case when comparing these Honda models. The Odyssey leads its class in safety, while the Pilot earned more questionable results.

Both vehicles appear similar at the base model. But the 2021 Honda Odyssey becomes even more family-friendly as you move up in trim levels. 

For instance, the Odyssey’s Touring trim adds CabinTalk and CabinWatch. The former system is an in-car PA system that allows you to better communicate with passengers in the back. Meanwhile, the latter feature helps you keep an eye on the kids via the infotainment touchscreen display.

Meanwhile, the top-of-the-line Elite trim comes with a vacuum to help you quickly clean up messes.

The 2021 Honda Pilot – as well as the Odyssey – offers an available rear-seat entertainment system. However, it simply can’t match the level of family care that Honda’s minivan offers.

In the end, the minivan is still the better choice for families, especially if you’re willing to spend big on one of the high-end trim levels.