Car of the Year: People MoverMotor News Car Of The Year
- 4th Gen MY12
- Sports Automatic
- Engine Configuration Description
- Gear Num
- Build Country Origin Description
- Car Size
- People Movers
- Overall Green Star Rating
- Fuel Type Description
- Petrol - Unleaded ULP
- Drive Description
- Front Wheel Drive
- Warranty KM
Honda Odyssey (winner)
Toyota Prius V
People movers aren't exactly strong sellers, and they're definitely not as sexy as some of the performance and luxury cars that tempted Drive's Car of the Year judges to linger longer in their special confines during this year's judging process.
2012 Best People-Mover of the Year
2012 Drive People-Mover of the year is the Honda Odyssey.
But to families – and by that we mean big families – they're a necessary fact of life. Another family sub-set – those with relatives living nearby, or whose kids want to go places with their friends – can also appreciate the value of a good seven-seater or a handy five-plus-two configuration.
Drive's judges flipped and folded – both seats and themselves – their way through the defending champion, the Honda Odyssey. It is making its fourth consecutive appearance in our award, three times as the defending category champion.
We also wrapped our minds and bodies around a very different style of people mover, the hybrid-powered Toyota Prius V, which adopts the “occasional third row” approach by offering two extra seats best suited only to children and short trips.
The Odyssey is by now a very familiar commodity to Drive's judges with its long, low stance and refreshingly sporty driving experience, courtesy of a 2.4-litre, four-cylinder engine that loves to rev and impressive body control. “I love that it drives like a car,” said one judge.
A spacious and quiet interior that is “like a lounge room” with its captain's chairs up front impressed many, as did roof-mounted air vents for passengers in the two back rows. Some felt that the dashboard design is beginning to look aged and that the central sat-nav unit with a touchscreen is positioned too far away from the driver.
Questions were asked about the Odyssey's crashworthiness. A four-star rating awarded in 2005 still stands as the big Honda has not been retested since, even though the addition of six airbags including full-length curtains to cover all rows could well push that to the maximum five stars.
However, the judging panel was unanimous in its praise of the $37,190 (plus on-road and dealer costs) list price and the generous list of standard equipment that includes satellite-navigation, a reversing camera and steering-wheel mounted gearshift paddles further sweetens the deal.
A standard five-speed auto was reckoned to be one cog short of benchmarks in other similarly priced categories, while official fuel use of 8.9L/100km is on the heavy side, especially when compared with its direct competitor here.
The Prius V immediately chalks up a small but significant victory with its stunning economy of 4.4L/100km, effectively halving the Odyssey's fuel bill. “There's no more efficient way to carry seven people,” a judge declared.
A hybrid drivetrain that combines a 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor felt perky enough with just a driver on board, but Drive's judges wondered how it would fare with a backside in every seat.
Speaking of which, the Prius V feels a size smaller than the Odyssey inside, although middle-row passengers get similar rear estate to Odyssey occupants and a similar sliding seat arrangement to allow families to mix and match legroom between rows.
But where the Odyssey could comfortably accommodate adult-sized bodies in the rear row, headroom restrictions mean the Prius V's back seat is a child-only proposition for long trips. A little more gymnastical contortion was also required to clamber into the back of the Toyota, where a lack of air vents was described by a judge as “unforgivable”.
One redeeming feature was the addition of seatbelt reminders in all of the Prius V's seven seats, allowing the driver to see at a glance if all passengers were belted in.
Tacit criticism was also aimed at the Prius V's packaging, which includes a central dashboard, an odd-looking and unintuitive gear lever, an oval-shaped steering wheel and poor small-item storage for a people mover.
The two very different cars inspired plenty of debate about what constitutes a proper people mover but in the end the judging panel felt the Odyssey most closely matched the brief, with only one vote out of nine cast for the innovative but flawed Toyota.
The Honda Odyssey is now on the top shelf as one of the most successful vehicles in the seven-year history of the Drive Car of the Year awards, winning its category four consecutive times. Its combination of space, comfort, utility and a dash of sportiness once again set a high bar for its rival to reach.
The Toyota Prius V’s obvious selling point is its astonishing fuel economy, but it also adds comfort and versatility, and represents an outstanding retained value prospect with 71 per cent forecast after three years.
But it’s not as spacious in the third row, and despite a small price advantage it lacks the quality feel and finish of the Honda.
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