Over the seven months and 18,000 miles I've spent with my Titanium Beige Quest LE, I've come to love all its pros (easy ingress, great cargo flexibility, and blind-spot monitor) and excuse its few cons (OK fuel economy, big doors low to the curb, and slow turn-in). I've driven it through 10 states, subjected it to Colorado snow and Arizona heat, and used it as a movie theater, storage closet, and airport shuttle. But for a recent road trip, I decided to pass on my Quest and spend some time in Julia LaPalme's long-term Honda Odyssey Touring Elite, to see how the two compare. Head-to-head foes, the $44,030 Odyssey Touring Elite costs a smidge more than my $43,790 Quest LE, but offers similar features -- blind-spot monitor, 3.5-liter V-6, rear-seat entertainment, leather, navigation, 18-inch wheels, power doors and hatch -- with the main differences being the Odyssey uses a six-speed automatic (to the Quest's CVT) and, well, it feels a lot different. My thoughts on how they compare:

  • Steering. Honda's steering is very light on-center compared to the Nissan's, and is comparatively quick just off-center. The Nissan's steering offers more (and better) feel but is a bit slower.
  • Driver Feel. The Honda feels more like a crossover while the Nissan feels like a bigg van, even though the two are relatively similar in size (the Nissan is 3.1 inches taller, 1.6 inches narrower, and 2.1 inches shorter from bumper to bumper). The Nissan's seating position is lower and more enveloping (feels like you're resting in a comfy La-Z-Boy) with the dash sitting higher up, while the Honda's seating position seems elevated, offering a lower cowl and the feel of a more focused driving experience.
  • Ride and Handling. The Honda's ride is firmer, so you feel more of the road, but it also suffers from slightly worse ride quality. On the other hand, the Honda feels like it stays flatter through turns than the Nissan, which doesn't handle as sharply.
  • Acceleration. The Honda is quite a bit quicker on the test sheet (0-60 mph in 7.4 vs. Nissan's 8.0) but doesn't feel noticeably quicker on the street. Power output is close (244 hp for the Honda, 260 hp for Nissan) and feels like it on the road. The Honda's engine note is sportier, though.
  • Transmission. The Honda's 6A is plenty good but I actually prefer the Nissan's CVT -- it's smoother (no shifts) and seems appropriate in a minivan. The Nissan's overdrive-off button is essentially a sport button -- keeps the revs in the powerband and provides useful engine braking. The Honda offers a D4 button that limits top gear to fourth -- useful but not as versatile as the Nissan's. Both feel lazy down low in the rpm band when accelerating normally from a stop.
  • Convenience. The Nissan wins hands down in terms of entry convenience -- its Intelligent Key system allows the front doors to be unlocked by just pressing a button on a door handle; the Honda requires taking the key fob out of your pocket and pressing a button. Similarly, to have the Nissan's power sliding doors work their automatic magic requires the press of a door-handle button (or a key-fob button), while the Honda requires gripping and pulling the door handle (or pressing a key-fob button) -- neither of which is easy if your hands are full of groceries or kids. Back-up cameras are comparable, although the Honda has parking sensors to give it a slight edge. The Nissan has two power sunroofs to the Honda's one.
  • Infotainment. Both the Honda's and Nissan's navigation systems seem similar. Each provides real-time traffic updates, although the Honda's also offers the Zagat restaurant guide. The Honda has an ultra-wide 16-in split-screen rear-seat video display; the Nissan has a taller 11-in display -- edge to Honda.
  • Seating. I prefer Nissan's seating system, especially the fold-flat second row, which lies down with a simple lever pull. Honda's second row has to be removed (seats aren't exactly light) and stored, which can be a pain on the back (literally). Nissan's third row folds flat with a simple tug of a leash; Honda's folds flat with a pull of leash, too, but requires more effort, as the seats are articulating more. Room is essentially a push -- Honda offers more legroom for second and third rows but Nissan provides more headroom for the second row and more hip and shoulder room for the third row.
  • Storage. Nissan's covered storage bin aft of the third row is great and still usable even when the third row is folded flat. When Honda's third row is flat, storage bin (uncovered) is not even available. Honda does offer more storage room when the second row is removed and the third is flat (148.5 cubic feet), but the Nissan's 108.4 cubic feet seems more than enough to me.
  • Styling. Honda's styling is much sportier and thus looks hunkered down compared to the Nissan. Honda's "lightning bolt" profile cue gives it a fast-forward appearance. Nissan looks big and stately in comparison.
  • Range. Honda's big 21-gallon tank and 4-mpg highway advantage give it an awesome 588-mi cruising range to the Nissan's 480.

My preference? As much as I like the Honda's extended range, flashier styling, and sportier feel, what makes a minivan really attractive to me are its conveniences and ease of use; thus, I'll take the Nissan. The Quest offers an easier, better entry system, handy fold-flat second and third rows, and ample storage space that includes a covered bin that's always available. For my trip, it's Quest over Odyssey.


Our Car
Months/miles in service7/20,578
Avg econ/CO219.3 mpg/1.01 lb/mi
Energy cons175 kW-hr/100 mi
Unresolved problemsNone
Maintenance cost$311.38 (2-oil change, tire rotation, inspection; 1-replace cabin air filter)
Normal-wear cost$0