The new-generation Honda Odyssey has arrived in Australia.

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The fifth-generation people mover now takes the shape of a conventional minivan with sliding rear doors, as opposed to the previous versions that were essentially station wagons with hinged back doors and extra seating.

A direct competitor to the likes of the Toyota TaragoKia Grand Carnival, Hyundai iMax and any number of seven-seat SUVs on the market, the Odyssey arrives as Honda Australia aims to offer family and fleet buyers more options, with a mass market eight-seat base version and a more luxury-focused seven-seater topping the line-up.

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said at the launch of the Odyssey that the most cross-shopped models aren't from the people mover class, but in fact come from the SUV segment - in particular, buyers who may have also looked at the Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger.

"We believe the Odyssey will compete strongly in the people-mover segment, but also against some seven-seat SUVs," he said, claiming the Odyssey is the most popular car in the people mover class for private buyers.

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The new Odyssey has grown in size - it now measures 4840mm long, 1800mm wide and 1695mm tall (the previous model was 4810mm long, 1,800mm wide and 1,545mm tall). It also rides on a longer 2900mm wheelbase to allow for better interior space (previous model: 2830mm). Kerb weight for the VTi version is 1776kg, while the VTi-L weighs in at 1819kg - respectively 131kg and 119kg heavier than the models they replace.

By raising the roofline Honda claims there is better head clearance, while the hip point has also been lowered thanks to the "ultra low floor", which is just 300mm from the ground at entry. The luggage area has seen a boost in size, too, now 330 litres with all seats up (previously 259L) and 1332L with the rearmost seats folded away under the floor (was 708L) - as a result, the Odyssey's space-saver spare wheel is not located in the boot or under the body of the car, but underneath the front seats.

The new model is powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine producing 129kW of power at 225Nm of torque, putting it down by 3kW but with marginally more torque (up from 218Nm). Fuel use has improved by 15 per cent over the previous version, down to a claimed 7.6L/100km for the VTi (7.8L for the 43kg-heavier VTi-L), thanks in part to a new stop-start engine system and economy driving modes. The Odyssey range is offered as standard with a CVT automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

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The entry-level VTi version is priced from $38,990, and comes as standard with eight seats (in a 2+3+3 formation), a first for the Japanese brand in Australia. Standard equipment for this model includes a kerbside power sliding door with one-touch door handle with a manual sliding driver's side rear door, key-operated remote sliding door opening and closing, front and rear climate control with vents for all three rows, tyre pressure monitoring and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The new model features an updated 7.0-inch touchscreen media unit known as Display Audio. This, similar to Holden’s MyLink system, allows the owner to download a sat-nav application to their phone, rather than having the maps stored in the car, and also uses the Apple iPhone-based Siri voice control system, Siri Hands Free. It also has a single HDMI port, twin USB inputs and Bluetooth phone and audio streaming.

The focus for the new model is interior flexibility. Honda claims it is easier to get into and out of, and the third row seat can be folded away under the floor of the cabin, and the second row seats can be slid towards the rear of the car for more middle-row leg room (up to 740 millimetres). As with the previous model, there are five child seat anchor restraints in the VTi version, while the pricier VTi-L (pictured below) has four. The base model has 10 cupholders, while the VTi-L has eight.

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The VTi-L version is priced from $47,620 and gains a number of specification upgrades but loses one of its seats (2+2+3), with a pair of “Captain’s seats” in the second row for a more luxurious feel. Honda says these chairs are inspired by premium airline seats, and they feature reclining backrests and built-in ottomans. The front seats feature electronic adjustment (eight-way for driver, four-way for passenger) and are also heated.

The VTi-L gains leather interior trim and a sunroof, tri-zone climate control, dual powered rear sliding doors with remote opening and closing, roll-up sunshades, smart key entry and push button start, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, LED headlights, front fog lights, active cornering lights and side puddle lamps, and unique front and rear bumpers with aero-inspired side skirts. It also rides on 17-inch alloy wheels.

Safety is taken care of with dual front and front-side airbags, as well as full-length curtain airbags for all outboard rear passengers. The VTi has a reversing camera, while the VTi-L model adds a multi-view camera system, blind spot information system, rear cross-traffic alert and an automated parking system.

Stay tuned for our review of the new-generation Odyssey in the coming days.

See more images of the new-generation Honda Odyssey by clicking the Photos tab above.