Family Odyssey: Jennifer Brock-Utne explains why she chose the Honda
Eighteen months ago Jennifer Brock-Utne had never owned a brand-new car. Instead, her car history had taken her through a string of second-hand models, including an old hand-me-down Volvo from her mother, an ageing Toyota and a much-loved two-door soft-top Jeep Wrangler.
How times have changed. In the past year and a half she's run through three new cars, opting first for a Land Rover LR3, then a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and, finally, a Honda Odyssey.
Life has changed for Brock-Utne in other ways, too. With two young sons and a third baby due within weeks, her family has blossomed, while a move from Qatar back to her native United States and then a further relocation to Abu Dhabi in September 2010 has also meant the family has rarely paused for breath in recent times.
Jennifer sold her much-loved Prado at the beginning of June. The car was only 10 months old, with only 19,000 kilometres on the clock, and was bought by the first person who answered her advert on Dubizzle. She let it go with something of a heavy heart.
"The car was really comfy to drive and with every gadget I needed. I loved that car. I used to say that I'd never own anything else besides a Toyota."
It had one crucial failing. With only two Isofix points in the back seat, it would not be possible to safely anchor car seats for all of her three children once their baby was born.
The hunt was on then for something bigger; "a bus or a van".
Brock-Utne jokes: "My husband Jens always wanted a Mercedes so we looked at the Viano. It was a proper minibus but not exactly what I wanted to be seen in."
The couple eventually shortlisted the Chrysler Grand Voyager, the Kia Carnival and the Honda Odyssey, but only after an unsuccessful attempt to import a Toyota Sienna, a family vehicle marketed as the "swagger wagon" in the US.
"These cars aren't available here but absolutely fitted all my requirements. I looked into shipping one from the US but it would just have taken too long to take ownership."
The Honda Odyssey, with Isofix fittings on all five of its rear seats, became the preferred choice. Deciding on a suitable spec was another matter.
"We found the basic model did not have automatic sliding doors. The manual doors were really heavy, which is not ideal when you have young children. The middle of the range model had automatic sliding doors but this was not available in the Middle East, so we ended up with the top of the range with automatic sliding doors, GPS, TV and an integral cool box."
The buying process was not without its glitches. "When we chose the car, the dealer said they had one available. They didn't. We had to give a Dh20,000 deposit and wait three weeks for it to arrive."
Brock-Utne admits she was somewhat underwhelmed when she finally got her hands on the Odyssey. " I wasn't too excited, but my positive husband pointed out all its features. All I could think was 'this is a bus, I have to drive a bus!'."
A month later, it's a different story. The option-heavy Odyssey has changed Brock-Utne's opinion.
"It has amazing storage space, a million cup holders, it's easy for everyone to get in and out and you can actually get three car seats in the middle row. You can move the seats around, take them out and make more space.
"Even with three rows up you still have a ton of space in the back. The stereo system is good, there's Bluetooth and the traditional disc player has been replaced with a 15GB hard disc drive audio system - meaning no more CDs in the car. The only thing that doesn't work is the cool box. It needs to be looked at."
But don't expect Brock-Utne's car odyssey to stop with this one. Not even the Honda can stop her dreaming about the day when she can trade in her minivan for something sportier. Something like a spry little two-seater convertible.
Published: August 6, 2011 04:00 AM