Honda’s Odyssey was introduced in 1994, as the first Honda minivan. A highly sophisticated automobile compared to its American competitors, the 1994 Honda Odyssey was based on the then-current Honda Accord. The model debuted with a four-cylinder engine, disc brakes at all four wheels with ABS, an all-independent wishbone suspension system, unibody construction, dual gloveboxes, dual zone climate control, and a third row seat which folded flat into the floor of the minivan.
Capable of seating up to seven passengers, the 1994 Odyssey could be fitted with a roof rack, alloy wheels, a power adjustable driver's seat, a power-operated sunroof, a remote keyless entry system, fog lights, map lights, and 20-watt AM/FM/cassette six-speaker audio system. Designed specifically with the US market in mind, Honda dispatched the vehicle’s chief engineer and a small team to the United States to observe the US minivan market. From their findings came the concept of folding the third row into the floor, a center aisle to make accessing the third row easier, and a low floor to make it easier to get in and out of the Honda. Rather than sliding second-row doors, that first Odyssey was fitted with four conventionally opening doors.
A sales success, Honda sold over 300,000 copies of the first version of the Odyssey before it was revised for the 1997 model year. It’s replacement, the second generation Honda Odyssey grew larger, got a more simplified suspension system, and offered two sliding doors as standard equipment. While commonplace today, when Honda introduced the feature, most minivans only offered the second sliding door as optional equipment. The Odyssey actually went one step farther, offering power operation for its sliding doors as well. The second generation Odyssey also has the distinction of being the first minivan to offer a navigation system. The first generation’s four-cylinder engine was replaced by a 210-horsepower V6. This was also the first Honda minivan to be assembled in the United States.
The third generation Odyssey was introduced for the 2005 model year and went on to become the best-selling minivan in America. Wider and heavier, the model included integrated sunshades, windows that would lower in the rear doors, and the folding rear seat was reconfigured to split 60:40 to increase passenger/cargo handling flexibility. An optional jump seat gave the third generation Odyssey the capability of transporting eight passengers. To compensate for the additional weight, engine output was increased to 255 horsepower. (That number was revised downward to 244 when the SAE changed the way it calculated horsepower ratings for 2006. But actual engine output remained unchanged.) Other features included run-flat tires, a power-operated rear liftgate, and power actuated adjustable pedals. All versions of this generation of the Odyssey were assembled solely in the United States.
The fourth generation Honda minivan was introduced as a concept at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show. Voice controlled navigation with real-time traffic reporting; a 650-watt audio system, and a sixteen-inch monitor for the rear-seat entertainment system are among the features introduced with this iteration of the Odyssey. The model also featured a removable center console for the first row of seats, a cool box refrigeration system, and a rear view camera. By all accounts from reviewers, the current Honda Odyssey represents the best of the breed when it comes to minivans. Apparently consumers agree, Honda sold just under 130,000 copies of the Odyssey in 2013.