Honda Odyssey Introduction
When it comes to moving four or more people and their stuff, nothing rivals a minivan’s combination of space, comfort, versatility, ease of driving and fuel economy.
While Chrysler is typically credited with inventing the minivan, the concept goes all the way back to the 1930s. The Stout Motor Car Company of Detroit built a vehicle called the Scarab with an open floor plan, front-drive, a flat floor, a unit body, a removable table and a second row of seats capable of rotating 180 degrees to face the rear of the vehicle — in 1936.
It was 59 years later, in 1995, before the first Honda minivan came to market. Called the Odyssey in the U.S., it quickly became the best selling Honda, with first year sales surpassing even that of Honda’s venerable Civic model. Since then, four generations of Honda’s people mover have been sold.
The current fourth-generation model was introduced in 2010, for the 2011 model year.
Used Honda Odyssey: 2005 – 2010
Honda’s third-generation Odyssey brought to market a number of innovations, chief among them was the “Lazy Susan” rotating storage tray fitted to what was the second-generation Odyssey’s spare tire storage well.
The front-drive vehicle ran a 3.5-liter V-6, which produced 244 horsepower for most of its tenure. This generation Odyssey was produced during the period the SAE recalibrated the way it quoted horsepower ratings in 2006. In some cases you will see the engine’s output quoted at 255 for 2005 models.
The third-generation Honda Odyssey was offered in four levels of trim; LX, EX, EX-L, and Touring. Nicely equipped regardless of trim level, even the base Odyssey LX featured full power accessories, cruise control, side curtain airbags, stability control and a CD player. Stepping up to the EX brought the aforementioned “Lazy Susan” storage tray, power sliding doors, a six-disc CD changer, and seating for up to eight. The full boat Touring model included leather upholstery, run-flat tires, triple zone climate control, parking sensors, a power-operated tailgate and a sunroof. Navigation, rear entertainment and Bluetooth were options for the EX-L and the Touring model.
A mid-cycle refresh in 2008 updated the look of the grille to bring it more in line with the look established by the Accord. Additionally, a backup camera was made available for EX-L models without the navigation system by mounting the monitor in the rear view mirror. Navigation was made standard for the Touring model as was full Bluetooth support.
Used Honda Odyssey: 1999 – 2004
Honda’s second-generation Odyssey was one of the first minivans to offer two sliding doors as standard equipment — instead of just one. This also marked the switch from the hinged rear doors of the original Odyssey design. The second-generation Odyssey was also the first minivan to offer a navigation system with the adoption of Honda’s Satellite-Linked Navigation System in 2000.
For power, a V-6 replaced the four-cylinder engine powering the first generation vehicle. Displacing 3.5-liters, the V-6 developed 210 horsepower in its original form. For 2002, it was updated to produce 240 horsepower. A four-speed automatic conducted engine power to the front wheels from 1999 to 2001. With the power increase in 2002 came a new five-speed automatic transmission. The front suspension system was simplified to MacPherson struts, from that of the first generation’s wishbone system, also derived from the Accord. Anti-lock brakes were standard equipment, although the Odyssey ran rear drum brakes until 2002.
There were two trim levels, LX and EX. Again though, the Odyssey was well-equipped regardless of trim. Standard equipment for the base model included A/C, cruise control and full power accessories. If you want leather, get an EX and you’ll also find power sliding doors, automatic climate control and alloy wheels.
This generation of the Honda Odyssey was universally lauded as the best minivan money could buy during its model run.
Used Honda Odyssey: 1995 – 1998
Honda’s first minivan was based on the then-current Accord’s platform. This meant it ran a 140-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine, which, as you might well imagine, was considerably taxed when fully loaded with a family and all its appurtenances. A four-speed automatic did what it could to manage the engine’s output to best effect. Still, other mechanical features inherited from the Accord gave the Odyssey some good spec, including all disc brakes with ABS and a lightweight wishbone suspension system.
While the four hinged doors of this version of the Odyssey were slated to eventually go the way of the Dodo, its tumble-away-into-the-floor third row seat was replicated throughout the industry.
Two trim levels were offered, the base LX and the upmarket EX. The LX features two rows of benches for a passenger count of seven, while the EX carried six because it ran “Captain’s Chairs” in the second row, rather than a bench like the LX. Go EX, you’ll also find a roof rack, alloy wheels, remote keyless entry, and a power-operated sunroof.
Consistently regarded as one of the best minivans going, Honda’s Odyssey also has an excellent reputation for reliability... well, all except its transmissions. Every generation of the Odyssey to date has been plagued with transmission problems, so make sure any model you’re considering has that component inspected thoroughly. Also, there have been a number of Odyssey recalls over the years. To find them, run an Internet search for “Honda Odyssey Recall” incorporating your model year of interest.
As always, make sure you subject any used vehicle you’re seriously considering purchasing to a very thorough inspection by a trusted professional mechanic — one knowledgeable about the vehicle.
1996 Honda Odyssey Photo Courtesy of Robert Pernett