Car reviews - Honda - Odyssey - people-mover
Almost everything - practicality, space, efficiency, driving pleasure, quality, refinement, image, resale value
Room for improvement
Slightly mumsy image, dull styling
18 Jun 2003
HONDA launched the award-winning Odyssey people-mover in June, 1995, and has enjoyed enduring critical and commercial success.
The distinctly non-van-like Odyssey is heavily based on the 1993 to 1997 Accord, although no body parts are shared. It is intuitively straight-forward for first-time MPV drivers.
The Odyssey is front-wheel drive, liberating space for a convenient walk-through cabin layout front to rear.
The Accord connection runs to the engine and front suspension assembly but the space-saving double-wishbone rear suspension is unique to the Odyssey.
A 104kW, 2.2-litre, four-cylinder, Accord-derived engine, driving through the standard four-speed automatic, was available until January, 1998. No manual gearbox is offered.
Unladen, the Honda has adequate power to tackle the cut and thrust of urban traffic and on the highway the renown Accord drivetrain makes for effortless cruising.
Add a full regiment of passengers plus luggage, however, and the Honda's 1555kg weight and blunt aerodynamics conspire to erode performance, fuel economy and braking ability. Ride quality also suffers because the rear suspension has limited travel.
The engine grows gruff when faced with acceleration and hill- climbing with all aboard, especially in the even heavier seven- seater version launched in March, 1996.
Honda partially addressed this in early 1998 with the 2.3-litre, VTEC, four-cylinder engine which accompanied a minor facelift.
Increases in power (up 6kW) and torque (up 13Nm) improved performance throughout the rev range while taller gearing means better fuel economy and less engine noise.
Although tall and bulky, the Odyssey is pleasingly responsive through corners with good turn-in and stable, predictable handling. But the power steering system is too light.
On the safety front, Odyssey offers dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, a dedicated safety-cage construction that adds a remarkably stiff body and lap-sash seatbelts with pretensioners on all seats.
The six-seater's configuration has four individual seats in the first and second rows, and a two-person bench in the rearmost section.
All are roomy and comfortable enough for adults. The seven-seater has a centre bench seat.
The seats are easy to reconfigure, providing an uninterrupted loading area all the way back from the driver's seat.
The driving position is car-like but the van-style deep windscreen and vast dashboard are a reminder that this is an MPV.
The instruments are the usual legible Honda affair as are the switches and controls, while the column-mounted gear shift is easy to use.
Climbing in and out is easy thanks to the versatile Odyssey's height and big, car-like hinged doors.
Other Odyssey highlights include impressive quality and a long list of standard features including split front/rear air- conditioning.
The Odyssey is Honda reliable but expect pricey spare parts and servicing. And since it has an all-alloy engine, check that the cooling system has been regularly serviced.
In latter VTEC-engined models, regular and thorough oil servicing is vital to guard against engine-seizing oil pressure drops.
Generally child proof, there still may be heavy duty wear and tear on the trim. Check that everything clicks, clamps and fits into place securely.
The Odyssey represents a great value family hold-all with the engineering and feel of an upmarket sedan.
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