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First look: Honda’s renewed Odyssey

Blink test: Look hard and it's clear this is in fact an all-new Odyssey.

Honda's popular people-mover has been completely redesigned for 2009

20 Oct 2008

IT IS more of the same with the Odyssey as Honda launches the fourth-generation version in Japan this week.

Due in Australia sometime in the second quarter of 2009, the seven-seater people-mover continues with the low-slung wagon-style theme that has proved a hit with buyers in both countries.

Built on the front-wheel drive Accord platform, it again features four conventional doors and a tail-gate, as well as three rows of seats that can be configured in a variety of ways.

The Odyssey also retains the low-floor design that brings packaging and centre-of-gravity benefits (for improved driving dynamics), but boasts an all-new body (dubbed ‘Sensual Dynamism’) and interior. Both are evolutions on the last model, which was released in Australia in June 2004.

Changes include a less slab-sided side view, a nose that is reminiscent of the all-new Insight hybrid revealed earlier this month at the Paris motor show, the apparent elimination of the ‘vent’ window in the A-pillar, a BMW ‘Hofmeister kick’ like kink in the Odyssey’s D-pillar, more pronounced wheel arches and bumpers, larger and longer tail-lights, and what appears to be a deeper rear window.

A significant mechanical overhaul also sets this Odyssey apart from the outgoing model, thanks to a new 2.4-litre twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine equipped with Honda’s i-VTEC variable valve technology.

Mated to this is a choice of a five-speed automatic gearbox (as per today’s model), or a new torque converter equipped CVT Continuously Variable Transmission.

Honda Australia isn’t revealing which way it will go, but the latter is billed as a high-economy model that can achieve as little as 7.6 litres per 100km in one Japanese fuel consumption test.

This is possible thanks to the CVT’s inherently efficient nature, along with new drive-by-wire technology and a special ECON mode that limits the loads put on the engine by the gearbox and air-conditioning unit. The drivetrain is more compact than the current Odyssey’s, while a double-wishbone front and reactive-link, double-wishbone rear suspension system is also utilised for its significant packaging efficiency, which further helps achieve the low-floor platform design philosophy.

Honda has applied much of its latest ‘Maximum-Man, Minimum-Machine interface thinking behind the latest Jazz light car into the new Odyssey, meaning that the cab-forward body is now more space-efficient and user-friendly than the previous version even though the people-mover sits 5mm lower than today’s version, at 1545mm.

15 center imageThis manifests itself in the new model’s slimmer (yet stronger) front pillars that reduces visual obstruction, a two-layer dashboard featuring an instrument panel offering ‘...instant recognition and intuitive operation that enhances driving pleasure’, front cushions employing low-resistance urethane for low fatigue and ‘an outstanding hold’, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment, and a V-shape seating layout (the upshot of a slightly more inboard second-row seat placement) that allows improved forward vision.

The third-row passengers should be far happier in the latest Honda people mover thanks to larger rear doors that improve access, a new floor design underneath the second-row of seats that liberates an extra 40mm of legroom, while another 20mm of knee space also materialises (compared to before) due to a reshaping of the second-row seat itself.

The second-row seats can be folded down independently of each other, the third-row seats employ an under-floor storage mechanism to create a flat, easy to use luggage space, the tailgate is slimmer and better shaped for more efficient space utilisation, while the area is now flat floored, and feature features a flexible luggage board that extends to the rear of the second-row seats when the third-row seats are folded.

Increases in body rigidity are the upshot of improved joint efficiency, according to Honda, which benefits driving dynamics, as does the use of high-tensile steel for increased body strength. All are part of Honda’s ACE Advanced Compatibility Engineering body design that helps disperse crash energy away from the occupants.

This also has a positive effect on refinement, while more strategic placement of sound deadening also helps to lower noise, vibration and harshness properties.

Some of the new technology features of the next Odyssey include Active Cruise Control, Honda’s Lane Keeping Assist System and a Multi-View camera system that can help drivers see better ahead as well as around the vehicle, although there is no word as to whether Australian-bound versions will include any or all of these extras.

Honda will fit Motion Adaptive electronic power steering as standard, which works in conjunction with the stability control system to provide greater steering assistance when needed.

Also on safety, a new side-curtain airbag system helps to provide protection for all three rows of outboard-placed occupants, although whether Honda has finally incorporated a centre-middle seat lap-sash seatbelt is still unknown.

More information on the Mk4 Odyssey will be available early next year.

In Japan, where Honda hopes to sell around 4000 units each month, a four-wheel drive model is also available.

Australia is unique in having access to this otherwise Japan-only Odyssey version, as the vehicle with the same name sold in North America is almost Toyota Tarago in size, while Europe’s FR-V is a smaller people-mover.

Expect Honda to display the next Odyssey at the Melbourne International Motor Show in March.

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