At what age do you start to feel old? Is it when you stop recognizing the songs in the Top 10? When you enjoy a bit of piece and quiet? Suddenly, a noisy, smoky bar isn't your idea of a night on the town. Or maybe it's when you discover, to your ultimate shock and horror, that minivans really are handy for hauling people and stuff around. But just because you feel old doesn't mean you're ready to wear your pants hiked up to chest level. So check out the minivan for those who hate minivans -- the Honda Odyssey. Why it works so well is that it looks more like an oversized station wagon than a bread box on wheels. None of the doors slide, making it look more car-like. Indeed, this van is car-like because it is, in fact, a car. Those clever engineers at Honda took the Accord drive train, including its sophisticated four-wheel double wishbone suspension, and stuck it under a wagon-like skin. Power is courtesy of the Accord's 2.2-liter, 16-valve single overhead cam four-cylinder engine. Hitched to a column-mounted four-speed automatic transmission, this mill is good for 140 horsepower and 145 foot-pounds of torque. It motivates this van adequately. Just don't try to look cool by doing smoky burnouts leaving the local Laneco. The engine gets noisy when pressed, yet still delivers good fuel economy. Handling is decent for a front-driver, with that quick, tossable feel so typical of Honda. It's not sporty, but it's not truck-like, either. Braking is courtesy of four-wheel discs with anti-lock. Braking in the test car was largely uneventful, with minimal dive in hard stops. But when you get older, space for the squirts and their juice boxes overrules the need for speed. Interior packaging is great. Considering the car is only 187 inches long, there's a lot of space. Step-in height is low, an indicator of its car-based heritage. The two front bucket seats are chair-high and very comfy. There's no center console, so one could conceivably walk through to the back. The column-mounted transmission was odd for a Honda, and it was too easy to select the wrong gear. Rear passengers are well-treated. The center row of the test van had two bucket seats. The back row was a bench seat with headrests. The center seats are removable and the back row stows cleverly into the floor. This allows for more than 102 cubic feet of cargo space. There are separate ventilation ducts for rear seaters, as well as the appropriate number of cup holders. Yet there aren't separate audio controls, a common option in most minivans. But remember, this is a wagon as much as a van. Wagons don't have separate audio controls. Still, there's so much goodness here, it would be hard for a family to resist. And with a price of $24,490, this isn't any more costly than a nicely equipped family sedan. So if you can appreciate the virtues of this vehicle, you're probably older. Look on the bright side -- because you're older, you also can afford it. That's more than you can say for your younger siblings.
1998 Honda Odyssey LX Standard: 2.2-liter single overhead cam four-cylinder, four-speed automatic transmission, power steering, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, dual front air bags, dual air conditioning, power door locks, power windows, cruise control, cup holders, removable second-row bucket seats, foldaway third-row seat, rear defroster, illuminated visor vanity mirrors, AM-FM cassette four-speaker stereo, remote fuel filler release, power mirrors, intermittent wipers, rear wiper-washer, 205-65R15 tires. Options: Floor mats Base price: $23,970 As tested: $24,490 EPA rating: 20 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
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