Honda redesigned the Odyssey for 1999 in a more conventional front-drive form, replacing an earlier version that had swing-out side doors instead of the customary sliding doors. Sales zoomed during 2000 to 126,686 units, up from the 77,626 that were sold in the prior year.
New standard features for 2001 include intermittent rear wipers, floormats and child-safety seat tether anchors for seats in the second and third rows. New front stereo speakers have been installed. The base LX model has gained a manually operated height adjuster for the drivers seat, as well as traction control, which was already standard on the upscale EX. The EX added a security system, integrated with the remote keyless entry system.
The Odyssey rides a 118.1-inch wheelbase and measures 201.2 inches long overall, which is about the size of the redesigned extended-wheelbase 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan. All Odysseys have dual sliding side doors, and the EX has power operation on both.
Seats for seven consist of front buckets, two removable buckets in the second row that can slide together to form a bench seat and a third-row bench seat that folds neatly into a recess in the cargo floor. With the magic seat folded, the Odysseys cargo space is wide enough to accommodate a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood. Maximum cargo capacity is 146 cubic feet.
The Odyssey is again the only minivan with a factory-installed navigation system, which uses a touch-screen in the dashboard to display a map or turn-by-turn driving instructions. Those instructions also can be heard through the speakers. Honda borrows the system from its upscale Acura division, and its available in the EX model. The Odyssey EX includes such extras as an eight-way power drivers seat, a CD player and automatic air conditioning.
Under the Hood
All Odysseys use a 210-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a four-speed-automatic transmission.
Antilock brakes and traction control are standard. The Odyssey has earned the highest rating, five stars, in government crash testing for both frontal and side-impact collisions.
Quick, capable and easy to drive, the Odyssey delivers a civilized on-the-road experience. It steers with a light touch and has a distinct carlike personality. Despite its abundant dimensions, the Odyssey does not feel large in size on the road or even when parking. In addition to the impressive utility of its easy foldaway third-row seat, Hondas minivan excels in maneuverability with a tauter suspension than some competitors. Although the ride is a bit firmer than the norm, its by no means uncomfortable, coping effectively with most bumps.
Acceleration is energetic, but the quiet-running Odyssey doesnt quite leap ahead when you touch the gas pedal. Still, its eager enough when pushed harder. Transmission shifts are noticeable but sufficiently smooth. Getting inside is particularly easy, due to the Odysseys relatively low stance and amply-sized door openings. Stereo controls are tiny, but this years available navigation system has bigger clock numerals than in the past. Seats are comfortable, and the center-row buckets are inviting easy-chair style. Trying out the handy fold-down third seat makes one wonder why all the other minivans havent followed Hondas lead in that area.
Whether the Odyssey matches the newly redesigned Chrysler and Dodge minivans and the close-to-comparable Toyota Sienna in refinement and overall driving pleasure is a close call.