Hondas front-wheel-drive minivan gained extra power and an additional gear for 2002. The 3.5-liter V-6 engine earns a boost from 210 horsepower to 240 hp, and a new five-speed-automatic transmission replaces the four-speed unit. Side-impact airbags and rear disc brakes have joined the list of standard equipment.
Minor front and rear styling changes have been made, and leather seating is a new option. Honda claims to offer the industrys first factory-installed DVD rear-seat entertainment system, but several of the Odysseys competitors can also be fitted with DVD-based units. Interior refinements include new cupholders, bag hooks, grab rails and a hammock-style cargo net.
Ever since the current-generation Odyssey debuted as a 1999 model far different from an earlier version that had swing-out side doors dealers have had trouble keeping pace with demand. In a year when most minivans suffered dramatic sales declines, the Odyssey was one of only a handful of minivans to end 2001 with a sales increase. The Odysseys 2001 sales were up 3.4 percent, to 131,041 units, according to Automotive News. Those figures made this minivan the third best-selling minivan on the market, behind the Ford Windstar but a lot closer to Ford than in 2000. Dodge again led the pack in 2001 with its Caravan and Grand Caravan.
The Odyssey rides a 118.1-inch wheelbase and measures 201.2 inches long overall, which is about the size of the 2001 extended-wheelbase Dodge Grand Caravan. The Odysseys height is 68.5 inches for the LX trim level and 69.7 inches for the EX model. All Odysseys have dual-sliding side doors, and the EX has power operation on both sides. Tires measure 16 inches in diameter and come with steel wheels on the LX and alloy wheels for the upscale EX model.
Seating for seven occupants consists of front bucket seats, 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 146.1 cubic feet.
Honda led the pack by making a factory-installed navigation system available in the EX edition of its Odyssey, and it is similar to the one used in passenger cars from Acura, Hondas luxury division. The system uses a touchscreen in the dashboard to display a map or turn-by-turn driving instructions; those instructions can also be heard through the speakers.
Standard LX equipment includes a cassette stereo, front and rear air conditioning, power windows (including rear-quarter windows), cruise control, and power door locks and mirrors. The Odyssey EX adds such extras as an eight-way power drivers seat, a CD player and automatic air conditioning. Heated leather seats and the DVD entertainment system are also available as options in the EX.
Under the Hood
All Odyssey models use a 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which gains 30 hp for 2002. The power plant mates to a new five-speed-automatic transmission, which replaces the prior four-speed automatic.
Side-impact airbags are newly standard. All-disc antilock brakes and traction control remain standard features. The Odyssey has earned the highest rating five stars in government crash testing for both frontal and side-impact collisions.
The popularity of Hondas minivan is easy to understand. The Odyssey is quick, capable and easy to drive, and it delivers a civilized on-the-road experience. Steering with a light touch, it exhibits a distinct carlike personality.
Despite its abundant dimensions, the Odyssey doesnt feel large on the road or even when parking it. 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.
Slipping inside the Odyssey is especially easy, due to its relatively low stance and amply sized door openings. Stereo controls are tiny, but the available navigation system has big clock numerals, unlike the initial version. The seats are comfortable, and the center-row buckets are inviting. Trying out the handy fold-down third seat makes one wonder why all the other minivans havent followed Hondas lead.
Its a close call whether the Odyssey matches the Chrysler and Dodge minivans and the comparable Toyota Sienna in refinement and overall driving pleasure. Brand loyalty is also a factor. Before purchasing any of the popular models, it would be wise to try out the Odyssey.