Hondas front-wheel-drive minivan gained 30 horsepower and an additional gear for its automatic transmission in 2002. A new intermittent rear wiper/washer, an automatic up/down drivers window and a new, hard-to-copy wave cut ignition key go into 2003 models.
Not long ago, Honda claimed to offer the industrys first factory-installed rear-seat DVD entertainment system, but several current rival minivans can also be fitted with DVD-based units. Ever since the current-generation Odyssey debuted as a 1999 model, dealers have had trouble keeping pace with buyer demand.
The Odyssey rides a 118.1-inch wheelbase and measures 201.2 inches long overall, which is about the same size as the extended-wheelbase Dodge Grand Caravan. All Odysseys have dual sliding side doors, and the EX trim level has power operation on both sides. The tires measure 16 inches in diameter and come with steel wheels on the LX and alloy wheels on 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 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 minivan pack by making a factory-installed navigation system available in the EX edition of its Odyssey. This system is similar to the one used in passenger cars from Acura, Hondas luxury division.
Standard LX equipment includes a cassette stereo, front and rear air conditioning, cruise control, and power windows (including rear-quarter windows), 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 available in the EX.
Under the Hood
All Odyssey models use a 240-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that teams with a five-speed-automatic transmission.
Side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes and traction control are standard. Like Fords Windstar, 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. It steers with a light touch and exhibits a distinct carlike personality.
In addition to the impressive utility of its easy foldaway third-row seat, Hondas minivan excels in maneuverability. It has a tauter suspension than some of its competitors. The Odysseys ride is a bit firmer than the norm, but its by no means uncomfortable; it copes 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 ample door openings. All of the seats are comfortable, and the center-row buckets are inviting.