Now in its final season before a major redesign for 2005, Honda’s front-wheel-drive minivan continues its role as a class-leading model. Except for a new interior color, little has changed for the 2004 model year. Three trim levels of the Odyssey are offered: LX, EX and EX-L.
Not long ago, Honda claimed that it offered the first factory-installed rear-seat DVD entertainment system in a minivan, but most current minivans can also be fitted with DVD-based units. Honda also led the minivan pack by making a factory-installed navigation system available in the Odyssey’s top edition. This system is similar to the one used in passenger cars from Acura, Honda’s luxury division.
Ever since the current-generation Odyssey debuted as a 1999 model, dealers have struggled to keep pace with buyer demand.
Built on a 118.1-inch wheelbase, the Odyssey 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 and EX-L have power operation on both sides. The tires measure 16 inches in diameter and are mounted on steel wheels on the LX and alloy wheels on the upscale EX and EX-L models.
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 second-row seats removed and the “Magic Seat” folded, the Odyssey’s cargo space is wide enough to accommodate a 4-by-8-foot sheet of plywood. Maximum cargo capacity is 146.1 cubic feet.
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 EX adds such extras as an eight-way power driver’s seat, a CD player and automatic air conditioning. Heated leather seats are standard in the EX-L, which can have either DVD entertainment or a navigation system as optional equipment.
Under the Hood
All Odyssey models use a 240-horsepower, 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. The Odyssey has earned the highest rating of five stars in government crash testing for both frontal and side-impact collisions.
The popularity of Honda’s minivan isn’t difficult to understand. The Odyssey is quick, capable and easy to drive, and it delivers a civilized road-going experience. Steering with a light touch, it exhibits a distinct carlike personality.
In addition to the impressive utility of its fold-away third-row seat, Honda’s minivan excels in maneuverability. It has a tauter suspension than some competitors. The Odyssey’s ride is a bit firmer than the norm, but it’s by no means uncomfortable as the suspension copes effectively with most bumps.
Acceleration is energetic, but the quiet-running Odyssey doesn’t quite leap ahead when you touch the gas pedal. Still, it’s 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 second-row buckets are inviting.