EXPERT REVIEW

IndyStar.com's view

An odyssey is any series of long wanderings, and at American Honda they hope you’ll do it in the new 1995 Honda Odyssey minivan.

The Odyssey draws on Honda’s vast storehouse of automobile development. By liberally borrowing from past engineering expertise, the company has fashioned a small vehicle that combines the attributes of a car with the utility of a van.

With car-like ride and handling, minivan aerodynamic styling and innovative seating and cargo-carrying capabilities, the mini touches all bases in trying to offer something for everyone.

“Honda owners are pretty loyal to the brand,” said Joel Pitman, general manager of Dan Young Honda. “We think our market will lie with Accord owners who, due to family reasons or whatever, need more room.”

Honda has had a long line of well-engineered automobiles for years, so the company’s technical people had no problem using their front-wheel-drive Accord sedan as a starting point for the Odyssey. Available in an LX or EX model, the new minivan offers six- or seven-passenger seating, a fair amount of hauling for a small vehicle considering that many larger sports-utility vehicles are relegated to five occupants.

In crafting seating for seven, an innovative third-row bench seat fully retracts into the floor. Honda says this also is an industry first and provides a flat, open cargo space. When needed, the Odyssey can provide more than 150 cubic feet of interior space.

The Accord sedan also is called upon for the mini’s powerplant. The Odyssey’s engine is a more powerful version of the Accord’s 2.2-liter (131.6-cubic inch) four-cylinder motor.

The drivetrain-related goals for the Odyssey included acceleration and driveability comparable to Honda automobiles. Engineers re-tuned the Accord’s 16-valve engine to alter the power output and torque characteristics.

The motor is a single-overhead- cam design using individual rockers to actuate the four valves per cylinder. Power output is 140 horsepower versus 130 for the Accord. And torque is 145 foot-pounds for the van, the same as for the passenger car, but it comes in at a lower engine speed to enhance midrange power.

Only transmission is offered, a highly advanced, electronically controlled four-speed automatic. The computer-controlled unit uses three parallel shafts instead of the customary two in order to permit the use of a fifth clutch. That permits the transmission to be held in low gear, useful when ascending or descending a very steep grade, or when pulling a trailer up a steep grade.

The absence of a manual gearbox may be disappointing to the do-it-yourself types, but Honda’s four-speed automatic is so smart in adapting to driving conditions that there’s no comparison between manual and automatic for driver control.

With today’s vans and trucks made to ride like cars, the Odyssey’s four-wheel independent suspension is designed to do just that. All four wheels rise and fall independent of each other for a smooth ride and enhanced v ehicle stability.

Roll stiffness is essential in a tall vehicle like the Odyssey, so the van has a wide track, larger-diameter front and rear stabilizer bars and stiffer bushings.

An entirely new, compact double-wishbone suspension in the rear allows the van to have a wide flat floor. And a flat fuel tank located ahead of the rear suspension provides better rear-impact protection as well as improved weight distribution.

One of the primary goals in creating the Odyssey was to make it user friendly, so it has four sedan-type doors and a rear hatch for easy access.

“People seem to like the four doors and the foldaway rear seat,” Pitman said. “That lets them get in or out on either side of the vehicle.”

Unlike some vans that require a quantum step upward, this one has wide, flat doorsills that serve as steps. Honda says its floor on the Odyssey is lower than other minivans, thanksto its four-wheel double- wishbone suspension system.

Some of the other friendly feature s include a short frontal overhang and rounded corners to minimize the turning area. There are more than 293 degrees of outward visibility from the driver’s seat. The windshield is set inward 7 millimeters to prevent rainwater from flowing onto the side windows.

The Odyssey’s seating is either 2-2-2 or 2-3-2, depending on whether the middle row contains a bench seat or captain-style chairs. An interesting feature is that the mini’s theater-style floor gives the second- and third-row passengers progressively higher seating for an improved view.

From a driver’s standpoint, an interesting feature is that even though the front seats are bucket, the transmission lever is mounted on the steering column. This leaves the center space free for a walk- through aisle.

There obviously is no dearth of competition in the minivan market, and Honda’s entry increases the selection of vehicles available. But Honda is an old hand at bringing successful products to market, and at this point there’s every reason to believe its Odyssey minivan will be as successful as its automobiles.

1995 Honda Odyssey LX Base price: $23,790.Type: Front engine, rear-wheel drive, six/seven-passenger, minivan.Engine: 2.2-liters, SOHC 4, 16 valves, fuel injected, 140-horsepower, 145 foot-pounds of torque.Transmission: Four-speed automatic.Mileage: 19 mpg city; 23 mpg highway,Wheelbase: 111.4 inches.Length: 186.7 inches.Width: 70.5 inches.Height: 64.7 inches.Curb weight: 3,435 pounds.Options: Premium stereo, CD player, roof rack, side step.

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