The auto industry is fond of superlatives, most of which are misleading.

Take the matter of the 2005 Honda Odyssey minivan, whose various characteristics are described by Honda's marketers as "class-leading" and "unmatched" and "first minivan to use" and "first minivan with."

The point here is not to contend that the new Odyssey is a bad or marginal minivan. That would be silly.

What is arguable is that, as Honda's marketers claim, the new Odyssey minivan is better than the rest.

Look at the "class-leading" boast, as in "class-leading utility" and "class-leading third-row legroom." Honda uses the term to refer to minivans as a uniform class, as if all minivans were the same size and same configuration, built for identical families with identical needs. Used that way, "class-leading" ignores the reality that families with taller, more robustly built people probably will find more space for their bodies in the larger Toyota Sienna or Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

In my review of the Odyssey EX-L - it stands for the EX with Leather, second only to the top-of-the-line Touring model in the four-model Odyssey line - I enrolled members of a Northern Virginia family, owners of a 2003 Honda Odyssey, to help me form an opinion.

I'm not related to the Odyssey test family. I chose them because of their loyalty to Honda and their devotion to their Odyssey. As I often do, I also sampled opinions from my wife, Mary Anne, and some of her elementary-school teaching peers. It was interesting to see how their real-world assessments stacked up against the marketing hype.

Selected Honda marketing claim No. 1: "Class-leading third-row legroom - up three inches from 2004 model."

The Odyssey test family disagreed, with the family's two teenagers and a sibling in his 20s saying that their 2003 Odyssey seemed to offer more space.

The test family was wrong on that score. But perception is reality in the consumer world, and no amount of factual cajoling could get them to change their assessment.