Now in its fourth generation, the Honda Odyssey has been on the market since 1995 and is classified as a minivan or compact MPV. The latest incarnation of the Odyssey came out in 2008, and the car still delivers on its promise of space and interior style. Despite a slow start by the time the Odyssey received a facelift in 1999, installing an innovative third row of seats, it firmly established itself within the minivan class.
The third generation saw the most radical changes to the Odyssey body shape, with the windscreen and bonnet being given a more steeply raked line and the rear of the roof slowly dipping to give the car a more aerodynamic look. It was also larger and better equipped than its earlier models, featuring the smooth lines and busy dashboard familiar to Honda drivers.
Despite the Odyssey being classed as a minivan, its interior is anything but van-like and explains why it has become a favourite MPV amongst families. Nicely refined and with an excellent finish, it has the feel of a higher-spec people carrier and provides great comfort all round. The third row seats are more suited to children, but this is a constant with all 7-seat vehicles.
Honda's racy 3.5L SOHC i-VTEC engine is beneath the bonnet of the Odyssey and hooked up to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. The engine runs the Honda Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system that allows the cars to adjust its power output depending on the terrain or driving conditions.
The well-engineered V6 gives the Odyssey a great feel on the road ' agile but smooth in the corners ' and it's quiet on the road with very little engine noise noticeable inside the cab. On performance levels, the Odyssey lurches from 0-100 km/hr in 7 seconds, and with some attentive driving, you can achieve a fuel consumption rate of 10L/100km. The Honda Eco-Assist, its fuel economy system, will also help to keep excessive fuel consumption in check, and systems like the Blind Spot Identifier will ensure safe driving and reduce the need for sudden braking.
The second-generation cars still came with the 2.3L engines and, when fully loaded, were likely to struggle a little and need some extra power. There were also 3.0L models available, with either 2WD or 4WD to give that added push.
Even at the entry level, the Honda Odyssey comes well equipped with entry-level owners benefiting from a powered driver's seat, 60/40 split rear seats, air-con, Bluetooth hands free, parking camera, and USB/iPod connections. Other features with the basic trim are 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control, and a higher quality audio and touchscreen satnav system.
The top-of-the-range Odyssey Luxury came equipped with powered tailgate, electric sunroof, fog lights, leather interior, tri-zone climate control, powered sliding side doors, a rear seat entertainment screen, upgraded 17-inch alloys, and HID headlights.
Car safety is a constant these days, and Honda always provides lots of protective features in their cars. The Odyssey comes with airbags everywhere and an array of electronic features and devices, such as EBD, ABS, and live traffic updates, all designed to keep the car out of trouble.
Earlier models were also equally well provisioned for their time; cruise control, CD stacker, stereo/radio with steering wheel controls, powered windows, and duel air-con came as standard even back in 2002.
Now in its 19th year and having been voted Best Cars 'People Mover of the Year' on a number of occasions, the Honda Odyssey is an experienced trendsetter. In the minivan MPV class, it finds itself up against the Toyota Tarago, Kia Grand Carnival, Kia Rio, Hyundai iMax, and the previously discontinued Mitsubishi Grande.
The Honda Odyssey's proven track record and quality build have made it the leading minivan MPV in its class. There are plenty of people carriers on the market in competition but for overall reliability, elegance, and size, the Odyssey is streets ahead. The 4x4 crossovers also impinge on this sector, but the choice here tends to be one of style preference.
Even in the second-hand market, the Odyssey is still a popular buy and has held up over the years; standard packages were generous, and many options in other models came as standard in the Honda. Those who like the longer station wagon format of the MPV will surely benefit from looking at the Honda Odyssey.