Honda Odyssey -- 2005 First Drive: Safety and security are not sexy, which is what makes reading, or writing, a minivan story about as riveting as watching C-SPAN during Congressional “vacation” breaks. But stick with us, here, because the redesigned 2005 Honda Odyssey is something special, and anyone thinking about buying a family vehicle needs to learn more about the latest iteration of the modern minivan benchmark.
Honda first introduced the Odyssey in 1995, equipped with a four-cylinder engine and four conventional side doors. In reality, it was more like a tall station wagon than a minivan, yet it cultivated a loyal following among consumers who wanted lots of space combined with unwavering reliability and the fuel economy that a small engine could provide. Plus, it was the first van to offer the clever “magic” third-row seat that folded into the floor.
In 1999, Honda redefined what a minivan should be with the much larger, more powerful, and more conventional second-generation Odyssey. This vehicle was radically successful for Honda, and buyers waited months to pay more than sticker price for a chance to own one. In a segment that had traditionally inspired as much passion and interest as self-adhesive envelopes, this consumer ruckus was downright unnerving. For this redesign, Honda added second-row seats that could serve as a bench or individual bucket seats, plenty of room, a 210-horsepower V6 engine, top-notch safety scores, and better looks – all in addition to that “magic” third-row seat.
With people lining up at Honda dealers to wait for their turn to pay extra for a minivan, it didn’t take the competition long to realize that the Japanese automaker had done something right with the second-generation Odyssey. Mazda’s smaller MPV came closest to matching Honda thanks to several innovative features, at least until Nissan and Toyota arrived with brand-new editions of the Quest and Sienna. But it wasn’t until the 2004 Toyota Sienna went on sale that the Honda Odyssey’s luster truly began to fade.
Not to worry. In traditional Honda fashion, no grass is growing beneath the Odyssey’s tires. For 2005, the Honda Odyssey is completely redesigned, and though the result is not as groundbreaking as the 1999 model, it is nonetheless poised to regain its position as the best minivan on the market today.
Honda offered us an opportunity to learn more about the 2005 Honda Odyssey in Birmingham, Ala., near the assembly plant that will build up to 160,000 minivans annually. Because most minivan occupants ride rather than drive, that’s how we spent the majority of our time with the new Odyssey. But whether we occupied the driver’s seat, the second-row bucket seat, or the third-row bench, we came away quite impressed with the redesigned Honda Odyssey.