Honda is reknowned for design and technical innovation, and that's why it calls its Odyssey "the Honda of minivans."
The Odyssey is a different kind of player in the minivan game. Different can be risky in a mainstream market like minivans. In fact, it can be disastrous. You could ask General Motors.
Chrysler, of course, defines the segment. Other manufacturers are faced with either following Chrysler's lead or getting out of the way.
Typically, Honda chose to do neither, and built the Odyssey.
Chrysler, and more recently, GM made headlines when they came out with four-door minivans. But the Odyssey was actually the first minivan to feature four doors, rolling into showrooms just before the latest generation of Chrysler vans.
And, of course, Honda took a different approach: the Odyssey's rear doors open like those on a sedan. This requires a wider parking space, but dispenses with the sometimes troublesome door track of sliding doors. On balance, we think the arguments for conventional doors such as this are good ones.
Unlike Toyota's zoomy-looking Previa, Honda elected to be conservative in its design. Like Chrysler, Honda decreed user-friendliness to the dimensions, inside and out. Unlike Chrysler, Honda had a hot-selling sedan--the Accord--whose sales it didn't wish to disrupt, which led Honda of America to keep its Odyssey sales projections low compared to mainstream U.S. minivans.
A more significant factor in the Odyssey's U.S. sales picture is its huge popularity in the Japanese domestic market, where it's a best-seller. Honda can barely keep pace with demand at home, let alone fight for a bigger share of the U.S. minivan market.
So modest sales volumes are deceptive here, and unless you need max capacity we think the Odyssey warrants a closer examination. It's full of clever design touches that lend versatility out of proportion to its size, and in last year's J.D. Power customer satisfaction study it posted the highest score the company has ever recorded for a minivan.