2002 Honda Odyssey EX-L
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by Greg Wilson

The first major revisions to the Honda Odyssey since its introduction in 1999 include a 30 horsepower increase to 240, a new five-speed automatic transmission, new standard four wheel disc brakes, new standard side airbags, and the availability of leather. Performance, for a minivan, is awesome, and the Odyssey impresses with its refined powertrain, tight body, comfortable ride, and ease of handling. 2002 Odyssey’s range in price from $31,900 to $36,900.

Probably the best minivan on the market

Though it was a latecomer to the minivan market when it was introduced in 1999, the Honda Odyssey has already won numerous awards from automotive magazines and web-sites, and has proved popular with its owners. Most recently, the updated 2002 Odyssey won the “Best New Minivan” award from AJAC (Automobile Journalists Association of Canada), and the Editor’s Choice award for Van/Minivan from the editors of World of Wheels and Le Monde de l’Auto. Previous Odysseys have won the J.D. Power & Associates “Apeal Award” which is based on a broad survey of owner’s experiences; IntelliChoice’s “Best Overall Value of the Year’; Car & Driver’s “Best Van”; Automobile Magazine’s All-Star award; and Automotive Lease Guide’s “Best Minivan” Residual Value Award.

Canadians can take some credit for these awards: up until November of last year, the Odyssey was built exclusively in Alliston, Ontario. It’s now also built in a new Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama.

The Odyssey isn’t Canada’s best-selling minivan, however. In fact, it’s not even close. In the 2001 calendar year, the Chrysler Caravan/Grand Caravan was the top-selling minivan (and the best-selling vehicle in Canada) with sales of 84,056. General Motor’s Venture/Montana/Silhouette minivan triplets racked up sales of 59,373; Ford’s Windstar sold 40,125 models; and the Odyssey came in fourth with sales of 13,674. (Source: Canadian Auto World).

One reason the Odyssey didn’t fare as well in the sales charts is that it is offered in only one bodystyle with one engine choice. Chrysler and GM, on the other hand, offer their vans in both standard and extended length bodystyles with different engine choices, the option of all-wheel-drive, and a variety of trim levels and price ranges.

Still, in only its fourth year on the market, the Odyssey is doing well in fourth place, outselling such other popular minivans as the Toyota Sienna, Mazda MPV, and Chevy Astro/GMC Safari.

Changes for 2002

2002 Honda Odyssey EX-L
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Changes to the Odyssey for 2002 are not major, but they make an already-good minivan better. The 2002 Odyssey’s 3.5 litre SOHC 24 valve V6 engine offers an increase in horsepower from 210 to 240. The increased power comes as the result of a higher compression ratio, improved airflow in the intake and exhaust pipes, a new intake manifold and larger throttle body, and a new 3-rocker VTEC (variable valve timing) system which replaces the 2-rocker VTEC system.

A new standard 5-speed automatic transmission replaces the 4-speed automatic, and there are new safety features such as dual-stage front airbags, new standard side airbags, a retuned suspension, and new standard four wheel disc brakes (replacing the standard disc/drum setup).

Exterior styling changes are minor: there are two new prominent slats in the grille and a larger Honda badge, new-style wheels on LX and EX models, and new amber-coloured turn signals in the taillights. Inside, the column shifter has been revised for ease of use and a new steering wheel has a thicker rim and re-positioned horn buttons which can be used while keeping both hands on the steering wheel. As well, there are extra cupholders on the middle seats, and new bag hooks and grab handles.

2002 Honda odyssey EX-L with DVD
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The biggest change is the availability of leather seats and front seat heaters on the top-of-the-line EX model.

In the near future, Honda Canada is expected to make an announcement about the availability of a new rear entertainment system which includes a DVD player, video screen, AM/FM/cassette radio, input jacks for video games, and headphone jacks.

New leather interior

2002 Honda Odyssey EX-L
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Odysseys come in two trim levels: LX and EX. Top-of-the-line EX models can be equipped with a new leather interior which includes two front captains chairs, two second row captains chairs, and a third-row three-person bench seat. The leather is soft and supple and it has a smooth, shiny surface that is easy to clean should young passengers accidentally or intentionally spill their ‘kids meals’ on the seats.

The front seats are wide and comfortable and feature inboard folding armrests for increased comfort on long drives. The front seats have heaters with two temperature selections, “warm” and “hot”, which help warm the parent’s posteriors on cold mornings — however, the kids must warm up their own posteriors. The only drawback to the front seat heaters is that the control button is located far away on the lower front edge of the door pocket — fortunately, it’s illuminated.

The second-row captain’s chairs in the EX model feature inboard and outboard folding armrests, and the chairs have new flip-down cupholders on the outside edges. The second-row seats will move forwards or backwards about six inches, increasing or decreasing legroom as appropriate for second or third row passengers, and they can be slid together to form a bench seat. Second row passengers have their own fan and temperature controls, overhead air vents and map lights, and they also have map pockets on the back of the front seats and grab handles. Like most minivans, the side windows in the second row do not roll down. To increase cargo room, the second row captain’s chairs have folding backrests and they can be removed entirely from the van.

The third-row bench seats two or three adults, and unlike in some minivans, offers adequate legroom and headroom. As before the third-row seat can be folded flat into the floor to create a flat carpeted loading surface. To do this, the rear head restraints must be removed and stored in purpose-made enclosures on the side wall. A flip-up lever releases the backrest and a long strap allows the seat to be pulled back and down into a well in the cargo floor. One person can do it, but the seat is a bit heavy, particularly when pulling it up again.

2002 Honda Odyssey EX-L
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With the third row seat in the ‘up’ position, there is a surprising amount of cargo room behind it, mainly because of a nine-inch deep well in the floor where the seat goes when not in use. The Odyssey wins points here because most minivans with three rows of seats have minimal cargo room behind the third seat. The 2002 Odyssey also feature eight new bag hooks on the back of the third seat and a hammock-style cargo net.

The Odyssey’s cargo area is four feet wide, three and a half feet tall, and two feet long from the cargo door to the back of the third seat. With the third row seat folded into the floor, the cargo floor is 56 inches long to the back of the second row seats. With the second row seats removed and the front seats moved to their forward positions, the cargo floor is eight feet long with the hatch closed. The Odyssey is the only minivan that can carry 4×8 sheets of plywood panelling as well as five passengers. With the second row seats removed, the 4X8 sheet can be slid under the third row seat and up to three people can sit in the rear seat – they just have to put their feet on top of the 4×8 sheets!”

Behind the wheel

The Odyssey’s step-in height is very low, yet the driver sits up high and has great visibility in every direction � the hood can’t even be seen from the driver’s seat.

2002 Honda Odyssey
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The round instruments are large and easy to read, the stalks are simple and have good tactile feel, and the centre dash area has a black, non-glare finish. The central automatic climate control has a bright, easy-to-see temperature readout, and easy-to-use round dial controls which include fan controls for both front and rear fans. I found that I could heat up the interior much faster by turning on both front and rear fans at once even if there was no one in the rear seats.

A unique ‘lights-on’ button next to the heater allows the driver to turn on all the interior lights at once, useful when loading passengers and gear at night.

The standard AM/FM/single-disc CD player includes base and treble adjustments and seek and scan adjustments. A handy open storage bin below the stereo is useful for storing CD’s, but it would be nice to see a multi CD changer.

The centre stack has two pull-out cupholders, which are good for a ‘tall’ coffee but too small for a ‘Super size’ drink. At the bottom of the centre stack is an enclosed storage bin that’s big enough for cameras, small bags, or even garbage — anything you want to keep out of sight. Just below that is a 12 volt powerpoint for charging phones and operating electrical devices.

Between the front seats is Honda’s popular flip-down table which includes four more cupholders (two for the driver and passenger, two for the second-row passengers) and a perforated, non-slip tray surface. When flipped down, the driver or passenger can walk between the front seats. The overhead console includes a flip-down sunglasses holder and two map lights.

The driver can open either or both of the rear sliding doors by pressing a button on the left side of the dash. I liked this feature because it allows you to open the door before the person reaches the van and close it as soon as they get in. This is handy for young children because they’re often too small to open or close the side door, particularly when parked on a hill. It also means the parent doesn’t have to get out of the van in the pouring rain and go around to the side door to open and close it.

The Odyssey EX also includes power rear quarter windows which can be opened or closed from the driver’s seat.

As mentioned, the Odyssey has new dual-stage front airbags that can deploy at one of two rates depending on the severity of the crash. In addition, the front passenger’s side airbag has an automatic cutoff system that is designed to prevent side airbag deployment if a child or small adult leans into the side airbag deployment path.

Driving impressions

Fire up the 240 horsepower 3.5 litre SOHC 24 valve V6 engine, and you can hardly tell that the engine is running — there’s very little vibration or noise in the cabin.

2002 Honda Odyssey
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The 2001 Odyssey’s V6 developed 210 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 229 lb-ft of torque at 4300 rpm – the 2002 engine offers 240 horsepower @ 5500 rpm and 242 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm. That’s good enough for a 0 to 100 km/h time of just 9.0 seconds and an 80 to 120 km/h passing time of just 7.4 seconds — that’s according to independent AJAC’s ‘street start’ acceleration tests performed at the Car of the Year ‘testfest’ last October. The Odyssey is the quickest minivan, large or small, that I’ve ever tested, almost a full second faster to 100 km/h than a Ford Windstar Sport or Dodge Grand Caravan tested last year.

Though the revised engine is more powerful, it actually uses slightly less fuel. Fuel consumption is now 13.1 l/100 km (22 mpg) in the city (down from 13.3 l/100 km) and 8.5 l/100 km (33 mpg) on the highway (down from 8.6 l/100 km).

The Odyssey’s new 5-speed automatic transmission is so good, you hardly notice it’s there. It never lurches, bumps or hunts, and is responsive to pedal input whether it’s hard or moderate. It doesn’t offer a manual shift mode, but nobody really uses this anyway.

On the freeway, the engine loafs along at just 1,700 rpm at 100 km/h, and 2000 rpm at 120 km/h. The low engine speed is one of the reasons the Odyssey is so quiet on the freeway and gets good fuel economy.

Overall, I’d rate the Odyssey’s powertrain first-class — it’s powerful, smooth, and refined — the last attribute not common to minivans.

Though the Odyssey is one of the biggest, if not the biggest minivan on the market, it’s easy to drive and doesn’t feel cumbersome. The rack and pinion power steering is light, sensitive and responsive, and the Odyssey has an amazingly tight 35 feet turning circle. The ride is excellent, as you might expect with a 118 inch wheelbase and a fully independent double wishbone suspension, but what’s surprising is how well it handles and manoeuvres at low and high speeds. I wouldn’t call it nimble, but it is relatively nimble when compared with other minivans of this size.

On the freeway, it tracks straight as an arrow with minimal steering adjustments, and it feels stable and balanced even when there are side winds buffeting the vehicle. Its new standard four wheel disc brakes with ABS provide straight, sure stopping power: at the AJAC Car of the Year performance tests last October, the 2002 Odyssey stopped in 142 feet from 100 km/h, an excellent result for a 4300 lb minivan. For comparison, the compact Honda CRV which weighs a thousand pounds less, stopped in 136 feet.

I had a chance to drive the Odyssey on snow-covered roads at about ‘5 degrees Celsius’ I found traction to be very good because it’s a heavy, front-wheel-drive vehicle. But I had four all-season tires, and four winter tires would have made it even easier to drive. Traction control is standard, but I found it didn’t help much in loose snow. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Odyssey for winter transportation.

My only complaints with the Odyssey are in relation to its size. You need a big parking space, and you have to make wide turns in cramped parking garages. It would be nice to have the availability of rear parking sensors to help when backing into a parking space — these are really useful when you can’t see what’s behind you.

But really, these complaints are minor. The 2002 Odyssey is at or near the top of its class, and though it approaches $37,000 with leather, its not out of line with its competitors’ prices.

Technical Data:

2002 Honda Odyssey EX-L
Base price (LX) $31,900
Base price (EX) $34,900
Price as tested (EX-L) $36,900
Type 4-door, 7 passenger minivan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 3.5 litre V6, SOHC, 24 valves, VTEC
Horsepower 240 @ 5500 rpm
Torque 242 @ 4500 rpm
Fuel Regular
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Tires 225/60R-16
Curb weight 1990 kg (4387 lb.)
Wheelbase 3000 mm (118.1 in.)
Length 5110 mm (201.2 in.)
Width 1920 mm (75.6 in.)
Height 1770 mm (69.7 in.)
Cargo capacity 711 litres (25.1 cu. ft.) third seat up
  4624 litres (163.3 cu. ft.) 2nd & 3rd seats removed
Fuel consumption City: 13.1 l/100 km (22 mpg)
  Hwy: 8.5 l/100 km (33 mpg)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

Correction: our original Odyssey review said that the Kia Sedona tied the Odyssey with 240 horsepower – it doesn’t! The Sedona’s 3.5 litre V6 has 195 horsepower. We also said the 2001 Odyssey required Premium fuel – actually it runs on both Regular and Premium with a slight reduction in horsepower when using Regular fuel. Also, we measured the cargo floor (with seats removed) at 92 inches, but Honda says it is a full 96 inches (8 feet) long with the front seats forwards – so it will carry a 4X8 sheet with the cargo door closed.

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