Review by Haney Louka
Photos by Haney Louka and Grant Yoxon

2005 Honda Odyssey EX
Click image to enlarge

If there’s one type of vehicle where conservatism is the norm and making a statement is frowned upon, it’s the minivan. And if there’s one company that embodies conservatism (at least in appearance) across its entire model line, it’s Honda.

It’s no surprise, then, that the new Odyssey, introduced almost one year ago as a 2005 model, looks as right-winged as Stephen Harper. But given Honda’s reputation for producing some of the most solid and reliable sets of wheels on the planet, it’s also no surprise that the Odyssey took home honours for the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s Canadian Truck of the Year last February.

The Odyssey started life as a junior-sized van back in 1995 and had four swing-out doors. It was Honda’s quirky take on maximizing efficiency and utility in a compact package. While it was a good, reliable vehicle, it was too small for North American tastes and was replaced by a much larger – and more traditional – Grand Caravan killer in 1998 as a 1999 model. It more closely resembled what consumers expected from a minivan, but at the same time pioneered innovative features that are now ubiquitous in the minivan segment.

For 2005, Honda chose not to mess with the formula of the successful second-generation van and instead has produced a careful evolution of its predecessor. However, a closer look reveals that this new model has a few tricks up its sleeve as well.

The Odyssey line-up

2005 Honda Odyssey EX

2005 Honda Odyssey EX
Click image to enlarge

Odyssey pricing starts with the LX at $32,700 and tops out with the Touring at $46,900. Standard-issue goodies include dual sliding doors, keyless entry, side- and head-curtain airbags, power windows (including those for the second row), a third row seat that folds flat into the floor, dual-zone air conditioning (front and rear controls), in-floor storage, traction and stability control, and no less than 15 cupholders.

Our tester was the $35,900 EX which adds (among other things) 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, retractable sunshades for the second row, body-coloured trim, power sliding doors, power-adjustable driver’s seat, an upgraded 6-CD stereo, and seating for eight.

Options that help a loaded Odyssey flirt with $50,000 include variable cylinder management (more later), leather seating, front and rear parking sensors, a navigation system, power tailgate, a 360-watt stereo, and a rear-view camera.

Under the hood

All Odysseys are powered by a 3.5-litre single-overhead cam V-6 that generates 255 hp at 5,750 rpm and 250 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 revs. That’s up from 240 hp and 242 lb-ft in last year’s V6, which is great and all, but uplevel EX-Leather and Touring models get an added bonus, and it’s called variable cylinder management (VCM).

2005 Honda Odyssey EX
Click image to enlarge

In a nutshell, VCM automatically deactivates three of the engine’s cylinders during cruising for enhanced fuel economy and reactivates them whenever power is needed. This little bit of technology enables Honda to claim that they not only produce the most powerful van in the segment, but that it’s also the most fuel-efficient and has the longest range.

Indeed, the EX-L and Touring models consume fuel at the rate of 11.7 L/100 km in the city and 7.7 on the highway, while their slightly less sophisticated brethren, the LX and EX, go through 12.3 and 8.6 in the same tests respectively. That translates into a not-insignificant range increase of 100 km on each tank of fuel.

The inside story

The Odyssey’s driving environment is, as expected, a clean design that’s ergonomically sound.

2005 Honda Odyssey EX

2005 Honda Odyssey EX
Click image to enlarge

The gear selector for the five-speed automatic transmission rests on the centre stack close to the steering wheel – a great place for easy access, and carefully positioned such that operation of the wipers and centre stack controls is not impeded.

There are plenty of storage nooks up front – a must for any minivan – including a sizeable covered storage bin just below the climate controls. The audio system is located (as it should be) high up on the dash and will swallow six discs. Controls are simple – the kind where you can perform any desired function easily just moments after jumping into the Odyssey for the first time. Ditto for the climate control, with easy-to-find-and-use toggles for temperature control and large buttons for other functions.

2005 Honda Odyssey EX
Click image to enlarge

Odysseys equipped with the navigation system relegate the audio system’s location downwards to replace that covered storage bin that I’m so fond of.

I’m not a big fan of velour seat upholstery in general, and the Odyssey is no exception. In a day when manufacturers are getting much more creative with fabric seats in their new cars, I find that the velour lends a dated feel to the interior.

Our EX was officially labeled an eight-passenger van, with a centre position in the second row to fill a space between what would otherwise be two closely spaced buckets. It’s not a seat you’ll want to use regularly, but it would prove useful if it were needed in a pinch. Besides, when it’s not in use it converts into a console tray.

2005 Honda Odyssey EX

2005 Honda Odyssey EX

2005 Honda Odyssey EX
Click image to enlarge

There is in-floor storage just ahead of the second row seat, and on all but the LX model it includes a lazy Susan turntable to maximize its utility.

Second row seats can be tilted forward to provide access to the third row, but oddly they don’t slide back into their original position without some manual adjustment.

With all seating positions in use, a large hollowed-out area that otherwise houses the folded third row provides a sizeable 1,087 litres of cargo capacity. That number grows, depending on the seating configuration, to a maximum of 4,174 litres. Those capacities for competitors: 1,240 and 4,220 respectively for the Toyota Sienna, and 747 and 4,689 for the Grand Caravan, which is designed to allow both second and third row seats to fold flat into the floor.

The driving experience

2005 Honda Odyssey EX

2005 Honda Odyssey EX
Click image to enlarge

The Odyssey has an uncanny ability to mimic a luxury sedan on the road. It’s a substantial, solid vehicle and every driver interface has been thoughtfully designed and well constructed.

Acceleration from the gutsy V6 is smooth and strong, and the van is mostly pretty quiet going down the road. The only interruption to the serene driving experience (if the kiddies are sleeping, that is) is steady road noise that’s transmitted into the cabin through the tires.

What’s surprising about driving a van as large as the Odyssey is how well it hides its size, particularly when navigating through tight spaces. Excellent visibility in all directions and a tight turning circle of 11.2 metres are to be given credit here.

2005 Honda Odyssey EX
Click image to enlarge

Overall, the Odyssey occupies the top tier in the minivan segment while most competitors fight for lower positions on the podium. Better than average reliability and resale values for the previous model indicate that even though the Odyssey is pricey, it’s money well spent.

Shopping around

Competitors are listed below with base prices for extended versions where applicable:

  • Buick Terraza ($33,745)

  • Chevrolet Uplander ($28,020)
  • Dodge Grand Caravan ($30,740)
  • Ford Freestar ($27,995)
  • Kia Sedona ($TBA, new for 2006)
  • Mazda MPV ($27,595)
  • Nissan Quest ($31,400)
  • Pontiac Montana SV6 ($28,945)
  • Saturn Relay ($27,995)
  • Toyota Sienna ($30,000)

Technical Data: 2005 Honda Odyssey EX

Base price (LX) $32,700
Base price (EX) $35,900
Freight $1,425
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $37,425
Type 8-passenger minivan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine 3.5-litre V6, SOHC, 24 valves, variable valve timing
Horsepower 255 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque 250 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Tires P235/65 R-16
Curb weight 2,033 kg (4,473 lb.)
Wheelbase 3,000 mm (118.1 in.)
Length 5,105 mm (201.0 in.)
Width 1,960 mm (77.2 in.)
Height 1,749 mm (68.9 in.)
Cargo capacity 1,087 litres (38.4 cu. ft.) behind third row
  2,580 litres (91.1 cu. ft.) third row folded
  4,174 litres (147.4 cu. ft.) maximum
Fuel consumption City: 12.3 L/100 km (23 mpg Imperial)
  Hwy: 8.6 L/100 km (33 mpg Imperial)
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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