1997 Honda Odyssey
1997 Honda Odyssey
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By Jeremy Cato

Honda introduced a lot of nifty ideas in December of ’94 with the arrival of its first minivan, the Odyssey.

Some of those ideas were carried forward to the 1999 remake of the Odyssey. That all-new, made-in-Canada minivan arrived in the fall of 1998 and it’s a completely different vehicle. But that’s another story entirely.

The original Odyssey was based on the platform of the Accord family sedan. It was sold with two seating plans (six and seven-passenger), either of which was quickly adaptable to several configurations (niftiness that I’ll soon get to).

Virtually all the Odysseys sold came loaded with everything from dual airbags to air conditioning, anti-lock braking and power everything. So you won’t find any strippers in the used marketplace.

The only engine choice? A 140-horsepower version of the 16-valve, four-cylinder engine that did service in the previous Accord. Unlike most of its competitors, Honda did not offer a V6. And that, really, explains why the Odyssey was never a sales success. Because from a sizing perspective, the Odyssey, which fits in between the short- and long-wheelbase versions of Chrysler’s minivans, seems well suited for family duty.

As for the nifty stuff:

  • It drives more like a car than any other minivan: using basically the suspension design of the Accord, the Odyssey’s road manners are almost as friendly. For ease of entry, there’s also the lowest step-up height of all minivans.

  • Four side doors and a one-piece hatch at the rear: yes, the Odyssey has two doors on each side and the window in each of them opens up. Back seat riders can get their own measure of fresh air.
  • Versatile back seats: For the second row of seats, buyers had a choice of a 50/50 split bench or captain’s chairs in the second row. Either half of that bench (or both halves) can be folded up neatly behind the front buckets, with a gas strut under each cushion providing most of the muscle. The captain’s chairs unlatch and lift out.

    As for the third row bench, with the twist of a couple of rotary knobs it flips forward and flat, then backward and down beneath the floor for a completely flat cargo space.

    And for those in the back, theatre-type floor tiering that sees the floor gradually rise three inches from the first row of seats to the third at the rear improves visibility and helps those who might suffer from carsickness.

  • Creature comforts: As you would expect, there are supportive seats, a sensible instrument cluster and easy-to-use controls. Cupholders and storage bins are seemingly everywhere. As for interior space, only the very biggest people will say their style is cramped in the Odyssey. And noise? Sleek styling and lots of sound insulation combine for a library-like ride.

Honda sold only a limited number of Odysseys, so used buyers won’t have a lot of choice. But their reliability has been as strong as the Accord’s, meaning even older ones should have some useful life left in them.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

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