By Chris Chase
By 2005, the golden age of the minivan was over, these shamelessly practical people movers having been replaced by more stylish and desirable SUVs and crossovers. Honda still saw value in the minivan concept, though, and so brought its third generation Odyssey to market for the 2005 model year.
A 3.5-litre V6 was a carried over, but with more power: 2005 models had 255 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, but that fell to 244 in 2007 due to new power rating methods, though the change didn’t affect performance. Horsepower dropped again in 2008 to 241. Higher trims got a version of the engine with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM), which deactivated three cylinders for improved economy in light throttle situations.
The 2008 Odyssey got a facelift, including a new front end and taillights, and a less-expensive DX trim slotted in below the LX as the new base model. The 2009 model got a power tailgate as standard, and in 2010, the LX was dropped and an SE trim, which came with a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, replaced it.
Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption estimates in 2005 were 12.5/8.5 L/100 km (city/highway) with the base engine and 12.0/7.7 for Odysseys with the VCM-equipped motor. From 2007 onward, the Odyssey’s ratings were 13.3/8.5 without VCM and 12.7/8.2 with it.
2007 Honda Odyssey; photo by Jil McIntosh. Click image to enlarge
In crash testing, the Odyssey earned “good” ratings in frontal offset and side impact tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Odyssey five stars all around for front and rear seat occupant protection in frontal and side impact tests. The only safety concern the NHTSA noted was that the front door came unlatched in the side impact test, which increases the likelihood of the driver or a front passenger being ejected from the car in a crash.
Consumer Reports gives the Odyssey average to above-average overall reliability ratings for 2005 through 2010.
The Odyssey’s power sliding doors suffer from the same maladies as those in most minivans: they won’t open when closed, won’t close when open or won’t respond to the power controls at all. The cause, as with most vans, is either a bad motor or a failed mechanism. The easiest solution is to choose a van without power doors, or if you do, enjoy them while they last and don’t bother fixing them when they fail, unless you really treasure this admittedly useful feature.
2007 Honda Odyssey; photos by Haney Louka and Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge
Failed hydraulic tailgate struts are common; the parts aren’t prohibitively expensive, but replacement is not worth what the dealership will probably charge to replace them. Even if you’re not terribly handy, you can probably change them on your own in less than half an hour.
If the third row seats won’t fold flat, or are difficult to pull upright, a cable inside the seat that releases the various latches to hold them in place has probably come away from the latch mechanism. The fix is a bit involved, but can be done in your driveway. The Honda Pilot suffers from the same problem; see this thread at Piloteers.org for details.
Past Odysseys (and indeed, any Honda/Acura vehicle using the same five-speed automatic transmission as the Odyssey) have been prone to a common transmission failure problem. Consumer Reports notes nothing of the sort for the 2005-and-up version, though; fingers crossed that Honda fixed the problem for this generation of van.
Instead, watch for a problem with the transmission’s torque converter. It’s a less-serious problem, but still not one to leave alone. The main symptom is a shudder felt under light throttle application. A similar sensation, with the added plus of a mechanical vibration, occurs when the rear engine/transmission mount fails, which is a another common trouble spot.
A whining noise from the power steering pump indicates that it could be on its way to failing. According to posts at OdyClub.com, the cause is a fluid reservoir that gets clogged and starves the pump of fluid. Here’s a lengthy thread on the topic; apparently, many were replaced under warranty. If yours goes and you feel like replacing it yourself, here’s a how-to (noting that the write-up pertains to a 2002 model, so there will no doubt be some differences between this and the newer 2005-2010 model.
2005 Honda Odyssey; photos by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
Used values, according to the Canadian Black Book, range from $13,700 for a 2005 LX, to $39,550 for a 2010 Touring model. Expect used Odyssey prices to run close to those for the Toyota Sienna; both will be more expensive than domestic and Korean brand minivans; the extra dough might be worth it, however, as the Honda (and the Toyota) will likely more reliable than anything else in the minivan segment.
That, of course, depends on whether Honda has truly eradicated its automatic transmission gremlins, though I suspect that by this point, they have. You won’t find too many deals on these vans, but if you can afford the price of admission, you should find it to be a comfortable and capable family vehicle. Buyers with a view to avoiding problems down the road should look for a more basic model (LX in early years or a DX or LX from 2008); as with most minivans, many problems can be linked to power-operated extras like sliding doors or tailgates. Look for a van that comes with service records and that checks out with a trustworthy mechanic, who should pay special attention to the power steering and transmission – just in case.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) September 2010:
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004396; Units affected: 126
2005: On certain vehicles, a rear wheel speed sensor may not have been installed correctly, which causes the sensor to report an incorrect wheel speed to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) control unit. The on-board diagnostic system quickly identifies this error under most normal driving conditions and activates numerous warning lamps and disables the ABS. Brake application below the ABS threshold, or after ABS is disabled, is not affected. However, if brake application exceeding the ABS threshold occurs before the malfunction is detected, the ABS control unit may reduce brake force to all wheels. An unexpected loss of brake force can cause a crash. Correction: Dealers will inspect the rear wheel speed sensors. If an incorrect gap is detected, the sensor will be removed and the knuckle checked for cross-threading damage and replaced, if necessary.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005229; Units affected: 5,953
2005: On certain vehicles, the front impact sensors were insufficiently sealed during manufacturing. Over time, this may allow salt-water intrusion and corrosion, which may result in a short circuit. If one or both sensors fail, the SRS indicator will illuminate. Front impact sensor failure could cause a delay in or loss of frontal airbag deployment, which can increase the risk of injury in a frontal crash. Correction: Dealers will replace both front crash sensors.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2007088; Units affected: 12,143 (includes other models)
2005: On certain vehicles, a manufacturing fault with the fuel pump relay could cause the coil wire in the relay to break. If this happens, the fuel pump will not operate and the engine may not start. If the relay fails while driving, the engine may stall without warning and a crash could occur. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if required, replace the fuel pump relay.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2010079; Units affected: 28,827 (includes other models)
2007-2008: On certain vehicles, during the self-check process that occurs shortly after each time the vehicle is started, the self-diagnostic software for the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) brake modulator causes a condition that can allow air to enter the modulator pump. Over time and after starting the engine numerous times, it is possible for enough air to enter the system to change the brake pedal feel and affect braking performance. Reduced braking performance could lead to a crash resulting in property damage, personal injury or death. Correction: Dealers will remove existing air in the brake system then apply sealant and caps to the VSA modulator to prevent air from entering the brake system.
Crash test results
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.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.