Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Honda Odyssey Odyssey and Odyssey Luxury
Life`s Odyssey
August 2004

WOW. Who would have thought a people mover would be so great to drive. And wow, who would have thought I would ever write that.

The guy who loves power and precision, stump-pulling torque and rock solid ride and handling has softened. Life has stepped in and made function possibly more important than form.

You see, for all you DINKS (Double Income, No Kids) out there, the old "Want to go for a drive? Let`s go" becomes a distant memory. It`s more like " Want to go for a drive? Right, you get the nappy bag, the pram, the baby food and heat up a bottle, I`ll get the baby dressed (in more expensive clothes than Mum and Dad are wearing ... combined) and we`ll go."

The point of all this is you need room. The novelty of packing all this stuff into a compact wears thin real fast.

But you don`t want to sacrifice everything. People movers have a reputation for not being "cool", not having enough power to pull the top off baby`s rice pudding and clinical interiors so they are easy to clean up vegemite mixed with apple chunks.

You need comfort in a people mover. If the baby screams all the way to Montville for breakfast, the only solace you have is comfortable seats. If you`ve got seven seats you can even put the baby in the third row for another degree of separation.

The Honda Odyssey gets it just right. It is more like a wagon with low ground clearance, getting back towards the "cool". Honda calls it a "multi-purpose" wagon which sounds a lot better than people mover.

The low centre of gravity does wonders for the ride and handling of this machine.

The fact the floor-to-ceiling height has increased 5mm while the car stands just 25mm higher than the compact Jazz is testament to the engineers really doing their homework on this one.

Two variants are available Odyssey and Odyssey Luxury. Both have a smooth, compact 2.4-litre 118kW DOHC i-VTEC LEV engine within the Odysseys short nose which provides 218Nm torque. i-VTEC is (Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC) with Variable Valve Timing Control (VTC) for those who were wondering.

They have a five-speed sequential shift automatic transmission with the shifter cleverly mounted on the dashboard - not only does it save space, it`s arguably easier to use than traditional mountings.

Grade Logic control ensures smoother gear selection and acceleration, while the sequential shift function allows the driver to exploit the Odysseys sporty characteristics.

Active safety features include dual stage i-SRS front airbags, side airbags with Occupant Position Detection Sensors (OPDS), while Odyssey Luxury gains additional curtain airbags, covering three rows.

On the inside, all three rows of seats have individual air vents, with the 50/50 split third row featuring an easy-to-use manual mechanism to fold flat into the floor or a one-step power retractable function on the Odyssey Luxury. There is even a fold down centre console table between the front seats.

A comfortable driving position is easy to achieve with a ratchet-style seat height adjustment and tilt-adjustable steering, while the Odyssey Luxury has 8-way drivers seat power adjustment and heated front seats.

Mod cons include climate control air-conditioning, CD player and remote central locking, with the audio and cruise controls are steering wheel-mounted for ease of use.

The Luxury variant also has sunroof, leather interior, six-CD stacker, auto-on/off headlights and alloy wheels.

Honda is one of the leaders in reducing NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) and it shows in the Odyssey with luxury car levels of quietness.

The Odysseys wrap-around, two-tone dashboard attracts plenty of comment. One passenger loved the fact it was about two feet deep, another didn`t like it at all. Titanium-look paneling for the upper dash and wood-grain paneling for the lower dash adds a sense of prestige.

In the Odyssey Luxury, the woodgrain and titanium-look paneling continues to the door linings and pockets across all three rows. Woodgrain also adorns the centre console table and steering wheel.

Full marks to the Odyssey, it`s a breath of fresh air ... and where there`s nappies involved you can never get enough fresh air.



ENGINE: 2.4-litre four cylinder DOHC i-VTEC

POWER: 118kW @ 5500rpm

TORQUE: 218Nm @ 4500rpm

TRANSMISSION: Five-speed sequential shift automatic transmission

FUEL ECONOMY: 9.4l/100km average

PROS: Good power; flexible seating; comfort; as much style as you can expect from a "multi-purpose wagon"; great balance of form and function

CONS: At the end of the day it`s built for function and size, not sports

THE BOTTOM LINE: $38,790; Luxury $45,290