Should Honda Bring JDM Odyssey to United States?

November 7, 2008
Our very own loquacious commenter Ed (you know who you are) suggests that Honda should develop a smaller van for the U.S. market, as Mazda has enjoyed a big sales increase of its small Mazda5 van even in the midst of a down market.

To that we say...good point, Ed. And indeed, Honda does have a smaller van--the recently introduced JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) Odyssey. Introduced October 17 in Japan, the vehicle does not share architecture with the American Honda Odyssey.

The JDM Odyssey "features a low-floor/center-of-gravity design that enables a low profile roofline and handling dynamics beyond typical minivans," reports site World Car Fans, but retains a spacious cabin. Seating inside is uniquely stepped from first to third row in order to allow a clear view out for all passengers (think movie theater staggered seating). A Honda 2.4-liter DOHC i-VTEC yields approximately 170 or 203 horsepower depending upon the model and provides economical operation through a drive-by-wire continuously variable transmission operating through a torque converter.

The American minivan has turned into more of a Maxi-Van these days, with bloated curb weights straining under DVD screens, nav systems, subwoofers, dozens of cup holders, removable picnic tables, and other excesses necessities. A loaded Honda Odyssey tips the scales 4,600 pounds, and even with its very intelligent cylinder de-activation only manages 25 mpg on the highway. The standard model, without the trick cylinder deactivation, manages 23 mpg while cruising.

The Mazda5, on the other hand, gets 28 mpg highway with a manual transmission (27 mpg automatic) and tips the scales at a comparatively svelte 3,417 pounds. More telling is the city mileage: 22 mpg manual, 21 mpg automatic versus the Odyssey's 16 mpg without cylinder de-activation, 17 mpg with.

The Mazda5 may not be the answer for a large family, and it probably won't tow much, and its 2.3-liter four might well be out-dragged by the Odyssey's stout V-6. But as Ed points out, they're selling like hotcakes suddenly as Americans are switching to smaller vehicles with greater efficiency.

So, what do you say, Honda? Perhaps you could sell two vans: the Honda Odyssey and the Honda Modesty. The market is ripe, and the van is already being sold in Japan.--Colin Mathews


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