Ambivalent about minivans? If so, Honda is gunning for your business. In addition to those who love and hate the family-friendly haulers, the automaker says there's a third, distinct segment of consumers who appreciate the utility of a van, but loathe their stodgy image.
Honda hopes its fourth-generation Odyssey, previewed by this concept unveiled at the 2010 Chicago auto show, appeals to those buyers. Although it isn't a complete departure from the traditional minivan, the concept -- and the production vehicle, we're told -- will inject some additional style into the segment.
Styled completely by Honda's R&D Americas design center in California, the Odyssey concept bears some resemblance to its predecessor. Perhaps the most dramatic changes lie with the roofline (it's lower, and the A-pillars are moved forward for a steeper rake) and the side windows (designers say the "lightning bolt" character line will carry over into production models).
As this is merely a styling buck, we weren't able to see a fully developed interior. Sketches released by Honda suggest a two-tone cabin with some sporty touches, including a dashboard patterned after that on the Civic. We'd expect a fold-flat third-row seat to again be standard, and Honda says the second-row bench will now be able to accommodate three child safety seats.
Honda will continue to use V-6 power in the Odyssey -- exact specifics weren't released, but we were told the next van is expected to return 19/28 mpg (city/highway) -- an improvement over the 2010 model's 17/25 mpg EPA rating.
Like other recent Honda concepts (we're looking at you, CR-Z), this is essentially a concept in name only. Although we doubt the production Odyssey will sport LED headlamps or such slender door handles, the final vehicle should largely resemble what you see here. Look for the actual 2011 Odyssey to be unveiled this fall, likely at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show.