Since 1999, we’ve known the Honda Odyssey as a well-over-two-ton rival to the equally bulky not-so-minivans made by its many competitors. For the 1995 through 1998 model years, however, the Odyssey was a nimble 3,400-pounder without sliding doors, designed with one eye on North America but also with Honda’s home market in mind. Not many 1995-1998 Odysseys were sold in the United States, but I found this well-traveled example in a Northern California car graveyard recently.
This vehicle had more in common with earlier Japanese wagon-ish van models (e.g., the Mitsubishi Expo LRV and siblings, the Nissan Stanza Wagon and Honda Civic Wagovan) than with the Detroit minivans of the 1990s. Note the sedan-style four-door setup.
The space inside was used very efficiently, with three rows of seats providing comfortable spots for seven adults. In addition to gaining nearly 1,000 pounds of weight, the 1999 Odyssey was 14 inches longer and five inches wider than its predecessor… and fit the same number of occupants.
The 1995-1998 Odyssey was based on the Accord’s platform and drove much like its slightly lighter relative.
The engine in this one is a 2.2-liter F22 DOHC straight-four, rated at 140 horsepower and 145 pound-feet. No V6 was available in this generation of Odyssey. Automatic transmissions were mandatory.
This van served its owner or owners well, traveling 313,635 miles during its career. That’s nowhere near the highest odometer reading I’ve ever found in a discarded Honda (that would be a 1988 Accord with 626k miles, followed by another 1988 Accord that reached 513k miles), but still very respectable.
Isuzu sold a badge-engineered version of this van, called the Oasis, for the 1996 through 1999 model years. Meanwhile, Honda sold Isuzu Troopers with Acura SLX badges and Isuzu Rodeos as Honda Passports here.
Mazda took a shot at selling a JDM-scale minivan in the United States, the Mazda5, for the 2006 through 2015 model years. Despite it being available with a manual transmission, not many Americans felt compelled to buy one. Personally, I prefer even smaller Japanese vans.
No painful sliding doors, no heavy removable seats.
The Japanese-market Odyssey had advertising tie-ins with the then-recently-released Addams Family Values film. Anjelica Huston even learned to speak a bit of Japanese for the occasion.