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Remember When the Honda Odyssey Didn't Have Sliding Doors?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro August 2016

These days, we take for granted that the Honda Odyssey is a popular minivan owned by many families who attend a wide range of activities, such as soccer and oboe practices. These days, we take for granted that the Odyssey will be on your shopping list if you're looking for a minivan. These days, the Odyssey is one of the best people movers on the market.

It wasn't always like that. The Honda Odyssey used to be weird.

To conjure a time when the Odyssey was weird, you must bring yourself back to 1995, when the minivan market was completely owned by Chrysler and all minivans only had a sliding door on the passenger side. Young people today will think this is completely insane. Why didn't they have doors on both sides? I have no idea. It made no sense, even then. It was the '90s. Nobody knew what was going on. Everything was turquoise.

Anyway, Honda decided they wanted a piece of the Chrysler minivan action, so they debuted a van in 1995 called the Odyssey. As I recall, everyone was excited. We can finally buy a minivan! With all the practicality we like! But from Honda! We love Honda! And so, consumers everywhere lined up for this new Honda minivan to sweep the nation.

Then, they actually saw it.

The biggest problem with the original Odyssey was Honda's engine lineup. At the time, Honda wasn't making a V6 bigger than 2.7 liters, and they inexplicably decided not to install it in the Odyssey. Instead, they gave the Odyssey a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder that made 140 horsepower. By comparison, the Odyssey that came out just 10 years later in 2005 had 255 hp, which is an increase of more than 80 percent. If Honda keeps escalating Odyssey horsepower at this rate, the next-generation version should pack 460 ponies.

So, you have a 140-hp engine, which means you have to make a very small vehicle or it won't be able to climb hills. The result? The '95 Odyssey was pretty small, and the interior was pretty cramped (though, to Honda's credit, the original Odyssey did have 3-row seating), which was made even worse when Honda installed normal rear doors, not sliding doors, like most minivans.

And then, things got weirder. Despite the fact the original Odyssey clearly wasn't competitive, Isuzu decided to join the party. In exchange for giving Honda the Isuzu Trooper to use as the Acura SLX and the Isuzu Rodeo to use as the Honda Passport, Honda gave Isuzu the Odyssey. The result was the Isuzu Oasis, which was sold from 1996 to 1999. I believe there are precisely nine of them still running.

Of course, the Odyssey was eventually redesigned for the 1999 model year into much of the van it is today: the V6-powered, dual sliding-doored, highly convenience-featured family hauler we all know and love.

But, for a few years there in the '90s, it was really weird.

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Remember When the Honda Odyssey Didn't Have Sliding Doors? - Autotrader