Minivan buyers now consider looks to be a high priority in decision to buy

Article by Anita Panait, on March 1, 2012

For almost 30 years, buyers have been selecting minivans based on fuel economy, seating capacity and configuration, price, value and roominess. For almost 30 years, there may be a few who would choose a minivan because of its looks. Well, that was the case until the past year or so. It seems that the ranking in top ten considerations have changed, with looks suddenly surging in the list.

Auto manufacturers like American Honda Motor Co. acknowledged the change in the top ten rankings, and put more emphasis in the styling of its Odyssey minivans.

According to Sage Marie, manager of product planning for light trucks for American Honda, the company has been questioning shoppers and owners about what they wanted in previous generations of Odyssey minivans.

Marie said that exterior styling was a low priority and “generally wasn't a deal breaker.” Marie noted that styling was not a factor in customer’s selection decision years ago, but now it is one of the major purchase reasons for the Odyssey, says Autonews.

To that extent, Honda redesigned the Odyssey for the 2011 model year, attracting more buyers who prefer looks over other considerations.

To make the Odyssey distinct from other minivans, Honda identified the minivan’s beltline as a target area for styling, using the lightning bolt design cue.

Odyssey’s beltline starts at the rear and dives as it flows toward the front of the vehicle, and then rises sharply on the sliding door.

According to Honda, the beltline attracts the eye and is a polarizing design element. Honda believes that this is one of the reasons for the Odyssey becoming a popular choice for many minivan shoppers.

Looking at the body of the Honda Odyssey, it is clear that it utilizes a cabin design that is narrower. However the addition of the well-known character line shaped like a lightning bolt allows for a look that is unique and dynamic. With this style, it allows for the size of the third-row window to be larger which benefits the passengers sitting in the third row as it provides them with a better view of the outside.

Another unique feature is that the brand also made sure that the interior would be quieter. While the use of sound-deadening does help achieve this goal, helping it is the fact that the already rigid body is composed of high-strength steel, around 59% of it. This is truly exceptional especially in this industry. In addition to helping ensure that road noise is isolated, the use of high-strength steel optimizes the rigidity of the body for better handling.

Of course, it also means the weight is lowered giving it better fuel economy. In many vehicles, the main issue that drivers need to deal with when going on long trips is comfort. For the Odyssey though, this has been improved by having the power adjustable 10-way seating. It should be noted though that for the Odyssey LX, there is only the 8-way power adjustable seat.

However the Odyssey is not only about the driver as the objective has always been about having a vehicle that the entire family can use. As such there are different modes that allow for adult passengers, child seats, and even cargo. Thus one can clearly see on the inside that not only do the three rows have seating geared for comfort, but that each of the rows have legroom in the same vein as a sedan. Speaking of modes, one of this is the 3-mode which results in the second row of seats allowing for three child seats to be fixed to it.

It does this by repositioning its outboard seats and placing it nearer the doors. However this is only available for the EX trim and higher. Generally, the new Odyssey allows for a total five Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children, also known as LATCH. However for the LX, only 4 LATCH positions are available. A unique feature inside the Odyssey is the Magic Seat in the third row which, in one motion, gives a 60/40 split.

Not only is this an original idea but is considered by many as one of the brand’s versatile features. With this feature, legroom is even enough for adults and opening and closing this become easy as one hand can do the job. In term of actual figures, the LX and EX trims offers passenger volume at 172.6 cubic feet. With the seats in place, cargo volume measures 38.4 cubic feet.

Depending on how the seats are set-up, this volume can go as large as 148.5 cubic feet. This means for example that if the seats on the second row are removed, one can fit a plywood sheet measuring 4x8. Should the front console be removed, one can even fit in 2x4 studs measuring 10 feet.

The passenger volume measures 172.6 cu-ft. (Odyssey LX and EX) and the cargo volume ranges from 38.4 cu-ft. cargo volume (all seats up) to 148.5 cu-ft. depending on the seating configurations. A 4x8 sheet of plywood can fit inside the Odyssey's cargo bay with the second-row seats removed, and 10-foot-long 2x4 studs can fit inside the vehicle with the available front console removed.

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