The Honda Odyssey and its minivan competitors - Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Caravan and Toyota Sienna - are often touted as family vehicles.
In television commercials, the Odyssey is showcased with a mother or father transporting the neighborhood youth soccer team to practice or with a family packing up for a summer camping trip.
But what if a large family isn't part of the equation? Is a minivan still a prudent choice?
With the 2004 Honda Odyssey, a strong case can be made in favor of a minivan for a two-person family or even an individual who needs a healthy amount of space for cargo or who enjoys traveling with friends.
For my weekly drive, the Odyssey was the 240-horsepower, 24-value V6, EX model with a 5-speed automatic. With its Redrock Pearl exterior and Ivory interior, the vehicle has a confident presence and performs equally impressively.
Although a minivan, the Odyssey has surprisingly quick acceleration and has been timed in under eight seconds in the standard 0-60 mph test. While obviously not marketed as a high performance vehicle, the Odyssey is not tortoise-like in any acceleration situation.
Still, the purchaser of a minivan is likely more interested in substantial cargo area than drag racing.
And that's an area in which the Odyssey shines.
Beginning with front interior, the seats are spacious, wide and comfortable. The front center console is actually a folding tray. When not in use, it folds parallel to the passenger seat, leaving ample access to the first of two passenger rows.
The second row of the seven-passenger vehicle provides superior room. The bucket seats are adjustable into many settings and can also be moved together to form a bench seat that can be slid forward and aft for appropriate leg room.
The third row seat folds into the floor, which further extents available cargo space and alleviates a problem in other similar vehicles. A third seat not in use doesn't have to be stored elsewhere.
If all rows of seats are in use, there's a deep, rectangular space behind the third seat for additional cargo space.
I never drove my test vehicle with more more than one passenger, and that left the second and third rows vacant. With cargo ar additional passengers it's likely the ride quality would have improved, but wasn't bad with only a front-seat passenger only slight bumpy in some situations. The front bucket seats provide a superior view without any obstructions.
For drivers unaccustomed to automatic shifting adjacent of the steering wheel, there's a slight learning curve. The shifting arm is positioned behind the shorter arm that operates the windshield wipers. More than once, I reached for the shifting arm and engaged the windshield wipers or windshield cleaning spray.
Regardless, the available options in my vehicle were plentiful and nicely appointed: leather seats, individually heat front seats, front and rear air conditioning, driver's 8-way power seat with adjustable lumbar support, cruise control and a audio/visual package than encompasses an AM/FM cassette/CD stereo, rear DVD played, second seat, flip-down seven-inch LCD monitor and remote and wireless headphones.
Those features push the Odyssey's price well into the low $30,000 range. Still, add such features as dual- powered sliding rear doors on both sides of the vehicle, automatic climate control, steering wheel radio controls and efficiently operated and illuminated visor mirror and map lights, and it's no wonder the Odyssey's reputation as the best value in its class continues to expand.
2004 Honda Odyssey
Safety features - Driver's and front passenger's front and side airbags, ABS brakes, traction control system.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) - 18 mpg (city), 25 mpg (highway).
Warranty -Bumper to Bumper, 3 Years/36,000 Miles; Drivetrain: 3 Years/36,000 Miles Corrosion: 5 Years/50,000 Miles
Base price range - $24,490-$30,490.
James Raia is a syndicated journalist in Sacramento, Calif. , who writes about sports, fitness and business topics as well as the syndicated car review column, The Weekly Driver.
To read more of his car reviews, visit: The Weekly Driver