By DEE-ANN DURBIN
2013-03-27 10:27 AM
But HondaVAC, the hand-held vacuum cleaner integrated into the cargo area, will likely be its most talked-about feature. Honda says it's the first to offer this family-friendly tool, which it developed with heavy-duty vacuum maker Shop-Vac. Honda's system includes nozzle accessories and a hose that can reach every corner of the vehicle. It doesn't need an outlet for recharging, and can work continuously when the motor is running _ or for up to eight minutes when the van is turned off.
Honda says the vacuum will be standard on the most expensive version of the Odyssey, and it will announce availability on other versions later.
Tami Giammarco, lead engineer on the van's interior, said the vacuum idea came from the daughter of an engineer who saw how frustrated her father was when kids made a mess in his van. "`Dad, you need a vacuum in here,'" she told her father, Giammarco said.
Minivan sales could use a jolt. They peaked at 1.4 million in 2000, but have fallen rapidly since as buyers shifted to popular crossover wagons like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. U.S. minivan sales totaled 540,188 last year.
Still, sales outpaced the industry average last year, and should grow even more this year when Ford Motor Co. rolls out its first minivan since 2006, the Transit Connect Wagon. And if buyers in their late 20s and early 30s choose a minivan as they start families, business could boom.
Honda is eager to be part of the action. So far this year, the Odyssey is the third-best selling minivan in the U.S., behind the Toyota Sienna and the Dodge Caravan. Excluding sales to fleet buyers such as rental car companies, Honda is No. 1, said Mike Acavitti, senior vice president of marketing for American Honda.
Acavitti said the minivan segment should keep growing because of its utility, and he expects Honda's share of the market rise with the revamped Odyssey.
"There is no more flexible vehicle," he said.
Here are more details about 2014 Odyssey:
OUTSIDE: Honda sharpened the Odyssey's looks with a more sculpted hood, two-tone mirror housings and other details. It also improved the structure so that the van can get top marks in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's new frontal crash test, which hits a fixed barrier at an angle. The Odyssey also has some new optional safety equipment, including forward collision and lane departure warning systems.
INSIDE: There are new materials and a new control center in the dashboard. Optional new features include keyless entry and pushbutton start and HondaLink, which connects to the driver's smartphone and plays music or reads updates from Twitter and Facebook.
UNDER THE HOOD: The 2014 Odyssey will offer the same engine as the current model: a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 248 horsepower and gets 22 miles per gallon (9.35 kilometers per liter) in combined city and highway driving. It has a six-speed automatic transmission.
PRICE: Not released. The 2013 Odyssey starts at $28,675.
CHEERS: A Honda Odyssey with a vacuum cleaner? What's not to love?
JEERS: Strategic Vision, a consulting group, says 3 percent of U.S. buyers are considering minivans these days, down from 6 percent a decade ago. There are many other family-friendly, fun-to-drive vehicles, like the Mazda CX-5 or Honda's own CR-V, that get better fuel economy.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report from New York.