Home » Unusual Little Vans: 1996 Honda Odyssey vs 2007 Mazda 5

Unusual Little Vans: 1996 Honda Odyssey vs 2007 Mazda 5

Sbsd 2 23 2024
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Happy Friday, Autopians! Boy, am I glad to see the backside of this week. I didn’t feel like doing a shootout this week, so instead, I’ve just got a couple of strange little minivans for you. They’re just the thing for a quick weekend getaway with five or six of your closest friends.

But before we hit the road, we should see who won yesterday’s ’80s battle of the bands. It looks like the L7 ran away with it. I can see the appeal, but personally, if I’m going through all the trouble of freshening up an ’80s BMW, it’s going to be a stickshift. I’ll take the “slow” Camaro instead… and peel off the cringey bumper sticker before I even drive home.

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Oh, and by the way, at least one of you understood what the best music video ever to feature a square-body Panther was. For the rest of you: listen all y’all, it’s a Sabotage. (Quick aside, speaking of “Sabotage” and bumper stickers, since it’s Friday, and what else have you got to do? One of the best bumper stickers I ever saw was on a Mitsubishi Mirage, right above the nameplate on the back. It just said “OH MY GOD IT’S A”. I wish I could have gotten a photo; it was glorious.)

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We like minivans around here, as you may have noticed. Mostly, we like cheap beat-to-hell minivans. But sometimes, a mere Caravan or Astro just won’t do. Even a stickshift Aerostar is too plebian. Sometimes you need to get weird. But, you know, good weird, not Vanagon weird. Don’t worry; I have just the thing. Or things, rather. Here they are.

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1996 Honda Odyssey – $2,900

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.2 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Oregon City, OR

Odometer reading: 184,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

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Honda was late to the minivan party, and from what I’ve read, upper management had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the market. The first Odyssey was developed by an “underground” team, and what they came up with was nothing like any other minivan on the market. Based on the Accord, and featuring four regular front-hinged doors rather than sliding rear doors, the Odyssey was a bit of a flop. The people who love them really love them, and tend not to put them up for sale, making this a rare listing indeed.

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The first-gen Odyssey shared its drivetrain with the contemporary Accord, meaning a 2.2 liter four-cylinder paired with an overdrive automatic, column-shifted in a slight nod to more traditional vans. This one runs and drives well, and recently had its valve cover gasket replaced. The seller says the air conditioning still works fine, which is a nice bonus in a cheap car.

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It’s in nice condition inside, especially for the mileage. Minivans this age are often trashed inside, but this one looks pretty good. The carpet is a bit discolored, but the seat upholstery is in nice condition. In fact, the middle seat hardly looks used at all. The rear seat on these folds into the floor, for additional cargo space; I imagine it’s pristine as well.

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Outside, it looks pretty good. There’s a little bit of clearcoat peeling, but it’s mostly shiny, and more importantly, not rusty. Honda still had a nasty rust problem into the 90s, and it’s not uncommon to see Accords of this era with significant rust in the rear wheel arches. I don’t see any signs of that here, but a look underneath is not a bad idea.

2007 Mazda 5 Sport – $2,450

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Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Portland, OR

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Odometer reading: 153,000 miles

Operational status: Doesn’t say, but I’m going to presume it at least runs and drives

Mazda marched to its own drummer in the early days of the minivan as well. The first-generation MPV was rear-wheel-drive, and had conventional doors like the early Odyssey. Later MPVs followed the transverse V6/two sliding doors formula established by the Dodge Caravan and copied by everyone else. But minivans grew throughout the 1990s and early 200s, and weren’t so “mini” anymore. There was room in the market for a smaller offering. Enter the Mazda 5 (or, officially, Mazda5, but I hate how that looks).

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Officially a “wagon” according to Mazda, ane meant to compete against other tall wagons like the Toyota Matrix, the 5 has sliding doors on both sides, as well as three rows of seats. I’d call that a van. It’s powered by the ubiquitous MZR four-cylinder engine, in this case powering the front wheels through a five-speed automatic with a manual gate on the shifter. But who ever bothers? If you want a stick, get a stick. For this, just throw it in D and be done with it.

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This 5 is for sale at one of the dozens of used car lots up and down Southeast 82nd Avenue here in Portland, and this particular dealership is going out of business. You could probably throw a lowball offer at them and score a deal on this car, if you walk in and wave cash in their faces. However, don’t expect any maintenance history; assume the worst, and give it a good going-over when you get it home.

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It looks OK, both inside and out, but the hubcaps are missing in action. I appreciate the fact that they didn’t slap some ugly plastic Wal-Mart wheel covers on it; honestly I’d rather have the plain steelies. It also comes with a Thule roof rack, which I personally would immediately remove and sell; I’m not a fan.

So that’s it for this week! For next week’s showdowns, I’m open to suggestions. Are there particular cars you’d like me to look for? Specific cars I should feature? Places I should look? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago

I think it’s time for a true small van comeback! The minivans being sold these days are anything but and pricey! I’d love to see the Caravan nameplate come out if mothballs and be attached to something like a 5.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago

I was in the park last week and saw 4 Mazda5s in the same parking lot! I hardly see these at all anymore and to see 4 was something. I guess they are big with hockey moms as it was at the rink. My wife was not as enthused.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
3 months ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

Brought home a Mazda 5 for the boss to consider. She said no.
But I still like them. But like the Honda, all used examples round here are well full of remnants of the rug rats who rode in them. The smell of ancient spit out Cheerios and fruit box drinks can be overwhelming in the summer time heat.
Pass.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
3 months ago

I have loved the Mazda5 for many years. They have a great form factor and functionality while retaining some level of fun to drive. It’s an easy choice for me.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
3 months ago

I always dug the 5 and was pleased that there were compact MPVs popping up at the time. Though it also looked pretty good in global versions without some of the racy styling effects like Mazda did in zoom-zoom fashion. And roof rails, which seems like it would have been worth having those on offer here, unless Mazda was nervous that would encourage people to load them up over the GVWR or something.

I did like these Odysseys and wish more similarly smaller vans stuck around, rather than everyone just default to the largest possible size and all. But I do get why everyone chased the Chrysler format, as you could get a bigger, plusher, V6-powered van for less coin than everyone else’s smaller vans.

As a kid the only gen 1 Odyssey I knew around was a ’98 some DINK neighbors bought. Though a few years later we moved to a new neighborhood where another neighbor with 3 younger kids had one, that was by then 10 years old.

I went Odyssey even though the interior is worse off than the Mazda, but this one does have 7 instead of 6 seats, plus rear A/C overhead.

Last edited 3 months ago by GreatFallsGreen
Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
3 months ago

I had a later 5 until it was totaled and they are a very useful size, able to seat 6 for short hops or a lot of stuff in a Mazda 3 footprint. The Odyssey never did it for me but I’d rock an Isuzu Oasis for the sheer weirdness

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
3 months ago

I’m an unashamed Odyssey lover. No hate for the Mazda 5, but I want that early Odyssey, specifically for its lack of sliding doors. You see, I have fantasies of tuner minivan builds and would love to build a widebody minivan, but that’s rather difficult when you have sliding doors that need to occupy the same space as fender flares when open. The first gen Odyssey is one of the few minivans in existence where that isn’t a problem, as there are widebody kits for sedans which could be adapted.

However, if a first gen Odyssey is nowhere to be found, I wouldn’t mind that Mazda 5 either, I loved reading about whatever car magazine it was that transplanted the drivetrain from a Mazdaspeed 3 into one for a sporty minivan!

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

I’d imagine you would want to weld the side doors shut anyway, so it wouldn’t matter.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
3 months ago

That would defeat the purpose of it being a tuner minivan though. So it would matter. Widebody sedans can still have 4 functional doors, and I want my fast minivan to carry the same number of passengers as a normal minivan. Otherwise there wouldn’t be much point in using a minivan for a tuner build, I want a fast Honda that all the bros can ride in simultaneously.

Griznant
Griznant
3 months ago

As the original owner of a 2012 Mazda 5 6MT they are an amazing vehicle. I would STILL be driving it now if some jackass had been paying attention to the road and not his cell phone and didn’t total it out. I kept the carcass because it ran perfectly even after 218k miles and had ZERO problems. Fantastic family vehicle and I’m hoping to use the driveline in something else and turn the remains into wall-art for my shop.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
3 months ago
Reply to  Griznant

Now that’s love. Reminds me of people stuffing their beloved dog and putting it in their living room. Haha.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
3 months ago

Voted for the Honda Odyssey partly because of the great color and partly because of how much Ray Magliozzi used to rave about his first-generation Odyssey on Car Talk back in the day.
Speaking of Car Talk, this comment, “One of the best bumper stickers I ever saw was on a Mitsubishi Mirage, right above the nameplate on the back. It just said “OH MY GOD IT’S A”.”, reminded me of an early viral photo that Car Talk posted on its website or in its community forums some 20-plus years ago of a first-generation Acura Legend coupe (when Acura placed the model name centrally on the trunk lid directly above the license plate) and someone had gotten a specialized plate that said “OF ZELDA”.

AlterId
AlterId
3 months ago

Both are great, but, in honor of my dearly departed 2009 Mazda 3, which drove wonderfully and had no issues over 105,000 miles (although the rear suspension was rattling and needed work at the time its life came to a sudden end), I’m picking its micro-minivan sibling. The 5AT it had wasn’t the fastest shifter, but the autostick was fun to play with because it wouldn’t automatically upshift in manual mode, so engine braking, and the display would flash if you downshifted into too low a gear on your own. That and the fact that the display always showed the gear you were in regardless of manual or automatic mode were the major factors behind my choice of the 3 over a mid-spec, four-cylinder 6, although the fact that the 6 felt enormous when I test-drove it was also on the list.

Walmart Shoes
Walmart Shoes
3 months ago

The Mazda 5 is fantastic.
The one we bought has a dash-mounted 6-speed manual.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago

I went for the it ain’t white Odyssey

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
3 months ago

Let’s keep the oddball minivan theme going next week. How about first-gen Toyota Previa S/C All-Trac vs. first gen Mazda MPV AWD? It’ll be like my middle school drop-off line revisited.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
3 months ago

Now THIS is a Shitbox Showdown for me.

I love both the original Odyssey, and the 5. The lack of sliding doors on the Odyssey somehow makes it bizarre and quirky, despite making it a little less useful. I’d take it over this 5, as I can’t imagine I’d ever find a nicer Odyssey of this vintage. It looks excellent. For that price and condition I would totally rock it.

That particular 5 looks like someone parked it out on a driving range for a few hours. I also prefer the second generation.

Huja Shaw
Huja Shaw
3 months ago

As The Autopian is a no-kink-shame zone, I’ll go ahead and say it . . . I’ve always had a thing for the Mazda5.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago

Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, five-speed automatic, FWD

Nope. The 2007 had a 4AT:

https://news.mazdausa.com/vehicles?item=143

The 5AT didn’t come till later

Walmart Shoes
Walmart Shoes
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

My Mazda 5 has a dash mounted 6-speed manual.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Walmart Shoes

That was also an option. Nice!

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
3 months ago

I like them both. I picked the Odyssey because it’s a color.

Last edited 3 months ago by Shop-Teacher
Bracq P
Bracq P
3 months ago

While efficient packaging of the 5 impresses, the mechanicals are giving up too early for my tastes. Trying the Honda this time.

Russ Evenhuis
Russ Evenhuis
3 months ago

Taking the 5 and keeping the Thule rack for my bike, man

JDE
JDE
3 months ago

the 5 is a mini – Minivan, but given the difference in years and overall visual condition, the Mazda has a very slight edge here.

Church
Church
3 months ago

A minivan without sliding doors is losing out on too much usefulness, imho. Zoom zoom, baby!

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
3 months ago

I prefer the Honda but the Mazda is a better deal (the Honda interior is also a bit nasty). $2450 is a fair price for the Mazda, but given the business is closing, I would offer $2000 and see what happens. I presume the dealer has no more than $1700 into this car since they stayed open 35 years and are only closing due to retirement (assuming that is true), so I think they might accept that.

Last edited 3 months ago by Stig's Cousin
Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

Man I offer a purchase price with a bigger discount on any deal. My last one I offered exactly half the ask.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I tend to ask for the biggest discount I can find a way to justify. My best was $1750 on a car advertised for $4200. I offered $1700 to which the seller (a small used car dealer) reacted in a way that suggested he was insulted. I asked what he could do and, after walking to his office and stalling for 15 minutes, he said $1750. He was a very shrewd negotiator. It helped that the car was worth closer to $1900, which I knew since I owned a nearly identical car. I figure the Mazda is reasonably priced so I wouldn’t push it, but maybe the seller would go lower?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  Stig's Cousin

Mine was overpriced a test drive to aparts store to read any codes got possible issues. I offered half 9n a worst case scenario. Sales manager had a pool tournament oasked what I would do. I came up a grant but switched to out the door. He countered I said no he sold it to me for $3k all in. A yripto my mechanic found all codes have seem to gone away with a new air filter. You can never go lower so start real low. They have unlimited cars it’s just a business. They want to sell worse than you want to buy. Or at least make them think so. And it doesn’t hurt to get a newer salesman and explain every step of the way before he goes to his sales manager. I showed car value KBB at best condition. His price plus repair costs went over that value and even then not excellent. Told him I won’t pay for your mistakes.

Who Knows
Who Knows
3 months ago

Honda looks like it has decent clearance for easy offroading, so voted for that.

Seeing these is just depressing though, as a reminder of how bloated almost all cars are now. 180-187″ length and ~110″ wheelbases used to be good for 6-7 passengers and/or a bunch of cargo space, now it’s a Honda Civic. WTF happened to packaging the most car into a small footprint (I know, EPA footprint loophole)?

JDE
JDE
3 months ago
Reply to  Who Knows

expanded American waste lines and the mentality that bigger is better is likely some part of this trend as well.

1/2 ton trucks need steps to get up in them these days and so on.

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
3 months ago

Both are automatic, both don’t appear rusty, both will get the job done, so I’ll go for the Mazda because its newer, has sliding doors, and will likely have better parts support. It helps that I’ve owned 2 Mazda 5’s already (both manuals, still have the 2012!) and know what to expect.

In my personal experience, the pre-refresh (2010 and older) are much more prone to rust – the first one I had needed about 1″ around both rear wheels cut out, as well as a big chunk of the front side of the inner wheel well. Any work on the underside also meant that 50% of the M8 bolts and 100% of M6 or smaller was going to snap and need to be drilled & tapped. The earlier manual trans were only 5 speeds, and spun at almost 4000 RPM at highway speeds… fuel economy was still decent but the NVH got tiring pretty quickly.

The 2012 and later seems to have much better rust-proofing based on my two, and the 3 or 4 of each age range that I regularly see around. The 6th gear in the manual trans drops highway engine speed to 3000ish RPM too, so a bit better on NVH but still get roughly 28 mpg at highway speeds.

Last edited 3 months ago by Peter Andruskiewicz
Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
3 months ago

Our 2010 with the manual rusted out just like yours in the rear. Figuring out how I’m gonna patch it up this Spring.

I always coveted the later ones with the 6 speed. It’d be nice to do highways speeds at 3000 instead the mid to high 3s.

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

Have fun! This is what I did – plastic, adhesives and zip ties since I didn’t have much access to a welder.

https://mazdas247.com/forum/t/mazda5-rust.123851792/

It held up well for the 3 1/2 years I had it after that repair before selling her.

Cyko9
Cyko9
3 months ago

Neither vehicle is calling to me, so I read through the comments hoping to be swayed one way or the other. Both have pretty nice interiors, and I really like the vacuum job they did on the Honda. But the exterior styling has that “haven’t quite figured it out yet” look to me – not quite a minivan as I think of them, and not a tall, quirky wagon. It’s almost an ugly duckling, but not ugly enough. The Mazda is fairly contemporary, if dull, so it got my vote.

Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
3 months ago

Mark,

The awful part about you doing this series, is that I live in Portland as well. My wife has banned me from getting a van, but she knows I really want one. So looking is fine right?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wyman

Matthew guy wants the minivan and admits it and the wife doesn’t? And he uses his real name? That is a a car guy.

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