Minivans don't get much credit for bleeding edge technology, and even though more American families than ever want three rows of seats in their vehicle, minivan sales have stagnated for years. For a 2014 model refresh, the Honda Odyssey's engineers came up with something unique — a built-in vacuum that can clean the entire car. Who says minivans have to suck?
It sounds like a joke, except that after using the HondaVac — yes, it has a name — it's not hard to see every minivan buyer asking why they can't have the same toy. Essentially a miniature shop vacuum, the 10-foot hose, motor and dust canister hides behind a panel in the rear of the Odyssey when not in use. When it's time to clean — and minivan owners know that it's always time to clean — the hose can reach every nook of the van and even outside, with a suction comparable to what you get from your basic Hoover. The canister has a filter bag, or it can be run without one, although Honda engineers warn it's not a wet-dry vac and shouldn't be used on that river of Kool-Aid flowing from the second seat.
For a demonstration, Honda helpfully provided the Goldfish standard of minivan detritus; it did as well with them crushed into powder form as whole. (The only material to resist the HondaVac so far has been Cheetos dust, which will be all that survives of our civilization in 10,000 years.)
Because it runs off its own motor, the HondaVac can run when the car's off; Honda engineers had explored using the car's air conditioning system in reverse, but it didn't generate enough suction. The HondaVac will only be offered on the most expensive Touring Elite trim level of the 2014 Odyssey, while the rest of the levels receive a brace of other safety and styling enhancements, from a new touch-screen dash to a revised fascia. With sales of about 120,000 a year, the new Odyssey won't revive the minivan market alone, but it will make some of its owners the stars of the preschool parking lot.