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 |  Feb 10 2010, 12:32 PM

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When Honda announced it would show a next-generation Odyssey minivan concept at the Chicago Auto Show, we assumed it would be one of the wild and wacky concepts that automaker debuted at the Tokyo Auto show last year. We were wrong.

Instead, Honda has unveiled a concept that it says very closely resembles the 2011 production model. At first glimpse we thought the new design smacks of the misguided ideas coming out of Honda these days, but just a few moments later and looking through our photos and we’re already changing our minds. Honda hopes this concept and the production model to follow will also change a few minds.

In fact, Honda designers set out to target the new Odyssey at the minivan “fence-sitters.” Through market research, Honda determined that there are those who love the minivan, those who hate it and those who like the functionality but who don’t like the minivan image. So to appeal to these potential customers Honda move the windshield forward, added a unique lighting-bolt style element to the side of the car, all while making it wider and sit lower to the ground.

As a result of these changes the concept van gets even more cargo and passenger room including more third-row leg room and (surprisingly) more third-row head room. We say surprisingly because the roof seems to slope and yet head room has been increased.

During Honda’s press conference at the Chicago Auto Show, a company representative confirmed that this concept is very close in shape and style to the upcoming production model, which is expected to debut at the 2010 New York Auto Show. A cylinder-deactivation V6 engine will return and Honda claims improved fuel economy of 19-mpg city and 28-mpg highway, which should help the Odyssey maintain its segment-best fuel economy rating.

GALLERY: Honda Odyssey Concept

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 |  Jan 26 2010, 12:43 PM

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With Toyota having just released its new Sienna minivan, Honda is following close behind with a concept version of the next Odyssey minivan set to debut at the Chicago Auto Show next month. While Honda is keeping tight-lipped about the new model, it has said that the fourth-generation Odyssey, “will further enhance its hallmark qualities of innovation, quality, safety and fun-to-drive character, while increasing its overall efficiency.”

AutoGuide will be sure to bring you all the new details on the Odyssey Concept with live coverage of the Chicago Auto Show starting February 10th. We expect that the final production model won’t change much from the concept.

For complete 2010 Chicago Auto Show coverage click here

Official release after the jump:

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