The S-MX was based on the S-MX Concept model first exhibited at the 31st Tokyo Motor Show in 1995, and was similar in appearance to the larger Honda Stepwgn, shortened substantially in length and height. Whereas the Stepwgn had three rows of seating to accommodate eight passengers the smaller S-MX has two rows of seating for four or five passengers. In order to maximize space for passengers the S-MX uses a front bench seat and a column shifter for the four-speed automatic transmission (the only available transmission).
The S-MX was powered by a 2.0 L version of Honda's B-series engine featuring double overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder; it did not use Honda's VTEC system. Peak power output was 130 PS (96 kW) at 5,500 rpm and peak torque was 18.7 kg⋅m (183 N⋅m; 135 lb⋅ft) at 4,200 rpm. This engine was shared with the Honda CR-V and Honda Stepwagon compact crossover. Similar to the CR-V and Stepwagon, the S-MX was available with front-wheel-drive or optional four-wheel-drive. As part of a September 1999 facelift, the engine was upgraded to produce 140 PS (103 kW) and 19.0 kg⋅m (186 N⋅m; 137 lb⋅ft) at the same engine speeds.
As was customary of minivans of the time the S-MX features only one (conventional) rear door on the passenger (left) side of the vehicle. Ostensibly this feature was for the safety of passengers, to prevent them from stepping out into traffic.
All chassis codes start with RH1 for the Base model and Lowdown (Lowdown is also printed on the chassis plate). All 4WD models have chassis codes starting with RH2.
The S-MX went on sale on November 22, 1996, as the fourth product of 'Creative Mover' series, which were Honda's automobiles with the aim of 'Lifestyle Enhancing Vehicles' that expand the users' lifestyles with more fun and richness.
The vehicle was available in three different trims:
Base trim with front-wheel-drive
4WD, which featured four-wheel-drive, a 15 mm higher ride height and added gear selections for the transmission
Lowdown, which featured a 15 mm lower ride height compared to the base model, a front chin spoiler, a rear spoiler, side skirts and unique 3-spoke 15-inch wheels
Colors available: White, Black, Orange, Silver, Tahitian Green, Blue
Rear Spoiler (Lowdown only)
ABS Braking system
Orange Interior Seats, Speaker Grills, Air-Vents, Door Handles (Lowdown only)
Chrome Door Mirror Covers
Remote Central Locking
Parking Assistance Pole
Front Fog Lights
Electric Folding Mirrors
Rear Tinted Windows
Wood Effect Dashboard
The S-MX was slightly restyled in September 1999. Another minor change took place in December the following year. The late 2000 change also introduced a new trim, Custom Basic with a front bench seat. This new trim was lower-priced and eliminated several of the once-standard features such as a CD player, electric mirrors and tinted rear windows for privacy. Improvements were made to the styling with re-modeled headlights and front bumper.