This new Honda is a 2020 SUV of the Year contender
- Huge, useful interior package
- Great value
- Five-star safety rating
- Ho-hum exterior design
- Solid, unremarkable driving dynamics
- Competitive set more stylish
If the Honda Pilot is a pair of blue jeans, the new Honda Passport is jean shorts, a cut-down but instantly familiar variant of the tried and true. Both vehicles use the same basic platform, so they have the same width and wheelbase, but the Passport is 6 inches shorter overall and thus has two rows of seats to the Pilot’s three. Like jorts, the Passport is comfortable, affordable, practical, and great for both gardening runs and trips to the mall.
Honda builds the Passport in its Lincoln, Alabama, manufacturing plant, the company’s “largest light truck production facility in the world” and “the sole manufacturer of the Passport sport utility vehicle, Odyssey minivan, Pilot sport utility vehicle, Ridgeline pickup truck, and the V-6 engines that power them.”
Which means all of the aforementioned vehicles, including the Passport, share the same 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V-6 engine, albeit in slightly different states of tune. In the Passport, the V-6 is good for 280 hp and 262-lb-ft of torque, which delivered a 0–60 time of 6.6 harmonious seconds for our Elite AWD test vehicle.
“The engine emits a lovely melody with smooth and satisfying shifts from the nine-speed,” Detroit editor Alisa Priddle said, commending the Passport’s sole transmission option. Features editor Scott Evans took it even further. “Honda has finally sorted out this nine-speed automatic,” he said. “All the sloppiness and clunkiness have been purged.” Other editors wouldn’t go that far but generally agreed that the transmission is better in the Passport than other applications.
Where the Passport unquestionably shines is in packaging. Honda claims it has class-leading passenger room and interior volume (100.7 cubic feet behind the first row), and it certainly looks that way when you get inside. “The second row is huge and has its own air-conditioning controls, two USB ports, and a two-prong AC outlet,” executive editor Mark Rechtin said. “The fold-flat second-row seat means that if you’re doing a long solo road trip, you can pull into a rest stop and take a nap in the back, even if you’re 6 feet tall.”
Aside from losing half a foot in overall length to the Pilot, the Passport stands a full 1.6 inches taller—when equipped with all-wheel drive, the standard 20-inch wheels, and (in higher trims) roof rails that sit higher than the ones on the Pilot. These tweaks help visually separate the Passport from the Pilot, but not particularly to great effect.
“Bland” and “lacking emotional appeal” were how a couple of SUVOTY judges described the Passport’s styling, noting bolder players in the competitive set. Guest judge Tom Gale was not particularly fond of it, either, commenting that the 20-inch wheels still looked too small on the lifted, “over-bodied” vehicle.
These same judges also don’t care to be seen in jorts. Still, they couldn’t deny the capability afforded by all-wheel drive plus increased ground clearance. “The Passport is more than capable on our off-road course,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. “It has tidy dimensions for a front-drive-based CUV, plus the suspension lift really helped.” Rechtin, meanwhile, noted that the Passport “handles rough pavement imperfections and undulations with aplomb.”
The Passport starts at $33,085 USD for a Sport front-drive model and tops out at $44,775 USD for the full-tilt Elite AWD.
Honda’s suite of standard features includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and auto-dimming high-beams, which helps deliver a 5-Star safety rating by the NHTSA. Add in three-zone climate control (driver, front passenger, second row), heated and ventilated seats, Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging, and onboard Wi-Fi, and the Passport presents a safe and solid value. “Packaging and value are high on the list,” said MotorTrend en Español managing editor Miguel Cortina, a noted jorts aficionado. “The amount of space and equipment that one gets for the money is pretty good.”
|2019 Honda Passport Elite|
|Base Price/As Tested||$44,775/$44,775|
|Power (SAE net)||280 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque (SAE net)||262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm|
|Accel, 0-60 mph||6.6 sec|
|Quarter Mile||15.1 sec @ 89.2 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||135 ft|
|Lateral Acceleration||0.78 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||28.1 sec @ 0.64 g (avg)|
|EPA City/Hwy/Comb||19/24/21 mpg|