The new Honda Passport is designed to be rugged and family-friendly.

After 17 Years, the Honda Passport is Back to Prove Bigger Isn’t Always Better

-- by Jeffrey N. Ross

The Honda Passport has returned — and the reason has everything to do with size. Now, there was a period of years where automakers couldn't afford to overlook the lucrative three-row crossover segment. But since that market is now saturated with these vehicles, many customers are looking for something slightly smaller, more urban friendly, and lifestyle-oriented. So that's resulted in a boom for the modern two-row CUV/SUV.

Of course, vehicles like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner prove this segment has existed since the dawn of the SUV. And with newer entrants like the reborn Chevrolet Blazer, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, these vehicles continue to evolve. So to compete in this red-hot segment, Honda trimmed some length from the Pilot, added a more rugged appearance, and revived a nameplate last used in 2002.

That said, unlike first-generation Passports — which was a Isuzu Rodeo wearing a Honda badge — the latest version is a Honda through and through.

The Passport’s Modern Steel finish looks great with black wheels.

2019 Honda Passport Exterior

There are plenty of styling similarities between the 2019 Honda Passport and the Pilot, but Honda made sure to give this new Passport a distinct attitude. Most of the body work from the rear doors forward is shared between the two crossovers, but the Passport has a more rugged appearance with a larger, more squared-off grille, and unique front fascia.

In the most sincerest of compliments, the rear shot of the Passport gives a Subaru vibe — and that's just the kind of family-friendly ruggedness the Passport is going after.

The Passport's wheelbase is about a tenth of an inch shorter than the Pilot's, and its overall length has been trimmed by six inches to reduce the front and rear overhangs. Combine that with an additional 0.8 inches of ground clearance on AWD models, and you get approach and departure angles that are ready for any terrain. To provide for added customization, the Passport is available with various levels of the Adventure and Urban packages to take the styling up another notch, while the cool exterior colors like the dark green Black Forest Pearl or enticingly brown Black Copper Pearl add a more youthful presence.

Youthful or not, I thought my tester looked just fine in Modern Steel, as the finish perfectly complemented the blacked-out wheels, door mirrors, and front fascia.

The Passport’s cabin is virtually identical to the Pilot, but there’s an inch more rear legroom.

2019 Honda Passport Interior

With the exception of the third row — or lack thereof for the Passport — the interiors of the 2019 Honda Passport and the longer Honda Pilot are identical. Sitting at the top of the lineup, the 2019 Honda Passport Elite has an interior fit for an Acura, with standard features that include perforated leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a wireless smartphone charger. On the Elite and Touring trims, there's also navigation and a 10-speaker premium audio system.

Three-zone automatic climate control is standard across the board, while the eight-inch touch screen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration is standard on all but the base model. Unfortunately, the Passport's trim hierarchy doesn't allow the addition of optional features, like the two-panel panoramic sunroof or rear-seat entertainment system.

The two-row, five-passenger Passport layout offers almost identical passenger space as the front two rows of the Pilot, but the lack of a third row delivers an extra inch of back-seat legroom on Passport. When cargo space is more important, the rear rows easily fold flat providing 77.5 cubic-feet of cargo capacity on this trim level, and there's also a sizable storage compartment hidden under the cargo area load floor.

The Passport features a 3.5-liter V6 with 280 hp and 262 lb-ft. It's paired with a nine-speed transmission.

2019 Honda Passport Powertrain

Like its Pilot, Ridgeline and Odyssey platform mates, the 2019 Honda Passport is only offered with a 3.5-liter direct-injected V6. This engine produces 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, and it is paired to Honda's advanced nine-speed automatic transmission.

Unlike the Pilot, which only offers Idle-Stop on the top two trim levels, all versions of the Passport are equipped with this start-stop technology, and while all Passports are available with optional Intelligent Variable Torque Management AWD, the Elite trim level comes standard with this all-wheel drive system. Despite weighing almost 100 pounds less than a comparable Pilot, the Passport's EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway* are 2 mpg lower on the highway, which is likely attributed to the taller ride height and altered aerodynamics.

Whether you're looking to haul your family or just have a spacious, fuel-efficient vehicle for your active lifestyle, the new 2019 Honda Passport is a great choice. On the road, the ride is luxury-quiet and car-like smooth, but it also has the design to be a credible off-roader when needed. We had the chance to try out some moderate terrain, and at no point did the bumpers or undercarriage make contact with anything. And like the Pilot, the Passport Elite trim level has a max towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, so it'll be able to handle weekend toys like campers, boats, or jet skis.

Along with 77.5 cubic-feet of cargo capacity, the Passport also has a sizeable storage compartment under the floor.

2019 Honda Passport Safety

Looking at the safety ratings of the Pilot, it's not surprising that the 2019 Honda Passport received a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The new Passport boasts a lengthy list of standard safety features thanks to the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance technologies, including Collision Mitigation Braking System, Road Departure Mitigation System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keeping Assist System. The only safety feature not standard across the board is Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Monitor, which is not available on the base Passport Sport.

With a 5,000-pound towing capacity, the Passport Elite is ready for weekend toys like campers, boats, and jet skis.

2019 Honda Passport Overall

After a 17-year hiatus, the Honda Passport is back to prove that in the land of two-row mid-size CUVs, bigger isn't always better. Like the original Passport, the 2019 Honda Passport offers buyers a rugged, yet family-friendly vehicle. Despite being smaller than its three-row counterpart, the lifestyle-oriented Passport's starting price of $31,990** is about $500 more than the Pilot, but looking at the same comparison with this fully loaded Passport Elite (with an as-tested price of $44,725), it's actually almost $4,000 less than the comparable Pilot Elite.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Honda dealership and test drive the all-new 2019 Honda Passport today!

* Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.
** MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
Categories: Test Drive Review