For 2019, Honda has expanded its crossover utility lineup – and has brought back along-retired model name – with the introduction of the all-new, five-passenger midsize Passport, which slots between the compact CR-V and the larger three-row Pilot.
Some of you might recall that Honda sold its first midsize, five-passenger Passport sport-utility vehicle beginning with model year 1994 and ending with the 2002 model just as the Pilot was introduced.
What you might not remember (and I’ve had some previous Passport owners argue with me about this) is that the original Honda Passport was just a rebadged version of the Isuzu Rodeo, and was assembled at the then Subaru-Isuzu Automotive plant in Lafayette, Indiana.
The Passport was one of two Isuzu SUVs that American Honda Motor Co. sold as rebadged models in the U.S. market in those early days of sport utilities before Honda began making its own.
The other one was the Acura SLX, which was an Isuzu Trooper underneath its Acura badging. Acura is Honda’s luxury brand, and the SLX was replaced in 2002 by the Acura MDX, which is based on the architecture of the Pilot.
With the reintroduction of the Passport, we get a contemporary crossover utility vehicle that essentially is a six-inch-shorter version of the Pilot, without the third-row seat.
Beyond that difference, there are many similarities, including the standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine from the Pilot and Ridgeline, which is Honda’s Pilot-based midsize pickup.
This engine produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque in all three of these vehicles, and is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission in all three, as well. Automatic stop-start is included to help save gasoline while stopping at traffic signals and during stop-and-go traffic conditions.
There are four trim levels for the Passport, beginning with the Sport ($31,990, plus$1,095 freight), followed by the EX-L ($36,410), Touring ($39,280) and Elite ($43,680). Front-wheel drive is standard on all but the Elite, which comes only with all-wheel drive. All-wheel drive may be added to the first three trims for an additional $1,900 each.
All trims have leather interiors except for the base (Sport) model. EX-L models come with heated front seats; Touring models have heated front and rear seats; and Elite models come with perforated-leather heated and ventilated front and heated rear seats.
Our test vehicle for this report was the Passport Elite model, which included the all-wheel drive. No options were available, as is Honda’s usual practice – different trim levels include specific extras as each level dictates.
Standard on all Passports is the Honda Sensing advanced safety and driver-assistance technologies, along with a Multi-Angle Rearview Camera system. EX-L, Touring and Elite models also get a blind-spot information system.
Sport models have 20-inch alloy wheels with 245/50R20 tires; LED low-beam headlights, fog lights, taillights and daytime running lights; keyless entry with push button start; two USB ports, and three-zone automatic climate control.
Besides leather seats/steering wheel and heated front seats, the EX-L gets a one-touch tilt/slide moon roof, remote-operated power liftgate, blind spot information system, and an eight-inch Display Audio system with seven speakers, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. It also comes with rear sunshades, eight-way power driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support, heated outside mirrors, universal garage/gate opener, and two additional USB charging ports.
Moving up to the Touring model brings low-and high-beam LED headlights, wider265/45R20 tires, a foot-activated hands-free access power liftgate, LED ambient lighting, parking sensors, navigation, premium audio with 10 speakers, a 115-volt power outlet, power/folding outside mirrors with turn signals, acoustic glass on the front and rear doors, and unique 20-inch alloy wheels.
Other than the standard all-wheel drive and ventilated front seat, Elite models have auto-dimming side mirrors, a heated steering wheel, rain sensing wipers, wireless phone charger, and gloss black exterior trim and liftgate spoiler.
The exterior features a sporty black grille and a more-rugged appearance than that of the minivan-like Pilot, making the Passport look more like an off-road vehicle such as a Nissan Xterra. Sport and Elite models include black wheels along with the black grille and bumper.
Passport even has 8.1 inches of ground clearance on all-wheel-drive versions, making it suitable for light off-road driving such as on well-maintained unpaved park roads. That’s about an inch higher than the Pilot. Passport has the same 111-inch wheelbase as the Pilot.
Serious off-roading is limited because the intelligent torque-vectoring AWD system does not include low-range gearing for steep trails and deep mud/sand. It does come with Intelligent Traction Management with driver-selectable Snow, Mud and Sand modes.
Five people can ride in comfort in the Passport, although the rear middle position can be a bit tight for adults. The ride is surprisingly quiet even at highway speeds.
With no third-row seat, there is a respectable 41.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, which can be expanded to nearly 78 square feet with the rear seatback folded down. The seatback folds at the touch of a button.
There is an under-floor hidden cargo area of 2.5 cubic feet perfect for dirty items or keeping valuables out of sight. It’s near the rear bumper under a removable section of floor. There is also a spare tire under the cargo floor.
The Passport shares much of its body and chassis with the Pilot and Ridgeline, including Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering body structure, designed to help protect occupants and pedestrians during crashes.
One of the hallmarks of Honda SUVs and minivans is the abundance of storage spaces inside the passenger compartment, and the Passport is no exception. Front occupants had convenient spaces for phones and gadgets. A roomy center console box had a sliding cover that gave it easy access, much better than typical console boxes with lids that have to be raised.
Our Elite model had a wireless charging pad ahead of the console box that worked for our iPhones and Samsung Android phones.
The instrument panel features a seven-inch color display providing various vehicle and driving information, including speed and engine RPM, audio information, trip computer, phone information, and turn-by-turn route guidance on models with navigation. The screen can be accessed through steering-wheel-mounted controls.
Our Passport included AT&T 4G LTE wireless internet inside the vehicle, including a 90-day free trial.
The front-wheel-drive Passport can tow trailers weighing up to 3,500 pounds, while all-wheel-drive models can handle 5,000 pounds. The Multi-Angle Rearview Camera gives the driver a view of the hitch and trailer connector to aid in hooking them up.
Honda Sensing, standard on all Passports, includes Forward Collision Warning, the Collision Mitigation Braking System, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assistance System, Road Departure Mitigation and Adaptive Cruise Control.
The 3.5-liter engine provided plenty of power for all situations, including mountain grades and uphill freeway on-ramps. We didn’t try towing trailers, but did have three or four adults on board much of our time in the Passport, and never felt it lacked sufficient power.
EPA ratings for front-drive Passport models are 20 miles per gallon city/25 highway/22 combined. For all-wheel-drive versions, the ratings are 19/24/21. During our test week, we averaged 22.6 miles per gallon, with a mix of about two-thirds highway and the rest city driving, with our all-wheel-drive tester.
Among standard safety features are four-channel, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist and hill-start assist; electronic stability control with traction control; dual-stage, multiple-threshold front air bags; driver and front-passenger side air bags; side-curtain air bags for all four outboard seating positions; and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System with real-time display of individual tire pressures.
The Passport is assembled at the Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama.
Total sticker price for our 2019 Honda Passport Elite was $44,775, including freight but no option.
2019 Honda Passport
The package: Midsize, front- or all-wheel-drive, five-door, five-passenger, V-6 powered, crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: This is Honda’s newest crossover, which fits in its lineup between the compact CR-V and larger Pilot. It is relatively roomy and comfortable, has plenty of power, and has loads of standard and optional features.
Negatives: Limited middle-passenger space in the back seat.
Overall length: 190.5 inches.
Curb weight range: 3,959-4,237 pounds.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6.
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 280 HP/262 pound-feet.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Cargo volume: 41.2 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 77.5 to 77.9 cubic feet (rear seat folded, varies by trim level).
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds (2WD); 5,000 pounds (AWD).
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; roof-mounted side-curtain both rows.
EPA fuel economy: 20 miles per gallon city/25 highway/22combined (2WD); 19/24/21 (AWD).
Fuel capacity/type: 19.5 gallons/unleaded regular.
Main competitors: Chevrolet Blazer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Nissan Murano.
Base price range: $31,990-$43,680, plus $1,095 freight.
Price as tested: $44,775, including freight (Elite model, includes all-wheel drive, no options).
On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).