• Car Review

Driven: 2019 Honda Passport

By David Undercoffler | January 29, 2019

Autolist rating: 4/5
But would we buy it? YES
Price range: $33,035 - $44,725, including destination but before options

Key takeaways

  • All-new five-passenger model for 2019 resurrects the Passport name from the 1990s.
  • Slots between Honda’s CR-V and the larger three-row Pilot; it’s largely based on the Pilot.
  • Offers an excellent powertrain, a functional and comfortable interior and great safety features.
  • Dreams of the trails but will excel in suburbia.
  • Fuel economy is subpar compared to its peers.

What is it?

2019 Honda Passport 009

The Passport is a new model from Honda for the 2019 model year. Yes, you may remember the Passport name from the Honda SUV that it sold here for nearly two decades in the 1990s and 2000s, but this is an altogether different model.

This new Passport is essentially the larger Honda Pilot with the Pilot’s third row of seats lopped off and a dose of extra ground clearance. The Passport is 6.2 inches shorter overall than the Pilot, it has 0.8 inches more of ground clearance and it seats five people. The Passport is larger and more expensive than Honda’s compact CR-V crossover.

The Passport is aimed at the more sporty, rugged-seeking buyer. It splits the difference between the more SUV-like Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner with on-road rivals like the Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, Chevy Blazer and Hyundai Santa Fe.

The Passport comes with a single powertrain that it shares with the higher-end trims of the Pilot. This includes a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, and a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive is standard on nearly all trim levels, while AWD is a $1,900 option.

There are four trim levels on the Passport: Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite (Elite is the one with standard AWD).

What’s good

TLDR: Both the powertrain and the interior are aces.
Great powertrain. 280 horsepower, 262 torque and a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic made for a great combination on the loaded Elite test model we drove (which has standard AWD). The Passport never wanted for power during acceleration and even the handling was predictable and responsive.

The Interior Part I: Functionality. Highlights include rear seats that slide fore and aft, recline AND fold flat with the cargo floor, one-button seat-folding features, hidden space underneath that cargo floor and ample room all over for heads, knees, gear and cargo. The Passport’s interior is a home-run in execution and packaging, something Honda has long excelled at.

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The Interior Part II: Comfort. A quiet cabin, a comfortable ride and a well-designed dashboard come together to give Passport buyers more than just the interior’s functionality to drool over. The touchscreen infotainment system is also excellent.

What’s bad

TLDR: Thirstier than rivals, top trim needs more luxe, better suited to on-road adventures.

Not an SUV. While Honda would like you to think that the Passport can go toe-to-toe with legendary off-roaders like Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and Toyota’s 4Runner, it’s not in the same league as those models. Marketing aside, this is a crossover -- not an ultra-rugged SUV. The good news? That’s fine for 99% of the Passport buyers considering that they’ll never take it off-road in the first place.

Not luxury. Though the loaded Passport Elite trim sells for $43,680 -- a near-luxury sum -- the inside lacks the high-end indulgence you might see on rivals with the same price tag. Things like wood trim, chrome trim (inside or out), a panoramic moonroof, higher-grade leather seats. This is a minor complaint since most buyers won’t even opt for the Elite trim (the EX-L will be the big seller) but it’d be nice to see what Honda could do in the near-luxury space.

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Gas hungry. Both the front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions of the Passport don’t offer great fuel economy relative to most of its peers. This was a disappointment coming from a brand like Honda, one that knows its way around a fuel-efficient engine.

5 stars of execution

2019 Honda Passport 012

Safety Features? YES

  • All Passport models come standard with Honda Sensing, a suite of active safety technologies.
  • This includes pre-collision warning and braking, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning with road-departure mitigation and adaptive cruise control.
  • While NHTSA and IIHS haven’t crash-tested the Passport yet, Honda says it is confident that it will get a Five-Star rating from NHTSA and a Top Safety Pick Plus rating from IIHS (its highest rating).

Value? YES

  • The Passport packs a fair number of amenities into each of its four trim levels.
  • It’s not a screaming deal compared to its peers, but the mix of features each trim has standard is certainly competitive.
  • But it’s important to note that unlike the Chevy Blazer and Ford Edge, the Passport doesn’t offer a sub-$30,000 base model with a cheaper powertrain, for those bargain-hunting crossover shoppers.

Efficiency? NO

  • Front-wheel-drive Passports are rated at 20/25/22 MPG city/highway/combined while AWD models clock in at 19/24/21 MPG city/highway/combined.
  • Those AWD numbers are a little worse than the V6 Ford Edge AWD and definitely worse than Nissan’s Murano AWD (which also has a V6).

Driving experience? YES

  • While the Passport isn’t particularly fuel efficient, at least it’s fun to drive (for what it is).
  • The 280-horsepower V6 has more than enough power to be fun on on-ramps or green lights, while the steering and handling nicely balance crispness and comfort.
  • It’s also relatively capable off-road, with the AWD system’s variable drive modes (snow/sand/mud) proving themselves plenty useful when needed.
  • We couldn’t find any fault with the way the Passport drove and would look forward to driving it on a daily basis.

Execution? YES

  • With the Passport Honda did an excellent job creating a sporty, functional and comfortable crossover that will easily find a home between the smaller CR-V and the family-oriented three-row Pilot in Honda’s lineup.
  • Its flaws were few, namely paltry fuel economy and a dearth of luxury trappings on the high-end Elite trim.

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Total Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What’s it gonna cost me?

The base Passport Sport starts at $33,035, including destination.

It comes standard with front-wheel-drive, the aforementioned Honda Sensing active safety tech, 20-inch alloy wheels, the V-6 engine and nine-speed automatic transmission, LED headlights, fog lights and taillights, remote start, three-zone climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat, a and a six-speaker sound system.

The EX-L starts at $37,455 (including destination) and adds leather seats that are heated up front, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a sunroof, a power tailgate, blind-spot monitoring, power passenger seat, a touchscreen infotainment system, Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity and satellite and HD radio. This is the model we’d choose if we were buying a Passport.

The Touring model is next up, at $40,325, including destination. It comes with navigation, a hands-free power tailgate, parking sensors, LED headlights, roof rails, a 10-speaker audio system, power-folding mirrors and wider tires and wheels.

As mentioned, all-wheel-drive is another $1,900 for the three aforementioned models.

AWD comes standard on the top-end Elite trim, which starts at $44,725, including destination. This model also has ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless phone charger and rain-sensing wipers.

Also consider

The Passport is in a popular and growing segment of five-seat crossovers that are larger and more sophisticated than the compact models (like Honda’s CR-V) and smaller than the family three-row versions (Honda’s Pilot). Thus, competition is also heating up.

We would put the Passport at the top of the current crop of crossovers (say that three times fast) but you should also check out models like the Nissan Murano, Subaru Outback, Jeep Cherokee, and Hyundai Santa Fe.