2019 Honda Passport Elite AWD Review

Resurrected at the right time


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Superb power, better looking than the Pilot, effortless highway cruiser, steering and handling contradict the segment.
Negatives: Still looks bulky, some cheap interior materials, no locking differentials.
Bottom Line: The new Passport is a top-notch mid-size crossover with ample space for five and enough grunt and driving chops to be fun. If you need a vehicle that can do off-road respectable and also be engaging and easy to drive on pavement, the Passport is a great buy.
There was a long hiatus between the first-generation Honda Passport and this one, to the tune of sixteen years. That's a long time to wait before resurrecting a nameplate, but the timing is right since crossovers are hot and the Passport is a solid name folks (mostly) remember. This time it's not a rebadged Isuzu. Instead it's a smaller vserion of the big three-row Pilot, and Honda wants to angle it more for outdoorsy activities like camping and mild off-roading. We drove it in top trim Elite AWD configuration for a week to see if the second coming really is worth the anticipation. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.3

 

We did quite a few miles in the Passport, and it proved an engaging crossover we didn't really expect. It's one of those vehicles that manages to overcome the segment's typical driving shortcomings, though it falls short of the sporty Mazda CX-5 and CX-9 but has more grunt. The Passport also ups the Pilot's ground clearance by one inch and shortens the departure angle, ideal for more rugged duties.

Ride Quality: Over bumps and gaps, the Passport manages its duties remarkably well. Not to mushy and not harsh, it can handle smooth pavement and rough roads equally well.

Acceleration: 0-60 in 5.8 seconds from the 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 and quick shifting nine-speed automatic transmission is at the top of the segment. Throttle response is very good.

Braking: The brakes are mostly good with progression and pedal feel. Get on them hard, though, and there's some noticeable nosedive and mushiness. Stopping distances are average for the segment.

Steering: The Passport has good, direct steering that's responsive. There is, however, a lack of feedback. We had no problem staying on-center at highway speeds for hundreds of miles of Indiana pavement.

Handling: There's some body roll, but the Passport does a good job of keeping its tall structure in check, and it manages to feel more nimble than competitors like the Nissan Murano and the Hyundai Santa Fe.

Technology

7.8

 

Honda's in-car tech won't win any awards, but it's better than past versions. The look and feel are about average for the segment, and it's now easier to operate with a physical power/volume knob for the audio instead of the horrendous slider on older Honda models. Also, HondaLink allows users to connect to the in-cabin Wi-Fi, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto are on tap for easier interface duties..

Infotainment System: The 8" touchscreen responds well to inputs and has vivid colors for easy viewing. The navigation system is also good and maps can be pinched and swiped with ease.

Controls: We like the large menu icons for the infotainment system, and the temp toggle switches are easy to use while driving. We absolutely hate the gearshift buttons, which are anything but intuitive. Give us a lever that's quicker and can be done by feel alone.

Styling

7.2

 

The Passport isn't nearly as bulky looking as the Pilot, but it still has the same tall silhouette which is more minivan in shape than crossover. The dark treatments help mitigate some of this and provide a more aggressive, less suburban look.

Front: The dark mesh grille and blackened lower fascia make the front end look smaller than it is and provide a nice dose of anger, as do the slim jewel-eye style headlights.

Rear: The back end of the Passport is probably the most boring angle since the small taillights lack imagination, and it basically looks exactly like the Pilot from the rear.

Profile: Here's where the Passport easily outdoes some of its competitors thanks to the black wheels and fender trim, as well as the simple creases in the body. The front overhang is a bit long, but it's within reason.

Cabin: In this color scheme, the dash and center stack are dark and could use some sprucing up The cross-pattern leather seats in grey look good, but the rest of the cabin lacks imagination.

Comfort

8.5

 

It's no Volvo XC60 in terms of cabin comfort, but the overall feel of the interior is pretty good. The build quality is solid, and there's ample space for five, too.

Front Seats: The front seats are big and comfortable, accommodating for occupants of all sizes. We wish the seat positioning wasn't so high, but it's not inordinately so. Bolstering is also on the conservative side, but there are nice adjustable armrests on the inward positions.

Rear Seats: The rear seats offer plenty of legroom and headroom, and they even slide and recline for ideal space configuration.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): It feels solid, and no errant noises were noticeable during our drive. It managed to provide a peaceful ride on the highway, but there was some minor tire noise.

Visibility: Visibility is very good all around with no huge pillars obstructing our view.

Climate: The tri-zone climate control system works very well, but the ventilated seats seemed to lack power.

Safety

7.8

 

The Passport does quite well in crash tests, but the more focused IIHS tests prove there are some minor demerits. It is, overall, a safe crossover with ample safety features that come standard at this trim level.

IIHS Rating: Other than an "acceptable" for the passenger small front overlap crash test, "poor" headlights and an "acceptable" LATCH system, the Passport scores "good" across all other crash tests.

NHTSA Rating: The Passport gets five stars in government crash tests.

Standard Tech: All Passports get the Honda Sensing suite of driver-assistance features, a bundle that includes adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning with lane-keep steering assist. There's also a multi-view rear camera that's very helpful in tight spots.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

9

 

The Passport really is right-sized when it comes to a small crossovers. Great front row storage options and a big cargo hold mean it's ready for the road, as well as adventures.

Storage Space: The Passport has a big sliding door compartment between the seats that's deep and long. The cupholders are also well-placed, and there's an open slot for smaller gear located in the center stack.

Cargo Room: With the rear seat in use, there's a big 41 cubic feet of storage and a whopping 78 cubic feet of room with the seats folded flat. It's at the top of its segment, compared to the 35.9/71.3 cubes in the Hyundai Santa Fe and the 29.9 and 63.9 in the Chevy Equinox.

Fuel Economy

8.2

 

The Passport's V6 is powerful, but the efficiency is still pretty good for a potent crossover that likes to be driven. We did a lot of miles in it for a press trip in Indiana, and it pulled off some solid numbers at the end, given we weren't driving conservatively during the week we had it.

Observed: 22.7 mpg

Distance Driven: 473 miles

Audio

8

 

Our tester came with Honda's premium audio system with 10 speakers, and it's a solid system with good clarity. It could use a bit more bass, but the system is great to listen to with zero distortion at high volumes.



Final Thoughts

The Passport surprised us, frankly. Though Hondas, in general, drive very well, this smaller Pilot sibling doesn't exhibit the size demerits its bigger brother does. The Passport is more nimble, quicker, and better looking than the Pilot, and it manages to be more able to tackle rougher duties. Though the interior won't blow anyone away, it's spacious and comfortable for families of five and doesn't scrimp on legroom or headroom. Combined with solid safety and good tech, the Passport ranks at the top of the heap when it comes to small crossovers that do well in virtually all areas. The Passport is a winner, for sure.

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