2019 Honda Passport – Overall rating 4.1/5
As the popularity of crossovers and SUVs continues to grow, car companies are expanding their lineups to keep up with demand. Honda’s latest new model is the Passport: A mid-size, five-seat utility that fits between the compact CR-V and three-row Pilot. Honda also offers the subcompact HR-V utility, so the Passport brings the company’s SUV offerings to four.
Design and engineering
Honda builds the Passport on a shortened version of the Pilot’s platform, and the two share a number of styling cues, but the Pilot’s longer body looks more elegant than its taller-yet-smaller new sibling.
The Passport is powered by a 3.5L V6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission and comes standard with AWD.
Cylinder deactivation helps the Passport’s engine save fuel at cruising speeds. You have to pay really close attention to hear it at work, because Honda also uses active engine mounts to counteract vibration generated by the inactive cylinders.
Honda’s other fuel-saving trick is an engine idle-stop system that shuts the engine down at red lights.
Power and performance
I took my Passport Touring test vehicle for back-to-back drives with a friend’s 2019 Pilot in the same top-end Touring trim. With less weight to move around, the smaller Passport feels a little livelier in acceleration. What stood out more, though, was that the Passport is noisier in full-throttle acceleration than the Pilot, suggesting that the newer, smaller vehicle comes with less sound-deadening gear.
When Honda introduced its nine-speed transmission a few years ago, it generated complaints about rough shifting and searching for the right gear at cruising speeds. The company has evidently worked to eliminate those flaws: My Passport test car’s transmission shifted smoothly and found the correct gear for any situation.
If you enjoy getting places quickly, the Passport’s V6 will please with its high-revving nature. Push the engine to its redline and it generates a sports car-worthy soundtrack. In an auto industry full of samey-sounding turbo four-cylinders, this V6’s character is a nice treat.
Honda’s fuel consumption estimates for the Passport are 12.5/9.8 L/100 km (city/highway); my tester car averaged 12.5 dead-on in a week of city driving.
The Ford Edge and its 2.0L turbo engine promise more thrift with estimates of 11.4/8.3 L/100 km (city/highway) with AWD. Hyundai’s Santa Fez is also available with a 2.0L turbo and AWD, rated at 12.0/9.2 L/100 km.
Even the larger Pilot is a little more efficient than the Passport, at 12.5/9.8, probably because its longer, lower body is more aerodynamic.
Ride and handling
Beyond its smaller size and fewer seats, the Passport was conceived for a different audience than the Pilot. It has 20 mm more ground clearance for easier off-road driving, and its shorter front and rear overhangs make it better at scaling obstacles.
My comparison drive with the Pilot revealed the Passport also has a firmer suspension. That may appeal to drivers expecting a more rugged feel, but the stiff ride can get uncomfortable on damaged pavement.
Still, the Passport is a nice vehicle to drive, with its smaller size and lighter weight contributing to sharper handling.
Interior comfort and space
The Passport’s front seats are wide, supportive and comfortable. There’s more front-seat headroom than the Ford Edge — one of the most popular Passport competitors — which feels comparatively snug inside. Still, the Honda’s overall passenger volume is only a little better than the Edge’s.
Rear-seat legroom is actually more generous in the smaller Passport. The two Honda SUVs share the same wheelbase but the Passport’s second-row seats are placed further back in the car, since there’s no third row to worry about.
With the Passport’s rear seats in place, cargo volume is 1,430L, increasing to 2,854L with the rear seats folded. Both measurements outclass the Ford Edge and Hyundai Santa Fe, two of the best-selling vehicles in this class.
A digital speedometer and well-done infotainment display contrast with the Passport’s dated-looking climate controls. However, the latter are so easy to use that it’s difficult to fault Honda for not messing with a design that works.
Pricing and competition
Passport pricing starts at $41,990 in Sport trim. EX-L is $45,590 and my Touring tester carried an MSRP of $48,990.
Features exclusive to the Touring model are a 550-watt stereo, ventilated front seats, navigation, wireless smartphone charging, hands-free power tailgate and a blind spot monitor.
That builds on the mid-range EX-L’s leather seating and power tailgate. All Passport models come with passive keyless entry, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sunroof, 10-way power driver’s seat and fog lights. Standard safety tech includes forward-collision warning with automatic braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist and LED headlights with automatic high beams.
The Ford Edge, Chevrolet Blazer, Nissan Murano and Hyundai Santa Fe are notable Passport competitors. Honda presents its entry as a rugged option, but it’s easily outdone in that regard by the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Toyota 4Runner. The Murano angles for buyers with upscale intentions, while the Ford Edge drives a lot like a mid-size car.
This is Honda at its best. A strong V6 lends the Passport more character than is common in this class, while the roomy interior makes it practical and easy to live with. If you’re after a family vehicle with some personality, the Passport deserves your attention.
2019 Honda Passport Touring
- Vehicle category: Mid-size SUV/crossover
- Engine: 3.5L V6, 280 hp, 262 lb-ft torque
- Transmission: 9-speed automatic
- Notable standard features (base model; MSRP: $41,990): Passive keyless entry, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sunroof, 10-way power driver’s seat, fog lights.
- Notable options (Touring trim, as tested; MSRP: $48,990): Ventilated front seats, navigation, wireless smartphone charging, hands-free power tailgate, blind spot monitor, leather seating.
- Fuel economy, ratings (l/100km, city/highway): 12.5/9.8
- Fuel economy, observed (l/100km): 12.5