The 2019 Honda Passport is powered by a 3.5-litre V-6 engine, mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, that delivers a smooth ride with plenty of power on tap.
It is perhaps testament to how hard it can be — and how disastrous some efforts are — to come up with new vehicle names that carmakers are resurrecting names that aren’t necessarily taken from stellar examples from the past.
Chrysler, for reasons unknown, dredged up the name Pacifica for its new minivan. It’s unfortunate, since the new van is exceptional, while the original Pacifica was not.
At the other end of the spectrum, Ford is unlikely to reuse the name Edsel, except in reference to the founder’s only son, and Cadillac doesn’t currently have plans to introduce a new Cimarron.
So it was with a bit of curiosity we found out Honda was introducing the Passport. As with Pacifica, the latest Passport is a fine vehicle, not at all reminiscent of the rebadged Isuzu that was the original Passport.
The Passport is a crossover that slides into a curious position in the Honda lineup: it’s a bit smaller than the three-row Pilot but also a bit more expensive, starting at $41,990 to the Pilot’s base price of $41,290.
There are a few things about Passport I quite liked and a few things I didn’t.
First, even though the numbers say the cargo volume is less than Pilot’s, it’s hard to not be impressed by the amount of floor space in the cargo area. Honda has pushed the interior trim pieces as far out as possible, such that it’s a bit of a surprise how much room is inside relative to what you think when looking at it from the outside.
Powered by Honda’s 3.5-litre single-overhead cam V-6 engine — found in everything from Odyssey to Pilot to Ridgeline — and mated to a nine-speed automatic, the powertrain is very smooth, a welcome change from four-cylinder powertrains found in some competitors’ models. That smoothness comes at a price, however: the fuel economy averaged 12.8 litres per 100 kilometres during my week.
(Oh, how times have changed! A decade ago, a crossover that ONLY burned 12.8 litres for every 100 kilometres was a breakthrough...)
That it does not have a continuously variable transmission is another bonus. It is perhaps here where the explanation for Passport’s higher base price than Pilot finds an explanation: the base Passport Sport gets the nine-speed auto while the base Pilot LX gets a six-speed. Most of the other features are similar between the two vehicles.
A comfortable ride, excellent handling and a nicely functional interior layout and dash round out the items worthy of praise. Gone is the sometimes-confusing dual-screen layout and joystick-operated infotainment system and in its place is a touchscreen display. It suffers the same malady as most touchscreens, requiring intent concentration to avoid hitting the wrong function, but is otherwise intuitive to use and attractive to look at. Honda’s current strategy of using an actual volume control knob is still appreciated.
Passport will never be mistaken for an Accord the way Odyssey might be, but despite its added height, which adds to approach and departure angles, it does handle well. It does feel a bit trucky to a passenger, but that sense disappears when you are behind the wheel.
Another feature that’s appreciated is the overall design. It’s still bold, but the front facade is hardly as overwrought as, say, Civic or Accord. A large H logo in a black grille bracketed by LED headlights and flying-dart LED daytime running lights is techy enough to be interesting, subtle enough to be classy.
There’s a high level of standard equipment on the base model Passport Sport, as well: heated seats, heated steering wheel, remote engine starter, and powered sunroof among them. The heated steering wheel is another feature the Passport Sport has that the Pilot LX doesn’t.
My main complaint about the Passport is its lane-departure warning system.
It really gets your attention when you veer, perhaps a bit too much. The warning in the Passport isn’t a chime, a vibrating seat or even a vibrating steering wheel. Instead, it’s a full-on jiggle of the steering wheel. This, arguably, isn’t Honda’s finest work: it’s really disconcerting.
The Passport, despite a name that recalls a much lesser vehicle, quickly became my favourite Honda crossover. It doesn’t have the continuously variable transmission the CR-V has, it has plenty of interior space for occupants and their stuff and its slightly shorter length makes it a bit easier for city driving.
If you don’t need the three rows of the Pilot, the Passport might just be your ticket.
The 2019 Passport’s interior is loaded with technology, including a touchscreen display.