For 2019, Honda has expanded its crossover utility lineup — and has brought back a long-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 6-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 foot-pounds 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.
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.
Five people can ride in comfort in the Passport, although the rear middle position can be a bit tight for adults.