Sometimes great success comes with minimal effort. Most cars and SUVs share their mechanical underpinnings with various other vehicles from within their brand, but they look so different that you'd have to be a car geek like us to know. The 2020 Honda Passport, on the other hand, is quite obviously a Honda Pilot with a pair of seats and a bunch of length removed, plus a new grille, big black wheels and extra ground clearance. Interior design? It's the same. Engine, transmission, general driving experience? Ditto.
On one hand, you could accuse Honda of laziness. On the other, you could look at the end result and see what is arguably the most competitive vehicle in Honda's midsize crossover family (the Ridgeline pickup is similarly chipped off the ol' Pilot block). The Passport's huge, spacious-efficient cabin is tops among midsize two-row crossovers. Its ride and handling are well-balanced for comfort and control. Feature content is generous and pricing is reasonable. For those looking for an SUV to take on family adventures, it's a terrific, well-rounded choice. That Honda sort of whipped it together doesn't really matter.
What's new for 2020?
After being introduced last year, the Passport receives no changes for 2020.
What's the interior and in-car technology like?
If you've seen the inside of a Honda Pilot, you'll be right at home in the Passport, as the first two rows are virtually identical. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Both share a common look that's clean and functional, but hardly as visually interesting as what you'd find in a Chevy Blazer or Hyundai Santa Fe. Material quality is very strong for this segment and everything is put together exceedingly well.
One difference with the Pilot is that every Passport comes with Honda's controversial push-button transmission selector (rather than just top trim levels). It's confusing at first to use, and then never as intuitive to use as a traditional shifter. It's different just to be different. On the plus side, there's no shortage of places to store your stuff. There are multiple door bins, two cupholders in each rear door, two areas to store a smartphone up front, and the giant center bin is big enough to hide a purse under its flat rolling cover. There are even more underneath the cargo floor.
Interior tech is less impressive. There is a lot of it standard, true, but the means in which it is controlled can frustrate. There are insufficient menu buttons, no tuning knob and/or direct tune function, and the process for going between Honda and Apple/Android interfaces is excessively annoying. Many of these issues were corrected for the vastly improved system in the Accord and Odyssey (even the Civic now has physical menu buttons), but the Pilot/Passport/Ridgeline family soldier on with ye olde interface. If there's a reason to ponder something other than the Passport, this would certainly be it.
How big is it?
For a midsize two-row crossover, the Passport provides an enormous, space-efficient interior. Nothing really comes close to its passenger and cargo space. The second row offers abundant head- and legroom, while also sliding considerably to bring kids closer to parents up front or free up cargo space. Need to fit a rear-facing child seat? No problem.
The cargo area is not only the biggest in the segment, but arguably the most versatile as well. Besides expanding thanks to the sliding back seat, it also houses a large bin under the floor that can hide valuables or secure dirty items from the clean interior (it can also be removed to be cleaned). The cargo area itself is deep, wide, tall and offers 41.2 cubic feet of space — far more than anything else in the segment. The same can be said when the seats are lowered, with 77.9 cubic feet of maximum space. You'd have to step up to a longer three-row model like the Pilot to get more.
If you're wondering how the Passport's interior space compares to its competition, we have a robust comparison of specs and dimensions featuring the Passport, Chevy Blazer, Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, Hyundai Santa Fe and Jeep Grand Cherokee if you want to learn more.
What's the performance and fuel economy?
The Passport has only one engine and transmission offering: a 280-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 paired to a nine-speed automatic. This engine is strong, smooth and according to the 0-60 times posted by various publications, acceleration can be the strongest in the segment. Fuel economy ratings are typical: 20 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for the 2WD, and 19/24/21 for the AWD. Confirming the highway number, we achieved 24.8 mpg in 340 miles of mostly rural highway driving.
The Passport can tow up to 3,500 pounds, which is about average in the segment, although the Chevy Blazer with AWD can tow as much as 4,500 pounds.
What's it like to drive?
A lot like a Pilot! The springs are slightly stiffer, so the Passport doesn't bob and roll as much on the road as the more boatlike Honda Pilot. Its steering is also slightly sharper. Then again, it shows a reluctance to be hustled along a windy road, similar to its big sibling. Let's say that it's a decent compromise for a "sporty" crossover in this size that, despite being sportier-feeling than the Pilot, is still not a sporty vehicle overall. Think of it as a more comfortable, refined and spacious alternative to the rugged, outdoorsy Toyota 4Runner.
The only real wart is the nine-speed automatic transmission. Though improved from other iterations that always seem to be in the wrong gear or slow to engage the correct one, there are still moments of unusual behavior. There can be a little too much engine braking off throttle, for instance, as if you're in the wrong gear. The Sport mode also makes the transmission a bit silly in its aggressiveness — you can't use it around town without it herking and jerking you about. It also too-quickly overrides lower gears that have been manually selected by the included shift paddles. If the car is just going to take over, why include the paddles at all?
Where can I read more about the Honda Passport?
We test the highest Passport trim level, featuring all the bells and whistles possible. We also took it on a road trip to see how it handles the sort of family-oriented outdoor adventures it was apparently designed for.
The Passport is squarely aimed at folks in their 30s, with or without kids, who want to take their SUV on outdoorsy weekend adventures. So we did just that.
Our First Drive Review of the 2019 Honda Passport. We discuss why the Passport, which doesn't break much new ground or stand out in the segment in any objective way, may move the needle for Honda in the great crossover wars.
You can check out our extensive comparison of the Passport and its competitors. We extensively compared all the numbers and analyzed the results, so you can get a more in-depth understanding of how the Passport stacks up.
What features are available and what's the price?
Pricing for the 2020 Honda Passport starts at $33,085 for the base Sport trim with front-wheel drive (all prices include the $1,095 destination charge). All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option and brings with it a special Snow/Sand/Mud driving mode.
Standard equipment is above-average with 20-inch gloss-black wheels, the driver assistance tech listed in the safety section below, automatic LED headlights, LED fog lights, rear privacy glass, proximity entry and push-button start, tri-zone automatic climate control, a manually height-adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, two USB ports and a 7-speaker sound system with a traditional media interface with buttons and a display.
The step up to the EX-L is steep, but it adds so much popular equipment like a power liftgate, a sunroof, heated power front seats, leather, rear window sunshades, the 8-inch touchscreen interface, four USB ports and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, that we're guessing that most shoppers will end up choosing one. It would be a good call. We've extensively tested the range-topping Elite model and it's hard to ID many features we'd have to have.
A full breakdown of each trim and its features, specs and local pricing can be found here in Autoblog.
- Sport: $33,085
- EX-L: $37,505
- Touring: $40,375
- Elite (AWD only): $44,875
What are its safety equipment and crash ratings?
Honda has made its "Honda Sensing" suite of safety features standard on all trim levels of the Passport (and the Pilot, too). Included features are Collision Mitigation Braking System featuring Forward Collision Warning, Road Departure Mitigation including Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assistance System and Adaptive Cruise Control. Blind Spot Information System is only available on EX-L, Touring, and Elite trim levels, and the Rear Cross-Traffic detection system is only available on the Touring and Elite trims.
We strongly support the standardization of safety equipment and applaud Honda for not making buyers shell out for additional upscale content they don't necessarily need just to get the safety equipment. That said, they aren't the best-executed accident avoidance tech features. They are Honda's previous-generation systems, as opposed to the updated ones on CR-V and Accord. The lane-keeping assist and road departure mitigation are far too sensitive or prone to false alarms with loud warnings of BRAKE! in the instrument panel accompanied by beeping. This can occur when not crossing either lane line. The adaptive cruise control system is also one of the least sophisticated and potentially annoying examples on the market. We go into more detail about this in our review of the Passport Elite.
In government crash testing, the Passport received a five-star overall score. It got four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side protection. Its rollover score was four stars. It was named a Top Safety Pick in 2019 for its crashworthiness (all categories were "Good" accept for its "Acceptable" small overlap front side score), frontal crash prevention system and "Acceptable" headlight rating.