The Honda Passport is the Japanese brand’s latest niche-filler in the ever-hot crossover market.

Automotive trivia hotshots will point out this isn’t the first time the Passport name has found itself on the back of an H-badged crossover. From 1993 to 2002 Honda stuck its badge on the hearty Isuzu Rodeo for two Passport generations.

The new model, which debuted in 2019, follows the spirit of its forebears, with more of a focus on off-road ability than other Honda crossovers. No longer sitting on a truckish body-on-frame platform, the Passport instead shares its unibody setup with the Pilot. The Passport even gets the same wheelbase as its three-row big brother, but with a slightly shorter overall length and seating for five.

Like the Pilot, the Passport’s model structure is easy to grasp, with all trims using the family 3.5-liter V6. The engine is rated at 280 hp and 262 lb-ft, hitting the ground through Honda’s nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard on most trims: AWD is standard on the Elite trim, and optional on the rest of the line.

The Passport’s higher ride height and shorter length make it a slightly more frequent visitor to the pumps than the Pilot. Front-drive models score 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway (22 mpg combined). All-wheel drive versions drop every measurement by one. Thankfully the V6 drinks regular fuel, not premium.

Standard equipment on the Passport includes 20-inch wheels, push-button start and the Honda Sensing safety suite of driver aids. There’s plenty of space in and behind the seats too, thanks to that long Pilot-matching wheelbase.

The Passport is American-designed and built. It rolls off the same Lincoln, Alabama production line as the Pilot, Ridgeline, and Odyssey.

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Honda Passport fuel economy

2019 Honda Passport off road

The Honda Passport’s simplified lineup makes figuring out gas mileage a cinch. Have a front-drive model? Expect ratings of 20/25/22 mpg for city, highway, and combined, respectively. Prefer all-wheel drive? You’re looking at 19/24/21 mpg.

Like other Honda models which use the company 3.5-liter V6, the Passport happily accepts regular 87 octane gas.

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Honda Passport safety rating

2019 Honda Passport rear three quarters

It should come as no surprise that the Honda Passport scores highly in terms of safety. It shares its bones with the Pilot, which earned a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) in 2019. The Passport matches both of those ratings.

Helping achieve such a high result is the standard fitment of Honda Sensing across the lineup. This suite of safety assists includes forward collision warning, emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and adaptive cruise control (over 20mph).

Standard safety features for the 2020 Honda Pilot include Honda Sensing, a full suite of safety assists. This includes emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.

Honda Passport features

The Passport’s feature list is highly dependant on trim. The base Sport isn’t what we’d call spartan, featuring a two-mode traction system (driver-selectable regular and Snow settings), folding 60/40 rear seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, seven-speaker sound system and the afore-mentioned Honda Sensing driver aid suite. Every Passport features 20-inch wheels and automatic LED headlights too.

Plump for all-wheel drive and you’ll gain additional driving modes: snow, sand and mud. This comes with a bump in ride height too.

Every trim above the Sport comes with leather seats and steering wheel, a power liftgate, and an 8.0-inch infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Integrated sunshades for the second row keep things cool out back, with heated front seats on the EX-L upwards. The Touring trim adds heating to the second row, while the top-shelf Elite adds cooling on the front pair.

Other top-end features for the Touring and Elite include hotspot capabilities, courtesy door lights, 540-watt 10-speaker sound system, and wireless mobile charging (Elite only).

Honda Passport pricing

2019 Honda Passport dashboard

The base price of the 2020 Honda Passport Sport is $33,085, which includes $1,095 in delivery charges. That’s on the higher end of five-seater crossovers, though the Passport eschews weedy four-cylinder base engines, explaining some of the difference. On the other hand, all-wheel drive is a $1,900 option.

Go all out and you’re looking at $44,775 for the Elite trim. This includes all-wheel drive standard, and every optional feature from elsewhere in the lineup. The only additional options on the Elite are exterior cosmetic ones: different machine-finished wheels ($1,996) and various body add-ons (from $900 to $3,856).

Read More 2019 Honda Pilot Review

Honda Passport competitors

The Passport contends with a wide range of worthy two-row crossovers, namely the Subaru Outback, Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Sante Fe and Nissan Murano. It stickers within the range of the Ford, Jeep, and Nissan: the Outback and Sante Fe dip under the $30k barrier thanks to sub-200hp base engines.

Of the pack, the Outback is the mileage king, despite its standard all-wheel drive. Subaru has honed its boxer-and-CVT combo to the tune of 29 mpg combined, which is better than the rest can manage on highway alone.

It might be getting on a bit, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee is still a strong seller in the category. As the lone rear-drive option of the group, it offers an attractive blend of strong towing capability and a luxurious interior.

And in case you’d rather look within the Honda family, there’s two other options for you. Go a bit smaller—and more fuel efficient—with the evergreen five-seat CR-V, which gains a hybrid model for 2020. Need seven (or eight) seats? Look no further than the Honda Pilot, which shares its platform with the Passport.

Read More Honda Passport vs Pilot: Which Honda SUV Suits Your Lifestyle Better?

Honda Passport review

2019 Honda Passport Review

By Craig Cole | Jan 29, 2019

Utah is an improbable moonscape of impossible beauty.

Towering mesas and sheer-sided canyons dominate the southeastern part of this state, its sandy, rust-hued soil sprawling to the horizon in every direction. A seemingly unending variety of geographical variation makes this region a jewel of the American southwest, an area of exceptional scenic beauty that had me mumbling to myself, “How is this even a place?” more times than I care to remember.

The landscape around the town of Moab, in particular, is famous for its prominent rock formations and challenging off-road trails, features that make it ground zero for the annual Easter Jeep Safari, an event that calls the 4×4 faithful to worship like church bells on Sunday morning.

Passport to Fun

Home to some of the most challenging terrain and toughest trails around, this region of the U.S. is an unlikely place to evaluate a brand-new Honda, an automaker whose products are typically most at home on well-groomed asphalt, not wilderness two-tracks. But the brand’s 2019 Passport SUV emphasizes off-road capability like few Hondas before.

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Simplifying things, this revived nameplate is essentially a lifted and truncated version of the three-row Pilot, which itself is closely related to the Ridgeline pickup. All these light-trucks share common componentry with the Odyssey, a family-hauling minivan, but one with an enviably solid unibody foundation.

Compared to a Pilot, the Passport is about six inches shorter overall (15.7 cm), which means there’s no third-row seat even though the wheelbase remains identical at 111 inches (282 cm). Bolstering off-road performance, front-drive models are lifted by about half an inch (1.27 cm) while versions equipped with optional four-corner traction are elevated by 1.1 (2.8 cm). Additional improvements include enhanced approach, breakover and departure angles compared to the more on-road-focused Pilot. If you’re curious, they measure 21.4 degrees, 17.3 degrees and 27.2 degrees, respectively.

Wider wheels and tires, a more steeply raked back window and taller roof rails conspire to give the Passport a more menacing look than its street-going stablemate, as does the addition of various blacked-out exterior bits including the grille and wheel-arch trim.

ALSO SEE: 2019 Honda Pilot Review

White Space?

Honda is positioning Passport as a rival to lifestyle-focused crossovers like the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge. These vehicles emphasize on-road refinement and sporty design rather than off-road performance. But the automaker also fancies this SUV a competitor to the trail-rated Jeep Grand Cherokee and possibly even Toyota’s rugged body-on-frame 4Runner. This is an unusual niche in the marketplace, one we question even exists.

Despite the various enhancements it’s received, Passport is still no hardcore off-roader. Don’t expect it to outclimb a Wrangler on the Rubicon trail. Still, it’s more capable than you’d probably think for something with minivan underpinnings.

The Passport’s unibody structure is a paragon of rigidity. Pounding down rutted dirt trails at inadvisable speed, scampering up towering inclines and maneuvering over rocky outcroppings with one, or at times two wheels in the air elicited zero creaks, groans or rattles from the unwaveringly sturdy foundation. Reasonably challenging sections of Utah’s backcountry posed little threat to the Passport, though a lack of underbody skid-plates means you won’t want to tackle any truly gnarly trails in this vehicle.

Like practically every other modern Honda, the automaker is projecting segment-leading safety for the new Passport. This means a five-star score from NHTSA and at least a Top Safety Pick rating from IIHS.

When the Going Gets Tough

During the drive, Honda’s available Intelligent Variable Torque Management all-wheel-drive system (i-VTM4 in company lingo) provided extra traction in challenging situations, routing engine twist to the tires with grip. This ensured the Passport remained surefooted, even if one or more of the wheels was in the air.

Further enhancing its off-road capability, this all-wheel-drive system offers several different modes including Normal, Snow, Sand and Mud. Each setting changes the way torque is apportioned and how the powertrain responds to driver inputs, optimizing vehicle performance in various conditions.

This system can route up to 70 percent of the engine’s twist to just the rear axle and 100 percent of that to either the left or right wheel, a feat that’s beneficial both on road and off. Enabling this is an electronically controlled rear differential with hydraulic clutches, meaning the Passport doesn’t need to use the brakes to apportion torque, unlike less sophisticated systems on the market.

A familiar and supremely likable 3.5-liter V6 with direct fuel injection is the only engine offered here. It’s bolted to an improved nine-speed automatic transmission that’s should be smoother and more responsive than before.

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As for output, this powertrain delivers a class-competitive 280 horsepower with maximum torque clocking in a 262 pound-feet, enough to give the Passport peppy acceleration. Bury the accelerator and at 5,350 rpm the engine’s VTEC system switches over to the gnarly cam lobes for greater high-end performance and that celebrated Honda howl the firm’s powertrains are so well known for producing under load. This makes for an enthralling sprint to the 6,800-rpm redline.

Keeping things efficient, this V6 features cylinder deactivation that disables the rear bank of pots by holding the intake and exhaust valves closed, minimizing pumping losses. Active engine mounts eliminate unwanted noise and vibration when running on an odd number of cylinders, meaning all this technological wonderment is imperceptible to the driver.

In base form, the 2019 Honda Passport stickers at 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 25 on the highway. Combined, it should return 22 mpg. Opt for the available all-wheel-drive system and those figures drop by 1 mpg each (L/100 km: 12.5 city, 9.8 highway, 11.3 combined).

Admirable On-Road Performance

On pavement, the Passport feels comfortable and confident, with the engine delivering plenty of smooth power for more-than-adequate acceleration. Even though its steering ratio is about 10 percent quicker than the Pilot’s, it still on the syrupy side, with a certain dullness to the wheel. This is less an issue off-road than on, where speeds are generally lower, but a little more work could be done here.

Another small misstep is the transmission tuning. Mostly smooth and prompt, this gearbox is nonetheless Scrooge-like with downshifts. Nail the accelerator and in certain situations, and it flat-out refuses to drop. Fiddle with the paddle shifters and you can get it to do what you want.

When it comes to towing, the Passport is also unexpectedly capable. When properly equipped, front-wheel-drive models can handle up to 3,500 pounds (1,588 kg). Outmuscling certain rivals, versions equipped with all-wheel drive can drag 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg).

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Versatile in Other Ways

Further enhancing the Passport’s usefulness is a versatile interior and plenty of standard equipment. It should offer class-leading passenger and cargo room. Fold the second-row seats down and it offers up to 77.9 cubic feet (2,206 liters) of storage space; keep ‘em up and there’s still a more-than-respectable 41.2 cubes available (1,167 liters).

Additional storage space is found underneath the rear load floor. An extra 2.5 cubic feet (71 liters) of junk-swallowing room is nestled in the spare-tire well.

Offered in four trim levels, Sport, EX-L, Touring and Elite, the 2019 Honda Passport comes standard with a wide range of features. LED exterior lighting is offered at no extra cost, as are 20-inch wheels, push-button start with keyless entry, three-zone climate control and a standard five-inch screen. EX-L and higher models feature a Honda Display Audio system splashed across a crisp and colorful eight-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto baked right in.

But perhaps best of all, Honda Sensing is standard, the automaker’s suite of advanced driver aids. It includes useful features like collision-mitigation braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control and more.

The Verdict: 2019 Honda Pilot Review

The 2019 Passport delivers typical Honda virtues like a space-efficient interior, refined drivetrain and innovative features, all with an unexpected dash of ruggedness. It performed admirably on some of Utah’s challenging backcountry trails, better than one might expect given its unibody underpinnings.

About the only confusing aspect of this vehicle is its positioning in the marketplace. Is it more lifestyle-crossover or mudslinging off-roader? That’s a question prospective buyers have to answer as it’s both and neither at the same time.

What’s not so difficult to understand is pricing. A base Passport Sport can be had for $33,035. Go all in on an Elite-trim model and plan on spending $44,725. Both prices include $1,045 in delivery fees. Look for examples at dealerships as early as next week since production is already underway.

Discuss this story on our Honda Passport Forum

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Detailed Specs

Engine / 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower / 280 hp
Torque / 262 lb-ft
Transmission / 9-speed automatic
Drivetrain / Front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive
Seating capacity / Five
Cargo Capacity / 41.2 cubic feet/77.9 cubic feet
Towing Capacity / 3,500 lb (2WD) / 5,000 lb (AWD)

Our Final Verdict

For those wanting a dash of the old-school, off-road-ready SUV experience without sacrificing on-road comfort, the new Honda Passport stands out in the two-row crossover crowd. It isn’t the cheapest entry in the class, but it offers buyers a strong drivetrain and a wealth of safety features. Pair that with class-competitive fuel mileage, a handsome exterior and a rugged interior, and the Passport deserves a spot on any midsize crossover buyer’s short list.