Test Drive: 2019 Honda Passport Touring

The all-new 2019 Honda Passport= was cooked up to fill the size gap between the CR-V and Pilot in Honda’s model line – and hopefully, to keep shoppers in their showrooms, if they found the CR-V a little too small, and the Pilot a little too big.

You’re unlikely to find another crossover in this universe that makes such handy use of its on-board space.

The resulting machine ticks many boxes of importance to the crossover shopper, and flaunts all of Honda’s well-known crossover traits. Those after handy and flexible storage, space to spare, and good outward visibility will likely find it a compelling choice in a crowded marketplace.

Styling: 7/10

Passport incorporates a unique selection of modern styling elements, as well as trademark Honda utility vehicle visuals, to create a fresh but familiar look.

A distinctive face and prominent grille nod towards the CR-V, HR-V, and Pilot; and my tester’s gloss-black wheels came surrounded by a thin strip of cladding to help convey some ruggedness, while visually anchoring the entire package to the road. The side profile uses some deep sculpting and swoopy character lines to add drama and complexity, and the overall look is rugged, capable and sporty.

Note the tall windows and wide tailgate glass. These work towards enhanced outward visibility.

On-board, styling is a mixed bag. Many controls, stalks, switches, and interfaces come from pre-existing Honda models, some dating back several years. On one hand, shoppers moving into a new Passport from a few-year-old Honda will feel right at home with the controls – both in terms of their appearance, and location. On the other hand, shoppers in this segment may be expecting more excitement and visual interest in the interior design of their crossover.

Though my top-line Passport Touring tester managed a formal and tidy look to its cockpit, it did leave me wishing for some more colour and energy.

Safety: 9/10

With the latest and greatest Honda safety tech included, the Passport Touring should leave drivers feeling well supported for safe and confident motoring. A full suite of outward-looking safety features is fitted, including adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, lane-departure alert, and more. Should an accident prove inevitable, the HondaLink system can autonomously call for help, even if the driver can’t.

Other systems, including the Intelligent Traction Management System and Hill Start Assist, dial up the confidence in an off-road setting, while solid braking performance and strong headlights, complete with automatic high-beams, help round out the package.

Steering-wheel mounted controls and voice-command capability help drivers stay focussed on the road ahead, and the back-up camera boasts both a wide viewing angle and good image resolution – enhancing safety while manoeuvring in tight quarters, or backing up.

Note that, unlike other Honda models, the Lane Watch camera system is not included.

Practicality: 9/10

As crossovers tend to be, Passport is big on practicality.

First, it’s easy to board and exit. Doors swing wide open, and the doorways themselves are generously sized. Entry and exit for average-sized adults involves little more than a lateral butt-slide, no hopping up or jumping down.

My tester included accessory running boards, intended partly to help ease entry and exit for smaller passengers. I’m not a small passenger, and I found the running boards made entry and exit a touch more awkward. If you’re considering running boards, ask a sales representative to see a model with them installed first – and confirm that they’ll be useful, not awkward, for your family to use.

The cargo hold is flat, wide, largely square in shape, and generously sized. Beneath the floor, additional storage bins are available, alongside a spare tire. The power tailgate adds convenience, though the load-in height is on the tall side, which may prevent smaller four-legged passengers from safely jumping in and out of the back.

I noted a generous sense of space surrounding each seat, and rear seats recline, fold, and slide with ease to variously prioritize legroom, cargo space, and the like. With four adults on board for a camping trip, you’ve got space galore for people and things. Even taller, wider, or heavier occupants should have no issue with space.

Fans of organized storage may gravitate towards the Passport for its cornucopia of cubbies, compartments and bins. Rear doors have two cupholders apiece. Front door panels provide no fewer than five individual storage compartments. The centre console is massive, and includes a sliding drawer. There’s even a perfect notch in the centre stack for your wallet, phone, or other smaller items. Proper cupholders are installed, exactly where they belong, too. Also, there are high-output charging ports literally everywhere.

Simply, virtually every square inch of the Passport’s interior that could contain a storage bin or power outlet, does. Even the biggest pack-rats among us will find a place to keep everything organized and tidy. You’re unlikely to find another crossover in this universe that makes such handy use of its on-board space.

User Friendliness: 8/10

The central command interface has been updated (at long last), and now operates via a bright and vivid touchscreen that includes navigation capability as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Hundreds of functions are controlled via this system – which is neither the segment’s best or worst. It’s easily learned, though your writer did encounter some initial frustration relating to several functions buried beneath sub-menus, or a few that require a few too many button taps. Most of us will have this system down to a science in a few days.

Setting Passport’s cabin up to the task at hand is easy, too. My tester got power-folding rear seats, complete with smooth-as-glass, low-effort sliding and reclining mechanisms. Power seat controls up front make for easy adjustability. Even shifting gears is low-effort, thanks to the push-button shifter.

Safety systems are supported by good on-screen infographics that put their current status on display, and most are easily toggled on and off by the driver who want to try them out at their own pace.

Finally, other than a single button used to toggle various terrain-specific operational modes, the intelligent AWD system requires none of your attention, ever.

By and large, none of Passports features, interfaces, or systems will cause you much stress after a day or two of use.

Features: 8/10

Feature content seems to nicely support my tester’s $50,000 asking price. In addition to offering little less than the market’s latest safety equipment, the Passport Touring provides a big-power stereo, powerful automatic lights, climate-controlled seats, auto high-beams, automatic climate control, wireless smartphone charging, remote start, and more.

Some shoppers may, however, wish for a larger sunroof. The Passport’s sunroof is much smaller than the panoramic units offered by numerous competitors at or below this price point.

Power: 7/10

Passport is offered with a single driveline. It consists of a 3.5-litre V6 engine (280 horsepower), nine-speed automatic transmission, and Honda’s i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system.

The automatic transmission generally operates with invisible smoothness. It keeps revs down on the highway, provides small shifts that are usually undetectable, and enhances both performance and fuel efficiency in the process. Mostly, you’ll never really notice the transmission doing much of anything.

The Passport’s V6 lacks the low-end grunt available from some turbocharged competitors, and no up-level engine is available. For most drivers, in most conditions, the 3.5-litre V6 will prove just fine: driven gently, it’s quiet and smooth and does little to draw your attention.

Throttle response is generally sludgy. For the relaxed driver who isn’t often in a rush, this makes for a smoother and more fuel-efficient drive. Sportier drivers will want to disable the fuel-saving Econ mode, and engage the transmission’s Sport setting for a more pleasing throttle response.

As Honda engines tend to, this one works nicely when it’s spinning fast, and sounds lovely in the process – especially when the VTEC system engages to open up some additional engine breathing. This results in a pleasing, high-RPM snarl that calls a sports car to mind. If your teenagers hear it, they’ll probably ask if VTEC just kicked in, which would basically be the case.

All said, this is a good all-around performer for most, but sportier drivers will find the need to use lots of pedal, and plenty of revs, for the quickest passing and merging.

Comfort: 7/10

With space galore, highly adjustable seats (including height-adjustable armrests!) and a better-than-average outward view in all directions, the Passport sets its driver up nicely for laidback and relaxing travels. I noted no issues with wind noise at highway speeds, and little need to raise my voice to converse with nearby passengers.

The ride sits near the middle of the soft versus sporty spectrum, probably a touch closer to the latter. On the highway, it’s soft but not squishy, and just firm and sporty enough to make things seem more responsive, flat, and car-like. Note that rough surfaces may diminish ride quality more than some shoppers will like.

Rougher in-town roads can coax additional noise and harshness from beneath the Passport, and certain off-road surfaces (gravel washboards, rocky trails) dial this up even further, and often resulted in a slight knocking or clicking sensation transmitted to the driver’s fingertips through the steering.

The Passport does its most comfortable work on the highway and on smooth roads. Shoppers after higher levels of off-road ride comfort have better options, like the Jeep Grand Cherokee or Toyota 4Runner.

Driving Feel: 9/10

Driven as most will drive their Passport, most of the time, the driving feel largely hits the mark.

Steering is unremarkable for its action or feel, though it does lighten to ease manoeuvrability at lower speeds, while firming up at higher speeds to enhance its connection with the driver’s intended course.

Braking is a similar story: pedal feel and action are about average for the segment, though stopping power is delivered eagerly, abundantly, and generally without drama.

Even up to highway speeds and beyond, Passport feels stable and planted, too. There’s no sense of tippiness, which is a concern for some first-time crossover drivers. Mostly, it’s an easy and car-like drive. Imagine being in a bigger, taller Honda Accord, and you’re in the ballpark.

Fuel Economy: 8/10

With various fuel-saving technologies deployed throughout the driveline, shoppers can expect respectable fuel efficiency, as vehicles like the Honda Passport go. Low cruising revs and the i-VTEC system help mitigate excessive fuel use, and combined fuel economy is rated at 11.3 L/100 km – though your results will likely vary.

Value: 8/10

Though better options exist for off-road ride quality and interior styling, Passport excels at delivering core Honda utility vehicle traits – including that all-important maximization of its on-board space. The largest return on investment in a Honda Passport will likely come to shoppers who have flexibility, versatility, and an abundance of storage and organizational provisions at or near the top of their wish list.

Be sure to cross-shop, as you’ve got plenty of great options for value in this segment – depending on what constitutes “value” for you. Some of my favourites include the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Nissan Murano.

Conclusion

Here’s a crossover with many strengths and few weaknesses. For most shoppers, it ticks virtually all of the right boxes, and especially when priorities include flexible storage, space, and utility galore – backed by easy-to-use features and a good on-road ride. Moreover, the Passport may be a no-brainer for a loyal Honda shopper, given that it so fully incorporates signature Honda crossover traits throughout.

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2019 Honda Passport Touring
Engine Displacement: 3.5L
Engine Cylinders: V6
Peak Horsepower: 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Peak Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Fuel Economy: 12.5/9.8/11.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 1,430 / 2,852L seats down
2019 Honda Passport Touring
Base Price $48,990
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,795
Price as Tested $52,094
Optional Equipment $1,209 – Die-cast Running Boards $1,209
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.0
7 Styling
7 Powertrain
9 Quality
7 Comfort
9 Practicality
9 Drivability
8 Usability/Ergonomics
8 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value