By on May 9, 2019

2019 Honda Passport

There always seems to be room for one more at the SUV and crossover table, regardless of marque. Witness mighty Mercedes-Benz, a company filling every niche and crevasse in its lineup with an ever-expanding portfolio of high-riding wagons. When the late Alfred Sloan posited a vehicle for every purse and purpose, this is hardly what the man had in mind.

It is where we are, however, and automakers are only too glad to serve up an ever wider buffet of all-wheel drive options. Honda, for its part, has been surprisingly recalcitrant in the SUV onslaught, soldiering on for years with simply the CR-V and Pilot. It took a relative age for the HR-V to appear and, along the way, the offbeat Accord Crosstour came and went.

That “H” badge carries a lot of weight, so you knew Soichiro’s Dream was eventually going to produce a two-row SUV with off-road pretensions and a lot of familiar Honda feel. Given all this, one thing is certain: the 2019 Honda Passport is going find buyers. A lot of them.

Some shoppers will buy it simply because “it’s a Honda.” Those customers will not be disappointed because, from the B-pillar forward, the Passport has much in common with the other SUV and SUV-like machines with which it shares a showroom. Inside, the dashboard layout, arrangement of major controls – all of it, really – will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s set foot in a modern day SUV or minivan from the company.

2019 Honda Passport

It’s a safe bet on Honda’s part one which is likely to pay off. There are subtle differences to the Passport’s interior, ones which are carefully curated to give the impression that the Passport is a slightly more rugged than its brothers. The twin rocker switches controlling cabin temperature, for example, transmit a satisfying click when pressed and are covered in what feels like a hearty swath of rubber coating. A sliding cover for the centre console, one which conveniently retracts like a rolltop desk rather than rise upward like most covers do, slides back and forth like egesta through waterfowl. Armrests attached to the inboard edges of the driver and passenger seat present an extra degree of comfort and operate like those found on some pickup trucks. Generous door pockets stand ready to swallow water bottles and the wayward detritus of life.

Get the picture? Honda has subtly imbued the Passport with an air of “lifestyle readiness” not found in its Pilot brother. This carries through to the rig’s exterior, where the two-row rig bears a blackout front treatment and twin lights tucked in the lower corners of its front bumper. That latter feature works to give the Passport a more rugged appearance, as if your math teacher donned a pair of hiking boots and an L.L. Bean jacket. You know, underneath, he’s the same mild-mannered guy … but at least he looks ready for adventure.

2019 Honda Passport

Compared to the Pilot, this all-wheel drive Passport does indeed have an extra measure of off-road readiness, endowed as it is with 8.1 inches of ground clearance compared to 7.3 inches for the Pilot. Front-drive Passports have but 7.3 inches. All of these two-row Hondas are trimmed with cladding over their wheel arches in yet another bit of visual chicanery in terms of its actual height.

Thanks to fortuitous timing, this machine landed in my driveway just as a Ford Edge was departing. It is likely that some customers will cross-shop these two, so some comparison is apt. Despite what it may say on paper, the Passport has far more real-world rear-seat legroom than the Edge. Its front chairs are more comfortable, too, with longer cushions providing more leg support for those of us who are long of limb. The aforementioned seat-mounted armrest add a dose of individual comfort and smart storage touches appear throughout the cabin, making the most of interior space and cargo area. Behind its second-row of seats, this new crossover can carry 41.2 cubic feet of kit.

2019 Honda Passport

There are a few missteps. Wireless device charging only appears on top-rung trims, which is a total rip-off in a world where that technology shows up on a Toyota Corolla Hatchback. While the company has re-added a volume button to the infotainment system (thank you) it would still benefit from a dedicated tuning knob. And Honda needs to incorporate an electric parking brake in order to ditch the weirdly contoured and shin bashing pump-n-dump lever.

Honda Sensing safety technology is included on all Passports, endowing the vehicle with lane-keeping tools and adaptive cruise along with braking assists and forward collision warnings. Tri-zone climate control is standard in every trim as well.

2019 Honda Passport

2019 Honda Passport

A single engine option is offered in the form of a 24-valve 3.5-liter V6 producing 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, a mill which mercifully makes those numbers on regular gas. All versions come equipped with Honda’s dandy nine-speed automatic, marking a departure from its Pilot cousin in which that desirable ‘box only appears on the most expensive trims. In a week’s testing, we learned to ignore the green Econ button tucked to the left of the steering wheel, as it only served to neuter throttle response. Absent of that, the Passport was more than lively enough for its intended demographic. The all-wheel drive system worked invisibly on slick pavement.

Is Passport cannibalizing Pilot sales? At this point, it’s hard to say. Last month, the Pilot sold roughly the same number of copies as it did in April 2018, while the new Passport added nearly 3,000 sales. Through the first four months of this year, however, the three-row Pilot shed 5,368 units while the two-row Passport added 7,721. That’s still a net increase, but we’ll be keeping an eye on these numbers as the calendar year progresses.

2019 Honda Passport

Honda made an interesting choice in pricing the two-row Passport. Its starting price is $540 more than the three-row Pilot, proving that the allure of hiking boots and an L.L. Bean jacket can command some extra cash. In America, the Passport’s pricing rips all the way to $43,680 for a top-tier Elite model, while the most expensive Pilot is priced at $48,020. There is an excellent chance that the average transaction price of the three-row rig will be more than the two-row unit, but the prices of entry are very telling as to what Honda thinks it can get away with in this market. Buying advice? Stick with the entry-level Sport model as it serves up a healthy level of standard kit and the same powertrain combo as its more expensive brothers. All-wheel drive is at your discretion.

Like it or not – and dealers will like it a lot – Honda has set out another place setting at its SUV and crossover table. With a familiar yet slightly more rugged face, this two-row machine will prove popular with existing Honda owners looking to trade up to something new and should draw new customers to the brand, such as math teachers looking for a slightly surly crossover to go with their new hiking boots.

[Images: Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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38 Comments on “2019 Honda Passport Review – Slightly Surly...”

  • avatar

    As an amateur to semi-Pro photographer, my only complaint with the article is the photography. While the composition is good, the angle of the car does not take proper advantage of the available sunlight, making both the front- and rear quarter views very unappealing on what appears to be a nice color.

  • avatar

    Enjoying the Bounty quilts on the seats. That is a shockingly grey interior.

    • 0 avatar

      The upholstery looks like vinyl-coated cloth you would find at a discount fabric store. And the driver’s seat bottom cushion has already stretched and puckered. Then considering the prison-grey tone chosen, this is an awful-looking choice of meterials.

  • avatar

    And then you wake up, walk over to the Mazda stand and sit in CX9 and wonder why would you spend your life in a Honda appliance.

  • avatar

    The big-tough-CRV look is good.

    The four temporary spare tires, not so much.

  • avatar

    A few times each year, a couple friends and I rent an Airbnb in rural Vermont, and schlep away for a long weekend. I can’t think of a more perfect vehicle for that than this. But for the other 358 days of the year, this is a big, bloated ripoff.

  • avatar

    The Pilot has been RDX’d

  • avatar

    Where are the driving impressions in this “review”? All I see is the following:

    “In a week’s testing, we learned to ignore the green Econ button tucked to the left of the steering wheel, as it only served to neuter throttle response. Absent of that, the Passport was more than lively enough for its intended demographic. The all-wheel drive system worked invisibly on slick pavement.”

    C’mon now.

    • 0 avatar

      We also learned about the console cover…

      I would have liked to see more about how it contrasts against that Edge. Or a Grand Cherokee. Or the Blazer. Or another 2-row CUV. Who cares about a Honda vs. Honda comparison, other than those brand-loyal folks who are shopping for that “H”?

      And, to your point, how well does it drive? Is it quiet in there? Does it feel solid? What sort of gas mileage was observed? What are the shortcomings? What are the must-have options?

      This isn’t a thorough review.

    • 0 avatar

      really, and even hinting that some comparison from the recently departing Edge was coming.

  • avatar

    I like this, I really do, but to pay MORE for a sawed-off Pilot doesn’t make sense. You can get a loaded Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk for this kind of money or a Renegade Trailhawk for $10K less, either would be more fun off-road

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah! And weep 3 years later when you only get 35% of the price you paid for these POS FCAs! The Cherokee is quite a bit smaller inside than even the CR-V, and the Renegade is a Fiat 500L on stilts (with the legendary Fiat build quality – NO THANKS)

      • 0 avatar

        @Giltibo: I see a commenter who is relying more on obsolete Fiat reputation than personal experience. FCA products outside of Jeep and Ram may have their value issues but their quality is far better than you want to believe. And the Renegade IS bigger than the 500X, whether you want to believe it or not. Sure, they’re based on the same platform and they are similar in overall size but the Renegade has more cubic footage and a surprising amount of interior space for that size.

        How do I know? I’ve been owning FCA products for 11 years and am working on my third year of Renegade ownership; the issues you complain about do not exist–at least as far as my Renegade is concerned. Even the Fiat 500 my wife owned before it was remarkably reliable as well as surprisingly lively for its size. Never any complaint about how that car ran. I might have had some complaints about my Jeep Wrangler but A) it’s a Wrangler and B) it was designed by Daimler and still using Daimler-sourced materials which cheaped out in some areas like the hand brake lever (broke multiple teeth until FCA sourced a new material and a new part number.)

        So I strongly suggest you forget that prejudice and try one out for yourself. Until then, your opinion about FCA is irrelevant.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Not a bad effort by Honda at all. But… 20-inch wheels? On an SUV? C’mon already…

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    A car wash would help with the pictures. Doesn’t look as good with the dirt showing.

  • avatar

    Did Honda include the cargo carrier in the press fleet vehicle? I’d assume that it was there to imply extra “ruggedness”

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not a cargo carrier (cargo isn’t shaped like that).

      It is a placeholder for the Honda Genuine Accessories Autonomous Vehicle Module (TM) – late availability, see your dealer for details.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Thanks Matthew–a great read!

  • avatar

    Convenient that Subaru provided old unused Forester rear ends for Honda to use.

  • avatar

    To me, everything about this model screams “half-assed” and “cynical.” I get it, but there is zero “Honda Magic” to be found anywhere in this thing.

  • avatar

    Honda’s “dandy nine-speed automatic”.

    Oh, so that pig of a ZF has finally been fettled so it doesn’t leap about the place like a Clonk-O-Matic, changing ratios on a whim? It’s only taken since 2014, when I drove both the then new Chrysler 200 V6 and the new TLX and rejected both because of the same dud transmission. It was blatantly poor to anyone who was half-awake. The Evoque is stuck with it as well, while poor old FCA built themselves a factory to make it on the cheap under license. Of course, Honda has endowed it with that nasty push-button “shifter” that saves no space, a design any sane person rejects as useless and an answer to a question nobody asked; being a Japanese company they hang onto a bad design through hell and high water, hands over ears, deaf to enreaties.

    The best thing about this vehicle is the engine. It is a lovely thing. The rest, who cares? There’s nothing special about it to be proud about as an owner. It merely exists as yet another “choice” in the bland land of CUVdom.

  • avatar

    Honda lost the plot somewhere between the 1984 Prelude and this vehicle.

  • avatar

    Honda has massive problems, including defective turbocharged direct injected engines that CAN’T BE FIXED.

    Honda has a MASSIVE PROBLEM with their 1.5 liter turbocharged “earthdreams” engine (rolled out for the 2018 MY)as used across their CRV, Accord and Civic lineup…

    Major Oil Dilution.

    It’s a massive issue which Honda has yet to even remotely acknowledge, let alone devise a fix for, and it’s a global problem with those motors, from China to the USA.

    Here’s just one link that represents a glimpse into the tip of the iceberg of the scale and scope of the problem (Honda should NOT have gone the turbo-direct injection route, let alone CVT):

    Read this driveaccord forums thread (one of many) on serious fuel dilution issues with 1.5 liter turbo AND 2.0 liter turbo engines used in global Accords, Civics and CRVs.

    By the way, Consumer Reports has now pushed hard on this and is awaiting for an accurate and complete response from Honda Corp, given that CR is now also fielding many survey complaints from very unhappy owners of 2018- going forward CR-Vs, Civics and now, Accords (10th gen) who have fuel dilution problems that Honda dealerships can’t seem to remedy.

    The dilution issue is likely a design defect inherent to these motors, rather than a manufacturing one, which is even worse news.

    Honda’s quality control and reliability rankings have been sliding precipitously.

    Small displacement turbo engines and CVTs = big risk. Honda will pay a huge financial AND reputational price.

    AGAIN, many owners are suffering fuel dilution in their motor oil of 20% or even MORE, at often as little as the 2,000 mile post oil-change interval.


    Google or search (and on YouTube) “Honda oil fuel’dilution.”

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      The pressure setting for the direct fuel injection psi upon start up was set too high upon initial start . Recall re calibrates it, problem solved. We have not seen one single engine that has oil dilution after the recall is performed.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    DW–You have expressed my concerns with not just Honda but all the manufacturers who are going to small displacement turbo 4s and CVT transmissions especially the CVTs. My wife has a 2013 CRV which has the 5 speed automatic transmission and the non turbo engine which are reliable. The local Honda dealership sends us solicitations trying to get us to trade the 2013 in on a 2019 CRV. We only have 20k on her CRV which has hardly been used and still like new. I would keep it even if I bought a new vehicle because of the low miles and condition. I would not trade a perfectly good reliable vehicle for one that would have costly repairs.

    My concern is that all the manufacturers are jumping on the CVT and turbo 4 bandwagon to chase the higher EPA ratings and to lower cost making it almost impossible to find a new vehicle that will be reliable and last. I don’t have to have a vehicle last as long as my 99 S-10 which I have had for over 20 years but I don’t want to buy a vehicle that in a few years will need a new transmission or engine costing thousands of dollars. Nissans seem to have the worst reputation for the CVT transmissions.

  • avatar

    The thought of having to look at that “gauge” cluster for years on end is a big NO from me.

  • avatar

    For taking mediocre pics of a dirty car and writing a review that says nothing about how it drives: zero points.
    For using the phrase “passes through like egesta through waterfowl”: one million points.

  • avatar

    I’m in the market for this vehicle. I have a 2004 Element, in excellent west-coast condition, and a 2010 Fit, the same, looking to downsize to one vehicle that can handle all efficiently. But something is missing here.

    Where is the plug-in hybrid 4-cylinder version? Or an all electric? Only a V-6?

    I’ll wait, thank you.

  • avatar


    Base Sport trim feels so cheap. For that money they couldn’t make a leather wrapped steering wheel. haha. + remember… timing belt spells into $1000 down the road.

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