Quick Spin: 2019 Honda Passport

For automakers, SUVs are now their livelihoods. For many of them, their SUV offerings go way beyond just small, medium, and large. There are now tiny versions, sporty versions, “coupe” versions, and super large versions. There seems to be an endless fight to the bottom to find yet another niche in this crowded market for something new.

After years of absence, Honda has reintroduced the Passport. It looks familiar because it should, as it is heavily based off the Honda Pilot. Even Honda will quietly and indirectly admit that it is a basically a Pilot with its butt chopped off, because that’s what it is. But there is a good reason for this chopping and for the Passport to exist.

The issue with the Pilot, and other three-row SUVs, is that they are getting the minivan family-vehicle stigma associated with them. And there are many people who don’t want to be driving a mom/dad mobile, even if they are someone’s parents. This is interesting as SUVs were originally marketed as the anti-minivans and now have become the minivans.

But there is more to the Passport than just a butt reduction. The anti-minivanners really don’t want to be confused with the minivanners. This is why they drive vehicles such as Wranglers or 4Runners [note: author = guilty]. To appease those folks, Honda lifted the Passport an inch over the Pilot. All shiny trim was replaced with manly black trim. A roof rack was added, because gotta have a roof rack. The shortened butt even contributed to a better departure angle.

And suddenly, the Pilot became an adventurous, outdoorsy Passport to anywhere. Do you really think casual buyers give a crap about body-on-frame, low-range transfer-case, or locking differentials? Hell no! Most people who even own vehicles such equipped have no idea what those things are. Subaru’s business model is basically Outback-ing all the things, so there is nothing new on this trend.

Another reason for the birth of the Passport is that Honda was lacking a bigger two-row SUV. The CR-V is great but it isn’t very big. And over the years the Pilot grew to be rather large. And so the Passport, an in-betweener, only made sense. And looking at it, the development costs must have been rather low.

The Pilot itself has always been the industry standard, a benchmark by which other CUVs are judged. Basing another vehicle off it would likely result in an excellent vehicle. The Passport uses the Pilot’s chassis, powertrain, and most of the interior. Most of the work was done behind the C-pillar. Up to there, it’s as large and comfy as a Pilot.

With the third row seats removed, I was expecting a huge cargo area but that is where I became somewhat disappointed. The process of butt-cut from Pilot to Passport forced the move of the spare tire from under the vehicle into the cargo area. The only place to put the spare tire was under the load floor. Unfortunately that raised the floor to the same level as the Pilot’s floor with the third row seat folded. While there is a big in-floor storage bin behind the spare, it’s not quite the same as low flat load floor.

The original Honda Passport, like the Isuzu Rodeo is was based on, had its spare tire mounted on the tailgate, like the Jeep Wrangler. It is a shame that Honda didn’t hang the Passport’s spare tire off the tailgate in a tribute to the original. Yes, that would have required the tailgate to be redesigned but would have added a cool factor to this rig.

The Passport is everything you expect it to be – a shortened Pilot that is trying to be cooler. It’s filler for a void that many of us did not know existed. Honda says it’s more fun to drive, whatever that means, than the Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner but it is also less capable off the pavement. But the vast majority of the buyers don’t care about off-road capability as long as it makes it down the dirt road to their glamping cabin with the mountain bikes still attached.

Disclaimer: Honda invited a local media event for the Passport. They fed us, showed us a presentation, and told us to drive the Passport. They forgot to bring the Civic Type R. I used Honda’s pictures as they were much better than my pictures. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

5 responses to “Quick Spin: 2019 Honda Passport”

  1. Zentropy Avatar

    Far more interesting than a Pilot or CR-V, but bland all the same. I’ll be the first to say that Honda makes excellent vehicles, but nothing I can get enthusiastic about. The only thing in their stable I find remotely interesting is the Accord Sport 2.0T manual.

    It’s funny, when I was a kid, station wagons were the ubiquitously un-cool “parent” vehicle. Then it was the minivan. Now it’s the crossover SUV. These things go in cycles, so I’m hoping the station wagon is up for a return, because I’m pretty keen on them and would like some more options once my kids are grown and I can get rid of the family minivan.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      Ha. The only minivan in our family history was one my mom bought as an empty-nester. She used it in her job.

      Based on my recent experience with street reactions, the wagon pendulum is very much on the “cool” side of the cycle now. But mine are 25-30 years old (including a well-preserved one and a crusty one that seems to get even more attention). Not sure if the new ones without woodgrain have the same charm.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        Wagons are indeed pretty cool now, but were not when I was a kid. My mom initially drove me around in a 1971 AMC Hornet sedan that she had before I was born, but replaced it with a tan 1978(?) AMC Concord station wagon (with fake woodgrain) after my sister came along. She then traded it for a dark green ’82 model, sans woodgrain. Someone hit her head-on in it, and she (ever the AMC loyalist) replaced it with a red 1987 Eagle wagon, which I drove occasionally in high school. That car could go anywhere you pointed it– really ahead of its time.

        I only wish more automakers focused on true station wagons these days, instead of sort-of-wagon crossovers. A few European brands offer them (thank you, Volvo), and I consider the Ford Flex a station wagon, but IMO the Subaru Outback “crossed over” in 2009. My wife, who hates wagons but mindlessly embraces SUVs, was car shopping in January and I spent quite some time looking at a lovely white VW Golf Sportwagen (manual!) in the showroom. I tried to talk her into waiting for a V60, but she bought a toad-shaped Q5 instead.

        I have a 1960 Rambler American wagon in storage that I hope to eventually finish restoring, and I comb Craigslist weekly for a Volvo Amazon wagon, but until my kids are out of the house and through college, I don’t see those projects gaining much traction.

  2. Ross Ballot Avatar
    Ross Ballot

    I actually really like this thing.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      No shame in that. It’s pretty quick, too.

%d bloggers like this: