Meet the all-new 2019 Honda Passport, a vehicle that’s not to be confused with the Honda Passport scooter marketed in North America from 1980 to 1983.
The first Passport was a 70cc strep-through scooter that was essentially an upgraded version of the company’s venerable Super Cub – a people-friendly machine that, when it launched here in 1959, literally introduced Honda to North America.
There was another Honda Passport, too. That one was a re-badged Isuzu model that gave Honda a larger SUV when it debuted in 1993 in the U.S. That lasted until 2003, when the Pilot replaced it.
But enough about those earlier Passports. The 2019 version is a completely different vehicle, and Wes Jantz of Calgary got to spend a week behind the wheel of the five-passenger SUV.
The new Passport fills a gap between Honda’s compact CR-V and their full-size Pilot. It is, essentially, a shortened Pilot, and is based on Honda’s unibody midsize light-truck platform. While the Pilot offers three rows of seats, the Passport has two rows. Wheelbase between the two models is identical, but the Passport is 15.2 cm shorter in overall length, having lost some sheet metal just aft of the rear wheels.
Honda offers the Passport in Sport, EX-L and Touring trims. The base Sport model is well-equipped with 20-inch alloy wheels, one-touch tilt and slide moonroof and a power liftgate. The EX-L adds leather seats and other niceties while the top-of-the-line Touring, which is the model Jantz drove, gets different alloy wheels, wider tires and a premium 10-speaker audio system.
All Passports get their motivation from a 3.5-litre V6 engine that produces 280-horsepower, and it’s paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission. Also standard in every Passport model is Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management (i-VTM4) system – otherwise known as all-wheel drive.
Jantz learned to drive trucks and tractors when he was just a youngster on the family farm in Abbotsford, B.C. His first car was a 1959 Volkswagen Beetle, which he kept for two or three years. Since then, he’s owned a myriad of vehicles, including minivans and SUVs. He also enjoys driving collector cars, and has a 2006 Corvette, a 1960 ‘Vette and a 1970 Z/28.
Jantz is a Tim Horton’s franchisee, and operates seven locations in northwest Calgary. As such, he’s regularly on the road, adding more than 4,000 kilometres a month to his work vehicle. Currently, his wife drives an Audi S4 and Jantz maintains an Audi Q7.
“I thought the Passport was a good-looking vehicle,” Jantz says of his first impression. “It’s sharp, it’s the right size, and it looks outdoorsy – to me, most other SUVs look like updated minivans – but this looked different and fun. With its Deep Scarlet Pearl paint and black trim, this was a sharp looking vehicle.”
At six-foot one-inch, Jantz says he doesn’t have any trouble fitting into most vehicles. The Passport was no different.
Once inside the leather-appointed SUV, he was impressed by the sense of overall roominess and he thought the windows were large and offered great visibility. He also liked the push-button automatic transmission and felt dispensing with a traditional console-mounted gear selector was a good decision on Honda’s part.
“It’s the kind of vehicle you could hop in and drive away,” Jantz says of his ability to become familiar with basic controls. “It’s very intuitive, but I did read some of the owner’s manual to understand the (leather-wrapped and heated) steering wheel mounted controls and what they did.
“Fit and finish was great, it certainly didn’t look cheap.”
One of Jantz’s considerations when buying a new vehicle is overall performance, and he appreciates above-average power.
“I didn’t expect the Passport to be as peppy as it was,” Jantz says of his experience with Honda’s V6 powerplant. “To me, it seemed to have plenty of energy, and I was pleased with it.”
The nine-speed automatic transmission offered near-imperceptible shifts, and the transitions between gears was quick, too.
“Handling was very responsive, you could corner nicely and a little aggressively and it stayed fairly level,” Jantz says. “It always felt sure-footed, and the ride was smooth, if a little stiff, but definitely not uncomfortable.”
An avid golfer, Jantz says there aren’t many midsize vehicles that will haul four people and all their clubs. He checked how the Passport would fare, and he figures there’s enough room in the 1,430-litre cargo space behind the rear seats to cart four sets of clubs.
One of Jantz’s greatest disappointments with his Audi Q7 is the lack of a spare tire — he was pleased to note the Honda Passport was equipped with a compact spare under the cargo floor.
“I think this would suit a family of four – two adults and two kids,” Jantz says. “Or, someone my age – you just open the door and kind of move in, it’s so easy to get into and out of.”
He concludes, “My wife, Jennifer; her Audi is 10 years old and she’s considering replacing it with a Passport. We both liked it, and it would suit our needs.”
Day One: The overall size is a much-needed vehicle in the Honda line-up. The Deep Scarlet Pearl is a rich succulent colour and appealing to the eye. The running boards add to the sportiness of the vehicle. The black plastic trim is very appealing to the eye and the black rims add to the visual appeal. The interior is very spacious. It had sufficient power to meet my needs as I drove on the Trans Canada.
Day Two: I read the page in the owner’s manual explaining the buttons on the steering wheel and the dash. With that bit of information, the computer system was easy to navigate. I had no problems putting in my phone number and using Apple Car Play. The downside of the computer system is the touch screen — shows too many fingerprints and is not user friendly for someone with adult size fingers. I used the vehicle to run several errands and found it easy to handle on the road and in parking lots. Quickly realized that the blind spot indicators are too small and the warning light is easy to miss.
Day Three: Did not drive the Passport.
Day Five: Spent the day hauling various size packages. The back hatch was a bit of a problem as it does not lift high enough and I bumped my head. I was impressed with the number of compartments in the vehicle. There are three in each front door for sunglasses, tissues, and whatever else you need. There’s a large compartment in the console and ample cup holders for even large size drinks. The compartment under the carpet in the back comes with a spare tire and plenty of room for jumper cables, safety kit or a first aid kit.
Day Six: Drove to Canmore to watch our grandson play baseball. Was able to engage the cruise control and was impressed it maintained the set speed within one or two km/hour, uphill and downhill. I found the motor to be noisy at higher rpms.
Day Seven: Drove around the city. Stopped to do some errands. I tested shutting it off without putting it into Park. I was impressed that it automatically went into Park when I turned it off. I hand washed the Passport. As a car collector, I’ve noticed nice looking wheels are often hard to clean but Honda has solved that issue with a good-looking wheel that is easy to clean and no polishing required. Overall Summary: The ride height is very nice. It is easy to get in and out of. I did not feel like I was too high or too low. Overall, the pros far outweigh any of the cons and I really like the Passport.