What's New for 1996
New wheels, dual airbags, available ABS and a stronger V6 engine are the changes for the 1996.
Except for freshly styled alloy wheels, not much was new with Honda's Passport as the 1995 model year began. Midseason, Honda issued a notable upgrade, adding airbags for the driver and front passenger. Also new were roof-mounted speakers that expanded available cargo space in the revised interior, plus an improved stereo system. The new dashboard, did away with the old angular look, replacing it with an organically swept affair complete with more legible gauges and improved ergonomics.
For 1996, Honda finishes the Passport off with available four-wheel disc antilock brakes, more power for V6 models, and standard shift-on-the-fly operation for 4WD models that can be engaged at speeds up to 62 mph. Wheel track is wider which improves ride quality and four-wheel capabilities. Better yet, the SOHC V6 engine's output now matches that of last year's DOHC motor: 190 horsepower.
Passports are spacious for five inside, and V6 models have a swing-out spare tire that creates even greater elbow room. The rear seat folds flat, resulting in a long cargo floor, but the clamshell tailgate design makes it difficult to access the back of the cargo area easily. They are however, better for watching softball games. Fortunately, the rear glass will open independently making it easier to load small items.
Road noise might be a drawback, though the 3.2-liter V6 engine is quiet-running and strong with either five-speed manual shift or the available four-speed automatic transmission. A 2.6-liter four-cylinder engine, delivering 70 fewer horses, powers the two-wheel-drive DX edition, which comes only with manual shift. Automatic transmissions have Power and Winter modes, the latter starting off in third gear to reduce wheel-spin on slippery pavements. Towing capacity is 4,500 pounds with the V6 engine, but only a ton with the four-cylinder.
Anyone seeking a capable blend of comfortable highway ride and tempting off-road talents could do well to look for a Honda dealer. However, Isuzu markets a version of the Passport and calls it the Rodeo The Rodeo tends to be a bit less expensive, and comes with a more comprehensive warranty. For those reasons, we suggest you stick with a Rodeo.