What's New for 2001
Honda adds a LATCH child seat-tether anchor system to the Passport, and all models get a new eight-speaker audio system.
The Honda Passport has been quietly going about its business for the past eight years. While the bulk of attention in the mid-sized sport-ute segment is directed toward the Ford Explorer, Toyota 4Runner, Dodge Durango and Nissan Pathfinder, the Passport has evolved to offer a combination of power, space and versatility that, if not compelling, at least comes in an attractive wrapper.
The Passport first arrived in 1993 as a re-badged Isuzu Rodeo, an arrangement that allowed Honda to get in on the hot SUV craze without engineering its own truck. In 1998, the Passport was completely redesigned. Still built by Isuzu in its Lafayette, Ind. plant, the Honda got bigger inside, more comfortable and more powerful.
The standard 205-horsepower 3.2-liter V6 makes 214 foot-pounds of torque at a relatively low 3,000 rpm, providing enough get-up-and-go to satisfy most weekend warriors. But with no optional V8 engine available, the Passport compares poorly to other models in this class. Even the Pathfinder's V6 makes up to 250 horsepower.
The content-heavy base LX, dressed-up EX and luxurious EX-L trim levels are available with two- or four-wheel drive. The 4WD transfer case is a shift-on-the-fly affair operated via a poorly located dash-mounted button. The Passport feels undersprung off-road and mushy on the highway, failing to please in either environment. Isuzu's Rodeo gets a driver-selectable suspension system to help in this regard, but doesn't share that particular toy with Honda.
Four-wheel drive models get disc brakes at each corner, while rear-wheel-drive models get discs in front and drums in back. For safety, ABS and dual front airbags are standard on all models. Power windows, power locks, dual power mirrors, cruise, A/C, and an eight-speaker stereo with cassette are also standard. The EX trim level adds a four-speed automatic transmission, foglights, interior woodgrain trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual heated power mirrors, power moonroof and keyless remote entry. The EX-L has all that and a four-way power driver seat, leather upholstery and door panel trim, in-dash CD changer and two-tone paint with body side molding.
Fit and finish fails to live up to Honda standards, but most materials are of decent quality. You and your passengers will also appreciate the Passport's user-friendly ergonomics. Front seat comfort is lacking, but rear seats are roomy and supportive. With the backseat folded down, 81.1 cubic feet of cargo space is available.
Outside, the Passport is a handsome devil. Its square profile has the aspect of compact muscularity, making it a natural campsite companion. The elegant EX-L version, with its multi-spoked alloy wheels, two-tone paint and body cladding, is equally well suited to carry you to the opera.
Other makes get all the attention for a reason. Considering that we've had less than stellar experiences with the Passport and Isuzu Rodeo, which is borne out by J.D. Power and Associates' naming the Passport one of the poorest quality vehicles sold in 2000, we recommend shopping for something else. Even if that something else is a Rodeo, which comes with a far superior warranty package.