2022 Honda Passport TrailSport Review: Climbing the Ranks, Still Short of the Peak

It can haul a family and handle some light off-roading in the same day, but the in-cabin tech leaves a bit to be desired.

byNico DeMattia| PUBLISHED Sep 1, 2022 11:00 AM
2022 Honda Passport TrailSport Review: Climbing the Ranks, Still Short of the Peak
Nico DeMattia.
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I’m a sports car guy. The smaller, the lighter, the better. Give me a classic Mini, Porsche Cayman, Mazda Miata, BMW Z3; anything small, light, and fun, and I’m happy. The only reason I even drive a sports sedan and not something smaller is because I need back seats for my two young kids. But as a relatively new father, I’m starting to realize that my desire for small sports cars is becoming less and less tenable. So, when the 2022 Honda Passport TrailSport arrived in my driveway, I saw it as my chance to see if I could finally get along with a high-riding, practical family hauler. 

Family cars aren’t sexy. They aren’t exciting, fun, or particularly interesting. No kid has posters of Toyota Siennas on their wall and no kid lists the Hyundai Santa Fe as one of their dream cars. However, family cars are necessary and, it seems for me at least, inevitable. So I might as well try and make the best of it, right?

Over the course of three days and 350 miles, I put the new-for-2022 Passport TrailSport to the test as a family hauler, taking my actual family from central New Jersey to Manhattan one day before ferrying everyone down to Cape May, NJ the next. Then I hit up a local off-road trail to see just how Sporty the TrailSport could be on a Trail. And, I’m happy to report, the Honda Passport TrailSport (say that five times fast) is the real deal—an honest, practical SUV for both families and enthusiasts. It isn’t perfect, but—and it pains me to admit this—there’s actually a lot to like. 

2022 Honda Passport TrailSport Review Specs

  • Base Price (TrailSport trim as tested): $39,665 ($43,365)
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6 | 9-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 280 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Cargo capacity: 41 cubic feet
  • Curb weight: 4,229 pounds
  • EPA fuel economy: 19 mpg city | 24 highway | 21 combined
  • Quick take: A perfectly fine family hauler with plenty of space, a great engine, and some decent trail-running ability. Just don’t expect the latest bells and whistles. 
  • Score: 7/10

The Basics

Honda recently updated the Passport for 2022 with a slightly more aggressive grille and some sort-of-rugged-looking bumpers in an attempt to keep it fresh among its newer competition from brands like Hyundai and Kia. If you opt for the TrailSport model, you get exclusive 18-inch wheels, Firestone Destination off-road tires, and some orange badges, but that’s about it as far as the exterior goes. 

It’s a simple, handsome-looking SUV that looked just as good on the streets of Manhattan as it did on the trails of the New Jersey pine barrens. My TrailSport test car was helped by its Sonic Gray Pearl paint, which contrasted nicely with all of its orange accents. And, with all-terrain tires and sporty wheels, it actually looked like something that might be able to handle a capital-T trail or two. I mean, it’s in the name and everything.

Inside, it’s equally handsome and packed with space. Big, comfy chairs make it feel like you’re sitting in your living room, even if the seating position is a bit too high for my tastes. Countless cup holders (including two for each rear door, which came in handy for my kids), loads of headroom, and a capacious trunk made it the perfect pack mule throughout the week. However, its cabin tech is outdated to say the least, its sound system is subpar at best, and there are some shockingly cheap-feeling plastics for an SUV costing more than $40,000. 

The cabin isn’t the only place where the Passport is outdated. Its 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 lacks the turbocharged punch of its more modern rivals, making it feel a bit sluggish. That V6 is paired with a nine-speed automatic while all-wheel drive is standard for the TrailSport and Elite trims. The base Passport EX-L can be had with AWD or FWD. The car tested being a TrailSport model, there are a few off-road modes (mud, sand, and snow) that can help tweak gearing, throttle response, and traction control for different scenarios. But don’t expect the Passport Trailsport to rival a Jeep Grand Cherokee off-road. 

Driving the Honda Passport TrailSport

The main standout here would be the engine. Honda’s naturally aspirated V6 has no right sounding as good as it does in a family SUV and it’s a joy to use. As great as its V6 sounds, though, the Passport TrailSport isn’t a sports car. Instead, it’s an everyday people mover, designed to shuttle kids, strollers, groceries, shopping bags, luggage, and soccer gear. It’s an SUV designed to carry your life around with you on a regular basis. And, I must admit, it’s damn good at it. 

Even in a big SUV, Honda gets the basics right. Steering is great—it feels light but with really good on-center feel and just the right amount of heft as you turn in. That gives its driver confidence while trying to pilot such a big vehicle. It certainly saved my ass, and the asses of a few daring cyclists more than once in rush hour Manhattan traffic. The ride is great, too. Typically Honda—firm enough to stay composed but soft enough to be comfortable. The Passport will never be mistaken for a sporty SUV, but it’s calm, collected, and confidence-inspiring.

I couldn’t just give the thing back to Honda without taking it on a trail, though. If Honda’s going to put “trail” in this car’s name, I’m going to put that to the test. So I took it to a pretty mild local trail about 20 minutes from my house, making it the perfect test for a pretty mild-mannered SUV. Shockingly, it did far better than I had expected. Engaging its sand setting, the Passport TrailSport performed surprisingly well over New Jersey’s sandy pine barrens. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t come close to damaging its underbelly a bit, though, because this Passport has no actual underbody protection despite this trim’s very rugged name. Thankfully, the SUV suffered no damage and, for the most part, held its own.

It’s no Toyota Land Cruiser or Land Rover Defender but its 8.1-inch ride height, well-programmed off-road modes, and all-terrain tires combined to make the rugged-ish Honda more than capable in my tests. Customers who often go to campgrounds, fish in remote areas, or live in snowy climates will find the Passport TrailSport more than enough. Though, I do wish it had some protective skid plates.

The Highs and Lows

There’s a lot to like about the Honda Passport TrailSport but also a lot to criticize. It certainly drives nicer than many crossovers and SUVs in its segment, with surprisingly good steering and a well-judged ride/handling balance. Its V6 is also a breath of fresh air in this turbocharged era. However, customers will notice the lack of larger infotainment screens, digital gauge clusters, and wireless Apple CarPlay you’ll find in most comparable Hyundais. Speaking of CarPlay, I also noticed an annoying glitch with the Honda’s wired implementation, in which it would disconnect if I unlocked my phone for some reason. It hasn’t happened with any other car so that rules out my phone, but I’m not sure if it was just a problem with my particular test car or if it’s an issue with all Passports.

What I loved most about the Passport TrailSport, though, was its practicality. It swallowed up two car seats, a stroller, several backpacks, a diaper bag, my four-year-old son’s myriad of toys, and four passengers with plenty of room to spare. Excellent interior cubbies made storing all of our junk a breeze and there was always a place to put a cup, even tall water bottles. Although, its interior is also my biggest complaint. Too many really cheap plastics in places that you touch often, like the center console, and flimsy switchgear made it feel brittle and fragile inside. Ultimately, I’m willing to live with the low-rent materials on account of how useful this interior is, but the cheapness remains disappointing especially considering Honda’s reputation for decent build quality. 

Honda Passport Features, Options, and Competition

At its $39,665 starting price, the Passport actually comes with a surprising amount of standard gear. In addition to that excellent V6 engine and nine-speed auto, it also gets 20-inch wheels, a power tailgate, heated front seats, LED headlights, LED foglights, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto (both wired). The $44,265 TrailSport trim is mostly cosmetic but it does add those Firestone all-terrain tires, AWD, a power sunroof, and three-zone climate control. At the top of the Passport lineup is the $47,225 Elite trim which brings rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming side mirrors, a hands-free tailgate, acoustic glass on all four doors, second-row climate controls, a heated steering wheel, ventilation for the front seats, heated outboard rear seats, and premium 10-speaker audio. 

The biggest competitor for the Passport TrailSport is arguably the two-row Jeep Grand Cherokee. It starts at around the same price but offers better off-road capability, has newer cabin technology, and a fresher design. Cars like the Toyota Highlander and Hyundai Santa Fe lack the sort of rugged-looking nature of the TrailSport and are more geared toward just being family haulers. But the Grand Cherokee is tough to overlook if you’re in the market for a $40,000 family SUV that can handle some light trail duty.

Sustainability 

As great as the Honda Passport’s V6 engine is when it comes to sound, refinement, and response, its fuel economy suffers as a consequence. There’s a reason why most automakers are downsizing and turbocharging, and Honda’s refusal to do so will hurt at the gas pump. Its EPA-rated 21 combined mpg is lower than its two main competitors. And while it isn’t lower by much, just an mpg or two, its highway mileage suffers even more by comparison.

EPA

Plus, I didn’t see 21 mpg at any point during my week with the Passport. Instead, I averaged just over 17 mpg, which is quite a bit less than the EPA’s figure. Admittedly, I drove like a hoon a bit more than I should have, but it still wasn’t great on the wallet. 

Value and Verdict

In isolation, the Honda Passport TrailSport can feel like a great buy for anyone in the market for a do-it-all family SUV—emphasis on family. It’s comfortable, it drives nicely, it has a lovely engine, it’s practical, and it can indeed handle the occasional dirt trail. However, when you look at it compared to some other SUVs for the money, specifically the Jeep Grand Cherokee, its value proposition starts to fall apart. 

Nico DeMattia

Ultimately, however, I like the Honda Passport. I like its honest, back-to-basics driving approach. Honda’s focus on steering feel and ride/handling balance over superfluous cabin tech is, I think, worthy of praise. But I’m also not sure how many customers will agree with me and, for those who prioritize tech and premium interiors over the driving experience, the aforementioned Jeeps and Hyundais will likely be better choices. For me, though, the Passport is a cool SUV that will do everything you ask of it, and sometimes just a little bit more. 

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