Honda is calling 2022 the “Year of the Crossover,” partially due to 2021 being the year of their 11th-generation Civic, but more specifically because of two very important upcoming SUV releases. Top of the list will be a complete redesign of Honda’s best-selling CR-V, expected later this year as a 2023 model, but the smaller 2023 HR-V that’s teased here in two artist’s renderings, is at least as critical for its entry-level gateway position.
The subcompact crossover SUV class has gained a lot of traction in recent years, growing from just eight models in 2010, to a shocking 27 now, and while the current HR-V is no longer the segment’s top-seller, it’s done very well for a design that’s been around for almost a decade with only one mid-cycle refresh.
To be clear, the HR-V arrived to the Canadian market in June of 2015, but it was already two years old and in its second-generation. Amazingly, despite arriving halfway through the year, it managed second in sales for the category, only beaten by Kia’s Soul, while it narrowly missed the top spot by just 301 units in 2016. Calendar year 2017 saw the HR-V rise right up to the top with 14,149 deliveries, but that triumph was quickly quelled when Nissan’s ultra-affordable Qashqai hit the streets in 2018, followed by the current sales-leading Hyundai Kona that sold a whopping 25,817 units in 2019, plus 31,733 in 2020 (despite the health crisis). What’s more, even though a microchip shortage caused calamity through last year’s auto production, the Kona nearly equaled 2020 results with a total of 31,101 units down Canadian roads in 2021.
Comparatively, the aging HR-V placed sixth in Canada’s subcompact crossover segment last year, with 11,616 deliveries, allowing it to narrowly edge out the smaller Hyundai Venue that found 11,548 buyers, plus the Mazda CX-30 that managed a strong 11,407 unit-sales. Additionally, it fell marginally behind Nissan’s Qashqai that overtook its Japanese rival with 11,972 examples sold. The second-place Subaru Crosstrek attracted more subcompact SUV buyers than the HR-V as well, with 23,342 unit-sales, while the third-ranking Nissan Kicks did likewise with 18,750 deliveries. Finally, the Kia Seltos managed fourth thanks to 14,436 new owners in 2021. While it might appear as if HR-V sales are much below average, keep in mind that it still outsold 19 mainstream volume-branded subcompact SUV competitors, which is no small feat.
A much better HR-V story gets told south of our border, mind you, where Honda was able to sell a staggering 137,090 units last year, which is almost 10,000 more than the U.S. subcompact SUV segment’s next-best-selling Crosstrek. Exactly how they upped year-over-year sales by more than 63 percent in 2021 is anyone’s guess outside of the brand’s inner circle, and it wasn’t only because the model took a slight dive in 2020. In fact, sales were up more than 38 percent from 2019, but it may have come down to available microchips in a market that made many vehicles hard to get.
Being that the second-generation HR-V was based on the back of the now discontinued (in North America) entry-level Fit hatchback, it was always much more accommodating than its diminutive dimensions let on. Just like the Fit, the HR-V boasts an extremely low cargo floor, plus an ultra-flexible 60/40-split rear “Magic Seat” that comes with backrests that fold down in the traditional way for carrying larger cargo loads, plus lower cushions that flip upwards, pickup truck style, for stowing taller items on the second-row passenger compartment’s floor. The innovative packaging allows it to compete with larger subcompact models like the Qashqai, Crosstrek, Seltos, CX-30 and new Toyota Corolla Cross, despite being externally sized more closely to the Kona, Kicks and Toyota C-HR. This makes it significantly larger than a Venue, incidentally, the smallest crossover currently available in our market.
If you happen to follow global automotive news you might already realize Honda debuted the updated Japanese Domestic Market version of the HR-V in 2021. It’s named Vezel in Japan, while the same SUV replaced the first-generation HR-V in Europe. That new model features an identical 2,610 mm (102.8 in) wheelbase as the outgoing model and our current HR-V, plus approximately the same overall length of 4,330 mm (170.5 in), the previous generation spanning 4,295 to 4,335 mm (169.1 to 170.7 in) from nose to tail depending on markets and trims. It’s just 20 mm (0.8 in) wider too, at 1,790 mm (70.5 in), and slightly lower overall at 1,580 to 1,590 mm (62.2 to 62.6 in) when compared to 1,605 to 1,610 mm (63.2 to 63.4 in) for the previous model, the latter difference likely dependant on tire choices.
This said, our second-generation HR-V (the third-generation globally) will be North American-specific and therefore won’t necessarily share the Japanese/European model’s platform. Instead, there’s a greater chance we’ll see it riding on a version of Civic/Insight and CR-V underpinnings, not to mention the new Acura Integra (a.k.a. ILX), which means it should receive a stronger powertrain, plus possibly the option of a sportier and/or fuel-friendly hybrid model too, as well as the continuation of Honda’s Real Time all-wheel drive.
Currently, our 2022 HR-V is available with front- and all-wheel drivetrains, while employing Honda’s 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT) across the line. The engine is good for 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque no matter the trim, and as verified by the HR-V’s continued popularity it’s been potent enough for most peoples’ needs.
Probably more important than performance in this class is efficiency, and to that end today’s HR-V gets a claimed five-cycle rating of 8.4 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 7.8 combined with FWD, plus 8.8 city, 7.5 highway and 8.2 combined with AWD, and lastly 9.1, 7.7 and 8.5 respectively with the sportier AV7 version of the same transmission, which makes it fairly stingy for the segment.
It’s difficult to say if Honda will be able to maintain the second-generation’s miserly ways with a larger 2.0-litre powertrain if incorporated into the design, especially considering the subcompact SUV will also grow in size and weight, but that 200-cc larger engine is rated at 7.7 L/100km city, 6.0 highway and 6.9 combined in the 2022 Civic Sedan, which also uses a CVT and FWD, so there’s no reason to think it will be much thirstier in a slightly taller crossover. That engine also puts out a much more suitable 158 horsepower and 138 lb-ft of torque, which should more than make up for the renewed 2023 HR-V’s size and weight gain.
Other possibilities include a hybrid variant, at least in markets where Honda can make a viable business case for selling one. Unfortunately, infinitesimal Insight sales in Canada, due to higher pricing than electrified competitors, plus no CR-V Hybrid availability at all, make it appear that moving large numbers of hybrids hasn’t been Honda Canada’s priority in recent years, a shame considering how well it once did with the Civic Hybrid.
Still, it only makes sense the Japanese brand will eventually want to put forth a serious hybrid or electric challenger North of the 49th (Accord Hybrid aside). After all, despite our relatively small population, Canada remains the 13th largest automotive market globally. If Honda does choose to sell a hybrid variant into North America, they’d have the option of the 129-horsepower electrified drivetrain currently offered to European HR-V customers, or the 151-hp setup provided in our Insight sedan, the latter probably more suitable to buyers in our market.
All said, it’s impossible to know if a larger HR-V will return more sales than the current model. Of course, redesigns normally produce an immediate spike in activity, but being that we have so many brands selling multiple models into this class, and the sales results of their smaller and larger models vary dramatically, we need to believe that Honda has based its decision to produce a larger HR-V on extensive market research, because changing up their highly successful subcompact SUV formula poses a significant risk. What’s more, if Honda isn’t able to integrate its versatile Magic Seat system into the new design, usable cargo space may not increase. Loyal HR-V owners will be collectively hoping they do.
When it comes to styling, what we can gather from the artist’s rendering is a vastly more appealing crossover SUV, even discounting the added width, tire/wheel sizes and other visual tricks artists play when rendering prototype vehicles. The upcoming HR-V appears to be a sportier, tougher looking crossover, with an attractive new grille design that seems to frown instead of smile. This more menacing theme has worked well for Toyota trucks and SUVs, while the C-shaped glossy-black corner vents are so similar to the outgoing Acura RDX’ (pre-facelift) that one has to assume we’ll also be getting a spin-off for Honda’s luxury brand. An ADX with the Civic’s optional 180-horsepower turbocharged engine, anyone? How about an optional 200-hp Type S? Its powertrain could easily be pulled from the Civic Si. That would give the Lexus UX a run for its money.
The rendering’s rear styling shows enlarged taillight clusters bearing some semblance to the current model’s design, not to mention a respectful nod to past Civic models, particularly the eighth-generation sedan. It’s also easy to see additional Acura influences on the backside of the new HR-V, so it will be interesting to find out how the finished product looks.
As for the interior, small crossover SUVs are often where automakers let their proverbial hair down in order to have some fun. Just the same, Honda did no such thing with the domestic-market Vezel, which gets a fairly staid, conservative dash design, featuring only the slightest bit of creativity around the centre stack (see the gallery for photos).
In the end, these two renderings only serve to tell us that an “all-new HR-V will launch in North America this year,” further promising to be both “sporty and versatile,” or so says the two-line press release. Thankfully, we shouldn’t have to wait very long to find out.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Honda
Ford has been on a roll lately, winning two of last year’s North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY) awards, with its redesigned F-150 winning best truck and Mustang-Mach-E…
“We’re thrilled and honored to earn both Truck and Utility of the Year from the NACTOY jury for the Ford Maverick and Bronco, especially among such a strong field of competitors,” stated Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas & International Markets Group, Ford Motor Company. “But we’re also proud because these awards are well-deserved recognition for the tremendous amount of work, focus and energy our teams have invested in designing, engineering and building exciting vehicles for our customers. This also reflects the overwhelming reception we’ve had from our Maverick and Bronco customers alike.”
To earn this highest honour, the Civic edged out the redesigned Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R, which are basically the same car in different trims (there’s no longer a regular Golf for 2022), plus the stunning new Lucid Air electric luxury sedan, a recent competitor to the Tesla Model S and Porsche Taycan.
“The Honda Civic has long set the standard by which other compact cars are measured and this all-new Civic raised that bar in every conceivable way,” said Michael Kistemaker, assistant vice president of Honda national sales, American Honda Motor Co., Inc. “We’re especially proud for the Civic development team in Japan and our production associates at our plants in Greensburg, Indiana and Alliston, Ontario where the 2022 Civic Sedan, Hatchback and Si are built.”
Where the new Civic gets a dramatic styling update, its other changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary, which was a smart choice for a car that outsells every competitor most months, but the two new Fords are completely new additions to the domestic brand’s lineup, and necessary considering they no longer sell many cars. The Bronco goes head-to-head with the Jeep Wrangler as a serious 4×4-capable off-roader, while the Maverick is forging into an entirely new car-based compact pickup truck segment, only shared with Hyundai’s new Santa Cruz.
The Maverick beat the Santa Cruz in the final NACTOY showdown, as well as the larger Rivian R1T electric truck. It comes standard with a hybrid drivetrain, is available with a potent turbo, decent fuel economy, and features some smart cargo carrying innovations.
The Bronco didn’t have an easy fight in its SUV category either, with the all-new Genesis GV70 and pure-electric Hyundai Ioniq 5 challenging. While none of these specifically compete against each other in real life, they all excel in the sport utility sector, and only one could be the winner.
“This year’s group of semi-finalists includes some of the most interesting and innovative cars, trucks and utility vehicle candidates in recent memory,” said NACTOY President Gary Witzenburg, “and a larger number of new trucks than we’ve seen in many years. And it features more electric vehicles than we’ve ever seen, all of which our jurors will continue to test and evaluate prior to our next vote.”
More than 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada took part as jurors in this year’s NACTOY awards. To qualify, a vehicle needs to be completely new or significantly updated for the current model year. All finalist evaluations are based on design, driver satisfaction, innovation, performance, safety, technology, and value.
There’s no hotter segment in today’s car market than the compact crossover SUV. Having started in 1994 with the Toyota RAV4, a model that was joined by Honda’s CR-V the following year, and Subaru’s Forester in 1997, this category has been bulging at the seams ever since.
Not long ago, Honda’s CR-V owned this segment, but Toyota’s RAV4 has ruled supreme since introducing its hybrid variant in 2015 as a 2016 model. This allowed Toyota to stay just ahead of the popular Honda, although introduction of the latest fifth-generation RAV4 in 2018, which now even comes in an ultra-quick plug-in RAV4 Prime variant, has helped to push the roomy RAV4 right over the top.
With deliveries of 67,977 examples in 2020, the RAV4’s sales dwarfed those of the next-best-selling CR-V by 17,842 units, plus it more than doubled the rest of the top-five contenders’ tallies last year.
Interesting as well, Toyota was one of only three models out of 14 compact crossover SUV competitors to post positive gains in 2020, with total deliveries up 4.18 percent compared to those in 2019.
Without doubt, the new RAV4’s tough, rugged, Tacoma-inspired styling is playing a big role in its success, not to mention duo-tone paint schemes that cue memories of the dearly departed FJ Cruiser. Likewise, beefier new off-road trims play their part too, as well as plenty of advanced electronics inside, a particularly spacious cabin, class-leading non-hybrid AWD fuel economy of 8.0 L/100km combined when upgrading to idle start/stop technology (the regular AWD model is good for a claimed 8.4 L/100km combined), and nearly the best fuel economy amongst available hybrids in this segment at 6.0 L/100km combined (not including PHEVs).
Another feather in the RAV4’s cap is top spot in J.D. Power’s 2021 Canada ALG Residual Value Awards for the “Compact Utility Vehicle” category, meaning you’ll hold on to more of your money if you choose a RAV4 than any other SUV on this list.
This feat is backed up by a 2020 Best Retained Value Award from the Canadian Black Book (CBB) too, although to clarify the Jeep Wrangler actually won the title in CBB’s “Compact SUV” category, with the runners up being the Subaru Crosstrek and RAV4. The fact that these three SUVs don’t actually compete in the real world gives the RAV4 title to CBB’s Best Retained Value in the compact crossover SUV category, if the third-party analytical firm actually had one.
The RAV4 was also runner-up in the latest 2021 J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) in the “Compact SUV” class, while the RAV4 Hybrid earned the highest podium in Vincentric’s most recent Best Value in Canada Awards, in the Consumer section of its “Hybrid SUV/Crossover” category, plus the same award program gave the RAV4 Prime plug-in a best-in-class ranking in the Fleet section of its “Electric/Plug-In Hybrid SUV/Crossover” segment.
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 starts at $28,590 (plus freight and fees) in LE FWD trim, while the most affordable RAV4 Hybrid can be had for $32,950 in LE AWD trim. Lastly, the top-tier RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid starts at $44,990 in SE AWD trim. To learn about other trims, features, options and pricing, plus available manufacturer financing/leasing rates and other available rebates and/or dealer invoice pricing, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Toyota RAV4 Canada Prices page and the 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime Canada Prices page.
Honda claims a solid second-place with its recently refreshed CR-V
Lagging behind arch-rival Toyota in this important segment no doubt irks those in Honda Canada’s Markham, Ontario headquarters, but 50,135 units in what can only be considered a tumultuous year is impressive just the same.
This said, experiencing erosion of 10.42 percent over the first full year after receiving a mid-cycle upgrade can’t be all that confidence boosting for those overseeing the CR-V’s success.
Too little, too late? You’ll need to be the judge of that, but the CR-V’s design changes were subtle to say the least, albeit modifications to the front fascia effectively toughened up its look in a market segment that, as mentioned a moment ago, has started to look more traditionally SUV-like in recent years.
Of note, the CR-V took top honours in AutoPacific’s 2020 Ideal Vehicle Awards in the “Mid-Size Crossover SUV” category, not that it actually falls into this class. Still, it’s a win that Honda deserves.
The CR-V is also second-most fuel-efficient in this class when comparing AWD trims at 8.1 L/100km combined, although the Japanese automaker has chosen not to bring the model’s hybrid variant to Canada due to a price point it believes would be too high. Hopefully Honda will figure out a way to make its hybrid models more competitor north of the 49th, as an electrified CR-V would likely help it find more buyers.
The 2021 Honda CR-V starts at $29,970 in base LX 2WD trim, while the top-line Black Edition AWD model can be had for $43,570 (plus freight and fees). To find out about all the other trims, features, options and more in between, not to mention manufacturer rebates/discounts and dealer invoice pricing, go to the 2021 Honda CR-V Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada.
Mazda and its CX-5 continue to hang onto third in the segment
With 30,583 sales to its credit in 2020, Mazda’s CX-5 remains one of the most popular SUVs in Canada. What’s more, it was one of the three SUV’s in the class to post positive growth in 2020, with an upsurge of 10.42 percent.
Additionally, these gains occurred despite this second-generation CX-5 having been available without a major update for nearly five years (the already available 2021.5 model sees a new infotainment system). This said, Mazda has refined its best-selling model over the years, with top-line Signature trim (and this year’s 100th Anniversary model) receiving plush Nappa leather, genuine rosewood trim, and yet more luxury touches.
Its Top Safety Pick Plus ranking from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) probably helped keep it near the top, an award that gives the CX-5 a leg up on the RAV4 and CR-V that only qualify for Top Safety Pick (without the Plus) status.
At 9.3 L/100km combined in its most basic AWD trim, fuel economy is not the CX-5’s strongest suit, but Mazda offers cylinder-deactivation that drops its city/highway rating to 9.0 flat.
The CX-5’s sleek, car-like lines buck the just-noted new trend toward truck-like ruggedness, while, as noted, its interior is arguably one of the most upscale in the segment, and overall performance very strong, especially with its top-tier 227 horsepower turbocharged engine that makes a commendable 310 lb-ft of torque.
The 2021 Mazda CX-5 is available from $28,600 in base GX FWD trim, whereas top-level 2021 100th Anniversary AWD trim starts at $43,550 (plus freight and fees), and the just-released top-line 2021.5 Signature AWD trim can be had for $42,750. To learn more about all the trims, features, options and prices in between, plus available no-haggle discounts and average member discounts thanks to their ability to access dealer invoice pricing before negotiating their best price, check out the CarCostCanada 2021 Mazda CX-5 Canada Prices page.
Hyundai holds onto fourth place despite slight downturn
With 28,444 units sold during the 12 months of 2020, Hyundai is so close behind Mazda in this category that its Tucson might as well be tailgating, and that’s despite losing 5.42 percent from last years near all-time-high of 30,075 deliveries.
Sales of the totally redesigned 2022 Tucson have only just started, however, so we’ll need to wait and see how well it catches on. Fortunately for Hyundai fans, and anyone else who appreciates things electrified, a Tucson Hybrid joins the fray in order to duel it out with Toyota’s mid-range RAV4 Hybrid.
This last point is important, as the conventionally-powered 2022 Tucson AWD is only capable of 9.0 L/100km combined, making the Tucson Hybrid the go-to model for those who want to save at the pump thanks to 6.4 L/100km. Of note, a new 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid is now the fourth PHEV in this segment.
The 2022 Hyundai Tucson starts at $27,799 in its most basic Essential FWD trim, while the conventionally powered model’s top-level N Line AWD trim is available from $37,099. Moving up to the 2022 Tucson Hybrid will set you back a minimum of $38,899 (plus freight and fees, before discount), while this model is substitutes the conventionally-powered N Line option for Ultimate trim, starting at $41,599. The model’s actual ultimate 2022 Tucson Plug-in Hybrid trim starts at $43,499 in Luxury AWD trim, while that SUV’s top-level Ultimate trim costs $46,199. To find out about all the trims, features, options, prices, discounts/rebates, dealer invoice pricing, etcetera for each of these models go to CarCostCanada’s 2022 Hyundai Tucson Canada Prices page, 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Canada Prices page, and 2022 Hyundai Tucson Plug-In Hybrid Canada Prices page.
Nissan Rogue sees one of the biggest sales losses in the segment for 2020
While top-five placement from 25,998 sales in 2020 is nothing to sneeze at, Nissan’s Rogue is a regular top-three finisher in the U.S., and used to do just as well up here as well.
The last full calendar year of a longer-than-average six-year run saw the second-generation Rogue’s sales peter out in 2020, resulting in a year-over-year plunge of 30.73 percent. In fact, the only rival to fare worse was the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross that lost 40.66 percent from the year prior, and that sportier model isn’t exactly a direct competitor due to its coupe-crossover-like profile. On the positive, that unique Japanese crossover earned best in its Compact XSUV class in AutoPacific’s 2021 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards, which is something Mitsubishi should be celebrating from the rooftops.
Fortunately, an all-new 2021 Rogue is already upon us, and was doing extremely well over the first half of this year, with Q2 sales placing it in third. That model provides compact SUV buyers a massive jump in competitiveness over its predecessor, especially styling, interior refinement, ride and handling, electronics, plus ride and handling, while its fuel economy is now rated at 8.1 L/100km with AWD.
The new Rogue’s overall goodness was recently recognized by the Automobile Journalist’s Association of Canada (AJAC) that just named it “Best Mid-Size Utility Vehicle in Canada for 2021”, even though it falls within the compact camp.
For those who just need to know, sixth in this compact crossover SUV segment is Ford’s Escape at 23,747 unit-sales, although deliveries crashed by a staggering 39.89 percent from 2019 to 2020, and that’s after a 9.37-percent loss from the year before, and another 9.0 percent tumble from the 12 months prior. Back in calendar year 2017, the Escape was third in the segment, but for reasons that are clearly not related to the Escape Hybrid’s best-in-class fuel economy of 5.9 L/100km combined, the Escape Plug-in Hybrid’s even more miserly functionality, or for that matter the industry’s recent lack of microchips that seem to have crippled Ford more than most other automakers, the blue-oval brand is losing fans in this class at a shocking rate.
And yes, that last point needs to be underlined, there can be many reasons for a given model’s slow-down in sales, from the just-noted chip shortage, as well as the health crisis that hampered much of 2020, to reliability issues and the age of a given model’s lifecycle, while styling is always a key factor in purchasing decisions.
All said, Volkswagen’s Tiguan sits seventh in the compact SUV category with 14,240 units sold in 2020, representing a 26.02-percent drop in year-over-year deliveries, while the aforementioned Forester was eighth with 13,134 deliveries over the same 12-month period. Chevrolet’s Equinox was ninth with 12,502 sales after plummeting 32.43 percent in popularity, whereas Kia’s Sportage capped off 2020’s top 10 list with 11,789 units down Canadian roads after a 6.71-percent downturn.
Continuing on, GMC’s Terrain was 11th with 9,848 deliveries and an 18.09-percent loss, Jeep’s Cherokee was 12th with 9,544 sales and a 30.27-percent dive, Mitsubishi’s Outlander (which also comes in PHEV form) was 13th with 7,444 units sold due to a 30.43-percent decline, and finally the same Japanese brand’s Eclipse Cross was 14th and last in the segment with 3,027 units sold and, as mentioned earlier, a sizeable 40.66-percent thrashing by Canadian compact SUV buyers.
Ford’s Bronco Sport newcomer already making big gains
The Rogue wasn’t the only SUV to shake up the compact SUV class during the first six months of 2021, incidentally, with the second honour going to the Bronco Sport that’s already outselling Jeep’s Cherokee at 2,772 units to 2,072, the Cherokee being the SUV the smaller Bronco most specifically targets thanks to both models’ serious off-road capability.
The Bronco Sport was actually ranking eighth overall when this year’s Q2 closed, beating out the Sportage (which will soon arrive in dramatically redesigned form) despite its two-position move up the charts, this displacing the Forester (which dropped a couple of pegs) and the Equinox (that’s currently ahead of the Forester).
The Cherokee, in fact, moves up a place due to sluggish GMC Terrain sales, but to be fair to General Motors, both its Chevy and GMC models (which are actually the same under the skin) would be positioned in eighth place overall if we were to count them as one SUV, while the Hyundai–Kia pairing (also the same below the surface) would rank third overall.
Make sure to check out the gallery for multiple photos of each and every compact crossover SUV mentioned in this Top 5 overview, plus use the linked model names of each SUV above to find out about available trims, features, options, pricing, discounts (when available), rebates (when available), financing and leasing rates (when available), plus dealer invoice pricing (always available) that could save you thousands on your next new vehicle purchase.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Manufacturer supplied photos
Honda has been a strong player in the subcompact crossover market for decades, although only chose to bring such models to North American markets when our desire for more affordable SUVs firmly took root.…
Honda has been a strong player in the subcompact crossover market for decades, although only chose to bring such models to North American markets when our desire for more affordable SUVs firmly took root.
Those of us that like small, useful crossovers owe thanks to early adopters, such as Honda Element that blazed the trail in 2003. Others followed, like Jeep’s Compass and Patriot in 2006, Nissan’s Cube and Juke in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and the Scion (Toyota) xB that arrived here in 2011, albeit joined the element in the U.S. for 2003. Suzuki’s Samurai actually dates all the way back to 1985, but it (and the Vitara that followed) was a true 4×4 and therefore doesn’t really fit into this crossover segment that often doesn’t even offer all-wheel drive.
Being that AWD is optional and standard on my tester’s Sport trim line, the HR-V isn’t relegated amongst the subcompact SUV segment’s FWD-only alternatives, which are quickly replacing subcompact hatchbacks, but just the same it effectively ousted the once-popular Fit as Honda’s subcompact ride of choice.
The two, in fact, have a lot in common. Both share platform architectures and other unseen components, plus most noticeably their innovative 60/40-split “Magic Seats” system in back, that’s long provided class-leading storage in their respective categories. This last attribute, along with their overall comfort, reasonable performance, impressive fuel economy, and expected reliability, are why I’ve probably recommended them more than any other two cars in their classes.
Honda isn’t alone in discontinuing its subcompact car, by the way. In fact, this once dozen-or-so-strong segment has been whittled down to just three cars, or five when including 2020 models still loitering around unsold on dealer lots. A smattering of new Fits are probably on that list, so for those wanting to save big on a similarly sized car with near identical functionality, may want to take advantage of a $16,390 (plus freight and fees) starting price, plus factory leasing and financing rates from zero percent according to CarCostCanada (whose members having been saving an average of $1,000 when purchasing a new Fit due to their access of dealer invoice pricing info and more).
Honda provides the HR-V in three trims for 2021, including LX, which is available in both FWD or AWD, the latter starting at $27,500, plus as-tested Sport, which as noted earlier comes standard with AWD for $30,500, and finally Touring that starts at $33,700 and also features standard AWD.
With the only available options for each trim being dealer-added accessories and $300 metallic paint colours, my tester finished in eye-catching Orange Burst Metallic, I might as well get such extras out of the way before delving into standard features. With respect to the latter, base LX trim includes 17-inch alloy wheels on 215/55 all-season tires, a front wiper de-icer, heated and powered side mirrors, remote access, heatable front seats, single-zone automatic climate control, a multi-angle rearview parking camera, a centre display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, a 160-watt four-speaker stereo, and more, including those fabulous Magic Seats mentioned earlier.
All HR-Vs come with the Honda Sensing suite of advanced safety and convenience technologies too, such as Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), and automatic high beams, plus of course all the usual active and passive safety gear.
Adding AWD to the LX brings nothing more to the trim line, but moving up to the HR-V Sport makes a big difference visually thanks to much sportier looking machine-finished 17-inch alloys with black painted pockets, plus a glossy black surface treatment added to the grille insert, revised front lip spoiler, wheel cut-out and rocker panel extensions, rear bumper and more. Front fog lamps continue the performance theme, as does a chrome exhaust tip in back, while the mirror caps receive integrated LED turn indicators, and the roof becomes more useful due to silver rails at each side and a black glass moonroof in the middle.
That powered glass sunroof is a lot more enjoyable from the inside, where it sheds light on a special leather-wrapped steering wheel with attached paddle shifters above, and chrome-accented sport pedals below, not to mention another zone for the auto HVAC system, two more speakers and 20 additional watts of power for the audio system, Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) to help maintain a hushed sense of serenity from the outside world, and possible best of all, proximity-sensing entry for easier access.
Touring trim replaces the wheels’ black paint with a shade of medium grey, swaps out the halogen projector-beam headlights with LEDs and simple auto-off system with auto-on/off, reverts the grille insert to the base LX’ dark chrome hue, paints the Sport’s gloss-black exterior trim elements in body-colour, and adds rain-sensing wipers, leather for the shift knob and seating surfaces, ups the infotainment system with navigation plus HD and satellite radio, and tops everything off with an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
All HR-Vs come standard with Honda’s i-VTEC-enhanced 1.8-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine making 141 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque, resulting in amply spirited performance off the line and a cruising speed that’s considerably faster than the posted limits. The aforementioned paddle shifters are good for downshifting to hold a “gear” when coursing through corners, something the HR-V does quite well despite its torsion-beam rear suspension, although I must admit to being more comfortable recommending this little ute for buyers who rate practicality over performance.
To that end it provides one of the more compliant suspension setups in the class, capable of absorbing any city’s or countryside’s pavement irregularities with grace and composure thanks in part to amplitude reactive dampers, while eking out a pretty decent fuel economy rating of 9.1 L/100km city, 7.7 highway and 8.5 combined. You’ll need to engage the HR-V’s standard Eco Assist system and drive modestly if you want to attain such numbers, but thanks in part to an efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT) it’s easily doable.
If those numbers seem a bit high, the LX FWD is stingier at 8.4 L/100km in the city, 7.0 on the highway and 7.8 combined, while the same base trim with AWD gets a respective rating of 8.8, 7.5 and 8.2. Some in this class do better, but then again others aren’t quite as miserly. You should also keep in mind that most manufacturers provide more than one model in this burgeoning subcompact SUV category, with many that are smaller than the HR-V, while a few brands include hybrid-electric and full-EV variants as well, which, while initially more expensive, are much thriftier to drive.
Of course, now that this rapidly growing segment includes more than two dozen entries, compared to just 14 when the HR-V arrived in June of 2015, choosing the exact one to serve your needs has become more complicated. This said, despite the HR-V being three years into its fairly comprehensive mid-cycle refresh, and seven years into this second-generation body style (we never saw the first-gen model), its strong fifth-place position on 2020’s subcompact SUV sales chart should help you understand what a superb little runabout it truly is.
The interior has always been finished well, with a premium-like soft composite surrounding the centre display and bolster ahead of the front passenger, plus unique woven black fabric one-piece door uppers and inserts with comfortable padding underneath. The material almost looks like a black denim, but it’s softer and appears more like the cloth used for the roof-liner above. I like the look and the feel, as its plush and easy on arms and elbows. The door panels’ armrests are large and covered in a stitched leatherette, these mirroring the centre armrest and looking much like the sides of lower centre console, which while more rubber-like in feel, protect the inside knees of both front occupants.
Unlike most vehicles in this class, Honda finishes the rear door panels as nicely as those up front, including the same high-quality fabric for the door uppers. This is a big deal, because most competitors downgrade the rear seating areas. This said, don’t expect to find outboard seat warmers in back, or any other luxury touches, but you won’t care as soon as you start playing with the magical seats that I keep going on and on about.
Need to stow a bike (without its front wheel) upright inside? Simply flip the rear cushions upward, pickup truck style, and an otherwise difficult challenge becomes as easy as walking it in. So configured, the second-row floor is ideal for transporting tall potted plants as well, or any other unwieldy cargo, while the dedicated luggage compartment benefits from a lower load floor than most rivals as well, even with the rear seatbacks are folded flat. Combined with its tall roofline, the HR-V’s maximum cargo capacity is cavernous at 1,583 litres in Sport trim, while this model measures 657 litres behind the rear seats.
Back up front, the primary gauge cluster consists of a large centre speedometer, a digital tachometer to the left, and a multi-information display to the right, although the latter is more of a digital display providing oil, fuel, and odometer info. Its legibility is excellent in all lighting conditions, and adding a bit of fun to the functionality, a ring around the
Being that the gauge cluster’s multi-info display is simple, the switchgear on the steering wheel spokes is for controlling the audio system, changing settings on the centre display, engaging and modulating the adaptive cruise control system, and more, while Honda includes some extra switches below those spokes for additional cruise control adjustments, plus answering calls and using the voice command system.
The high-resolution infotainment touchscreen is large, bright and colourful, with attractive graphics and a totally up-to-date look. Honda updated this for the HR-V’s 2019 remake, and made sure to include a physical dial for adjusting audio volume and turning the system on and off. The backup camera is large and clear, while its multi-angle view really assists when trying to get close to the curb without scratching the wheels. I had no issue connecting my phone via Bluetooth or listening to favourite podcasts through streaming audio, while setting up Android Auto was easy and worked well.
As for the dual-zone auto HVAC system noted earlier, you won’t be able to miss its large interface resting just below on the centre stack. It includes nice big digital readouts and its buttons are touch-sensitive for a truly upscale feel. Controls for the two-way heated front seats are included on this panel as well, while its high-gloss black finish seems to flow downwards onto the lower centre console where inky piano black lacquer covers most of the top surface and much of the shifter knob and electromechanical parking brake pull-tab, just like it does on the lower steering wheel spokes and each paddle shifter. It’s a nice look, but this type of surface treatment often scratches too easily and collects dust something awful. On the positive, Honda provides plenty of bright metallic accenting around the cabin too, which should wear well.
The small overhead console isn’t much to write home about, but its two incandescent reading lights brighten the interior well when needed, and power sunroof switch works as required. Much better is the fabric used for the seat upholstery, which covers its bolsters with a similar cloth to the door panels, plus adds an attractively textured and dappled darker black material to the seat inserts.
The HR-V’s driving position is excellent, with good adjustability from the seat and even better reach from the tilt and telescopic steering column. The backrest provides excellent lower back support and the bolsters are even good for keeping body in place during hard cornering. Likewise, rear seats are comfortable, while as you might expect given the HR-V’s cargo capacity, rear passenger roominess is superb for this class.
All summed up, I can’t help but recommend the HR-V once again, because it does everything a small SUV should, plus is more practical than anything else in the class. That’s probably why the Canadian Black Book ranks the HR-V highest for retained value in its Sub-Compact Crossover category, this possibly the single most important reason you should consider purchasing one. All in all, it’s hard to wrong with an HR-V.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
With five-passenger crossovers regularly at the top of the mid-size SUV sales charts in North America, Honda simply had to be in on the game. Therefore, in another attempt to replicate its small utility…
With five-passenger crossovers regularly at the top of the mid-size SUV sales charts in North America, Honda simply had to be in on the game. Therefore, in another attempt to replicate its small utility success in the large SUV categories, the two-row, five-passenger Passport joined up with the three-row Pilot for 2019.
Most automotive industry followers saw the initial news stories along with the usual follow-up pieces about pricing, trims, standard and optional features, etcetera, and then plumb forgot about the new SUV soon after. A smattering of ads that accompanied the SUV when introduced might have initially put it on some consumers’ radars, but it could’ve just as likely flown under yours, as they’re not exactly easy to spot on the road.
Honda delivered just 3,017 Passports in Canada throughout 2020, its first year of availability, and a mere 559 during Q1 of this year, which incidentally makes it the slowest selling mid-size SUV in Canada, other than Toyota’s new Venza that only arrived in September last year, yet still found 1,403 buyers (and at the end of March 2021 another 798 new owners), and Dodge’s 150-year-old Journey (ok, in reality it’s just 13 years old) that’s been discontinued for two years, yet still managed to lure in 420 bargain shoppers. This means by Q1 2021’s close, the Venza was already outselling the Passport by 143 percent, while by May’s end its lead had grown to 175 percent.
The larger Pilot, on the other hand, has enjoyed a fairly steady rise in sales over the past decade, with 2020 being its best year yet thanks to 9,340 new owners. This has allowed it to move up through the ranks, now sitting fifth amongst three-row SUVs, with 11 contenders trailing behind, which once again has me wondering why the Passport hasn’t caught on.
After all, being dead last in any SUV category makes absolutely no sense for a brand that, until recently, had been swapping the lead baton back and forth in the compact SUV segment as if the CR-V and Toyota RAV4 were part of the same relay team. The RAV4 has since rode off into the sunset with 67,977 units down the road last year, much thanks to conventional gasoline, plus hybrid and plug-in Prime variants, but the single-engine-powered CR-V still held an extremely strong second place with 50,135 deliveries in 2020, the next brightest star being Mazda’s CX-5 with 30,583 down the road during the same 12 months. Just why Honda hasn’t been able to graduate a reasonable number of these CR-V owners into its mid-size Passport is hard to fathom, but, amongst other issues, it may come down to the larger SUV targeting an intrinsically different type of buyer.
The CR-V does well because it’s reasonably priced and fuel-efficient, plus nice enough looking, comfortable, amply spacious, technically advanced, historically dependable, capable of holding its resale/residual value, etcetera. I can say much the same about the Passport (the Canadian Black Book shows its larger Pilot sibling tied as runners-up with the Toyota 4Runner in mid-size SUV retained value, so one would think the Passport would fair similarly), although few people have even heard of this newcomer, plus its entry price is higher than the majority of its five-seat rivals, and it’s hardly as fuel-efficient as most of those too.
The CR-V occupies this same position on CCB’s compact SUV retained value list, incidentally, right beside the now defunct Nissan Xterra (a BIG mistake for Nissan to have dropped this model) and just below Jeep’s Wrangler, which makes me feel all the better about the countless times I’ve recommended Honda’s little runabout to new and pre-owned buyers, both here in reviews and personally to friends and colleagues.
The Passport (and its larger Pilot sibling) on the other hand, never came to mind when offering up my sage wisdom (ahem), but considering the CCB’s rating of the latter, I should probably start adding it to my list of large SUV recommendations. I’ll need to see whether or not the Passport catches on before it gets a full thumbs up, however, because a vehicle needs to have garnered a large enough group of waiting pre-owned buyers in order to maintain its value.
As happenstance is, halfway through writing this review I received a call from a friend who was surprisingly considering a lease takeover of a Honda Passport. He’s waiting for the next-generation Toyota 4Runner to launch, which he’ll probably buy far in advance, but until then he needs something to drive, because the lease of his previous 4Runner came due and he chose not to buy it out. Being that he’s already ok with driving a relatively thirsty V6, and that he won’t actually be purchasing, but effectively renting instead, I couldn’t argue against it, but I didn’t get behind the decision like I would’ve done so for a CR-V.
Instead, I recommended he check out LeaseBusters, a service that specializes in lease takeovers (and in full disclosure is affiliated with this site), in order to see what else might be available for $600 per month, the charge being asked for that specific 2019 Passport. It’s not that a Passport wouldn’t work for him, as it probably would, but I’d rather he suss out all available options before making what will probably be a two-year commitment.
To be fair, the Passport is much more fuel-efficient than any V6-powered 4Runner to date. While the next-gen 4Runner will probably ship with a hybrid, the current long-in-tooth model is rated at a dismal 14.8 L/100km city, 12.5 highway and 13.8 combined, compared to a relative 12.5, 9.8 and 11.3 for the Passport. The Pilot, incidentally, is good for a claimed 12.4, 9.3 and 11.0. Yes, you read that right. The larger, heavier three-row Honda gets better fuel economy than the shorter, lighter two-row variant. Go figure. It must come down to aerodynamics on the highway.
How does the Passport fare against immediate competitors? Toyota’s Venza comes standard with a hybrid power unit and therefore walks away with the mid-size two-row efficiency prize, its rating being 5.9 L/100km in the city, 6.4 on the highway and 6.1 combined. Ouch! No wonder it’s selling better. The Toyota’s $38,490 starting sticker doesn’t hurt either, especially next to this Honda’s near premium-level $43,670 entry price. That’s a $5,000-plus deterrent, combined with nearly twice the ongoing fuel costs. I’m not a big fan of the Venza’s styling, and I quite like the Passport’s looks front to back, but it’s hard to argue against such night and day savings.
As a useful comparo, let’s see how the Passport rates against all five-seat competitors when it comes to pricing and fuel economy with AWD (city/highway/combined) in the order of sales numbers:
Toyota Venza: $38,490; 5.9/6.4/6.1; 798 in Q1 2021; 1,403 from Sep-Dec 2020
While price and fuel economy doesn’t seem to affect the sales of cult-like 4x4s, such as Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner, it really does appear to impact car-based family haulers, such as Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Subaru’s Outback, the latter of which enjoys some built-in cult status of its own. Ford’s Edge has long been at or near the top of this pack, so it has earned its fair share of repeat buyers, even if it doesn’t quite measure up empirically, while Kia’s Sorento does well by delivering a whole host of positives including value. Chevy’s new Blazer should be doing well, but its lofty price no doubt causes pause from savvy shoppers, whereas the Passport’s highest starting price amongst car-based crossovers is no doubt pushing it down the pecking order.
Of course, what this interesting data dump doesn’t tell us is how these vehicles drive or how easy they are to live with. That’s where I come in, and while it would be outrageous to try and squeeze a segment-wide comparison into one review, I’ve covered many of these models earlier, or at least have driven most and will review as quickly as possible.
I commented earlier that you may not have even seen a new Passport on the road, but it’s more likely that you have and just didn’t realize you weren’t looking at a Pilot. While the Passport is a bit tougher looking, thanks to a blackened grille that appears bigger due to a deeper mesh insert, plus some additional matte-black lower body cladding, a revised liftgate that doesn’t include the Pilot’s additional blade-shaped taillight reflectors, and gloss-black wheels, it’s basically a shortened Pilot from the outside in. That’s not a bad thing since Honda toughened up the look of the Pilot for 2019, with both models now appearing rugged and SUV-like.
My tester wore a gorgeous Deep Scarlet Pearl paint job, one of four $300 optional colours available in Touring trim, including Obsidian Blue Pearl, Crystal Black Pearl, and Platinum White Pearl, with the only standard colour being Modern Steel Metallic. Once again, I admit to liking the way the Passport looks, especially in this rich colour. Due to its abbreviated length, the Passport appears more upright than its longer sibling too, resulting in even more of a traditional SUV stance, which is not unlike the original Pilot.
Classic SUV in mind, when Honda launched the Passport back in 2019, they made a point of showing photos of it doing some pretty severe off-roading manoeuvres, not to mention hauling camping gear such as canoes, kayaks and even a sizeable trailer, while a complementary video combined some energetic music with clips of it hustling up a mountainside dirt road, plus one close-up of a wheel in the air as part of a staged articulation exercise (check out my previous news story with photos and video). It was all in an effort to give the Passport a more rough and ready image than the Pilot, something its shorter wheelbase would allow for inherently, but there’s more to Honda’s two-row alternative than that.
Most notably, the Passport adds 28 mm (1.1 inches) of ground clearance over its Pilot sibling (with its standard all-wheel drive layout, or 13 mm/0.5 inches with US-exclusive FWD), allowing greater ease over obstacles such as rocks and roots or through deep potholes and ruts that can be found on any ungraded road or trail. What’s more, Honda’s enhanced i-VTM4 all-wheel drive system, which uses active torque vectoring to send up to 70 percent of engine torque to the rear axle and 100 percent to either the left or right rear wheels, provides good traction when things get slippery, whether the surface below is cold and snowy or hot and sandy.
Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management (ITM) system adds another element to the Passport’s off-road capabilities, due to four driving modes that work together with its all-wheel drive system, including normal, snow, mud and sand selections.
Of course, most owners will never venture off pavement, which to be fair is true for ultra-capable 4x4s made by Land Rover and Mercedes too, so the fact that Honda’s AWD system also overdrives the Passport’s outside rear wheels while cornering in order to maintain grip is probably even more important to would-be buyers.
I can’t say that I’d be willing to torture a new Passport in “the world’s harshest environments” such as “the sands of Dubai, muddy country roads of Russia, and snowbound trails in Minnesota,” as Honda claimed was done during the Passport’s development, but I’d certainly be comfortable taking on the types of dirt roads shown in its launch video. I’d also be more than happy to test its mettle on the rougher sections shown in the photos, as long as it was part of a launch event and Honda’s PR team had ok’d it. I’ve done so previously with the brand during such programs, with especially good memories of getting down and dirty with the original Ridgeline.
As for towing, the Passport’s standard 2,268-kg (5,000-lb) rating (1,588 kg or 3,500 lbs for U.S.-spec front-wheel drive models) should be good enough for mid-size camp trailers and average-sized fishing and ski boats, while an “overhead” feature found in the standard multi-view camera makes connecting a hitch and trailer easier than ever before.
One of the reasons it provides such impressive trailering capability is the 3.5-litre V6 that so negatively impacts fuel economy. With 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, it’s the most potent base engine in its two-row class, which will either be a boon or a bane depending on your priorities. Honda has equipped it with an i-VTEC valvetrain and Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) in order to enhance power while minimizing consumption, while its nine-speed automatic transmission with standard idle-stop that shuts off the engine when it would otherwise be idling, tries to maintain the fewest revs possible in its normal driving mode. Still, step into the throttle and the Pilot moves off the line quite nicely, while providing strong passing power on the highway.
Thanks to weight savings of 16 to 55 kilograms (35 to 121 lbs) depending on trim, the 1,890- to 1,914-kg (4,167- to 4,219-lb) Passport feels a bit more energetic off the line than the Pilot, with the just-noted transmission providing ultra-smooth, yet positively shifting performance throughout its range, via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters no less, this needed for manual mode, being that the gear selector is Honda’s array of electronic buttons and pull-tabs on the lower console (it gets easier to use with familiarity).
Likewise, for the suspension, which combines an excellent ride with more engagement through the curves than the larger Pilot, despite using the same fully independent front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link setup, featuring amplitude reactive dampers and Agile Handle Assist.
Combine its better handling and more capable off-road chops, with stronger straight-line acceleration and fractionally worse fuel economy, and the only negative left is cost. Of course, its near $44k starting point (which in fact is pricier than the larger Pilot’s $42,605 MSRP) is a big hurdle to overcome when compared to most rivals. Granted the Passport comes standard with AWD, which compares well to the majority of competitors that make it optional, but adding AWD to the aforementioned Santa Fe will only set you back $2,000 more at $33,399, although doing so with a V6-powered Murano pushes its price up by $6,000 to $40,098, because that model automatically includes mid-grade SV trim, featuring navigation, an overhead 360-degree surround parking monitor, a panoramic glass sunroof, and more.
The Passport comes in three trims, including Sport, EX-L and Touring, the latter two starting at $47,270 and $50,670 respectively. Colours and dealer-added accessories aside, none of the trims offer any options, with the only new feature since its inaugural year being a 2021 upgrade from a rather sad little 5.0-inch infotainment display in its most basic trim, to the much more respectable 8.0-inch display found in second- and third-tier trims last year, which incidentally comes complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, the aforementioned Multi-Angle Rearview Camera with dynamic guidelines, Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot display that provides a rear visual of your blind spot when flicking the turn signal, Siri Eyes Free, wi-fi tethering, control of a six-speaker 115-watt seven-speaker audio with a subwoofer, and more.
Some additional standard Sport features worth noting include 20-inch alloy wheels, LED (low beam) headlights with auto high-beam assist, LED DRLs, LED fog lamps, LED side mirror repeaters, and LED taillights, a front wiper de-icer, proximity-sensing keyless Smart Entry and Smart Start, remote engine start, a configurable 7.0-inch colour TFT multi-information display within the primary instrument cluster that features audio, trip and phone info (plus turn-by-turn route guidance on models with navigation), adaptive cruise control, tri-zone automatic climate control, two USB device connectors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal remote, a powered moonroof, a heatable leather-wrapped steering wheel rim, a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat including two-way powered lumbar support (that nicely met up with the small of my back), and more.
On the “more” list is the Honda Sensing suite of advanced driver assistive and safety systems, which include Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS) with Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Road Departure Mitigation (RDM) including Lane Departure Warning (LDW), plus Lane Keeping Assistance System (LKAS) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). These are joined by the industry’s usual assortment of active and passive safety items, plus Honda’s proprietary Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure, which unfortunately isn’t enough to even warrant a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS, let alone revered Plus status.
The Passport does appear safe, however, thanks to best-possible “G” (for good) ratings in its “Small overlap front: driver-side”, “Moderate overlap front”, “Side”, “Roof strength”, and “Head restraints & seats” crash tests, but only an “A” (acceptable) rating for its important “Small overlap front: passenger-side” and “Headlights” tests, not to mention merely an acceptable rating for the its child seat LATCH system’s “ease of use” test (the latter item having nothing to do with safety).
It’s certainly easy to fold those rear seats down, however, which, by pressing electronic release buttons on the cargo wall, expands the dedicated cargo area behind the second row from 1,166 litres (41.2 cu ft) to 2,206 litres (77.9 cu ft). Interestingly, the first number is only 56 litres (2.0 cu ft) more accommodating than a CR-V, which might be another reason that owners of the smaller and more efficient Honda aren’t moving up.
Just like the CR-V, the Passport’s second-row seats split in the usual 60/40 configuration, which while not optimally divided in my favourite 40/20/40 split, which allows for longer items like skis to be placed down the middle, is the norm in this mainstream volume-branded class, while a reversible cargo floor swaps out carpeting for a washable hard plastic surface when needing to haul dirtier loads. Underfloor storage is segment-leading, by the way, measuring 71 litres (2.5 cu ft).
While cargo capacity might not be enough of a differentiator for CR-V owners to move up to the Passport, the larger SUV’s roomy passenger compartment might cause some to reconsider their allegiance. It gains 368 litres (13.0 cubic feet) over the smaller Honda, thanks to 3,282 litres (115.9 cu ft) ahead of the rear seatbacks for segment-leading spaciousness, while the Passport’s 4,448 litres (157.1 cu ft) of overall interior volume is best-in-class as well.
As importantly, the Passport is finished well inside, or at least my Touring trimmed example was. Before I get ahead of myself, some notable EX-L features include a quieter acoustic windshield to enhance refinement, a memory-linked driver’s seat and side mirrors with reverse gear tilt-down, rear parking sensors, HD and satellite radio, two more USB charging ports, leather upholstery for the seating surfaces, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, heated rear outboard seats, and a powered liftgate.
Lastly, my Touring model came with some special gloss black bumper skid garnishes, auto-levelling LED (low and high beam) headlamps, auto-dimming power-folding side mirrors, quieter front door acoustic glass, Blind Spot Information (BSI) with Rear Cross Traffic monitoring, additional ambient lighting in the cupholders, door panels and footwells, ventilated front seats, a superb sounding 550-watt 10-speaker audio upgrade, accurate navigation, a navi-based compass, 4G LTE in-vehicle Wi-Fi that can support up to seven devices, wireless device charging, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, and hands-free access for the powered liftgate.
As I mentioned a moment ago, my tester’s cabin was finished nicely, but Honda was careful that it wouldn’t compete with Acura’s MDX. The front door uppers and dash top receive a soft composite surface treatment, the latter down to the midpoint of the instrument panel, around the gauge cluster and surrounding the centre display, while the lower dash and door uppers are hard shell plastic. Likewise, for the glove box lid, while the rear door panels, save for the door inserts and armrests, are entirely made from hard plastic too. Hard plastic rear door uppers are unusually substandard for the mid-size class, with some compact SUVs, like Mazda’s CX-5, offering soft-touch door uppers and even real hardwood trim to go along with supple Nappa-leather upholstery. Like I said, the Passport isn’t trying to be premium in execution.
More impressive is the decently sized high-resolution touchscreen atop the mid-stack, this being one of the more attractive and easier infotainment system interfaces to use in the industry, and I’m not just saying this to leave on a positive note. The nicely coloured tiles are easy to navigate through, the graphics are large and clear, and the parking camera is superb.
So, after this epic, novel-length review is done, what’s the final verdict? I think the most important takeaway is the Passport’s overall goodness as an accommodating mid-size SUV that’s ideal for five adults and plenty of gear. Its on-road handling and off-road prowess should make for a good compromise when comparing it to less well-rounded alternatives, while its good forecasted reliability, and strong expected retained value might make up for its higher initial price.
This said, the Passport’s base price includes a lot of standard goodies, which if tacked onto some rivals would pull their dollar-for-dollar evaluations much closer this Honda. Still, it lacks some options mid-size SUV buyers like, such as the panoramic sunroof included in the much more affordable Murano. In the end, you’ll need to weigh each SUV’s advantages once getting closer to your final choice.