Honda's Forgotten SUV Won an Impressive Award

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Of all the SUVs in Honda’s current lineup, the Passport gets the least amount of love from consumers. While the beloved CR-V and Pilot both crossed the 100,000-unit threshold in 2020, the automaker sold under 40,000 Passports. But lackluster sales are not a good indicator of the value offered in the Honda SUV.
Car and Driver awarded the 2021 Passport its Editor’s Choice as the best mid-size SUV of the year. In all, Honda won in seven categories, but the Passport’s trophy is the most surprising since the model was third to last in sales for Honda in 2020.
The publisher said that for its price point, the Passport offers an impressive amount of safety features, space, and power. In its review, it gave the Honda SUV an 8.5/10.
A 2021 Honda Passport on display off-road
The 2021 Honda Passport has impressed many critics.

What’s so special about the Honda Passport?

At first glance, the Honda Passport might not impress. The SUV has had the same basic model design since 2018, and its 8-inch touchscreen looks pretty small compared to other models. But a closer look reveals a few eye-catching details.
Under the hood, for example, you’ll find a 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine—the same one found in the Passport’s bigger brother, the Pilot. That’s a lot of oomph for an SUV of this size. It allows the Passport to tow an impressive maximum of 5,000 pounds.
Standard driver-assistance features, ample legroom, and up to 78 cubic feet of cargo space also add to the Passport’s practical and appealing qualities. With all that, it’s a wonder why it isn’t as popular as Honda’s other SUVs.

Why are Honda Passport sales so low?

With such high test scores, it’s hard to understand why the Passport can’t match the popularity of the Honda Pilot or CR-V. But a look at the trends shows the mid-size SUV segment performing poorly in general.
The Ford Edge, a close rival of the Passport, also undersold compared to its siblings the Escape and the Explorer, according to Good Car Bad Car.
Nissan’s mid-size model, the Murano, was also significantly outperformed by the automaker’s compact SUV, the Rogue, and its family sedan, the Altima. The only mid-size star of the year within its brand sales-wise was the Hyundai Sante Fe, which was only outdone by one of Hyundai’s models, the compact Tuscon.
All in all, it seems that SUV fans want big or small rather than middle-of-the-road space and capability. It might explain why Mazda, which both U.S. News and Consumer Reports named car brand of the year, has completely done away with the segment altogether, opting instead for crossovers like the CX-5, Car and Driver’s favorite SUV of the year.

Things to consider while shopping for a new SUV

Whether the Honda Passport fits you just right or the praises showered on the 2021 Mazda CX-5 convinced you to go the crossover route, you should factor in a few details besides style, space, and capability before buying an SUV.
Kelley Blue Book says that nearly 50% of the cost of owning a new vehicle comes from its depreciation. Choosing a vehicle with a high-resell value like a Subaru Outback can help you limit that chunk of your losses. Fuel economy, interest rates, and car insurance should also be taken into account.
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