The space between compact and midsize crossovers, automakers have discovered, is ripe for the creation of a wholly new segment. A tweener, essentially, that bridges the gap with two rows of seating but more cargo room, power, and (often) luxury than a compact can muster.
Ford learned this long ago with its Edge, and General Motors recently discovered it with the reborn 2019 Blazer. Nissan’s Murano stakes out the same ground, positioning itself as the slightly upscale alternative to the Rogue and Pathfinder. Then there’s the former Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, now just Santa Fe. Not to miss out on an opportunity for big crossover bucks, Honda’s preparing to enter the fray with a new iteration of the Passport.
Unlike the Passport that came before, there’s no Isuzu hiding beneath these clothes.
We learned about the model’s looming return last year, but full specs won’t be available until Nov. 27th, the day before its LA Auto Show debut. At least there’s something to look at now, as Honda teased some camo-free shots Thursday. Unmasked, maybe, but cloaked by distance and dust. The automaker provided a video, seemingly shot at 500 feet, of the vehicle carving a path up a dirt mountain road, never once providing a front or side angle.
What a tease.
The original Passport saw Honda take an Isuzu Rodeo and spend very little time turning it into a just-in-time SUV offering. Introduced for the 1994 model year, it survived through two generations until its demise in 2002. This model dispenses with yesterday’s badge engineering BS, however, preferring an in-house platform (a shortened version of the Pilot’s) to go with its five-seat cabin.
Honda doesn’t give us much to go on, but it’s expected that the powertrain will also be a Pilot carryover. That means a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque mated to a six- or nine-speed automatic, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see Honda drop a turbocharged 2.0-liter in this rig, as well.
With sales of even well-regarded passenger cars dropping fast, adding a new, high-margin entry to the company’s light truck lineup would be a boon for Honda. Through October, total Honda brand car sales fell 9.8 percent, with a 14.8 percent year-over-year dip recorded last month. Meanwhile, light truck volume rose 5.3 percent, year to date.
The 2019 Honda Passport launches early next year.