2020 Honda Passport: A Mid-Size SUV Built For Big Adventure

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This is how you get your kid to put down her phone.

I’m about to come to the saddest chapter of my life: When my youngest kid heads off to college. So I am clinging to every possible moment with her. “Please put your phone down at the table!” is not about manners, it’s about those priceless few moments before she flies the nest for the boundless horizon of her future.

So, a chance to look at colleges in California was made even better by a side trip to hike, ride horses and glamp near Yosemite National Park. In the process we toured three schools, experienced four climates, drove 800 miles and sang and laughed a lot.

Related: The Best Cars for Getting Off the Grid and Back to Nature

Honda Passport

THIS is what an SUV is all about: getting off the road.?Scotty Reiss

Getting Your Teen’s Attention: Let Her Navigate (With Help Of Course)

My daughter and I set off from Los Angeles in a borrowed 2019 Honda Passport (priced from $31,990 to about $44,000) to tour the University California San Diego. With just the two of us and me at the wheel the whole time (Honda’s loan rules prohibit teen drivers), Estee had to navigate, not something she’s used to doing. Typically, she’s in the back seat with headphones on.

But this trip she plugged her phone into the infotainment system and up popped Apple Car Play. From there she was able to put in the destination and navigate, calling out the turns and giving me an overview of what to expect in unfamiliar territory. She could also plug in a side trip to Starbucks and research gas stations and hotels along the way.

And, she could navigate us to the beach in Santa Barbara, our second stop. Because you have to go to the beach while you’re in California, right?

Related: The Honda Passport Elite is ideal for small families

Honda Passport

Under floor cargo space in the Passport was a great place to leave our things while we went for a hike. ?Scotty Reiss

Parking Lot Presto-Chango

Did I mention that we drove through several different climates on our trip? We started in San Diego where temperatures were in the geographically typical ’70s; by the time we got to Yosemite the temperature had dropped to the ‘50s and that night it would plunge into the ’30s. We packed layers upon layers for these changes, but still, when we stopped we typically had to peel off or add layers of clothing. The spacious cargo area in the Passport that let us open our bags to spread out as we needed. And, we could stow our small bags and jackets under the cargo floor in a concealed compartment when we went hiking. That is priceless.

Related: Need a slightly smaller SUV? The Honda HR-V is a comfortable compact SUV for around town

Honda Passport

Maybe the Passport’s best feature is the center console that holds a handbag, even my huge and heavy bag.?Scotty Reiss

What Made Me Really Excited? Not One, But Two Perfect Places to Put a Handbag

Honda figured this out. Maybe it’s because the designer of the Passport (and the Pilot three row SUV) is a woman. Maybe it’s because men carry more stuff these days too and they’re tired of heavy pockets, so they go with a backpack. Or maybe it’s just common sense. But the Honda Passport has two great places to put a handbag.

First, it fits right on top of the center console. And it won’t slide off and any bag fits. This is probably the most brilliant handbag spot in any car anywhere. Seriously.

Honda opted not to turn this precious piece of real estate into an arm rest; rather, they added arm rests to the seats. Then, they lowered the height of the console so the retractable top sits at about hip height to passengers. Last, the back edge of the console curves up holding your handbag, or tote or backpack, squarely in place and at a good height so it’s not in your way as you drive, but accessible when you need it.

The other great place to put your handbag, or tote or backpack, is on the floor in the center of the back seat. It’s flat. So your bag won’t fall off the hump, and if it’s designed to sit squarely, it shouldn’t easily tip over (mine didn’t). This is also a nice touch if you have more than one bag or passengers wit handbags or backpacks.

Get all the Fact on the Honda Passport, including pricing, key details and what we loved  about this mid-size SUV 

Glamping Honda Passport

Glamping with my daughter was a priceless experience.?Scotty Reiss

Getting Off the Grid. For Real. And Without Worry

So maybe the best way to get your teen to put down her phone and look you in the eye is to go someplace with no cell signal. Painful for you, too, but it’s best way to really relax and recharge. On our drive through the agricultural plains of central California and into the foothills of Yosemite, we watched as our signal bars slipped away.

Thankfully, the Honda’s navigation system kept up with where we were when our phone signals died so we never got lost (I guess we could have gone old school and picked up a paper map). The oversized fuel tank (19.5 gallons) gave us plenty of range though the mountains so we didn’t have to worry about finding a gas station.

But the charging capability (we still have to take photos after all!) is precious. The Passport has lots of USB ports, a wireless charge pad (in the Elite model we drove) and best of all, a household outlet on the back of the center console. Hello powering anything you need at the campground.

Honda Passport

Rear cargo room in the Honda Passport.?Scotty Reiss

Cargo Space That Lets You Bring What You Need

The rear cargo area also has plenty of room for anything you might bring along, too: tents, sleeping bags, a large cooler; the seats fold flat for larger items and if you want to bring along a kayak, paddle boards or bikes, the Passport has roof rails.

We arrived at Auto Camp near Mariposa, California and packed in for a few days of hiking, horseback riding and evenings around the campfire. We camped the only way either of us really think it should be done: In a fancy tent, compete with lights and electric blankets, perfect for when nighttime temperatures plunge to freezing (we also had an Airstream for hot showers and morning coffee).

And during the day we hopped into the Passport to explore Yosemite, seeing not just the iconic views, but soaking in the reality that is life today. We both shuddered as we passed fire lines on the hills, the south sides of the trees charred by fire, the north sides seemingly normal; other hillsides were a vast graveyard of char and ash, reminding us of the vulnerability of our land, and how truly priceless time with it is.

Honda Passport

The 2020 Honda Passport.?Scotty Reiss

A Full Size SUV with the Benefits of a Smaller SUV

Sounds like an oxymoron, right? But nope. Here’s the thing: I love the cargo space, the wide seats, the spacious center console and wider rear seat of a full size SUV. You can fit three child passenger car seats across the rear seat—there are even lower seat LATCH anchors for three seats, and three adults can sit there and not feel squeezed. I also like how the Passport stands a little higher off the ground— an inch higher than the Pilot— making it great on dirt and gravel roads, snow or driving through shallow water.

I don’t need a third row any longer. So why pay for it, in both size and price? Squeezing into parking spots in a 3-row SUV can be a challenge; the Passport was relatively easy to park, both in parking lots and when parallel parking on the street.

That’s the beauty of a 5-passenger full size SUV. There aren’t many, in fact. Honda realized this when customers would come to dealerships and have a Goldilocks moment: The Pilot is too large and the CR-V is too small. The Passport is just right.

And for us, getting off the grid and back to spending quality time with my daughter, the Passport was just the ticket.

Honda Passport

The Passport’s side view mirror.?Scotty Reiss

What We Listened to in the Honda Passport

Of course we listened to music! The Passport’s premium sound ws perfect for our playlists.  This is what we listened to:

Disclosure: Honda provided the Passport for this adventure and provided travel and accommodations for part of this trip. All opinions and memories are our own.

Honda Passport Mid Size Suv

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss