The Honda Passport was the motor company's first step in breaking into the American SUV market that began exploding in the 1990s. Comparable to the Jeep Cherokee and the Mitsubishi Montero of the time, it was regarded as a good first effort but lacked styling pizzazz when it appeared, according to reviewers. While it offered some nice options and featured quality interior appointments, critics were not impressed, saying that it was far outstripped by the current crop of SUVs that emerged without being built on a truck chassis.
The Passport was a classic front-engine, rear-wheel or four-wheel drive Honda product. The first generation offered a choice of two engines, a 2.6-liter that put out 120 horsepower and a 3.2-liter cranking out 175. The second generation was available only in a beefed-up 3.2-liter with an output of 205 ponies. Transmission choices were a 5-speed manual and an automatic. There was nothing radical about the design, but it did provide a more car-like ride than most SUVs when it was released. Fuel economy was average for this type of vehicle, about 17.5 overall.
The Passport was deemed a compact SUV when it was initially released in 1994. Designed and built by Isuzu in Lafayette, Indiana, as a Honda version of the Isuzu Rodeo, this was only one of several vehicles the company made and provided under the Honda brand. The collaboration continued until the eventual replacement of the Passport with the Pilot in 2002, a year that also marked Isuzu's exit from the American automotive market.
The Passport was available in two trim levels, the LX and EX. The EX was the higher of the trims and featured such niceties as a power moonroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and touches of wood trim in the interior. During its entire lifecycle, the Passport looked eerily similar to the Chevrolet Blazer on the market at the time. It closely resembled many other SUVs not built on a truck chassis and offered nothing startling or different. It may have been less than inspired, but it was very popular in the northwestern U.S. during its production run.
The critics were right when they proclaimed the Honda Passport less than imaginative. On the other hand, Honda has a reputation for building solid vehicles and this was its first SUV entrant. Other than the criticism over its very average presence, it was a durable and comfortable SUV that featured creature comforts that were harbingers of things to come in later makers' luxury SUVs. Additionally, the Passport garnered respectable safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, something anyone hauling children considered important in a vehicle
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