This weekend’s Los Angeles motor show will see Honda resurrect the Passport nameplate. Already teased ahead of the launch, this new SUV will slot between the CR-V and the Pilot. With Honda America claiming that the new model will hit the sweet spot between daily driving comfort and all-weather adventure capability, it is sure to bolster the brand’s utility vehicle line-up, which, incidentally is not as varied and extensive as that of Toyota’s or Nissan’s.
The ‘Passport’ name is a significant one for Honda, as it was the brand’s first SUV. However, until now it wasn’t a name the Japanese carmaker would have been proud of. Ironically, the model that helped the brand make its foray into the popular segment was not a Honda, but a rebadged Isuzu. When demand for practical, comfortable and powerful utility vehicles skyrocketed in the early Nineties, Honda found itself ill-prepared. Desperately in need of a model that could take on the Fords and the Chevys which were selling like hot cakes, Honda turned to Isuzu, which already had the mid-size Rodeo in its line-up.
Although this badge engineering arrangement helped Honda enter the lucrative SUV market as early as 1993, the Passport was not a vehicle that could boast the same levels of quality and reliability that had made other Honda models popular. So while people were paying for the Honda badge, what they got was a car that had all the inherent problems that the Rodeo had. So when the late Nineties Rodeos were recalled for severe rust damage to the frames, Passports were also included as they were susceptible to the same problem. In really bad cases, Honda even had to buy back some of the vehicles from owners.
The partnership lasted barely a decade, and the Passport was discontinued as soon as Honda’s in-house engineered Pilot SUV was ready to be marketed.
But being an all-Honda vehicle, the new Passport is sure to be a different story.