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1998 Honda Passport

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1998 Honda Passport
Available in 4 styles:  Passport shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

16–18 city / 20 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 1 of 2
1998 Honda Passport 3.3 4
$ 1,635-6,059
September 20, 1998

There's a certain conceit that some car buyers have.

They feel sophisticated, looking down their nose at Detroit and its identical cars with different labels, masking a similar vehicle underneath.

You can almost hear them say, "We'd never fall for THAT.'`

Then they go and buy a Honda Passport. Fooled 'ya.

What the Honda Passport is, is an Izusu Rodeo. Both are built at the Suburu-Izusu plant in Lafayette, Ind. Like Ike and Mike, they look alike.

That means a subtler exterior look this year, that gives the vehicle a more sophisticated look. It also means a shorter wheelbase.

The vehicle comes in four flavors, two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, LX or upscale EX. All models feature a new 3.2-liter, 24-valve, double-overhead-cam V6, good for 205 horsepower and 214 foot-pounds of torque. All Passports also receive new steering and suspension as well as additional standard features, including air-conditioning, dual heated power mirrors, a roof rack and cargo nets.

It also seems like less of a good thing.

Start with the driving experience. The 3.2-liter engine has more power than last year's mill, meaning there's decent power. Push the "Power" button on the four-speed automatic transmission and the power comes on stronger, albeit with a gruff, unrefined demeanor. The transmission handles it all with swift, if abrupt, downshifts. The suspension may be different, but the result isn't. There's mild pitching over bumps, while the ride is firm. Bumps are absorbed, but still felt by passengers. This would be agreeable if there was some measure of extra handling. While the tires grip well in corners, there's ample body lean.

The four-wheel-drive system can be engaged with a dash-mounted button at speeds up to 60 mph. There's a shift lever to engage low-range. A limited slip differential is standard on the 4WD EX model, optional on the 4WD LX. In addition to four-wheel-drive, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are standard.

If you're going off-road, you'll be pleased to note that all Passports have skid plates under the radiator, fuel tank and transfer case. There's 8.2 inches of ground clearance, as well as a 32.5-degree approach angle and 26.3-degree angle of departure (when equipped with the optional 16-inch tire package.)

The inside may be a shock. It doesn't look or feel like a Honda. But, that's because it's an Izusu. The dash is covered in hard plastics that are more notable for their cost-effectiveness than beauty. The ergonomics are okay and offer few surprises. The center of the dash offers two climate control knobs, but the fan speed gets a small slider. This makes little sense since the fan speed is the most often used control.

The AM/FM/Cassette stereo system is nothing special, the speakers were especially bad, unable to handle the sound fed through them without massive distortion. Functions of adjusting the sound requires long looks away from the road, as one button handles multiple function s. This is a cost-effective solution because the automaker only has to install one button, not two, three or four.

Instrumentation was average, if sparse compared to some competitors. Only a tach, speedometer fuel and temperature gauge are offered.

The firm, flat seats are mounted somewhat low and don't go far enough back for long-legged drivers to get comfortable. An hour driving this vehicle and you'll be ready to stop and stretch. The seats were covered in a joyless, durable fabric.

The cargo area was quite nice, with two cargo nets as well as a window-shade-style cargo cover.

The rear tailgate is especially odd. To open it, one swings the glass up, then the bottom half swings open. After a few times of doing this, you'll really start to get annoyed.

The spare tire is mounted under the vehicle.

The only real assembly flaw was a maddening high-pitched plastic-on-plastic dash rattle. Of course, with the stereo sounding especially poor when turned up, this meant one had to listen to it.

When trucks first became the hottest segment in the market, the Passport seemed like a quick, smart way for Honda to get into the truck business. But the problem is it doesn't feel or act like a Honda. It is a mere sheep in wolf's clothing, waiting to snare an unsuspecting Honda loyalist. While this isn't a bad truck, it is depressingly mediocre.

And since it's a Honda, you'll pay more for it than for the Izusu version. Fooled ya' again.

1998 Honda Passport 4WD LX

Standard: 3.2-liter DOHC V6, 4-speed automatic transmission, 2-speed 4WD, 4-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, dual airbags, cupholders, skid plates, air-conditioning, AM/FM/Cassette 6-speaker stereo, cruise control, power door locks, power windows, 60/40 split folding rear seat, tilt steering wheel, dual visor vanity mirrors, front and rear intermittent wipers, rear defroster, cargo cover, cargo nets, courtesy lamps, splash guards, dual power mirrors, 235/ 75R15 all-season Mud and snow tires with 15` alloy wheels.

Options: Floor mats

Base price: $26,600

As tested: $27,084

EPA rating: 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway.

    Expert Reviews 1 of 2

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