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2012 Honda Pilot

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$10,718 — $21,474 USED
8
Photos
Sport Utility
8 Seats
20-21 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
 — 
Compare 4 trims

Overview

Is this the car for you?

The Good

  • Use of space
  • First- and second-row comfort
  • Sliding second row
  • Simplified controls
  • Large i-MID screen
  • High mileage

The Bad

  • White-faced gauges
  • Firm ride
  • Few options on lower trims
  • Boxy styling
Cars.com trophy.
2012 Cars.com Awards: Family Car of the Year
2012 Honda Pilot exterior side view

What to Know

about the 2012 Honda Pilot
  • Restyled front end
  • Seats eight
  • Available Bluetooth streaming audio
  • Upgraded optional navigation system
  • V-6 with cylinder deactivation technology
  • Five-speed automatic

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Our Take

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

Watch MotorWeek on PBS. Check MotorWeek.org for times and channels.

By Joe Wiesenfelder

Thanks to a few small changes inside, outside and under the hood for 2012, the Honda Pilot remains a top performer among large SUVs with three rows of seats.

When compared with six other vehicles in our $37,000 SUV Shootout — including some newer and more recently redesigned models — the Pilot took first place. The secret of its success is doing virtually everything well and offering more standard features than we've come to expect in a Honda at this price.

The Pilot starts at $28,470 for the LX trim level and also comes in EX, EX-L (the "L" is for leather) and Touring trim levels. The car we used in the comparison test was an EX-L with one option added, for a total of $36,170.

New for 2012
The Pilot's enhancements for 2012 prove that little things mean a lot. Adding 1 mpg to its gas mileage in the city and 2 mpg to its highway figure made the Pilot the second most efficient model in our Shootout, with an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg (21 mpg combined) with front-wheel drive. The smaller Kia Sorento is rated 20/26 mpg (22 mpg combined). The all-wheel-drive Pilot rates 17/24 mpg (20 mpg combined).

None of our editors are wild about the Pilot's boxy styling, but a few of the previous model's detractors celebrated the grille's new horizontal cross-members. (Apparently all an automaker has to do to win praise for a mundanely conservative grille is supplant it for a few years with a giant branding iron.)

The standard alloy wheels on EX and ...

Thanks to a few small changes inside, outside and under the hood for 2012, the Honda Pilot remains a top performer among large SUVs with three rows of seats.

When compared with six other vehicles in our $37,000 SUV Shootout — including some newer and more recently redesigned models — the Pilot took first place. The secret of its success is doing virtually everything well and offering more standard features than we've come to expect in a Honda at this price.

The Pilot starts at $28,470 for the LX trim level and also comes in EX, EX-L (the "L" is for leather) and Touring trim levels. The car we used in the comparison test was an EX-L with one option added, for a total of $36,170.

New for 2012
The Pilot's enhancements for 2012 prove that little things mean a lot. Adding 1 mpg to its gas mileage in the city and 2 mpg to its highway figure made the Pilot the second most efficient model in our Shootout, with an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg (21 mpg combined) with front-wheel drive. The smaller Kia Sorento is rated 20/26 mpg (22 mpg combined). The all-wheel-drive Pilot rates 17/24 mpg (20 mpg combined).

None of our editors are wild about the Pilot's boxy styling, but a few of the previous model's detractors celebrated the grille's new horizontal cross-members. (Apparently all an automaker has to do to win praise for a mundanely conservative grille is supplant it for a few years with a giant branding iron.)

The standard alloy wheels on EX and higher trim levels are now 18 inches rather than 17, which looks nicer but likely will translate to more expensive replacement tires.

Honda addressed two of my complaints in the space of a square foot by redesigning the dashboard's center control panel. The cheap-looking silver plastic has been replaced by a darker, patterned material, and order has come to the previous model year's dizzying hodgepodge of buttons. The controls are more logically laid out, and knobs have replaced some of the ventilation-control switches. Even the multifunction controller, which comes on higher trim levels, has fewer buttons and functions.

A Family-Friendly Ride
All these improvements rest on a strong foundation. Though the Pilot is one of the shorter models in its class measured from bumper to bumper, its boxy shape pays off in interior space, and it's one of only two models in our test that seats eight. It also has a feature we found critical in this SUV class: sliding second-row seats. There are two benefits: the flexibility to apportion legroom between the second and third rows (or choose between passenger space and cargo space), and ease in accessing the third row. The second row's tilt-and-slide motion is just easier than some competing models' fold-and-tumble routine. That being said, the Pilot's third row isn't the easiest to get into overall. Though headroom is workable for adults, the floor is relatively high, so even if the second row is scooted forward enough for those adults to fit, their knees will be raised.

We were thrilled to see that three child-safety seats fit in the second-row seat. Visit our Car Seat Check for full details on the second and third rows.

The Pilot is the undisputed leader when it comes to storage nooks and pockets, with cubbies and bins practically everywhere you look. There are bi-level pockets on the front and rear doors, though they don't incorporate the now-common bottleholders. The glove compartment isn't very large, but the center storage console provides ample covered storage space and expertly houses audio ports and power sockets.

Cabin Fever
Opinions were mixed on the issue of interior quality. The important touch-points are soft, but some editors objected to the hard surfaces elsewhere. I'm not fond of the gauges, whose attempt at dimensionality is undone by the cheap white-plastic-under-glass effect. Cloth upholstery is standard. Our test Pilot EX-L had quality leather in the first two rows (vinyl in the third), and the front seats provided notable comfort.

We like how bright and open the cabin feels, though when you check your blind spot you'll find the C- and D-pillars are a bit thick, and the second-row head restraint comes between the driver and the right-rear quarter window. The third-row head restraints drop deeply into the backrests, but if a passenger leaves one raised, you'll be sorry. These things are tall and obstructive and resemble droid heads, which might come in handy if a clone war breaks out at the mall. Otherwise, they just block your rear view.

The EX-L and higher trim levels come with a new "intelligent Multi-Information Display," which includes a backup camera. We were impressed by the display's 8-inch size — roughly that of a navigation screen without the added expense. The Toyota Highlander's non-navigation backup display is comparatively wee. The i-MID screen also impressed with its large, readable type — including music information — and simple menus and iPod integration.

Cargo & Towing
The Pilot's boxiness pays off once again in the cargo hatch. With 18 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the third row and a total of 87 cubic feet with all the rear seats folded, it has more room than the Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer, though less than the large Chevrolet Traverse and Mazda CX-9. The Highlander, which is shorter than the Pilot, beats it with 95.4 cubic feet of maximum volume but is tighter behind the third row, with just 10.3 cubic feet. The Pilot and Highlander stand out because their rear windows can be opened independent of their liftgates, which is helpful especially when there's little clearance behind or above the truck.

Having 2,000 pounds of towing capacity with front-wheel drive and 4,500 with all-wheel drive, the Pilot's limits are on the higher side of SUVs in this class. Heavier, rear-wheel-drive models, such as the Dodge Durango, tend to have higher towing capacities. The Durango starts at 5,000 pounds with a V-6 engine.

Driven to Adequacy
The area where the Pilot rates only adequate is in some driving aspects. We found ride quality to be firm and occasionally unsettled, and there was more wind noise than in some competing models. We concluded, however, that the average family buyer wouldn't object, and we were all happy with the Pilot's drivetrain. It's quick when it needs to be, falls into the background otherwise, and the automatic transmission suffers little of the hunting and delays we see far too often these days. It may be "only" a five-speed, but that doesn't seem to be hurting its performance or mileage.

Safety
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Pilot earned the top score of Good in frontal, side and rear crash tests. It scored a disappointing Marginal rating in the rollover test, which means that its roof wasn't strong enough to support four times the vehicle's weight. Of the 23 models in IIHS' Midsize SUV class subjected to this test, 13 scored Good, three scored Acceptable and seven rated Marginal. Because it's a relatively new test, older models tend to fare worse until they're redesigned.

The Pilot has frontal airbags, front-seat-mounted side-impact airbags and curtain airbags that cover the side windows along all three rows of seats in a side impact or rollover. As is federally required of all 2012 models, the Pilot has standard antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. For a list of all standard safety features, click here.

Features
All Pilots have power windows, with one-touch up/down for the front doors, and power locks with remote keyless entry. Also standard are air conditioning, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and an AM/FM/CD stereo.

The EX adds a power driver's seat, three-zone automatic climate control, HomeLink, XM Satellite Radio (subscription required), fog lights, roof rails, alloy wheels and body-colored side mirrors and door handles (in place of the LX's black). New for 2012, the Pilot EX adds Bluetooth hands-free cellular and audio streaming and 2 gigabytes of digital music storage.

In addition to leather, the Pilot EX-L adds heated front seats, a power passenger seat, a moonroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a USB jack for the stereo, and i-MID with a backup camera. It's also the first trim level that can be had with a navigation system or a backseat DVD video system.

The Pilot Touring includes leather, the navigation system and the rear entertainment system, plus it adds a few more features, including driver's seat-position memory, sonar parking sensors, and a premium stereo with additional speakers. Typical of Hondas, the Pilot offers few separate options, so with the addition of all-wheel drive for $1,600, the Pilot Touring tops out at $41,630, including the destination charge.

To select a trim level and compare features, click here.

Pilot in the Market
The Honda Pilot was one of the first car-based SUVs of its size, and though nine years on the market doesn't guarantee relevance, Honda has kept the model competitive in the face of growing challenge. There were other SUVs in our Shootout that we singled out as the sporty one, the roomy one or the smooth one, but the Pilot rose to the top because it represents an excellent balance of features, performance and other characteristics, even without excelling at any one. What solidified its position was our test vehicle's equipment levels, which Honda has wisely reinforced to keep up with the new, more competitive market.

Send Joe an email  


Consumer Reviews

What drivers are saying

4.6
93 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(4.5)
Performance
(4.4)
Interior Design
(4.5)
Comfort
(4.7)
Reliability
(4.7)
Value For The Money
(4.5)

Read reviews that mention:

(4.0)

My Pilot has clicking sound at cold start.

by Big D from Denton,Tx. on November 10, 2018

I like the pilot has lots of room .Has a real nice entertainment system,It has its bad goods but over all its a good car. Read full review

(5.0)

Excellent vehicle

by HondaGirl from Tulsa, ok on November 10, 2018

I bought my Pilot brand new in 2012. It’s been very reliable and dependable. Excellent vehicle with plenty of room for the entire family. Very satisfied with this make/model/year vehicle! Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2012 Honda Pilot currently has 6 recalls


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2012 Honda Pilot LX

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Warranty

New car and certified pre-owned programs by Honda

New Car Program Benefits

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

Certified Pre-Owned Program Benefits

Latest 2012 Pilot Stories

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Pilot received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

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