For the better part of a week the 2015 Honda Pilot served me well on all my mom errands and outings. The Pilot isn’t a dainty vehicle to look at or drive, but this mid-size SUV’s got some qualities that puts it ahead of its competition. There is one big problem that has me concerned however, read on.
Honda started production of the Pilot in 2002 to replace its predecessor, the Honda Passport. The 2015 model, along with all models since 2009, belong to the second generation of this vehicle which received a facelift in 2012 and then the addition of several tech features in 2013. Some of the gadgets included are a rear back-up camera, Bluetooth hands-free calling and the 8-inch i-MID LCD screen. The Pilot also comes equipped with four standard Lower Anchors and Tethers (LATCH) for child car seats.
Honda says that this Pilot is “your ticket to adventure” and “is ready when you are”, sounds great. But my biggest concern? The IIHS front partial impact safety rating. It’s not as scary as it sounds and I go over the details further on under ‘safety’.
The Day to Day
If you pass a Honda Pilot on the street, chances are you won’t really look twice. It’s not a visually striking design and plays it very safe on looks. Overall shape has a chunky box look to it with no remarkable curves or bulges that adorn the skins of much of its competition. The cabin on the inside however, well, I can work with that.
The simple features that grabbed my attention right away were the built-in second row sunshades (only in Touring trim), great for napping kiddos, and the conversation mirror with sunglass holder also known as a mirror to keep an eye on the kids. Instead of purchasing these aftermarket accessories, the Pilot comes with them ready to go. I also liked the extra shelf space on the passenger dashboard and the secret compartments in the trunk. The options for what I could stash in there are endless and retrieval would be like searching for buried parent treasure.
For parents of multiples, all three seats in the second row are equipped with LATCH, a feature not possible in smaller vehicles as well as the third row passenger side seat. When installing car seats it is important to keep in mind that you cannot flip down a seat with a child restraint attached. This could make accessing the third row a bit challenging. Of course with all the configurations possible you may choose to lose the third row of seats in order to gain more cargo space. The various seat configurations in the Pilot are a big plus for families with varying needs.
The Pilot is equipped with an Eco light that turns on whenever your driving style is conducive of saving fuel. Although the passive Eco indicator is a nice touch, I would prefer an active system that adjusts the vehicle’s throttle and transmission function to save fuel. Honda does this in the form of an Eco button in the new Accord.
The climate controls are another aesthetic aspect I felt could be improved upon, their placement is cluttered. On the other hand, having the option to control the air with voice commands allows me to forgive and forget, although, if you want to use voice commands there are many to be remembered.
A small note to those with the optional sunroof, avoid using the windshield washer while the roof’s open or be prepared to get wet.
Driving the Pilot was an overall positive experience. The ride was smooth, even on bumpy Quebec roads, and the seats comfortable. The height of the vehicle is perfect for putting kids in and out of their car seats without bending in half. The option of a rear seat DVD entertainment system is perfect for keeping rear seat passengers occupied on longer drives.
Manoeuvering this SUV really has the feel of a truck and it is to be expected from most vehicles in this category. You won’t be conquering an auto circuit in a Pilot, but it does keep you planted and feeling confident around the corners.
A feature I missed having and would have expected in the top-of-the-line Touring trim was keyless entry and push button start. I did however find the power rear liftgate useful and made life a just a touch easier.
The Honda Pilot received a ‘Good’ rating from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) on a scale from Good to Poor in all areas except their small overlap front test. The ‘Poor’ rating on this test has prevented the Pilot from qualifying for the IIHS top safety pick.
This poor result is concerning as driver or front passenger may sustain serious injuries to their hips and legs if involved in a frontal collision with the front corner of their vehicle. This test was only added in 2012 by the IIHS and has not observed effect on other passengers.
While driving the Pilot with this information in mind, I found myself constantly moving my left leg further to the right and away from the parking brake zone which is where much of the problem lies. I often felt the parking brake against my leg and found this uncomfortable as well when stretching my foot out to rest on the dead pedal.
Overall I like many aspects of the Pilot. The seating configurations including LATCH in all three second row seats plus price and fuel economy are big selling points when looking for a family SUV. When comparing to the competition the Pilot becomes even more attractive–on the inside at least. Unfortunately all of these factors have been overshadowed by the results from the IIHS small overlap frontal test.
If Honda were to give the Pilot a more modern look as well as the option for keyless entry and make some changes so that future Pilots receive better crash test ratings, there would be no denying that this vehicle is a force to reckon with. Until then, my left leg will likely continue to move its way to my right.
Photographs by Kathryn Shubin.