Family Car Review: 2016 Honda Pilot

By Paul Karchut of Family Wheels on November 03, 2015

The basics

Base price: $35,490 + taxes
As tested: $50,490 + taxes
Highway fuel economy: 9.3 L/100 kms
City fuel economy: 12.4-13 L/100 kms (depending on transmission)
Competition: Ford Explorer, Kia Sorento, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, etc

The review:

Third time’s the charm, they say. And the third generation Pilot seems to stick with that tradition. It’s sleeker, more efficient, safer and looks great… especially when compared its cube-like predecessor. With a road trip planned with my parents, Devon, Roger and our dog for the weekend, I thought it was the perfect time to cram it full of stuff (and people) to test out its three rows of seating and cargo capacity. We put 1,000 kms on it and here’s what we found.

From a driver’s perspective, the new Pilot does not feel like a vehicle of this size on the road. Whipping around windy British Columbia highways, its heft was easy to forget. It’s, dare I say, sporty – especially when sport mode was activated on the 9 speed automatic gear box in our tester. And when you couple that up with the optional paddle shifters on the steering wheel, there were times I felt more like a race car driver than an SUV driving dad. Regardless of the trim you choose, the Pilot comes with a 3.5-litre V6 engine but lower end trims come with a 6 speed automatic transmission.

Also bestowed upon our tester was the veritable cocoon of safety features – collision mitigation braking, cross traffic alert and the lane keeping assist system to name a few. These features have helped boost the Pilot into a Top Safety Pick + rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But the lane keeping tech got a little tedious after a while. The Pilot will recognize the lines painted on the road and help keep you in the middle of your lane by ever so slightly steering the vehicle for you. Consider it a nudge in the right direction, as you still have to keep your hands on the wheel. But it feels very odd to have a car fighting you through the steering wheel. Honestly? Much of the time, I just turned it off.

Standard features on this car are pretty impressive including heated front seats, a rear back-up camera, automatic climate control, push button start and remote start. But you have to pay more for features like all wheel drive, a power tailgate and LED headlamps.

From an interior perspective, the new Pilot is much more refined as well. The infotainment system is intuitive and easy to use although it does mark up with fingerprints way more than any other system I’ve come across. Some people are bothered that there isn’t an old school volume dial. It’s part of the touch screen and I say, so what? It’s still easy to use and looks far more streamlined as a result.

Rear passengers will have a little bit more leg room than they would’ve found in the old Pilot. It’s now 9 cms longer. On our trip, everyone in the back two rows said they had enough legroom. But my mom, who sat in the third row and is 5’5, said you wouldn’t want to be much taller than that for long haul journeys. Here’s something I don’t like about the highest trim Touring package that we had: the second row only had two captains chairs rather than three seats. All other trims seat eight while the Touring trim only seats seven and forces you to use the third row for more than four passengers.

And that’s the thing – when that third row is down, your cargo capacity is vacuous. The Pilot passed our standardized trunk test with flying colours. Put that third row up, however, and cargo capacity gets zapped pretty quickly.

All in all though, the Pilot reboot is a very comfortable, safe, surprisingly efficient highway car. We averaged 9.8 litres per 100 kms on our 1,000 km road trip. That was mostly highway driving, but still, for a car of this size on mountainous highways, that’s nothing to sneeze at. And with its improved styling, not as many people will be turning their noses up at the sight of this car either.

The takeaway:

Family Wheels pros:

  • Much improved interior and exterior styling
  • Surprisingly sporty
  • Excellent highway fuel economy for a car of this size
  • Good list of standard features

Family Wheels cons:

  • All wheel drive isn’t standard
  • Limited cargo when the third row is up
  • Highest trim level only seats seven rather than eight passengers
  • Lane keeping technology a little too bossy

Family Wheels target: 2-3 child families that don’t always need the third row

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 3.5/5

Family Wheels rear passenger score: 4/5

Family Wheels trunk test score: 5/5 when third row down, 2.5/5 when up

Family Wheels driveability score: 4/5

Family Wheels fuel economy score: 4/5

Family Wheels value score: 3.5/5

Family wheels final score: 23.5/30

~ Paul Karchut is the award-winning journalist behind FamilyWheels.ca. Check-out his site for more reviews and find him on Twitter @FamilyWheels.


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