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[Test drive] Honda’s Pilot is ponderous but comfortable

It offers a smooth ride but not much else for such a hefty price tag
Dec 31,2018
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Honda’s Pilot, a sport-utility vehicle. [HONDA KOREA]
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HWASEONG, Gyeonggi - With an unimaginative design and hesitant transmission, Honda’s large sport-utility vehicle (SUV) Pilot isn’t exactly the most exciting car on the road. But the utilitarian vehicle provides a no-nonsense ride for families looking for comfort and space.

During a 60-kilometer (37-mile) drive from Dangjin, South Chungcheong, to Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, on Dec. 18, the Honda Pilot’s most noticeable feature was how comfortable and smooth the ride is.

The SUV mitigates the stresses of driving a large family car, clearly just focusing on a smooth driving experience with accelerator and brake pedals that respond smoothly without sticking or resistance.

Space is certainly not an issue as the vehicle is five meters (16.4 feet) long and nearly two meters wide. Thanks to its width, the Pilot provides an almost panoramic view of the road from the driver’s seat.

The gasoline-run Pilot, which comes with a nine-speed automatic transmission, also opts for a push-button shift instead of the traditional gear stick, getting rid of even the slightest discomfort that comes with the stick.

Meanwhile, road and tire noise was relatively quiet compared to the diesel SUVs that crowd the local market. While audible, the dampened exterior noises were barely an issue throughout the drive. The noise became apparent at speeds of over 130 kilometers per hour (81 miles per hour), but the vehicle didn’t show any signs of vibration or a lack of control, even while driving at such high speeds.

The Pilot won’t satisfy performance-hungry drivers though, as when flooring the pedal, transmission shifts were slightly delayed. Regular family drivers will likely hardly notice the issue as the vehicle still ensures a comfortable driving experience.

On the highway, the three-row vehicle doesn’t feel that big, but on narrower side roads in the countryside, the size can get a bit overwhelming. Navigating tight spaces in the city will likely also be a hassle.

Honda has also included a foldable inner mirror near the rear-view mirror to allow parents to keep a close eye on what’s going in rows two and three. The Pilot also comes with a microphone system in the front that lets the driver talk to passengers in the back.

The three-row seater doesn’t compromise with space.

Sitting up straight in a third-row seat in the back, there was plenty of room between this reporter’s knees and the back of the seat in front. As space was adequate for a five foot nine inch male, the back row will be comfortable for children and adults alike.

Like most other vehicles newly on the road this year, the Pilot has a raft of smart safety features dubbed Honda Sensing, including the Lane Keeping Assist System and Road Departure Mitigation System. The features are less intrusive than those offered by Kia or Hyundai, as the Lane Keeping Assist didn’t activate until the vehicle was clearly veering out of its lane.

The lack of other premium convenient features comes as a disappointment. Honda Korea said it does not have the exact same offering as the Honda Accord such as an automatic high beam. The Pilot also lacks a 360-degree surround view system.

Considering the vehicle’s size and difficulty maneuvering on narrow roads, the absence was especially disappointing.

While the Pilot scores high marks in driving experience, affordability isn’t a selling point.

After the total 120-kilometer drive to and from Hwaseong and Dangjin, the Pilot recorded a disappointing fuel efficiency of 6.3 kilometers per liter (14.8 miles per gallon), below its promised combined fuel efficiency of 8.4 kilometers per liter despite being mostly driven on the highway.

Honda Korea also seems to be targeting family drivers with deep pockets as the Pilot starts at 54.90 million won ($48,776), with the Pilot Elite trim with more amenities costing 59.50 million won. Price-conscious drivers may be tempted by Hyundai Motor’s new large SUV offering, the Palisade, which has a starting price of 34.75 million won.


BY CHAE YUN-HWAN [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]