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2021 Honda Pilot Review

The 2021 Honda Pilot offers a comfortable ride and adult-friendly seating in all three rows, but its dismal predicted reliability rating relegates it to the middle of our midsize SUV rankings.

Pros & Cons

  • Smooth ride
  • Adult-friendly seating
  • Respectable cargo room
  • Poor predicted reliability rating
  • Limited standard infotainment tech

New for 2021

  • Special Edition trim
  • Nine-speed automatic transmission now standard
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control newly standard

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Honda Pilot's #12 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Honda Pilot has a score of 7.8 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 48 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.8

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 9.0
Performance: 7.5
Interior: 8.1
Safety: 9.4
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Honda Pilot a Good SUV?

Yes, the 2021 Pilot is a good midsize SUV. This crossover has spacious seating for up to eight people and a solid amount of cargo room. The Pilot delivers a composed ride, even over bumpy roads, and its V6 engine is fairly powerful while delivering decent gas mileage figures. On the downside, it has an abysmal predicted reliability rating, and some class rivals have more-refined interiors, additional standard features, and more agile handling.

Why You Can Trust Us: 48 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 48 Honda Pilot reviews, as well as performance specs, interior dimensions, fuel economy ratings, and more, to give you all the information you need to make a smart car-buying decision.

This 2021 Pilot review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2016.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Honda Pilot?

The Pilot delivers roomy seating in all three rows, and it comes with a good number of advanced safety features. Still, you’ll want to consider its competition before making a purchase decision. Class rivals like the Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9 have higher predicted reliability ratings and additional standard infotainment technology.

Find a 2021 Honda Pilot for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Honda Pilot: What's the Difference?

There are few major differences between the 2020 and 2021 Honda Pilot. The previously available nine-speed automatic transmission is now standard in all Pilot trims, as is dual-zone automatic climate control. A Special Edition Pilot is also new for 2021.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Pilot »

Here are the key changes for the Honda Pilot since it was redesigned for 2016:

  • 2017: gained available Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
  • 2018: no major changes
  • 2019: added a volume knob, several standard driver assistance features, and an updated available nine-speed automatic transmission
  • 2020: Black Edition trim introduced
  • 2021: gains standard nine-speed automatic transmission and dual-zone automatic climate control; Special Edition trim debuts

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Pilot, 2019 Pilot, and 2020 Pilot reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Honda Pilot Cost?

The 2021 Honda Pilot has a starting price of $32,250. That's more than most class rivals, though not as much as the Toyota Highlander and Mazda CX-9. The Pilot's top-of-the-line Black Edition trim starts at $49,920.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Honda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Honda deals page.

Honda Pilot Versus the Competition

Honda Pilot vs. Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot offer similarly smooth rides and lots of cargo room, but there are a few key differences that could sway you either way. The Toyota has a higher predicted reliability rating and more standard features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Highlander also has some available features – such as a 12.3-inch touch screen – that are unavailable in the Pilot. However, the Honda boasts more passenger room and costs $1,640 less than the Toyota. If your main priorities are passenger space, go with the Pilot. If you prioritize reliability and more standard features, go with the Highlander.

Compare the Pilot and Highlander »

Honda Pilot vs. Mazda CX-9

The Mazda CX-9 has less cargo space and third-row room than the Pilot, but it makes up for it with a much more engaging ride, highlighted by tight handling and precise steering. The Mazda also has a more luxurious cabin and a larger touch screen than the Honda. The CX-9 doesn’t have as much horsepower as the Pilot, but it has better gas mileage figures. Unless you plan on ferrying adults in the third row regularly, you’re better off with the CX-9.

Compare the Pilot and CX-9 »

Compare the Pilot, Highlander, and CX-9 »

Pilot Interior: Comfortable and Spacious

Pilot Cargo Space

The Pilot's cargo capacity is above average for a midsize SUV. There's 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third-row seats, up to 46.8 cubic feet behind the second-row seats, and 83.9 cubic feet behind the first-row seats. A power liftgate is standard in the EX-L trim, and a hands-free liftgate is standard in Special Edition, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition trims. However, class leaders like the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade manage to provide a tad more cargo space overall.

How Many People Does the Pilot Seat?

In its standard setup, there's seating for up to eight people in the Pilot. Models with second-row captain's chairs have seating for up to seven. The seats are supportive and comfortable, even after hours of driving, and all three rows are roomy enough to accommodate adult passengers. There are also lots of cup holders, 15 in total.

Pilot and Child Car Seats

There are three complete sets of LATCH connectors for the second-row seats and one complete set for the passenger-side third-row seat. There are upper tethers for the third row's other two seats.

Pilot Interior Quality

The Pilot's cabin is filled with premium materials, and even its plastics are soft to the touch. However, its interior design is starting to show its age. Competitors such as the Hyundai Palisade offer more updated styling.

Pilot Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Pilot's standard infotainment interface is bare-bones and lacks advanced smartphone connectivity options. Shoppers will likely prefer the upgraded infotainment system that adds an easy-to-use touch screen, as well as smartphone integration via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There are also separate physical controls that make it easier for the driver to adjust audio and climate settings while driving.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 5-inch display, seven speakers, Bluetooth, and two USB ports
  • Available infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, HondaLink, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, HD Radio, wireless device charging, navigation, a rear entertainment system, 10 speakers, and a Wi-Fi hot spot
  • Additional standard features: push-button start and tri-zone automatic climate control
  • Other available features: a panoramic moonroof

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Pilot Performance: Gets the Job Done

Pilot Engine

For 2021, the Pilot comes with a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and a newly standard nine-speed automatic transmission. This engine provides quick acceleration, and the transmission makes good use of the available power.

Pilot Gas Mileage

The front-wheel-drive 2021 Pilot gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. All-wheel-drive models get 1 less mpg in the city and on the highway. Those figures are about average for a midsize crossover.

Pilot Ride and Handling

The Pilot delivers stable handling, accurate steering, and a cushioned ride, even over rough pavement. However, competitors like the Mazda CX-9 provide sharper handling.

Pilot Towing Capacity

The Pilot can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.

Read more about performance »

Pilot Reliability

Is the Honda Pilot Reliable?

The 2021 Honda Pilot has the lowest-possible predicted reliability rating of two out of five.

Honda Pilot Warranty

The Pilot is covered by a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Pilot Safety

Pilot Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Honda Pilot an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests and five stars in the side crash test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 Pilot at the time of writing.

Pilot Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Forward collision warning
  • Collision mitigation braking
  • Lane keep assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Road departure mitigation
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Automatic high-beam headlights

Available advanced safety features:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • LED fog lights

 

Read more about safety »

Pilot Dimensions and Weight

The Pilot is about 16.4 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 3,982 to 4,321 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Honda Pilot Built?

Honda builds the 2021 Pilot in Alabama.

Which Honda Pilot Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Honda Pilot comes in seven trims: LX, EX, EX-L, Special Edition, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition. Each trim comes standard with a V6 engine and a nine-speed automatic transmission. The Elite and Black Edition trims come standard with all-wheel drive. AWD is available in the lower trims for $2,000.

The base Pilot is lacking when it comes to infotainment features, so we recommend stepping up to the EX trim to add smartphone integration and a touch screen.

Honda Pilot LX

The base LX trim (MSRP: $32,250) comes with a 5-inch display, a seven-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, two USB ports, push-button start, tri-zone automatic climate control, and cloth upholstery. Standard advanced driver assistance features include a rearview camera, forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, road departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam headlights.

Honda Pilot EX

The Pilot EX has a starting price of $34,930. It gains blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, LED fog lights, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, HD Radio, and HondaLink, which is a telematics system that lets you do things such as start and lock your car from your smartphone.

Honda Pilot Touring

The Touring trim starts at $42,920 and adds leather-trimmed seats, a hands-free liftgate, front and rear parking sensors, navigation, voice recognition, a rear entertainment system, 10 speakers, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

Honda Pilot Elite

The Pilot Elite has a starting MSRP of $48,420. It gains all-wheel drive, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain's chairs, and a panoramic moonroof.

Honda Pilot Black Edition

Starting at $49,920, the Black Edition comes with unique styling and all of the Elite trim's features.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Honda dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Honda deals page.

See 2021 Honda Pilot specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Honda Pilot offers ample passenger and cargo space, a composed ride, and about average fuel economy for the midsize SUV class. The Pilot isn't a top pick, however, because of its poor predicted reliability rating and limited set of standard infotainment features.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "There are many things in the 2021 Pilot’s favor. The cabin is roomy and versatile, able to seat up to eight occupants (depending on trim level)." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Honda Pilot is space-efficient and smooth-riding, and it provides ample power along with decent fuel economy. You also get plentiful features, a useful cargo area and smart interior storage. This Honda is one of the most well-rounded three-row SUVs you can get." -- Edmunds (2020)
  • "The Pilot’s overall selling points are unchanged. The cabin boasts massive space despite smaller exterior dimensions and a lower curb weight than many competitors. Adults can even fit in the third row, which is typically a bit of a penalty box even for kids." -- Autotrader (2020)
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Mazda CX-9 2020 2020 Mazda CX-9

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