2012 Honda Pilot
Assembled: Lincoln, Alabama

2012 Honda Pilot

Assembled: Lincoln, Alabama Credit: Handout

So many times I hear a fellow mom say, "Well, I really need a third row," and I think to myself, why? Oftentimes, the third row in an SUV or crossover seems like an afterthought. It's either too small to transport people or too difficult to get the kids into it. There's also the problem of the third row hogging all the cargo space; what's the point of a road trip with seven when only one person's luggage could actually fit back there? The Honda Pilot, which was restyled for 2012, dispels those concerns.

The 2012 Honda Pilot is a roomy, versatile three-row crossover with clever features that families will love. Cars.com's editors liked the Pilot, too, naming it the 2012 Family Car of the Year.

PHOTOS: 2012 Honda Pilot

As an aunt of six, plus my own little munchkin, I had a perfect opportunity to put the Pilot to the extreme kid-duty test, and it did more than well. Maybe it didn't score high marks for fun and style, but the Pilot sure was easy for us all to pile into as we ran around town. With ages varying from 13 to almost nearly 1 year old, everybody was comfortable and happy in the Pilot.

Although the Pilot is built on a car platform, it actually felt more like a truck to me because of its stiff ride and big dimensions. Even with a V-6 engine, the driving experience was just OK. There wasn't anything thrilling about it; the Pilot handled and drove capably.

The 2012 Honda Pilot starts at $28,470, but my test car, a top-of-the-line Touring trim level with four-wheel drive, came in at $41,630.


While the eight-seater's boxy exterior plays a large part in why the interior feels so roomy, it just isn't attractive. It looks too much like a truck for my tastes.

There's a lot to combat the Pilot's less than desirable appearance, especially its ease of entry and exit for everyone. My 4-year-old niece hopped in and got into the third row as easily as my husband did when he was checking things out back there. There's no doubt that the Pilot can accommodate a wide range of passengers.

I also enjoyed that my test car came with an optional power liftgate, but if I wanted to lower the tailgate, I could do that as well. This made loading my stroller in and out of the cargo area a little easier.

When the third row is folded, the cargo area appears to be huge. It was almost comical to see how my stroller seemed to be floating in the cargo area with all the leftover room. Of course, there's also a 60/40-split second row, so if you need even more space, you're easily obliged. What I particularly loved was how the cargo area functioned when the third row was in use: a nifty panel can be attached to the seatbacks and a net can be tethered to the sides, resulting in two tiers of cargo space. It's proof of how much of a mother I've become when I get so starry-eyed over space solutions. Keeping the cargo area uncluttered and organized is a big deal.

You do take a hit on the Pilot's gas mileage. It gets an EPA-estimated 17/24 mpg city/highway. With my week of primarily city driving on the busy streets of suburban Los Angeles, I averaged 16 mpg. That hurts a little, but it's a big vehicle with a 250-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine. I appreciated that the Pilot uses unleaded gasoline.


Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Some


The Pilot's interior could seal the deal for prospective car shoppers looking to find functionality and comfort in a vehicle. Things inside the Pilot are so well thought out that the storage options throughout the cabin could make a mom giddy. The sliding second row is invaluable for a large brood, and three child-safety seats fit across it. Even with the third row in use, there's still lots of room in the cargo area.

Accommodating three child-safety seats in the second row alone will be reason enough for many families to purchase a Pilot. I loved that I could have my daughter's rear-facing infant-safety seat -- secured with Latch anchors in second row's middle seat -- and my front passenger had plenty of legroom. Third-row access wasn't affected by my daughter's car seat. The second row's easy-to-tilt-and-slide seats functioned just fine with the safety seat in the center, and passengers could hop into the third row. Because the second row slides forward, this also helps in adjusting the third row's legroom, as well.

The Pilot is full of thoughtful touches that appeal to parents. The cupholder-to-passenger ratio is high, and the doors have two levels of storage bins. Sunshades are built into windows of the rear passenger doors; three non-skid cubbies sit above the glove box, and a deep bin sits next to the front cupholders.

The final piece de resistance that made my organizational heart swoon was the pocket built into the cargo area wall that could hold all of my reusable shopping bags. No longer would my canvas bags sport tire tracks from the runaway stroller in the cargo area. Oh, and the kids will probably appreciate the optional rear entertainment system with wireless headphones if you wanted to really wow them, too.


Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore


The 2012 Honda Pilot has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To receive this safety honor, a car must earn the top score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact, rear and roof strength crash tests. The 2012 Pilot received four stars out of five in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests. It scored four stars in frontal and rollover crash tests and five stars in side crash tests.

On the Pilot, nearly all the safety features come standard. It has front-wheel drive, active front head restraints, an electronic stability system with traction control, all-disc antilock brakes with brake assist and six airbags, including side curtains for all three rows. Four-wheel drive, a backup camera and front and rear parking sensors are optional.

The best news for families is the Pilot has three sets of Latch anchors in the second row and can accommodate three child-safety seats across it. There's even an additional set of Latch anchors in the third row. With these kinds of stats, the Pilot could really elevate your carpooling status. The second row's Latch anchors were easy to use.

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