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2022 Nissan Pathfinder vs. 2021 Honda Pilot

Jack Nerad
by Jack Nerad
June 14, 2021
6 min. Reading Time
2020 Honda Pilot Elite ・  Photo by Honda

2020 Honda Pilot Elite ・ Photo by Honda

The Honda Pilot and the Nissan Pathfinder are important competitors in the American mid-size SUV market. The Pathfinder helped establish the segment several decades ago, and while the Pilot came along later, it almost immediately became a popular choice. Early editions of the Pathfinder had a rugged, off-road persona. The Honda Pilot never bothered with that, instead concentrating on being a versatile, on-road passenger-focused vehicle. More recent versions of the Pathfinder drifted in that direction, too, with a front-drive-oriented platform underneath. But for the all-new 2022 version, Nissan has attempted to regain a more go-anywhere vibe for the Pathfinder. Whether they’ve been successful in that remains to be seen, but one thing is certain — the 2022 Pathfinder has handsome looks inside and out. Here is the comparison of the 2021 Honda Pilot and the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder.

Exterior Style

The Honda Pilot is a good-looking vehicle, but one would have a hard time calling it rugged. Instead, its engineers have focused on giving it versatile interior space and making it a smooth, comfortable ride. While all-wheel-drive versions of the Pilot can certainly handle light off-roading, there are better choices for adventuring. Both the Pilot and Pathfinder ride on front-drive-oriented “crossover” platforms, and they offer what the industry calls “packaging advantages” that result in added interior space. The Pilot’s exterior styling might best be described as inoffensive. There’s nothing wrong with it, but not much distinctive about it either. The new Pathfinder makes itself known with a brand-signature grille, sculpted side panels, muscular fenders, and wide “C-pillars” behind the rear doors. The Pathfinder is a little over an inch longer than the Pilot and a little less than an inch narrower. And the new Pathfinder has a 3-inch longer wheelbase than the Pilot, giving it a more purposeful stance.

: Nissan Pathfinder

 Photo by Nissan

Photo by Nissan

Interior Design

The Honda Pilot has one of the best-looking interiors of any Honda vehicle ever. And if one grades interiors by functionality and on comfort, the Honda Pilot scores even higher. In base form, it’s an 8-passenger vehicle with buckets seats in front and two three-person benches in the back. The one-touch sliding second-row seats are a big plus that others in the segment have adopted. For the first time, the Pathfinder offers 8-passenger seating standard in the 2022 model. Like the Pilot, it has bucket seats in front plus two rows of bench seating accommodating up to three passengers each. The driver’s seat in the top trim is 10-way power-adjustable with 2-way power lumbar, while the front passenger’s seat is 4-way power-adjustable. All Pilot trims with the exception of the base LX have a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and most have a 4-way power-adjustable front passenger’s seat. Heated second-row captain’s chairs with perforated upholstery are standard on Pilot Elite and Black Edition trims. The 2022 Pathfinder offers a feature Nissan pioneered — the second-row seats slide and tilt to allow easier access to the third-row seating area even when a child safety seat is present.

: Nissan Pathfinder

 Photo by Nissan

Photo by Nissan

Infotainment & Technology

The new 2022 Pathfinder is equipped with an 8- or 9-inch infotainment display. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, and the 9-inch system offers wireless Apple CarPlay. Wireless phone charging is available on upscale trims. The premium audio offering is a 13-speaker Bose system, and Nissan Door-to-Door navigation is on the options list, while NissanConnect includes a Wi-Fi hotspot. During test drives of several Pathfinders, we found the infotainment systems easy to understand and operate. In comparison, the Honda Pilot is showing its age when it comes to infotainment offerings. The base-level LX trim has a 5-inch color display screen, tiny by contemporary standards. The other Pilot trims all have 8-inch touchscreens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility standard across the lineup. The Pilot’s premium audio is a 590-watt unit with 10 speakers including a subwoofer. A blast from the past is the rear entertainment system with a 10.2-inch screen and Blu-ray player.

: Nissan Pathfinder

 Photo by Nissan

Photo by Nissan

Powertrains

Both vehicles in this comparison use veteran powertrains. All Pathfinders are equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 284 horsepower backed by a 9-speed automatic transmission. Front drive is standard across all trims, and all trims also offer a system Nissan calls “intelligent 4-wheel drive.” With multiple drive modes, it offers medium-duty off-road prowess. The Honda Pilot also sticks to a single engine, and it’s a near-clone of the Pathfinder’s at least in terms of output. It’s a 280-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, also backed by a 9-speed automatic transmission. It utilizes active engine mounts and active noise cancellation to deliver a quieter than average cabin. Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management all-wheel drive is available on all trims and standard on the Elite and Black Edition trims. : Tie

 Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

Driving Impressions

After lengthy test drives in both the Honda Pilot and the Nissan Pathfinder, we found more similarities than differences. The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder delivers good performance and predictable handling; so does the Pilot. To highlight the differences, the Pilot seems a bit more softly sprung so its ride is a bit smoother over slightly irregular road surfaces. As compensation for that, the Pathfinder has less body roll and handles more precisely. In normal everyday driving, the differences aren’t pronounced. We believe buyers of both vehicles will be satisfied with what they respectively offer. We also had the chance to test the Pathfinder’s 4-wheel-drive system over some difficult off-road terrain and found the Pathfinder was up to the challenge. The new edition of the Pathfinder has better off-pavement capabilities than the previous model. With about the same amount of horsepower, similar 9-speed automatic transmissions, and available all-wheel-drive, the Pathfinder and Pilot present very similar driving dynamics. If one has an edge, it is the Pathfinder in off-road situations.

: Nissan Pathfinder

 Photo by Nissan

Photo by Nissan

Safety & Driver Aids

Both vehicles offer impressive arrays of safety and driver-assistance technology. All Pilot models are equipped with the Honda Sensing suite that includes Collision Mitigation Braking System, Forward Collision Warning, Lane-Keeping Assist System, Road Departure Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, and adaptive cruise control. Other driver-assistance features include blind-spot information system with cross-traffic monitor and automatic high-beam headlights. The 2022 Nissan Pathfinder features a comprehensive standard safety package called Nissan Safety Shield 360. It includes pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic warning, rear automatic emergency braking, driver attention monitor, automatic high-beam headlights, and rear door alert. In addition to Nissan Safety Shield 360, the Pathfinder offers driver-aid features called ProPilot Assist. The system combines lane-keeping and steering assist with adaptive cruise control to take some of the hassles out of highway driving and stop-and-go commuting. 

: Nissan Pathfinder

 Photo by Nissan

Photo by Nissan

Interior Space & Cargo Carrying Ability

Three-row SUVs are often required to haul a lot of stuff, and that is one area in which the Honda Pilot has an advantage. The Pilot has 153 cubic feet of passenger room, and the Pathfinder has 148 cubic feet. With the rear rows of seats up for use, the Pathfinder has 16.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That compares to 16.5 cubic feet in the Honda Pilot. With the third-row seatbacks folded, the Pathfinder offers 45.0 cubic feet of cargo area, and the Pilot offers 46.8 cubic feet. With all the rear rows folded the Pilot bests the Pathfinder with 83.9 cubic feet to the Nissan’s 80.5 cubic feet. Though the numbers are on the Pilot’s side, in typical use both Pathfinder and Pilot will be very accommodating. Pilots equipped with all-wheel-drive are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds. The Nissan Pathfinder tops that with a maximum tow rating of 6,000 pounds, and trailer sway control is standard.

: Tie

 Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

Trim Levels

The Honda Pilot offers a variety of trims, while the Pathfinder keeps things much simpler. Pathfinder buyers can choose from four trims – S, SV, SL, and Platinum. Front drive and 4-wheel drive are available on all trims. The most luxurious trim is the Platinum, and optional equipment packages on the SV and SL trims add comfort and convenience features to those trims. For the 2021 model year, the Honda Pilot is offered in a staggering seven trim levels – LX, EX, EX-L, Special Edition, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition.  LX, EX, EX-L, Special Edition, and Touring trims have front drive standard but can be equipped with all-wheel drive. Elite and Black Edition models are only available with all-wheel drive. Since all Pilots have the same engine and transmission, the trim level differences revolve around equipment levels and appearance.

: Honda Pilot

 Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

Pricing & Value

The 2021 Honda Pilot lineup offers more variations than the Nissan Pathfinder, and that is reflected in the pricing. A base 2021 Honda Pilot LX has a starting price of right around $34,000. The 2022 Pathfinder’s starting price is very similar. A mid-level Honda Pilot EX-L with all-wheel drive has a suggested list price of $41,835, including $1,175 destination charge. The mid-level Pathfinder SV with 4-wheel drive has a list of a bit over $39,000, including a $1,150 destination charge. The luxurious Pilot Elite trim with all-wheel drive has an MSRP of $49,895. The most luxurious Pathfinder Platinum with 4-wheel drive has a very similar starting MSRP a bit over $49,000. Ultimately, the Pathfinder and Pilot are both competitively priced. The Pathfinder trims and pricing are easier to understand and navigate, while Honda gives more choices.

: Honda Pilot

 Photo by Honda

Photo by Honda

The Winner...

Choosing a winner between these two vehicles is challenging because both hit the mark in satisfying their customers. If you’re looking for a roomy, family-oriented three-row SUV, both the Pilot and the Pathfinder will fit the bill. Both offer great versatility and comfrotable rides. That being said, the Pathfinder is a brand-new model with fresh styling and available features the older Pilot lacks. Among these are head-up display, around-view monitor, and wireless Apple CarPlay. The Pathfinder also has a higher tow rating — by 1,000 pounds — and is equipped with trailer sway-control. If you want things like Wi-Fi hotspot, a panoramic sunroof, or leather captain’s chairs in the second row, you will pay more for them in the Pilot than the Pathfinder. Yes, both vehicles will do everything the typical three-row SUV buyer wants, but for the reasons we just mentioned, our winner is the 2022 Nissan Pathfinder.

: Nissan Pathfinder

 Photo by Nissan

Photo by Nissan


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