In Search Of Not-A-Minivan – The 2012 Honda Pilot Review

If you drive a minivan, please don’t take it personally. I do not judge you. I believe you when you say you love your swagger wagons with your automagically opening doors. I do!

I just don’t wanna join you…if I don’t have to.

So, we’re considering maybe adding another baby to the chaos sometime soon-ish, which would make us a family of 5. We’re also coming up on 7 (?) years with our Jeep Grand Cherokee, and are feeling like it’s time to trade in and move on for a variety of reasons – the spaciousness factor being the biggest one.

We need to find something that can accommodate up to 3 kids in car seats/booster seats and still have enough room for groceries and strollers. We’ve been through ALL the options. Believe me. We have. We settled on a handful of mid-size SUVs and even a minivan (gasp!) and went to check them out at local dealerships a couple of months ago. To be honest, the Honda Pilot was sort of an afterthought that day. I never once thought it would actually make the cut.

I’m SO glad we stopped by and gave it a look. I was blown away by how big it was inside, how flexible the seating options were, how great the gas mileage was for that size of a vehicle, and how low the price was compared to the other vehicles we looked at with similar upgrades and options.

I emailed my friends at Honda and asked if we could test drive one for a week. And then I emailed them again and asked if we could have it for another week since I accidentally deleted all the video from the first test drive. TOTAL ACCIDENT. Swear.

Here’s a quick video of me showing off all the ways we can make it work with 3 kids and still have enough room for stuff.

*If you’d like to turn this into a drinking game, take a shot every time I say “as you can see.” 

We’re in love. I would say there is a 90% chance this is the vehicle we will get next (hopefully in the next 6ish months). It works so well for our family. There are no issues with getting Kendall in and out of the 3rd row, there is plenty of room for storage, we have the option of taking all the car seats out and folding down both rows for maximum space if we need it, and it’s just a beautiful and comfortable ride.

I also love that it feels like an SUV. I just couldn’t get used to how low to the ground the crossovers and minivans are. The gas mileage isn’t anything to do cartwheels over (18/25), but it’s better than what we get now, and it’s better than most other SUVs we looked at. The hybrids would give us better mileage, but their price tags are way too much for us.
You can read all the specs on the Honda Pilot here. 

A few of the “cons” would be:
I wish the navigation was a touchscreen.
It doesn’t have the same get-up as our Jeep does (but our Jeep has a V8 Hemi, so there’s that).
The cup holders in between the drivers and passenger seat are a little too deep to easily access.

Honestly, that all sounds like a bunch of whining, but I was trying to be fair and honest about the things that kind-sorta-slightly irritated me. Of course, that’s not enough to keep me from loving it. I think my kinda-sorta-slightly irritate me list for my husband would be much longer, but I still think he’s swell.

Before I start sounding like some sort of rambling auto blogger, I’m going to stop here, but please let me know if you have any questions about our experience with it. I’m happy to answer them if I can.

Off the bat, I will tell you the car seats we used were a Graco Snugride, Britax Marathon and Britax Frontier.

Super huge thanks to Honda for hooking me up with the rental. I was under no obligation to blog about it. They didn’t pay me for this. I just know a lot of you are in the same situation and will be interested to hear how it worked for us. 

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  1. I have an older (2006) Honda Pilot with over 100,000 miles on it. It still runs great and I couldn’t be happier with it. However, I am envious of the newer ones (my step-father has a 2012) mostly bc of the size increase. Honda did an amazing job of making the interior even more functional believe it or not, the cup holders are worse in the older models, haha. All of that being said, I absolutely LOVE mine and will definitely be buying another one when it comes time to upgrade.

  2. Ah, if only they didn’t cost a billion dollars. I love my Accord so so so much and would love to keep a Honda in my garage. Alas, not meant to be. *sigh*

  3. I dare you to test drive an Odyssey for a week and see which one you buy. 😉

    We had a Honda Pilot and loved it with two kids, but when the third one came along we caved and went for the minivan. Its so much easier than the Pilot now that the third one is here!

  4. Before you make your FINAL decision, you should see about test driving a mini-van for a week (or two weeks, to keep it fair). I totally get you on not wanting to own one if you don’t have to – been there, done that. But, as the wise Dr. Seuss once said:
    “You do not like them.
    SO you say.
    Try them! Try them!
    And you may.
    Try them and you may I say.”

    Really, borrow a friend’s baby for at least a day and put 3 kids in and out of the car. Add into the mix and fun by potty-training the toddler. Go grocery shopping. Change a babies diaper in the van. The space, and those automatic doors are brilliant I tell you. Obviously, I’m a convert.

  5. I too swore off the minivan. However, we rented one on a trip this summer and we fell in love. The price is right, the gas mileage rocks and the magic sliding doors are everything you dreamed of and more. Come to the darkside – I don’t think you would regret it!!! (P.S. My good friend with 3 kids just traded in her Honda Pilot for a minivan for a variety of reasons).

  6. My SIL went from the Pilot to a minivan after three kids. She couldn’t get to the kids without going out the door. It was an older model of course. This was a couple of years ago.

    Then again, you live in Texas. Aren’t you contractually obligated to drive a truck or SUV? 😉

    • Ha! Nearly 😉 This new model seems to make it much easier to access the 3rd row. We really had no problems with having Kendall back there at all. I imagine it would be different if he were a little younger, but at this age he can already climb back there and buckle himself in. It will only get easier.

  7. I totally get where you are coming from. I love all Hondas and always insisted I would NEVER drive a minivan. But once baby #3 came along my dreams of being that cool SUV driving mama were blasted out the windows as I caved for the practicality that is the Odyssey. I could list dozens of reasons why we finally chose to follow the path of darkness to the minivan but ultimately it will sell itself . Borrow a third kid and try one for a weekend…you know you want to.

  8. I swear, all you minivan evangelists, we really did look at the Odyssey seriously. Did we take it for a one-week test drive? No because after looking at it, we wanted to see what else was out there. And the Pilot, honestly, works for us.

    The minivans don’t offer much more in terms of storage space. Most of them have captains chairs, so there’s actually less seating. The gas mileage is a smidge better (up to 28 mpg for the Odyssey), but we’re ok with that.

    I get that so many of you are converts. I really do, but please don’t assume that we just haven’t looked into the minivan option because we want to be “cool.” We live in TX. I visit family in my small town that lives off a dirt road. We enjoy the spaciousness and how the SUV drives.

    Now, like I said, I’m only 90% sure this is what we’ll get. We’re leaving ourselves open to other options, but do know that we already have considered all thing “perks” of having a minivan.

  9. My father-in-law traded in his Town and Country for a Pilot earlier this year and I’m kind of smitten. We all piled in for a road trip from New York to North Carolina and back over the Summer and not only was it a super comfortable ride (5 adults and my toddler in a Recaro convertible), but with the Eco mode, we burned through less than a quarter tank over almost 700 miles.

    Anyway, I’m totally with you on not really wanting to drive a minivan. The Pilot is on the short list for the day necessity forces me from my MINI.

  10. I agree with you Jill. We are not a minivan family either, and my next vehicle will be a small SUV or something like the Pilot after we decide to have our 3rd baby. Thanks for the video…it helps much! Also, I have a friend who drives a Pilot and she absolutely loves it!

  11. I have three kids, am potty training a toddler, and change diapers in the car, to compare to another comment. My kids are 4 (3 weeks younger than Kendall), 2.5, and almost 9 months. We got our new to us Pilot (2009-it’s the new body style) when the baby was 2 days old. I loooove it. I have all three across the middle right now (2 rear facing, used to be all three. All are in radians right now but we had 1 in a chicco infant seat in the beginning). It’s easy to get them in and out and I’m short. I change diapers in the trunk. It’s super easy. I love the storage space. We’ve put all the back seats down for moving stuff too. I don’t think you’re crazy, Jill! Also, for the record, we looked at the Odyssey. It was NOT cheaper and did NOT get better gas mileage. So it didn’t make any sense to go with it. The automatic doors weren’t a big enough perk 😉

  12. I’m not that familiar with the Pilot since I’m a Toyota 4 Life-er, but I can confirm that an SUV with 3rd row seating is freaking awesome for our 5 member family. We bought a used Land Cruiser and I am in heaven. The 5 and almost 3 year old can easily get in the back by themselves, 5 year old can buckle himself, and the baby’s sitting pretty in the middle row. Really just adding my 2 cents that you can have 3 kids and avoid the minivan and still love your vehicle!

  13. I agree that the 3rd row and Honda are the way to go. Minivans just aren’t my thing. I would mention that the Pilot says it gets that mileage, but a friend of ours is driving a 2012 and is only getting about 19 mpg max. Not terrible for an SUV of that size, but I don’t want you to be disappointed. I also looked at the Pilot when we shopped for our bigger/better SUV. I ended up with the Hylander. I can’t advocate for it just yet with 3 kids in it, as we only have one for now, but oh momma that thing is amazing so far. The gas mileage is just what it says, too. I do city driving around 20mpg and highway around 23. Awesome video. Love the blog!

  14. I’ve been driving a 2007 Pilot for about 3 months now and absolutely LOVE it. Like you , Jill, I wasn’t even considering it until it kind of fell into my lap. I’ve got a 4 and 5 year old, and a 15 and 17 year old, and it is absolutely perfect for us… I love it more than I could have ever imagined, and I previously drove a 2004 Odyssey. We recently took an 8 hour trip in the Pilot, two adults, 4 kids, a dog and a bunch of luggage. If you plan on driving it for year, it is perfect, my 4 and 5 year olds can get in and out of the third row themselves with no problem, and as they get older it will only get easier. I think the Pilot is an AWESOME alternative to the mini-van, and I can honestly say that I am not biased by the ‘coolness’ factor. Cheers!

  15. i drive the mini van not by choice – after my first child i got a set of twins – so mini van it was. i still can’t get used to driving it (and never will).
    so not everybody are so joyous driving a mninivan – even with all the conveniences it offers.


  16. I am so OVER my mini van. I want a pretty car now and with my home daycare I thought a mini van was really our only option. This is nice though!

  17. Ahh Jill I have been waiting for you do this reveiw and I can’t wait to show it to Eric later. Honda Pilot is #1 on our list when we upgrade next year from our Jeep Cherokee. One question does it have the back-up camera?

  18. One more question – when you have car seats in the middle row, are you still able to slide the seats forward to get in the back?

    • As long as you don’t have a carseat in the seat behind the passenger seat. That’s the seat you need to be able to slide forward for access to the 3rd row.

  19. For me the deciding factor was something with 4WD. Here in Minnesota it’s a must, and the Odyssey doesn’t have it yet, to my knowledge. The only other option was the Sienna, which seemed a lot lower grade in quality. I had a 2006 Pilot and traded it at 90,000 miles not because of any problems, but because of the .9% financing Honda was offering on the 2012. It took a little getting used to the bigger size as far as the handling, but I now love it and feel very spoiled. We drove 1700 miles around South Dakota this past August and used every feature except the heated seats (we also don’t have the Nav–we brought our GPS)–it did very well in the high-altitude, twisty roads of the Black Hills, and then on the open road when it was 100 degrees with killer side winds. I was so thankful to have my reliable Pilot in those harsh conditions. Looking forward to driving “Violet the Pilot” in her first Minnesota winter!

  20. We owned a 07 and recently upgraded to a 2011 Pilot. Our kids are now 5, 7 and 9. Our 9 year old sits in the back right hand side, with the split third row it works great. We have the touring model – my wife loves not having to get out to open the back liftgate (that’s how our oldest prefers to hop in and out). Just took a 3200 mile trip this summer from Wisconsin to Colorado, back up through South Dakota. It was great keeping the kids separated. We have a Yakima rocketbox on the top for even more storage if needed for that length of a trip and it works great. We love our Pilot and were in the same boat you were in a few years back.

  21. I’m totally jealous you got to test drive this car because this is the next Honda I want!!! I currently have a CR-V, and when my lease is up, I want a Pilot SO bad. Who knew that having one kid would cause me to need a gigantic car. Great review, definitely helps me when it is time to start really looking!

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  23. Any thoughts on how your 4 year old would access his seat in the 3rd row with the two convertibles in the 2nd row? We are looking into the Pilot now (also anti-minivan unless need be) but running into issues with car seat logistics.

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  25. This is so old…but I googled 3 kids in a Honda Pilot and your blog popped up. Curious if you ended up with pilot…and third baby. I got an Osyssey when I was 13 wks pregnant with my 3rd. At the time my older two were newly 3 and 20 months. I had an Acura MDX and I could tell it just wasn’t going to work. So my kids are now 9, 5 and 7 and I am totally over the van. Baby is going to Kindy next year and I have a complex about driving the van alone. My own personal nuerosis. My husband found me a newer perfect Odyssey and was ready to pull the trigger and I just couldn’t do it. Really thinking hard about a 12/13 Pilot.

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