- The Honda Pilot was last fully redesigned for 2016 and was updated for 2019.
- The Nissan Pathfinder was last all-new for 2013 and received a facelift for 2017.
- The Pathfinder has room for seven, while the Pilot can seat eight when properly configured.
The 2020 Honda Pilot and the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder are two of the most familiar names in the midsize 3-row family crossover segment. Though a number of more modern competitors have emerged over the past couple of years, either vehicle is worth a look if you’re in the market for a new family hauler.
Here, we’ll compare these vehicles to determine which is the better buy in 2020.
The Pilot has been on sale in its current generation since the 2016 model year, and it received a mid-life-cycle update for the 2019 model year. While it isn’t the most modern family hauler on sale today, it remains one of the most competent, with a very minivan-like interior, a well-rounded offering of family-friendly features and a great powertrain.
Under the hood of every 2020 Pilot is a 3.5-liter V6 engine putting out 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. LX, EX and EX-L models come with a 6-speed automatic transmission, while Touring, Elite and Black Edition trims come with a 9-speed automatic. With the 6-speed transmission and front-wheel drive, the Pilot gets 19 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Models equipped with the 9-speed transmission are rated at 1 extra mpg in the city and in combined driving, while opting for all-wheel drive results in a 1-mpg penalty. See the 2020 Honda Pilot models for sale near you
Like the Pilot, the Pathfinder packs a 3.5-liter V6. Output for the Pathfinder is 284 hp and 259 lb-ft of torque. This engine comes mated exclusively to a continuously variable transmission, which is a less compelling design than a traditional geared automatic. Fuel economy for a basic FWD Pathfinder comes in at 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/23 mpg combined. AWD models see a drop in fuel economy by 1 mpg all around (19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined). See the 2020 Nissan Pathfinder models for sale near you
Though the Pathfinder is slightly more powerful, the Pilot’s powertrain is more sophisticated, and thus the Pilot is considerably faster. The Pathfinder takes 7.4 seconds to go from 0-to-60 mph, but the Pilot takes just 6.2 seconds.
The Pathfinder bests the Pilot in the towing category. The Pilot is rated for 5,000 pounds, and the Pathfinder is rated for 6,000.
The Pilot and Pathfinder offer similar dimensions inside and out.
The Pilot is slightly shorter than the Pathfinder in terms of length, but it makes up for that by being a bit wider. The Pilot is 194.5 inches long, 78.6 inches wide and 69.8 inches tall, while the Pathfinder comes in at 198.5 inches long, 77.2 inches wide and 69.6 inches tall. Neither vehicle comes with much ground clearance — the Pathfinder offers 7 inches, and the Pilot offers 7.3.
The Pathfinder offers a little more room than the Pilot in its first and second rows. The Pilot has 38.4 inches of legroom in its second row, while the Pathfinder has 41.7 inches. Move to the third row, and the two vehicles offer identical legroom, though the Pilot offers 1.1 inches of additional headroom — 38.9 inches to the Pathfinder’s 37.8.
As far as cargo volume goes, the Pilot comes with 17 cu ft. behind the third row, 47 cu ft. behind the second row when the third row is folded and 84 cu ft. with the second and third rows folded. The Pathfinder is similarly sized, offering 16 cu ft., 48 cu ft. and 80 cu ft., respectively.
The Pilot’s third row seats three, while the Pathfinder’s has room for just two. Second-row captain’s chairs are optional on the Pilot Touring and standard on the Pilot Elite, while the Pathfinder comes exclusively with a 3-person bench seat in its second row. As a result, the Pathfinder offers room for seven regardless of trim level, and the Pilot can seat up to eight with a second-row bench or seven with second-row captain’s chairs.
Pilot EX models and up come with an 8-in infotainment display that offers the latest version of Honda’s infotainment system and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. Earlier models were offered with a controversial touch-slider controlling the volume, but a traditional volume knob was added back to the Pilot for 2019.
Every trim level of the Pathfinder comes standard with an 8-in infotainment screen running Nissan’s infotainment system. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are, oddly, unavailable, making the Pathfinder one of the few remaining family vehicles yet to add this feature.
The Pilot and the Pathfinder each come with three 12-volt outlets. The Pilot has five USB ports, while the Pathfinder comes with six, two of which are USB-C ports.
The Pilot and the Pathfinder each offer an optional panoramic sunroof. One feature unique to the Pathfinder is its 360-degree camera system, which provides a top-down composite view of the vehicle that makes it easier to guide the vehicle into tight parking spots. The Pilot only offers a traditional rearview camera, though the camera does offer a few different viewing angles. The Pathfinder also offers an available Bose audio system. The Pilot doesn’t offer a premium audio option.
While each vehicle can be had with a power rear lift gate, only the Pathfinder offers hands-free activation, which lets drivers activate the opening by waving a foot under the vehicle’s back bumper. Each vehicle offers a heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated perforated leather seats on upper trim levels.
The Pathfinder offers a Rock Creek Edition trim available as a supplement to the SV and SL trim levels. The Rock Creek Edition adds unique wheels, black plastic trim pieces and a fake skid plate, plus unique trim on the inside. Similarly, the Pilot’s new Black Edition trim, offered on top of the Elite model, adds black exterior accents, 20-in black wheels, red ambient interior lighting, black and red seating surfaces with red stitching and interior accents and a Crystal Black exterior color.
The current generations of the Nissan Pathfinder and the Honda Pilot have each performed well in every category in crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Additionally, each vehicle can be had with an array of active safety features. The Pilot offers these features as standard, and the Pathfinder includes them on all but its base model.
Forward-collision warning, front automatic emergency braking and rear parking sensors come standard on every Pathfinder. Adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are offered on every trim except for the base S model. Oddly, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist are not available on the Pathfinder, despite being offered on virtually every other midsize 3-row crossover sold today.
Honda offers its Honda Sensing active safety technology suite as standard on every Pilot — meaning that adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, forward-collision warning, front automated emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and front and rear parking sensors come standard on every Pilot. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic monitoring come on the EX model and up.
As with most vehicles in this segment, the Pilot and Pathfinder are priced very similarly.
Factoring in destination fees, the 2020 Honda Pilot starts at $32,645 for a base 2-wheel drive LX model and tops out at $49,215 for a loaded AWD Elite model and $50,715 for the Black Edition model. Adding AWD to the Pilot costs $2,000 across the board.
The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder starts at $32,725 for a base 2WD S model and tops out at about $48,000 for a loaded Platinum model with AWD. Speaking of AWD, that costs $1,690 extra, and it’s offered on every trim level.
The Pilot is more compelling than the Pathfinder. It’s more modern, offers better safety technology and has a better powertrain. While the Pathfinder offers a few more compelling features, such as a Bose audio system and a foot-activated rear hatch, it’s now in its eighth year since its last redesign, and at this point in its life cycle, its main selling point is the discount you might be able to get from your local Nissan dealer. The Pilot is the better overall vehicle in 2020, and with that, it earns our nod in this comparison. Find a Honda Pilot for sale or Find a Nissan Pathfinder for sale