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2020 Nissan Pathfinder vs. 2021 Honda Pilot: Which Is Better?

The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder and the 2021 Honda Pilot offer ample space for people and cargo. Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • There is no 2021 model year for the Nissan Pathfinder, and it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. There will be a new model for 2022.
  • The Honda Pilot shares its underpinnings with the Honda Passport and the Honda Ridgeline.

2020 Nissan Pathfinder

2020 Nissan Pathfinder

Base Price: $32,727  / Read our 2020 Nissan Pathfinder Review 

What we like: Strong horsepower and torque; decent handling; 6,000-lb tow rating

What we would change: The Nissan Pathfinder hasn’t been updated for 2021 and won’t get an update until 2022; technology is behind the curve; no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto; some standard safety on competitors are optional on the Pathfinder

Overview: The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder is a body-on-frame SUV that’s often revered for its offroad capability. It’s built more like a car than a truck, and it offers space for up to seven people. Since it hasn’t been updated in a while (and there is no 2021 model), it’s fallen behind rivals in terms of technology and safety equipment.

What’s new for 2020? The Pathfinder got a new rear sonar system, two more USB-C ports, radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and LED headlights on higher trims as part of a 2019 update. Those changes carry over for the 2020 model year. 

Features and Technology: The 2020 Nissan Pathfinder comes in four trims: S, SV, SL, and Platinum. The S trim comes with hill assist, power outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, automatic emergency braking, rear door alert, cruise control, a rear sonar system, power door locks with keyless remote, power windows, tri-zone automatic climate control, two 12-volt power outlets, six USB ports, push-button ignition, a four-inch color Advanced Drive Assist Display, Bluetooth connectivity and a 6-speaker audio system with an eight-inch color display. Oddly, the only factory option is heated outboard mirrors.

The SV trim adds things like automatic headlights, an eight-way power driver’s seat, an auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, a programmable key fob, two more 12-volt power outlets, rear sonar parking assistance, and remote engine start. Standard driver assists include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The SV Tech package adds navigation with upgraded NissanConnect and SiriusXM services, a trailer hitch, and a wiring harness.

At the SL line, you get the SV’s standard amenities and listed optional equipment plus a motion-activated power liftgate with position memory, hill-descent control, LED headlights, additional driver’s seat power adjustments, a four-way power-adjustable front-passenger seat, a 120-volt power outlet, and a 360-degree monitor with motion detection. Upgrades include a dual-pane panoramic power moonroof, a navigation system, and a 12-speaker Bose audio system with an eight-inch color touchscreen.

The top-of-the-line Platinum trim gets you everything in the SL trim plus a power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, a tow hitch with a wire harness, and heated and cooled front seats. The only upgrade is the rear-seat Family Entertainment package, which adds a DVD player, dual headrest-mounted eight-inch monitors, and headphones.

What does the future hold? The Pathfinder is due for a significant update for the 2022 model year. There is no 2021 Nissan Pathfinder.

2021 Honda Pilot

2021 Honda Pilot

Base Price: $33,360 / Read our 2021 Honda Pilot Review

What we like: Spacious interior with a usable third row; standard V6 engine; strong resale value

What we would change: An off-road-themed variant would expand the Pilot’s appeal, as would a sport-themed version

Overview: The Honda Pilot is a well-rounded, family-friendly three-row SUV, one with several strengths and few weaknesses. The sole powertrain is a 3.5-liter V6 making 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque paired with a nine-speed automatic. The top two trims come standard with AWD, which is a $2,000 option elsewhere. With all-wheel drive, this powertrain returns 22 mpg combined; with front-wheel-drive, the estimate is 23 mpg. This V6 is adequately powerful and tows up to 5,000 pounds (with AWD). On the road, the Pilot is comfortable and polished but not particularly sporty, although the AWD system includes torque vectoring across the rear axle to enhance agility. A third-row seat with seatbelts for three is standard, while in the middle row, there’s a three-passenger bench or captain’s chairs, depending on trim level. Maximum cargo space is 82.1–83.9 cubic feet, and there’s 16.5 cubic feet behind the third row.

What’s new for 2021: All Pilots now use a 9-speed automatic transmission, replacing the 6-speed unit previously found in sub-Touring trim levels, resulting in a slight fuel-economy increase for those models. Elsewhere, the EX-L w/Navi and Rear Seat Entertainment is dropped, while a new SE trim (with less equipment) is added. The base LX adds dual-zone climate control.

Features and technology: The 2021 Honda Pilot is sold in LX, EX, EX-L, SE, Touring, Elite, and Black Edition trim levels. Forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assistance, and adaptive cruise control are standard on all trims. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are included on all but the base LX. Besides those two safety features, the EX also brings a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and an 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Leather seating is the big add-on with the EX-L, which also includes a power liftgate, second-row sunshades, and an acoustic windshield. The SE adds wireless smartphone charging, 20-inch wheels, and the CabinTalk in-car PA system. The Touring is the first trim where captain’s chairs can be had, along with navigation, a rear-seat entertainment system, a Wi-Fi hotspot, upgraded audio, and heating for the second-row seats. The top two trims include all-wheel drive, ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

What does the future hold: The Pilot is mechanically related to the two-row Passport SUV and the Ridgeline pickup, the latter of which got new, more rugged front-end styling for 2021 that could migrate to the Pilot and Passport as well. See 2021 Honda Pilot models for sale near you

Pathfinder vs. Pilot: Strengths comparison

Nissan Pathfinder Benefits: Towing capacity

Honda Pilot Benefits: Seats up to eight; adult-sized third row; lower-priced top trims; enviable reliability record; modern technology and safety

2020 Nissan Pathfinder vs. 2021 Honda Pilot: Which is better?

The Honda Pilot has long been a top choice in this class, and because the Pathfinder is getting a bit old and is so far behind in terms of safety and technology, the Honda comes out on top in this comparison. However, if you don’t care about things like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and need to tow a substantial amount, the Pathfinder might be the right buy for you. Find 2020 Nissan Pathfinder models for sale or Find 2021 Honda Pilot models

Popular Powertrains 2020 Nissan Pathfinder 2021 Honda Pilot
Engine 3.5-liter V6 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower 284 hp @ 6,400 rpm 280 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 259 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm 262 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Transmission CVT 9-spd automatic
Fuel Economy 23 mpg (20 city/27 hwy) 23 mpg (20 city/27 hwy)
Also Available n/a AWD
Warranty 3 years or 36,000 miles 3 years/36,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating 5 Stars 5 stars
Max Seating Capacity 7 8
Wheelbase 114.2 inches 111.0 inches
Overall Length 198.5 inches 196.5 inches
Width 77.3 inches 78.6 inches
Height 70.6 inches 70.6 inches
Turning Diameter 38.7 feet 39.4 feet
Headroom, Front 42.2 inches 40.1 inches
Headroom, Rear 39.4 inches 40.2 inches
Headroom, Third Row 37.8 inches 38.9 inches
Legroom, Front 42.2 inches 40.9 inches
Legroom, Rear 41.7 inches 38.4 inches
Legroom, Third Row 30.7 inches 31.9 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 60.9 inches 62.0 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 60.4 inches 62.0 inches
Shoulder Room, Third Row 57.1 inches 57.6 inches
EPA Passenger Volume 154.0 cubic feet 152.9 cubic feet
EPA Cargo Volume 79.8 cubic feet 83.9 cubic feet

Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett
Abigail Bassett is a freelance journalist based in L.A. and she's covered automotive topics for a variety of well-known outlets including Fortune, Forbes, CNN and Motor Trend. She's also a television and video host and regularly covers breaking news, social justice, technology, health and wellness, and science in addition to her car coverage. When she's not working on her next project she's... Read More about Abigail Bassett

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