Class: Compact Pickup
Miles driven: 1057
Fuel used: 49.7 gallons
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Real-world fuel economy: 21.3 mpg
Driving mix: 25% city, 75% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 18/24/21 (mpg city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $36,490 (not including $1175 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: Radiant Red Metallic II paint ($395), HPD Package ($2800)
Price as tested: $40,860
The great: Class-leading on-road ride and handling; excellent all-around refinement, even in base trim level
The good: Room and comfort; clever cargo-storage and bed-access solutions
The not so good: No powertrain options; some control-layout annoyances; despite add-ons of HPD Package, not as suited for challenging off-roading as class rivals
Honda has taken to running a tighter ship as regards its Ridgeline compact pickup. Just since Consumer Guide last tested one in 2019 the automaker abbreviated the list of available trim levels. Now for 2021 it offers them solely with all-wheel drive, jettisoning the incongruous front-wheel drive that had been on the books for lower-line models.
With that sharper focus comes beefier-looking sheetmetal up front, an updated Display Audio touchscreen infotainment system with new graphics and a physical volume knob, wireless cellphone charging (in the top two trims), and an HPD—for Honda Performance Development—option package. It all helps keep the Ridgeline a CG “Best Buy” in the smaller-than-giant pickup class.
If there’s such a thing as a “crossover pickup,” then the Ridgeline is it, with its unitized body/bed construction and independent rear suspension. At 5000 pounds max, its towing capacity is exceeded by every other entry in the class, and AWD won’t master truly rugged terrain the way comes-with-a-transfer-case four-wheel drive will. However, the Ridgeline’s carlike ride and handling, easy-access cabin, and thoughtful and handy features do an excellent job of serving people who need a little bit of truck a lot of the time.
Our latest test of a Ridgeline involved an entry-level Sport, a $37,665 truck including delivery. That buys a full-4-door pickup with a 5.3-foot-long, 33.9-cubic-foot bed; a tailgate that can be opened in the usual drop-down manner or like a door hinged at the left; and the “In-Bed Trunk” that reveals 7.3 cubic feet of hidden cargo room—and can serve as an 82-quart cooler. Additional features for the price are cloth upholstery, a 7-speaker AM/FM audio system, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, “Intelligent Traction Management” (with “Snow,” “Mud,” and “Sand” modes), tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry with “Walk Away Auto Lock,” electronic tailgate lock, push-button starting, HondaLink remote apps, and Honda Sensing (with forward-collision warning and mitigation, lane-keep assist, road-departure mitigation, and adaptive cruise control).
The test truck reached its $40,860 total price with the additions of premium Radiant Red Metallic II paint and the HPD Package. The $2800 HPD group, which is available for all four Ridgeline models, replaces the standard 18-inch alloy wheels with distinctly designed bronze-colored rims and adds flat-black plastic fender flares, a unique scalloped grille surface, and external HPD badging and bedside graphics. It is one of four available factory-installed option packages; the others are more utilitarian in nature.
The tuning knob on the 8-inch display screen makes it that much easier to program audio presents. We wish the climate system was as easy to use. It has repetitive-press toggle switches for temperature selection with an attendant array of buttons for other functions. Drivers face clear, easy-to-read electronic driving gauges and vehicle information, but new-to-Honda owners will have to acclimate to the transmission control buttons on the console.
Even in base Sport form, with its cloth seats and a grained-plastic steering wheel, the cabin doesn’t look or feel especially stark. Metal-look accents on the dash, doors, steering wheel, and console help there. Generous storage space is found in the ample glove and console boxes. There are two tiers of bins in the front doors and there is a pouch attached to the back of each front seat. Exposed cup holders in the console serve front passengers while rear-seat occupants are similarly served by receptacles in the pull-down center armrest and in the door panels.
The Ridgeline is a practical people-hauler with good room for five. There’s plenty of headroom in both seating rows. Legroom is very good in front and will accommodate most adults in the second row with ease. Three grown-ups certainly will fit across the rear seat, a task made all the easier thanks to a nearly flat floor. Upright rear seat backs aren’t as cushy as those in front, but just by a matter of degrees. The cushions to those seats raise at the flip of a lever to expose more in-cabin storage space, and they are divided in a 60/40 split to allow for seating/cargo flexibility. Rear-seat entries and exits would go easier if the doors opened wider, but step-in presents no challenges, and drivers can clearly see out just about anywhere they train their gaze.
A 3.5-liter V6 remains the lone engine available for Honda’s pickup, at the same 280-horsepower rating it has had since the second-generation Ridgeline came out in 2017. It is smooth, quiet, and responsive—one of the refined things we like about the vehicle. The 9-speed automatic transmission that arrived for 2020 goes about its normal business unobtrusively, and kicks down quickly for passing oomph. An “Econ” mode modifies powertrain performance for drivers trying to run more economically. Maybe this driver should have used it: He averaged 18.5 mpg from a trip of 87.1 miles that was 56 percent city-type driving—more than 2.5 miles less than he saw from the ’19 Ridgeline with a 6-speed transmission. (That said, other editors who logged a majority of highway miles did much better, nearing the EPA highway estimate of 24 mpg.)
You’d be hard pressed to find better ride quality and handling in a small pickup. Rear-end hop and body roll are well contained. Direct, responsive steering aids maneuverability.
The Ridgeline is decidedly limited in terms of body and bed configuration, and with a single powerteam. While it’s true that there are certain things it can’t do as well as other pickups its size, there are things those other trucks can’t do as well as the Honda—it’s the only one that can fit a standard sheet of plywood flat in its cargo bed, for instance. It is the unconventional truck for the buyer who needs something other than the conventional.
2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD Gallery
(Click below for enlarged images)
2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD
2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD