Although often panned as “not a truck,” the Honda Ridgeline has flagshipped a segment of small car-based pickups in America. The Ridgeline has a bigger interior, more daily drive usefulness, and better fuel economy than most of the traditional pickup trucks in the mid-sized segment.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline gets a styling refresh to give it a more rugged appeal and gains all-wheel drive as standard equipment. Infotainment also gets an upgrade. Based heavily on the Honda Pilot SUV, the Ridgeline resonates with buyers for many reasons.
Swerve Autos Score: 84/100
Some updates from Honda Racing Development have given the 2021 Ridgeline a better look than it’s had in the past. Less crossover-like and more truck-like, the Ridgeline now has more “working” appeal. Whether that will bring more buyers is anyone’s guess, but the new looks are sharp.
Those changes, however, do not remove the Honda’s “I’m still a car” appearance entirely. Side panels, the hood curvature, and the front grille are still more crossover than truck. And the Honda Ridgeline looks smaller than it is, a quirk that doesn’t generally appeal to more traditional truck buyers.
On the inside, the 2021 Ridgeline is far more comfortable and appealing than are most of its mid-sized rivals. Thanks to its Pilot roots, the Ridgeline gets spacious seats with good bolstering and comfort, a well laid out cabin, and large back seats. The back seats, in particular, are worth noting as most small trucks are not known for comfort in the rear.
Aside from the push-button shifting for the automatic transmission–a polarizing point for many–the 2021 Honda Ridgeline offers a nice controls layout and plentiful storage. The rear seats fold up to show a flat floor beneath for added versatility and the center console is larger than might be expected.
The Ridgeline uses Honda’s tried-and-true 3.5-liter V6, which produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This runs to a nine-speed automatic, introduced last year, with all-wheel drive (now standard). The transmission has made all the difference here, giving the V6 enough gearing to feel confident. The combination is a good one and it serves the Ridgeline well.
Fuel economy is rated at 24 mpg on the highway, which outdoes many in the segment. The MPG rating is realistic in the real world as well, with our tests at high altitude producing 23.5 as an average.
Where the 2021 Ridgeline falters when compared to other mid-sized trucks is in towing and off-roading. The better MPG and confident drive quality sacrifice these aspects. Towing is rated at 5,000 pounds with payload at 1,583. For most buying in this class of pickup, those numbers are likely enough to handle the kinds of tasks expected of the truck, but others have larger numbers to tout for these specs. Off-road, the Ridgeline has only 7.6 inches of ground clearance and very short approach and departure angles compared to many 4×4 options in the segment. It’s definitely not a dirt beast.
For daily use, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline is extremely practical. Good fuel economy is a bonus, but so are the smooth daily drive dynamics (there’s no truck in the Rideline’s road feel) and an extremely useful cargo bed.
The tailgate of the Ridgeline can open down, as with most tailgates, but it also swings to the side (left, away from the curb) for added access. This makes getting to the front of the bed (nearest the cab) easy and makes loading some bulkier items easier. No more “slide it past the tailgate and hope it doesn’t scratch.”
Even better, underneath the bed, at the tailgate, is a lockable storage box (7.3 cubic feet) that accommodates about a week’s worth of groceries. It has drain plugs in the bottom of the tub as well. Behind that, towards the cab, is the spare tire and jack–making them easier to access than in many other trucks.
The interior of the 2021 Ridgeline is also practically laid out, with good access to storage, versatility options like the rear seats lifting for flood access (something a few others can’t boast), and the like.
Comparatively speaking, the 2021 Ridgeline is the most comfortable pickup truck on the market this year. Being the only unibody truck, that makes sense. With rivals from other makes coming to market with their own car-based trucks next year, however, competition could change the Ridgeline’s standing as the most comfortable truck available.
For now, it’s the only truck whose unibody design makes its ride quality, interior space, and road comfort car-like in comfort levels.
An 8-inch touchscreen dominates the technology front in the Ridgeline. A few updates this year and last added some connectivity. Standard features include tri-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, two USB ports, Bluetooth, and a seven-speaker stereo. CarPlay and Auto are both wired only. Upgrade options include two more USB ports (these in the rear), HD and satellite radio, navigation, and an eight-speaker audio upgrade. Plus wireless charging.
Honda did add a volume knob to the stereo this year, making at least that part of things easier (versus the “sliding finger push” thing before). But that’s about it. The infotainment is clunky when compared to the far more modern options others have. Responses can get slow, especially in navigation. Only one of the Ridgeline’s potential rivals has a worse infotainment user interface. If Honda does opt to upgrade the infotainment to the new system found in other Honda vehicles, which may happen next year, this will greatly improve.
Connected Services 8/10
The services offered from Honda are commensurate with what’s found in other options on the market. Nothing special, nothing horrible. Remote start, climate pre-sets, door locking and unlocking, vehicle location services, and so forth are all included.
Active Safety 8/10
Standard in the 2021 Honda Ridgeline are active safety systems such as forward collision mitigation and lane-keeping assistance. As is adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring is optionally added to the base model and standard in all other trims.
Honda’s safety system, while touchy when it comes to sending warnings, responds well when actively engaging versus those warnings.
Although the 2021 Ridgeline has a higher starting cost than most mid-sized pickup trucks, it’s beginning price is about average when compared to those trucks with AWD or 4WD installed. In terms of included equipment, the Ridgeline is generally better-equipped than the base models of others as well.
Resale values in pickup trucks, including small trucks, are high and the Ridgeline isn’t excepted from that truism. Given its practicality, we think the Ridgeline is overall a good value in today’s market.
Editors Influence 9/10
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is too often panned as “not a truck.” Yet its popularity has proven that there is a good market for “not trucks” today. Rivals like the Hyundai Santa Cruz and the Ford Maverick coming to market with more automakers likely to jump into the fray soon have proven that the Ridgeline’s formula of car-based pickup design is a winner. Maybe Honda wasn’t the first to do this, but they’ve definitely been the most tenacious about keeping it alive.
Add on the HPD (Honda Performance Development) package to any Ridgeline trim level and you get some great cosmetics like the bronze-colored wheels, flared fenders, and unique grille. The Utility package is another great upgrade, giving roof rails and running boards.
Aside from off-roading, which other trucks are far better suited for, the Ridgeline covers all of the truck requirements most people will have.