- 2021 Honda Ridgeline Review ($36,490 – $43,920)
- 2021 Consumer Reports highest-rated pickup truck
- Pro: Beautifully practical and comfortable to drive
- Con: If you need serious work-truck power, the Ridgeline will come up short
See, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline is a dose of reality in an otherwise wild fantasy-laden dreamscape that is the pickup truck market. Many buyers overspend on big burly pickups that have more power than an earthquake and are bigger than the Moon, yet only ever drive them casually around town. Although, they tend to buy these monster trucks like a Ford F-250 or a Ram TRX because they believe they need all that power. In reality, they don’t.
This is why the Honda Ridgeline has struggled over the years. It never promised earth-moving power and astronomical heft; it was/is just a pickup truck. It has enough power to do most regular (realistic) truck things like moving your friend’s couch or taking your grandma’s trash to the dump. It has always been honest with what it is. For that reason, it is great. Also, for that reason, it isn’t popular.
In respect to this conversation, I spent my week-long 2021 Honda Ridgeline review driving the plucky, honest little truck around my home in NY, NY. It may not feel like a typical truck proving ground, but it’s a great place to test the Honda Ridgeline’s plain but trustworthy promises.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline HPD looks like a million bucks
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline isn’t exactly the Belle of the ball. In fact, one of its most noteworthy attributes over the years has been how ugly it is. People do not like the look of this pickup truck. However, the 2021 model, specifically with the HPD package that my 2021 Honda Ridgeline review loaner had, slowly became my favorite aspect of the truck.
I went from feeling a little silly to looking forward to getting in and out of it as much as possible. The Red Metallic paint with the black “HPD” graphics and accents paired with bronze wheels and the flared fenders was a real joy to look at. I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I guess I’m just a fool for gold wheels.
It wasn’t just me, though. I took it down to SoHo (fancy neighborhood) for coffee and croissants (NYC pickup truck test), and it got dressed in plenty of compliments in the few minutes I was parked, sitting on the tailgate (I’m still from Alabama). The looks alone made me proud to sit there on my red and gold truck.
The Ridgeline has a fine but boring interior
Honda has no problem making a comfortable and intuitive cabin. However, I’ve yet to be overly inspired by the interior of any Honda. The 2021 Honda Ridgeline review tester that I had was the Sport HPD trim and was really no different than a Honda Pilot or any other such practical SUV. On the one hand, the layout was nice and spacious. On the other hand, there was nothing particularly appealing about it either. It just was.
This is when truck brain needs to kick in. Although it’s not really a brawny work truck, it still is a pickup truck. The grey/black cloth interior seems to be pretty practical for keeping clean and avoiding seat damage if you happen to do any truck work.
Regardless of how plain the interior was, it was comfortable, roomy, and offered a good driving position.
Which Honda Ridgeline trim is the best?
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline is offered in four trim levels plus the HPD package. Every trim level offers the same engine, transmission, and all that comes along with that. The trims are only interior tech and aesthetics.
The trim levels are as follows from cheapest to most expensive; Sport, RTL, RTL-E, and Black Edition. In my opinion, the most bang for your buck comes from the RTL-E becuase it has the power sliding rear window. It is basically the fully-loaded version without the black wheels and interior lighting from the Black Edition.
Although not very cost-effective, I still prefer the bronze-colored wheels and decals of the HPD package. Its $2,800 price tag is silly, I know, but it really looks like you have bought something to enjoy instead of just a basic pickup.
The tech features feel a bit sparse
As far as the infotainment screen and other tech controls, the 2021 Honda Ridgeline Sport felt fairly spartan and even a bit outdated. Granted, this was the base trim; it still felt like there was a 10-year-old infotainment interface. The lack of features in the infotainment felt unnecessarily bare.
Along with that, the sound system was simply not good. If it were my truck, I would have to pull every speaker and amp out on day one and replace them with something that wasn’t actively thin and noisy. Honestly, this was the only time I found myself actively disliking something during my 2021 Honda Ridgeline review.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline review revealed a truck that handles like a sedan
The handling was really impressive for what it was. The beauty of the Ridgeline is that it knows what it is. This truck didn’t handle like a race car or even anything that hinted at being sporty, but due to the independent suspension all the way around, it took corners and sharp steering adjustments with grace and poise.
Even wiggling my way through Manhattan traffic, the Ridgeline could easily slip in and out of lanes easily. It was a real relief to have the versatility of a pickup truck (especially during Hurricane Ida) and the driving ease of a sedan.
The Ridgeline may only have one engine, but its a good one
There is a reason Consumer Reports ranked the 2021 Honda Ridgeline review as the best pickup truck of the year. Honda’s 280-hp 3.5-liter V6 is not only smooth and powerful, but it is also rock solid. The power delivery is linear and refined so that it allows you to rarely consider acceleration; it just does it. It is also a known reliable platform that offers drivers little headache in the maintenance department.
The Honda Ridgeline might ride like a sedan, but it is still a pickup truck. Since the Honda’s truck doesn’t offer anything other than the one V6, all Ridgeline trims can tow 5,000 pounds. This is a bit weaker than other similar trucks. The takeaway is, the more common 6,500-lb towing capacity from some rivals are better; those trucks pay for that towing figure with rough, bouncy, and overall much less comfortable than the Honda Ridgeline’s ride. Again, this is a perfect example of the Honda knowing what it is and who its for and sticking to its guns. I love that.
As always, Honda comes correct on safety features
The 2021 Ridgeline landed five out of six IIHS crash test results but only got “acceptable” in the passenger-side small overlap front. It also has a superior rating in front crash prevention.
Much of this is due to Honda’s 2020 revitalization of its standard safety suite. The standard safety equipment includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane-keeping assistance, and road departure assistance.
Although I never needed to test the car seat installation, Consumer Reports says, “Child seat installations in the outboard seats may be difficult as the buckle spacing is too wide. Lower LATCH anchors are close to the stiff cushions, making it slightly difficult to attach and detach connectors to them.”
The maintenance cost for a 2021 Honda Ridgeline is basically nothing
Honda is known for reliability. These are well-made vehicles with years of experience and practical design. According to Repair Pal, the average annual repair/maintenance cost is only $502.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline also comes with a standard 3-year/ 36,000-mile warranty. There are other optional warranties available as well.
Don’t sleep on the Ridgeline
Look, I understand that the Honda Ridgeline isn’t as cool as the bigger, performance-minded pickups. I also get that it isn’t as country-music-cool as a burly diesel work truck. The truth is, most of us don’t need and will never use those trucks in the way they are intended or priced. So why get one if you don’t need it?
The Ridgeline is all the truck that most of us need. It has AWD, a bed, can tow 5,000 lbs, and still have enough room for the family or friends. It is also ok on gas getting around 20 mpg combined. If we look at the Ridgeline objectively, we see a super practical truck, affordable, reliable, small, and (with the HPD package) can look pretty good.
MotorBiscuit gives the 2021 Honda Ridgeline an expert rating of 8.2/10
It’s not that the 2021 Honda Ridgeline does anyone thing that exceptionally well. In fact, some aspects, like towing, for instance, are actually a bit worse than most competitors. However, the overall package is impossible to deny. It is so honest and practical that it deserves to be seriously considered for anyone needing a casual pickup truck.
Even if the HPD package is a bit silly and overpriced, it makes the $40,000 pickup truck go from a practical and good, but admittedly plain, even boring truck, to a spicy-looking and interesting truck that anyone should be proud to own and drive.
The 2021 Honda Ridgeline line allows buyers a cheaper truck option that actually gives them everything they need without overspending on features and power they will never use. The Ridgeline is honest, and for that reason alone, we love it.