The Honda Pilot is the most fuel-efficient eight-passenger SUV in its segment.

Itís also loaded with premium amenities and safety features.

With a base price starting below $30,000, the Pilot is available in front- or four-wheel drive configurations.

Powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine capable of a towing capacity up to 4,500 pounds, it has an EPA fuel economy of 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway for front-wheel drive models (17/24 mpg respectively for four-wheel drive).

Available LX, EX, EX-L (leather) and Touring trim levels, the Pilot is an extremely capable mid-size SUV that delivers a smooth, steady ride on the road and lots of room inside.

Itís also very nicely equipped.

The base Pilot EX comes with tri-zone automatic climate control system with humidity control and air filtration, high-resolution 8-inch Multi-Information Display, Bluetooth HandsFreeLink and Bluetooth Audio, USB connection, rearview camera, tilt and telescopic steering column, cruise control, power windows, power door and tailgate locks, seven-speaker premium audio with Radio Data System, trip computer, heat-rejecting tinted glass and integrated tow-hitch receiver.

The EX adds a 10-way power driverís seat with lumbar support, security system, XM Satellite Radio, fog lights, HomeLink remote garage door opener and a 2 GB CD library.

The EX-L adds leather-trimmed seating surfaces, heated front seats, four-way power front passengerís seat, one-touch power moonroof, power tailgate, automatic-dimming rearview mirror and the availability of either the navigation system or DVD rear entertainment system with 9-inch screen.

The top-of-the-line Touring trim level includes navigation, 10-speaker premium audio upgrade, audio streaming, rear entertainment system, 2-position memory seats, roof rails, corner and backup sensors and side-mirror integrated turn indicators.

One of the many things I like about the Pilot is its spacious cabin and versatility.

There is a ton of room inside, even behind the third row seat. The second and third rows can also be folded flat when not needed for passengers, providing ample room to carry larger items.

I also like the fact that you can access the rear cargo compartment without having to lift the entire rear hatch. The glass window can be raised, allowing convenient, easy access when you just need to grab and item and go.

When it comes to safety, the Pilot is equipped with 3-row side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, driverís and front passengerís front and side airbags, active front seat head restraints, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist and vehicle stability assist, to name but a few.

I was very impressed with the Pilot ó not only for its segment-leading fuel economy in the eight-passenger SUV category, but for its ride, comfort and high level of equipment. Itís a must for a test drive.

Neal White has been covering the automotive industry for more than 20 years and is affiliated with the Texas Auto Writers Association.

The Nuts and Bolts

MODEL:

2013 Honda Pilot

8-seat SUV †

Front-, or four-wheel drive

Trim packages:

LX, EX, EX-L, Touring

PRICE RANGE:

$30,000-$42,000

ENGINE:

3.5L V6 (250 hp/253 T)

TRANSMISSION:

5-speed automatic

EPA: 18/17 mpg city, 25/24 mpg highway

FUEL: Regular unleaded

STABILITY CONTROL:

Vehicle Stability assist

BRAKES: ABS

LENGTH: 191.4 inches

WHEELBASE: 109.2 in.

WIDTH: 78.5 inches

HEIGHT: 72.7 inches

WEIGHT: 4299-4608 lbs.

TRACK: 67.7/67.5

(front/rear)

FUEL TANK: 21 gallons

TIRES: 17-, or 18-inch

TOWING: 2,000 lbs (FWD); 4,500 (4WD).

CARGO: 18/47.7/87 cubic feet (behind 3rd/2nd/1st seating row).