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By Andre De Kock

Motorsport Correspondent


Honda Ballade has stood the test of time

Eighth generation of old local favourite a practical alternative.


Being absolutely ancient, this writer can remember a multitude of things.

For instance, the Honda Ballade arrived in this country in 1982. Marketed here by Mercedes-Benz at the time, it was touted as a small car with Mercedes-like quality. Accordingly, it was offered at a higher price than some of its market competitors.

Many Mercedes owners bought Ballades for their partners, while well-off single men saw the vehicles as a statement of financial wellbeing.

Fond memories

In fact, between 1987 and 1993 Honda ran a series of local television ads on SABC, called “Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling”, translated as “Ballade for the Single Man”.

Starring Gavin van den Berg, Karin Fourie, Babs Laker, Marie Pentz and Anneline Kriel – remember Anneline Kriel? – the advertisement series was hugely successful – though this writer could never actually see a Honda .

“Ballade” was fondly remembered – so much so, that it resurfaced as a full length movie in 2015, written by Leon van Nierop and directed by Quentin Krog, while starring people like DonnaLee Roberts, Armand Aucamp and Rolanda Marais.

Again, we could never find a link between the screen production and the car, but then, we know nothing about the arts or the art of selling cars. “Ballade vir ‘n Enkeling” has disappeared in the mists of time, but the Honda Ballade has not.

Latest reincarnation

The eighth generation Ballade is now on sale in South Africa, with the three models in the range topped by the RS derivative.

Having been tasked with evaluating the flagship model, this writer immediately found that RS does not refer to superior performance. It stands for Road Sailing, meaning this Ballade glides over tarmac like a boat over water.

Honda

Honda Ballade RS rear view

Of course, Gauteng’s potholed roads means that water is full of hidden rocks, but Honda’s marketing team had no way of knowing that.

The latest Ballade is slightly longer, wider and lower than its predecessor. Honda makes much about the new model’s solid wing face that spans the entire front width of the car, while incorporating the brand’s bold grille design and a new slim headlight treatment.

Makeover

We thought the large expanses of chrome looked tacky, but any vehicle’s appearance is a subjective thing, which is why you can peruse the photographs herewith and decide for yourself.

The RS comes standard with LED head lights, tail lights and fog lights, a boot spoiler, faux carbon-fibre diffuser, a sunroof, plus front and rear sport bumpers. The whole package sits on 16-inch alloy wheels, in 185/55 R16 tyres, while the car has a sensible, full-sized spare wheel.

Honda

Ballade’s interior has made the move upmarket.

Inside, leather covered seats will accommodate four adults in comfort, with standard items including cruise control, automatic air-conditioning and auto headlights, electric side mirrors and windows, smart key exit and entry, electric sunroof, and a seven-inch TFT multi-information display panel.

There is also a high-resolution eight-inch touchscreen, integrated into the instrument panel that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, plus Bluetooth and steering wheel controls.

Safe as a house

Active safety features include Anti-lock Braking System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Vehicle Stability Assist, plus a reverse parking camera.

Honda

RS badge denotes no performance aspirations but rather stands for Road Sailing.

Passive safety is provided for by driver, front passenger, side and curtain SRS airbags, while the Ballade boasts Honda’s ACE body structure which allows for the even distribution and redirection of collision energy away from the passenger compartment.

Nippy

The Ballade RS comes with a four-cylinder, 1 498 cc, normally aspirated, double overhead camshaft i-VTEC petrol engine that produces 89 kW of power at 6 600 rpm and 145 Nm of torque at 4 500 rpm. The powerplant is fitted with a revised version of Honda’s Continuously Variable Transmission, taking the grunt and the twist to the front wheels.

None of which makes the Ballade RS a quick car, but it is nippy enough to keep up with Ekurhuleni traffic, and will happily coast on the highway at 120 km/h with just under 3 000 rpm on the clock.

Frugal

It is simple to drive, with predictable handling and great fuel consumption – we averaged a usage figure of 6.1 L/100 km/h, mostly using the car in city traffic.

All of which will appeal to the Ballade’s targeted buyers – people with the means to pay more for something out of the ordinary, which is also practical. At a price of R396 900 the Ballade RS comes with a five year/200 000 km warranty, a four year/60 000 km service plan with 15 000 km service intervals and a three-year AA Roadside Assistance plan.

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