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By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor

Honda Elevate up against it in cut-throat compact SUV segment

Fuel consumption and boot space count in its favour in close race against rivals.

While Christians celebrated their faith, and kids hunted around for Easter eggs, The Citizen Motoring spent the long weekend trying to figure out if the new Honda Elevate compact SUV could take on the big guns – the Toyota Urban Cruiser and Kia Sonet.

On looks, typical of all India-produced cars in this segment, the Honda Elevate has that raised up boxy silhouette. It features LED lighting all round with daytime-running lights above the headlight cluster. And, in the case of the top-of-the-range Elegance 1.5 CVT we had on test, LED front fog lights, as well as automatic headlights.

Side on you get the obligatory pretend rugged SUV, square wheel arches covering 17-inch dual-tone alloy wheels along with colour-coded lower door garnish, courtesy of being the range topper.

Inside the Honda Elevate

The interior is, thankfully, still a little analogue and the basic radio and aircon functions are controlled by buttons. It does offer a high-resolution eight-inch touchscreen display for the infotainment system controls, and Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There are comfort and convenience features, such as automatic air conditioning, smart keyless entry with walk-away locking, rear parking sensors and a multi-angle reverse parking camera.

Honda Elevate
The Honda Elevate Elegance rides on 17-inch alloy wheels. Picture: Honda

Being Elegance spec, you get a wireless smartphone charger, a six-speaker sound system, a
seven-inch TFT multi-information driving display and an electrically controlled sunroof. The latter does a great job of not only opening the cabin to lots of light, but also helps in creating the illusion of more space than there actually is.

These are compact cars, ideally suited to young families and the Elevate offers about the same interior space as the Urban Cruiser and Sonet. But the Honda Elevate has a best-in-class boot space of 458 litres.

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Powering the Honda Elevate

The 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC naturally aspirated petrol engine produces 89kW of power and 145Nm of torque in the Honda Elevate. Its adequate for urban travelling needs and outguns the similarly powered 1.5-litre, 77kW/138Nm Urban Cruiser in power and torque. And the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged, 88kW/172Nm Sonet in power only, while losing out in the torque stakes.

The Honda Elevate, unfortunately, offers an annoying constant variable transmission (CVT). This makes highway driving something to avoid, due to the rising rpm din.

The Urban Cruiser makes do with a sleepy, old-fashioned four-speed automatic gearbox, which is not much better when out on the open road. The Sonet offers a more modern and quicker shifting seven-speed double clutch gearbox.

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Honda Elevate
The Honda Elevate’s interior feels familiar courtesy of easy-to-use buttons. Picture: Honda

Fuel economy

None are going to thrill you with their high-speed performance capabilities and driving dynamics. But in a slow race for the win, the turbocharged Sonet will edge it.

Where the two naturally aspirated rivals come back at the Sonet is in the fuel consumption battle. Despite the Kia having a better claimed fuel consumption figure of six litres per 100km over the 6.1L/100km claimed for the Urban Cruiser and Honda Elevate, that turbo needs fuel to produce power and won’t better the 6.9L/100km real-world data I got with the Honda over Easter.

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Basic safety specs

Just as fuel consumption is, maybe, more important than outright performance when you are shopping in a budget-conscious segment like this, the cost-cutting theme continues with only basic safety items available. The Elevate offers two front SRS airbags as well as side and curtain SRS airbags.

These cars are conceived and mostly produced for countries where massive overcrowding prevents any form of speeding and anything over 30km/h will get you an unplanned meeting with a sacred cow.

I liked the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT. But coming in at R429 900, it goes straight up against the better-specced Sonet 1.0T EX DCT at R429 995. But the Urban Cruiser 1.5 XR Auto coming in at R382 900 is going to continue to steal the show, as is supported by the sales numbers.