Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

WATCH: Honda hopes to Elevate its local sales with new SUV

This is exactly what the doctor ordered for Honda's local conundrum.

The introduction of the Honda Elevate might seem like just another SUV tossed into an already saturated salad. But to the Japanese carmaker it’s really a big deal in terms of its South African presence.

Watch Honda Elevate from up close

After establishing itself as a renowned local manufacturer over decades, Honda has found itself on a slippery slope in terms of sales for some time now. Times have been especially hard over the last few years with Chinese manufacturers flooding the local market with lucrative pricing.

Affordable SUVs is the major area in which the Chinese players have been gained market share and many other brands have been found wanting. Especially Honda. There was a gaping hole in its local line-up between the WR-V, a small SUV starting at over R300k, and the HR-V, a medium-sized SUV starting at over R500k.

ALSO READ: SUV roll-out continues as Honda confirms Elevate for South Africa

That is why the Elevate is so important to Honda. At R369 900 for the Comfort and R429 900 for the flagship Elegance model, the manufacturer has given itself the best chance in a long time to make an impact.

With the WR-V being discontinued, the Elevate becomes the most affordable SUV in Honda’s local portfolio. In fact, the only cheaper car in the stable is the Amaze small sedan.

‘Right price’

“The Elevate is set to become a key volume driver for us,” says Callon Locke, product manager for Honda South Africa.

“It is the right product at the right time and at the right price. It will help us get into the mind of consumers.”

What will present a challenge to the expected sales volume is the fact that the WR-V has been discontinued.

The Honda Elevate’s built quality will no doubt be questioned at some level at least due to it being manufactured in India. But Honda is confident that this SUV will not be found wanting as the Elevate is the first India-built car to be approved for the Japan market.

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Honda Elevate
The Honda Elevate rides on 17-inch alloy wheels in Elegance trim. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Good looks

With its wide stance, bold grille, generous overall proportions and 199 mm ground clearance, the Honda Elevate definitely looks the part. LED head and taillights are standard across the range, with distinctive daytime running lights situated above the headlight clusters.

From the side, the Elevate features distinctive square wheels arches with design lines on the body panels above them. Standard on the Elegance are 17-inch alloy wheels, colour coded lower door garnish, roof rail garnish and LED front fog lights.

The cabin is stylishly finished and certainly feels less plasticky than is sometimes associated with Indian-built products. Standout features include a good amount of soft-touch materials and a very simplistic layout.

The car’s overall length of 4 312 mm ensures there are enough legroom at the rear to keep adults comfortable, while allowing for a big 458-litre boot.

ALSO READ: Wait over as Honda slaps pricey sticker on new CR-V

Creature comforts

Standard across is an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, smart keyless entry, rear parking sensors and reverse camera. The Elegance benefits from eco-friendly leather seats, six-speaker sound system, electric sunroof, 7-inch digital instrument cluster, and wireless smartphone charger.

In terms of safety, the Elevate features Honda’s Advanced Compatibility Engineering, which is its fancy talk for body structure technology to optimise occupant protection. All models also feature vehicle stability assist, ABS and two front airbags, with the Elegance equipped with additional side and curtain airbags.

Honda Elevate
The cabin of the Honda Elevate Elegance. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

The Honda Elevate is powered by the brand’s tried and trusted 1.5-litre DOHC i-VTEC naturally aspirated petrol engine. It sends 89 kW of power and 145 Nm of torque the front wheels via a choice of six-speed manual transmission in Comfort guise or CVT in the Elegance derivative.

Honda claims the CVT Elevate will sip 6.1 litres per 100 km and the manual 6.7 L/100 km.

ALSO READ: New Honda HR-V shines but needs one major improvement

Advanced CVT

The Citizen Motoring only got to drive the CVT during it’s recent launch. The engine performed very decently, albeit at sea level in Cape Town.

What did impress us was the CVT, which features G-Design Step-shift Technology. What this does, is mimic gear changes instead of the usual droning associated with a CVT. But it does require the right input on the accelerator, as keeping your foot flat tends to bring the worse out of any CVT.

They say one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but the Elevate is a much needed product for Honda to help them stop the rot. We hope it’s not a case of too little, too late in the wake of the Chinese influx and the way other brands have reacted to this much sooner.

But for the moment, it should help them … Elevate their sales.

Honda Elevate pricing

  • Elevate 1.5 Comfort 6MT R369 900
  • Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT R429 900

*Pricing includes five-year/200 000 km warranty and four-year/60 000 km service plan.

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