Just a few weeks ago, Honda South Africa introduced an all-new model to the market. We recently got our hands on the Honda Elevate Elegance for an extended drive to bring you this review.

Honda SA offers an eclectic mix of models in the local market. There are a few people carriers, some SUVs, a few sedans and even a lone hot hatch in the shape of the Civic Type R. This wide selection has not, however, resulted in success on the monthly sales charts. But the latest addition to its range may just elevate (sorry) its sales tally.

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Fit for Purpose

The Honda Elevate enters a hotly contested segment. Small crossovers priced in and around the R400k mark are some of the top-sellers in the SA market. Obsession with these high-riding hatchbacks has resulted in just about every automaker offering an option. This Indian-built model is the latest product that SA brands (not just Honda) sources from the sub-continent.

Butch Appearance

Honda’s designers have given the Elevate a unique appearance in the segment. It is not overtly showy, but the Elevate has a distinct appearance in the segment. Links to other models, such as the larger, recently launched CR-V, are strong. During our time with the car people immediately knew that it was a Honda, even if they had to look at the badge to ascertain the exact model. Pictures do make it seem larger than it is, though at 4,3 metres long it is not the smallest in the segment. It also has a handy 220 mm of ground clearance.

The bluff nose has a oversized central intake. The lights, flanks and tail all carry a squared-off motif. There are no soft lines or fussy creases on the surfaces. It also has a degree of slab sidedness, perhaps to give it an air of solidity. The Honda Elevate Elegance is fitted, as standard, with 17-inch alloys that are finished in a premium dual-tone scheme. The alloys, front fog lamps and sunroof are key external differences between the top-spec Elegance and the entry-level Comfort versions.


The interior of the Honda Elevate Elegance is as unflashy as its exterior. There are no fancy gadget or garish lighting. The layout of the major controls is simple and intuitive. It even has a manual handbrake lever, in an age when most firms have replaced that with an electronic unit. The instrument cluster is digital as is the infotainment screen. The latter has the full suite of connectivity buyers have come to expect.

The Elegance version has a wireless mobile phone charger that can be deactivated should you want to use the storage shelf, but not overheat your handset. There further storage slots alongside the handbrake for mobile phones. Front occupants also have access to USB ports and a wired charging socket.

Thankfully Honda has divorced the HVAC (ie climate controls) from the touchscreen system. This means that one can make quick changes to the system without having to take your eyes off the road to dive into any menus on the screen. Other niceties in the cabin include the aforementioned sunroof, a six speaker audio system, electric windows all round, and eco-friendly leather upholstery.

Click here to read about the recently launch Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Urban Cruiser.

Single Engine Option

Honda SA has launched the Elevate with single engine option. It is a 1,5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine. This unit develops 89 kW and 145 N.m of torque. The company offers the engine with a six-speed manual and a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). But each transmission option is linked to the specific trim level.

If you want a manual you are restricted to the Comfort version. Choose the Elegance and you will get a CVT. It’s not possible to mix and match. It’s an interesting choice as we’d have guessed that the bulk of sales in this segment tend towards self-shifting transmissions.

On the Move

The Honda Elevate Elegance has excellent ride quality, a feature that will be appreciated by anyone who buys it. The high-profile tyres and well-judged suspension set-up are ideal for a car of this nature. It also has a nice cornering stance, staying quite flat for a car that feels so high off the ground. One can feel the engineering effort and time that went into setting up the suspension for the typical buy in this segment.

If there is an area of critique, it has to be that powertrain combo. The naturally aspirated engine requires a fair few revs to make any decent progress. Mashing the gas pedal brings with it a rise in engine speed and that typical CVT drone. There are a paddle shifters with pre-programmed ‘steps’ to mimic a traditional automatic. We used these on occasion but the lack of low-down torque can’t be escaped. We can’t help but wonder why Honda won’t go down the turbocharged route when so many of its rivals have.


Honda has a lot riding on the Elevate. This segment is a vital one for any automaker looking to bolster its sales numbers in the local space. Buyers, on the other hand, are faced with plenty of choice. There are options from the Japanese (Suzuki and Toyota), Koreans (Hyundai and Kia) and the newcomer Chinese (Haval and Chery). The Honda Elevate Elegance can hold its own among these rivals.

Perhaps the Elevate will find favour among those who want to stick with a brand that has built a sold reputation for quality and longevity. Buyers who fondly recall models such as the Ballade, Jazz and CR-V. And those who opt for this model will find an agreeable product at a very competitive price.

Model: Honda Elevate Elegance
Price: R429 900
Engine: 1,5-litre inline four
Transmission: five-speed manual, FWD
Max power: 89 kW
Max torque: 145 N.m
0-100 km/h:  n/a
Top speed: n/a
Fuel consumption: 6,1 L/100 km (8,0 L/100 km on test)