The Elevate is here to fight off a whole bunch of Compact SUVs. So does it have the arsenal to 'Elevate' itself over its rivals?
It has been spoken of for some time now, about how Honda has missed many opportunities in India. The arrival of the Honda Elevate takes square aim at said criticism. And with this car Honda finally credibly jumps into the hottest segment in our market. I say credibly because there was that half-hearted and inadequate attempt before with the BR-V remember?
I am in India’s City of Lakes Udaipur, to test the new Honda Elevate compact SUV. It is here to fight the Kia Seltos, Hyundai Creta, Volkswagen Taigun, Skoda Kushaq, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, Toyota Urban Cruiser HyRyder, MG Astor, and the soon to market Citroen C3 Aircross. And for Honda the Elevate is more than just another SUV, or a new model. It’s make or break time, literally!
But the big shocker when Honda unveiled the car in early June, was that we wouldn’t get the much-expected hybrid variant of the Elevate. And nope – there’s no diesel either, and the reason says Honda – its working on an electric variant that will come in a year or two.
You’d think being late to the party would mean Honda would have a standout USP or innovation. But that’s not the case. I so wish Honda at least gave us that strong hybrid, or maybe a turbo option? I accept the i-VTEC is a well proven powertrain, but look at what the competition is doing. As a late entrant, the Elevate should have elevated us in that way! But with a single petrol offering, let’s at least hope Honda can keep the pricing extremely competitive. Don’t hold your breath! So, you get the tried & tested 1.5-litre iVTEC petrol unit that we know well from other models like the Honda City. Get in and start driving the Elevate and everything is refined very smooth; very Honda-like! You are going to find the car very comfortable especially in city traffic, and with the CVT in particular. It’s very convenient and hassle free, but then when you get on to the highway or you want to push the car just a little bit – that's when things start to change.
119 bhp @ 6600 rpm
145 Nm @ 4300 rpm
6-Speed Manual / 7-Speed CVT
The CVT is slow to react and can get a little frustrating in situations that require quick downshifts for a quick burst of power. Maximum power kicks in as high as 6600 rpm. Now on paper that compares fairly evenly with the rivals. But the engine starts to strain if you want to push it a little bit. This holds even truer when climbing up a slope. All you can hear is that massive amount of engine rev, but the performance doesn't correspond to that kind of noise. Now on the CVT things are a little bit more laboured so I am curious to see if it's different on the manual.
Honda says it tuned the engine to balance efficiency and drivability along with a fair amount of performance. The part that surprises me then? Given the lack of the energetic performance you have to ask the question, how come the mileage figure isn't a lot higher? Claimed mileage on the CVT is 16.92 kmpl, and on the manual it is 15.31 kmpl.
But hey it is still a healthy number. And the CVT – which is tuned for 4 per cent increased efficiency, will do just fine on day-to-day city driving. Rest assured on that. To see if the CVT was the sole issue I jumped into the manual variant next.
While the motor still revs like crazy since it is the same one, it is just a whole lot more fun in the manual. You get a much better sense of control, the feel of a little more power, and it arrives more quickly to you.
So basically, the Honda Elevate will feel a lot more energetic with the manual transmission. I drove it even through some pretty hard rain right, and it remains more spirited and engaging in manual. I will say this – having a sophisticated gearbox like a DCT would have probably done the trick better!
And that brings me back to the topic of why there isn’t a turbo option. Global options do get a 176 bhp 1.5 litre straight-four turbo – but we have never been blessed with that one from Honda. Would have made this car feel very different I reckon. Honda could localize it and get it on the City and Elevate as a powerful option. But yeah, for the second time – don’t hold your breath. Once on the highway, things immediately settle down.
The Elevate will do quite well if you like to cruise along smoothly. It rides on coil springs and ride quality is quite good too, even at the rear. Where the car redeem itself is on handling. Given its size, given its weight, and given its dimensions.
It does pretty alright around the corners too. It seems to hold its line, but the steering could be a little bit more precise. On the whole, its drive dynamics are not bad, but it certainly won’t be categorised as ‘sporty’. Frankly if you are looking for sporty, you're better off going with the likes of the Seltos or even the Taigun.
Having carried out its own crash testing, Honda believes the Elevate will not disappoint in such tests or in real-world situations. So, you get 6 airbags, ABS and ESC, rear view camera and the lane watch camera for blind spots.
There’s also Honda Sensing or Level-2 ADAS functions, like emergency braking, lane keep and departure assist, adaptive cruise control, etc.The Elevate also has very good ground clearance – which at 220 mm is pretty impressive and is right up there in class. It does well on boot space and height too, though the upcoming C3 Aircross from Citroen trumps it on both – especially on its 5+2 seater variant.
In styling terms, the Elevate looks the part. Yes, this is a segment where people want the feel of an SUV, they want to have that whole impression and image of having a nice large vehicle. The Elevate certainly has the proportions for it. And the very upright design helps. That face is very much in-line with some of Honda's global portfolio models like the bigger Pilot SUV in the US market.
MS Grand Vitara
Citroen C3 Aircross
The bright DRLs and a massive black grille really dominate the face, and there’s a fair amount of chrome too. And while it sits tall, the side profile and the taillight styling are a bit too much like existing / past SUV offerings in the compact space. The Elevate gets 7 colour options – most are the same boring Honda staples, but the Phoenix Orange is all new and looks great – so does the Obsidian Blue from the City. The White, Grey and Orange get a two-tone black roof option.
On the inside, the Elevate has better trim than most recent Honda India models. That’s refreshing and will come across as more sophisticated than what you’d expect.
The dual-tone brown and tan theme also uses soft touch materials on the dashboard and door panels. The 10.25-inch infotainment touchscreen is also an improvement in tactile, operational and interface terms.
The graphics are also better. You do get climate control, a wireless charger, a 7-inch instrument cluster, and more. But what is missing on the Elevate are ventilated seats and ambient lighting. Android Auto / Apple CarPlay are available from the mid-trim onwards, while wireless connectivity comes only with the top-spec. Honda Connect also helps control various functions of the car via its app or even through your smartwatch or Amazon Alexa.
And if you plan to 'Elevate' yourself to the back seat, you will not feel short-changed. Rear passengers get ample knee, head, and leg room. You also get a slightly elevated footrest right behind the front driver, and that adds to under-thigh support. That may not hold true for people who are very tall.
The seats are also placed a bit lower than I’d have liked and takes away from the exterior’s tall stance. In an SUV it makes sense to sit a bit taller after all. The driver side seat is adjustable for height though, so that’s something. You get rear AC vents as well as a power outlet. No panoramic sunroof either, but the Elevate does feel well built, even as its interiors will not dazzle you, nor surprise with any party tricks like the rivals.
Prices are expected in the Rs 11-17 lakh range. I feel Honda needs to play this smartly since this is a highly competitive segment. Cars like the Seltos have set some stiff benchmarks, after all. And you also got the hybrids from Toyota/Suzuki, so we are talking about a tough set to break into.
One big advantage that Honda has, is its brand equity here in India, it remains very strong; and if there is a new car from Honda people will consider it. So where am I going with this? It’ll come down to pricing yet again. Make that aggressive pricing! So, if Honda does undercut the competition, the Elevate could become a runaway success. After all you may not get the most feature loaded car, nor the sportiest, but you would still definitely get a Honda. And for many that in itself is enough.
2023 KTM 390 Duke Review - The Benchmark!
Arun Mohan Nadar Sept 17, 2023
2023 Tata Nexon EV Review: Electric Ambitions
Ameya Naik Sept 13, 2023
TVS Apache RTR 310 Review: The Apache Goes Wild
Arun Mohan Nadar Sept 11, 2023
Exclusive: Kia EV9 Review
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar Sept 9, 2023
Asus ROG Ally Review: The Ultimate Handheld
Siddharth Chauhan Sept 8, 2023