Honda Elevate first-drive review: Late to the fight but worth the wait?
- Spacious and comfortable cabin
- Mature styling
- Honda Sensing ADAS tech
- Updated infotainment screen
- Struggles on ascents
- Not excitable to drive
Honda Elevate finally puts the Japanese car brand in India in a fertile play-field, one that ought to have been tapped into much earlier because of the enormous potential it offers. So even if the likes of Honda City and Amaze have been faring well, a sedan-only portfolio was never going to cut it in times when mid-size SUVs have snatched the crown and the mantle.
Honda is either patient or slow, depending on whether the one judging is a fan or a critic. For a company that traces its India roots back to the mid 1990s, it has offered a number of car models here but not all have been well received. So while there is the City and Amaze on the one end of the spectrum, the likes of the Mobilio, BR-V, 10th-gen Civic and the CR-V failed to impress. Even models like WR-V and Jazz were eventually taken off shelves despite doing respectable numbers. Brand repute and engineering capabilities are crucial but will only carry one so far. Evolving with times will elevate fortunes and that is exactly what the all-new Honda Elevate is now looking to do for the company.
Watch: Honda Elevate SUV: First drive review
The Elevate is an India-first product and this in itself shows how serious Honda is about the world's third-largest vehicle market. India overtook Honda's home market of Japan to reach the podium place and to then not have Honda play a bigger, much bigger game here would have been blasphemous. The Honda Elevate, therefore, drives in as a potential game changer. The question is is the Elevate a game-changer for Honda, the segment or the market?
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Here is the first-drive review of the all-new Honda Elevate SUV:
Honda Elevate: Exterior highlights
The Honda Elevate is a well-styled product and its main USP is in the fact that the designers have not gone overboard in plugging in too many elements that almost always finds way into modern-day cars. Instead, the Elevate has a butch, muscular appeal that is mostly devoid of flashy ingredients like chrome and strong creases.
The biggest visual highlight of the Elevate is its enormous front grille in Black that also houses the very prominent Honda logo. This grille alone lends the vehicle a uniquely aggressive appeal but flanked by LED head light units with integrated DRLs and the very pronounced bonnet, the dominating face is enhanced even more. There is a set of fog lights towards the bottom but these are more for function than form.
The side profile, in comparison, is more conventional even though the slightly flared wheel arches, roof rails and the body-coloured cladding on both doors extend the appeal. The Elevate SUV stands on 17-inch dual-tone alloy wheels. The alloy design has been carried forward from the latest City sedan and is more sophisticated than outright sporty.
The same emphasis on sophistication extends to the rear of the Honda Elevate where the wraparound LED tail lights, roof spoiler, shark-fin antenna and a grey skid plate lining at the bottom complete a simple yet appealing look.
The Honda Elevate is being offered in seven single-tone colour options which include an all-new Phoenix Orange shade as well. There are also three dual-tone hues that one can choose from.
|Honda Elevate: Dimensions|
|Ground clearance||220 mm|
Overall, the Elevate's design isn't radical, sensational or outright rugged. But while looks depend on various perceptions, this Honda SUV sure is smart to look at, without trying too hard.
Honda Elevate: Cabin highlights
Step inside the Honda Elevate and the significance here too is attached more to an aesthetically pleasing cabin than one that screams outright sporty or cutting-edge.
The stretched dashboard layout houses rectangular AC vents, leather padding and faux-wood inserts. There is still a lot of hard plastic in play - and to be expected too in this segment, but the careful use of dual-tone Black + Beige colour theme seeks to raise the premium appeal here.
The most significant highlight here, however, is the new 10.25-inch infotainment screen that is a mammoth jump forward from the screen inside other Honda models. The company has finally - phew, heard the feedback about screen glare, low resolution on camera feed and dodgy touch interface. The screen inside this vehicle - an IPS display - fixes all the follies from before and is at par with any screen on any rival model. If only the rear-camera feed had dynamic guidelines, this screen would have scored a perfect ten.
A perfect ten, however, is still some distance away for the driver display which continues to be a semi-digital unit. There is inherently nothing wrong or faulty here - easy data reading and simple enough to operate. But it is still rather old-school when pitted against MIDs from many rival brands. The likes of Honda, Maruti Suzuki (in the Grand Vitara) and Toyota (in the Hyryder) need to shift towards a smarter all-digital screen behind the steering.
The three-spoke steering with mounted controls and the center console are done well and there are plenty of storage spaces all around the cabin. There are a series of buttons under the infotainment screen for HVAC controls and a dedicated phone storage space which doubles up as a wireless phone charging pad. Two conventional USB ports and a 12V socket have been fitted in as well.
Gaze upwards and there is a conventional sunroof which go well with the generous window size to allow for the elements to filter in. But Honda could have gone a bit more creative by adding crowd-pleasing features like a larger sunroof, seat ventilation, power-adjustable driver seat, ambient lighting, air-purification system and the likes. I personally think these misses are fine but a growing number of buyers tend to especially scan the feature list and some may find the cupboard comparatively bare.
But the Elevate hits back and hits back strong with a very spacious and comfortable cabin. On comfort alone, the Honda SUV is more than likely to hit competition out of the park.
All five seats are perfectly-well cushioned with the front seats receiving an additional lower-back support which is great for long drives. And even with the front passenger seat pulled quite some way back, there was still an impressive amount of room just behind for the passenger at the back. There is acres of leg, knee and feet room here while the headroom is also quite generous. The only shortcoming is that the rear seats are angled slightly upwards which reduces the under-thigh support. Otherwise, the rear seats, complete with the central armrest, are quite a nice place to be in for the family.
And families usually come with baggage, the actual and physical kind. The Elevate knows and therefore, packs in a mammoth 458 litres of cargo area. This is the largest in the segment - and by quite a bit, while the split-folding rear-seats open further options.
Overall, the Elevate cabin is a fairly nice place to be in and is mighty comfortable. The feature list is decent but not extensive and the materials used all around are par for the course.
Honda Elevate: Drive highlights
The Honda Elevate is powered by the same 1.5-litre petrol motor that does duty inside the new Honda City. It is mated to a six-speed manual transmission box as well as a CVT. I spent the maximum time with the CVT while an hour was enough to assess the manual gearbox.
The first thing you would notice as soon as you enter the driver's seat is the high drive position with a very commanding view of the road ahead. The muscular bonnet does a great job of underlining that for your driving pleasure is indeed an SUV.
What works real well for the Elevate SUV is its reliable motor and the CVT hitting the right numbers at the right times. It is hardly excitable but ambles forward well, the well-engineered steering pushing the vehicle into the intended turns and twists with precision. The balanced suspension also deserves a thumbs up. Within city limits, the Elevate is at its strongest. On open highway stretches, it patiently builds up to triple-digit speeds. It is on climbs though that the struggles are glaring.
The CVT and engine pairing - much like on the City - is far from impressive on uphill climbs. Even on the gentlest of ascents, the Elevate will groan and grumble enough to put you off. The engine noise seeping into the cabin in such scenarios is a marked departure from the otherwise charming drive trait of the vehicle. And while the vehicle will do the climb minus the need for engaging paddle shifters, the lack of eagerness to do so is a chink on the drive armour.
Switch to the MT and you obviously get complete control over the gear shifts. The throws are not as slick as on the Korean models but fairly decent nonetheless. The reach of the third and fourth gear in particular are long and impressive. But there is only so much that the gearbox can do when a lot of pulling power is the need of the hour. Once again, the Elevate impresses with its genial ride quality. But once again, the need to push forward and to do so on climbs exposes the Achilles Heel. You will have to intricately - and repeatedly - work the gearbox to get the Elevate to push itself on ascents.
|Honda Elevate: Key specifications|
|Engine||1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol|
|Max Power||88 bhp|
|Max Torque||145 Nm|
|Mileage||16.92 kmpl (CVT); 15.31 kmpl (MT)|
|Turn radius||5.2 meters|
Overall, the Elevate has a mature drive trait with solid control on NVH levels and a great suspension set up. The steering offers a reassuring feel on high speeds and the CVT keeps ticking the right figure. But on uphill stretches and for those in the habit of hurried drives, the Elevate falls short on expectations. Could Honda have conjured up a turbo engine?
Honda Elevate: Sensing ADAS
A key ace up the sleeves of the Elevate is Honda Sensing technology. Sensing is essentially Honda's version of ADAS but unlike conventional ADAS that makes use of an array of radars and cameras, the Honda Sensing tasks just one front cam - on the windshield - to provide assisted functions.
Elevate is not the first Honda model in the country to get Sensing technology. The same tech has been carried forward from the City to the SUV and in that sense, works just as well. During our test drive, we could only assess a handful of the features like Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Forward Collision Warning, Forward Collision Mitigation (auto braking) and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).
In Indian conditions and on any model offering ADAS technology, the convenience and benefits are the most on long highway drives. And on open stretches, the Honda Sensing on Elevate worked perfectly to keep the vehicle in its intended lane and even offering a visual warning every time we intentionally neared our support vehicle. For most parts though, I spent trying the ACC and the Elevate kept a fair pace and distance at all times.
Honda Elevate: Verdict
Elevate assimilates all the strengths of Honda in an SUV form factor. A spacious and comfortable cabin will be its biggest connect with potential buyers while a mature exterior design and pleasing interiors are great tag-team partners to have. The Honda Sensing technology is a great bonus.
But it is also true that comparisons galore with rivals galore would be drawn. The Elevate is a year or two late to the party and while it is still likely to impress the Honda fanbase in India, it is not a showstopper for sure. Is it the best from Honda in India so far? Absolutely. Is it the best option in the segment? Time and its eventual pricing will tell. The official launch is around the festive season and we would be in a better position to predict its fate then.