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September 9, 2023

Honda Elevate First Impressions

The Indian car market is a very amazing market isn't it, especially given the fact that Indian economy of late has been on a steady growth, with exponential increase of highways and expressways network all over the country and a booming middle class population. 

The Evolution of CSUVs in India

Every automaker wants to have a pie of the market and thus churning out products the crowd actually wants, which brings me to the CSUV segment, a segment originally invented in India by the French with their excellent offering the Renault Duster which IMHO remains one of the finest CSUV till date but sadly they never bothered to update that car and instead committed a blunder with the Captur.

Later South Korean manufacturer Hyundai took the market by storm with the Creta which till date is the unrivalled king of its segment only to be given a serious competition since 2019 with their own sibling the Kia Seltos and despite knowing their shortcomings the mass continues to flock to the showroom to get their hands on one of these, since the positives outweigh the negatives for most of them.

Honda's Struggles and Recent Changes

Among other things Japanese OEM, Honda, which was one of the early entrant to the Indian car market was sitting idle and making half-hearted attempts(say the BRV),also while at it they did commit some grave mistakes which hurt their sales and brand seriously, if you're unaware of what I'm saying, I suggest you reading my article I penned down as a Honda fanboy.

A Radical New Arrival: The Honda Elevate

However, since I wrote this post and general apprehensions of maybe Honda leaving India, I guess the management has finally woken up from their long snooze, the higher-ups are now being managed by the Japanese themselves, the City got an excellent e:HEV drivetrain option in 2022, and earlier this year both the i-VTEC and e:HEV versions received updates and solved some of the issues as reported by the end-users.

Although now finally after a lot of wait, Honda finally gave us their much awaited CSUV, which even I didn't expect, the Elevate, which is quite a radical SUV from Honda(I actually expected something like new BRV or HRV). So naturally as soon as the Elevate hit the showroom floors, I couldn't hold my horses to check out this new Honda.

Sorry for the lengthy backstory but I guess it was important to share since I thought it would help the people getting some idea about recent activity going on with Honda India and in general automobile market dynamics. 

Showroom Transformation and Elevated Expectations

Firstly, let me start with sharing about the in-general showroom experience and I must say, its very much different than what I experienced the last time around. The showrooms are significantly revamped, the ambience created is much more upmarket keeping in line with the typical upper middle class target customers of Hondas.

Also the thing which amazed me the most was the buzz in the showroom, a few months ago one could see deserted, lifeless showrooms with disinterested SAs whereas now its full of joy and vibrancy with many people flocking to the showroom and trying their hands on the much coveted Elevate, the showroom ambience itself suggested a much better outlook for Honda in India in the near future.

Design and Aesthetics: Japanese Flair in the Elevate

Now coming to the actual product, I must say Honda designers have nailed it in terms of design and aesthetics department. Like the Škoda Kushaq and Volkswagen Taigun which pumped in a fresh air of European vibe in the segment, the Elevate adds that much needed Japanese flair and I have to say, this is a job better executed than the other Japanese CSUV the Toyota HyRyder, don't get me wrong the latter is a beautifully designed car in its own right but the former is you can say the City of the CSUV segment.

Exploring the Exterior and Under the Hood

The bold grille with the H logo looked cool and captivating while the twin projector headlights looked crisp and smart, I really appreciate Honda for retaining the headlights in their traditional position instead of following the recent trend of shifting them into bumpers. Upon opening the hood I was pleasantly surprised by the way Honda has designed the engine bay which looked very neat and tidy, typical Japanese, also Honda didn't skimp on insulation, there is a thick under-bonnet cladding and firewall insulation too.

Honda generously has provided a thick bash plate(or underbody guard as some refer to it).Though I must mention the 1.5i-VTEC looked quite puny in the huge bay which could've easily accomodated the erstwhile Civic's 1.8VTEC motor which would've made the Elevate a real stellar performer(another wishful thinking 🙂).

Interior Spaciousness and Comfort

The side profile was typical 2box SUV shape instead of the cross-over shape we are so much used to seeing from Honda (the WRV, BRV and CRV all were swoopy and curvy), I guess Honda wanted us to give proper SUV vibe and keep the crossover shape for some other day(really wishful if Honda ever brings the HRV or the CRV back), though this styling is very much in line with their bigger international models like the Pilot and the Passport.

Attention to Detail: Fit, Finish, and More

The alloy wheels had an attractive design which would appeal to the crowd and were wrapped in 215section Bridgestone Turanza T005a tyres which are very nice indeed and I can vouch for them since I've fitted the same tyres for my dads WagonR and the performance has been stellar, also do you know that these are the same tyres which come as OE in the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Lexus ES300H!.

Also while at it I must mention Honda is one of those OEMs which have provided us nicer rubber as OE, a budget hatch like Jazz came OE with Michelins, cars like WRV,BRV,CRV had Michelin's premium Primacy series rubber and cars like Civic 1.8VTEC had Yokohama Advans! Sorry if I'm stressing upon tyres too much but IMHO tyres are one of the most integral aspects of a car and every OEM should give tyres according to their cars' capabilities and not just throw any crap to the consumer.

Safety Features and Build Quality

The rear section like the rest of the car was quite inoffensive, the LED taillights looked cool and had that connected strip very reminiscent of the erstwhile BRV. Since we're at the back, let me also speak about the boot, the hatch itself was quite hefty and required some effort to close.

The boot itself close to 470L was quite cavernous in itself and one of the best in the segment. The spare wheel however was a 16" steel wheel wrapped with GoodYear Assurance. Strangely, here I noticed a very unfinished kind of portion, I don't if its metal or primer but it felt very cheap and downright rough, I can't explain it but I'll attach a picture of the same.

The Honda Elevate's Equipment and Technology

Before going inside let me touch upon a few more aspects, the paint quality was stellar with minimal orange peel, the fit and finish was very precise, panel gaps all thin and uniform, even the hood closure had a rubber lip for additional dampening and yes, finally after getting complaints from the City, Elevate does come with full wheel claddings both front and rear which really made the car feel that much more premium and upmarket.

The GC was rated at a stellar 220mm and even though it ain't a 4X4 I guess it'll be boon for the people driving on our atrocious urban roads which in cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru have moon crater shaming potholes.

A Drive in the Elevate: Ergonomics and Performance

The inside of the car is really, really spacious and comfy. Sitting behind my own driving position(I have a perfect 6' frame) opened up roughly about 5-6" of free kneeroom, even the headroom was perfectly at 3-4'!, though I wished the car had more shoulder room since 3at the back ain't actually all that comfortable, so much so that Honda decided to omit middle passenger headrest and a 3point seatbelt for the centre, which really disappointed me since Honda claim themselves to be at the forefront of road safety.

One welcome change I would like to mention is the improved position of the centre armrest of the rear bench, it no longer drops down fully but rest at an ergonomic position where it is actually useful. 

Charging Ports

Apart from that you get seatback pockets with smartphone holders though I'm disappointed that Honda is still giving us a 12V socket(not a bad thing really but its an extra task of procuring an adapter) in the day of USB-C fast charging ports,while at it don't be surprised if I say a car launched in 2023 with deliveries supposedly starting from year end doesn't even have a single USB-C port!

Interior Design and Features

Now coming to front portion of the interiors what I really liked was the new sand brown shade for the leather upholstery with some faux leather applique on the dasboard, the faux wood liberally used arond the crashpad looked upmarket too and it instantly reminded me of the 8th gen Accord which was sold in India way back during late 2000s(oh so lovely time being able to buy cars like Cruze,Pajero,Accord,Civic etc).

Infotainment and Controls

Honda has listened to the customer feedback for the poor quality infotainment screen and has given the Elavate a modern,upmarket slick 10.1" touchscreen, the touch response was crisp and comparable to my iPhone 13, what I really loved were the shortcut physical buttons which were present for vital commands like volume,source etc.

While at it I must mention Honda has also given good old tactile toggle like switches for the HVAC controls, though I didn't really like them and prefer the tactile click-feel dials which is provided in the City, Elevate could've used the same(why fix that ain't broken, Honda?). The instrument cluster,though was identical to the City with its semi-digital layout and crisp readings.

Equipment and Features

Coming to the equipment list, it has all the must've features that you come to expect from a car costing nearly 20 big ones viz leather upholstery, FATC,  Wireless smartphone projection,wireless charging etc though buyers would be miffed by the missing panaromic sunroof, branded audio (it comes with a generic 8speaker setup only), surround view camera (it just gets a blind spot camera at the left ORVM) and Automatic Wipers to name a few.

Those used to Koreans and Chinese will find themselves shortchanged since they don't get goodies like Air Purifier or a Hot shower and jaccuzi with configurable mood lighting.

Honda Sensing ADAS and Safety

The Elevate does come with Honda Sensing ADAS tech both for the manual and automatic transmission variants though it must be mentioned its only a camera based system and not a camera+sensor like in the Koreans and Chinese, so I guess accuracy would definitely be compromised since lane markings on our perlious highway aren't always in the best shape, also since its a camera based system you do get features like Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Departure warning but miss out on stuff like rear cross traffic alert and blind spot assist(more useful IMHO).

Coming to other safety equipment both active and passive are sufficiently well taken care of, you do get 6Airbags(though not standard yet), ABS with EBD&BA, ESPwithTC, AHA(Agile Handling Assist), Front seat belts with pre-tensioners and load limiters though as I previously mentioned it surprisingly misses on a middle passenger headrest and 3point seatbelt which ought to have been present since the City gets both. 

Build Quality and Safety

The build as aforementioned is truly premium and almost at par with Europeans, the panels were sturdy and there was very little flex except for the bumpers and centre bonnet(for pedestrian safety), the doors even though didn't have that proper German thud, had a very premium 'thunk' and I'm sure of it scoring at least 4stars in the upcoming BharatNCAP, if not a full five, frankly speaking I really loved that at last people are taking safety seriously and some brands are listening to us and giving us some really well built cars for an affordable price.

Driving Experience: Ergonomics and Visibility

Now coming to the drive experience, as I previously mentioned owing to the huge crowd, TD cars were being made to work round the clock and getting behind the wheel of a TD Elevate was no less than a Herculean task in itself, upon consulting the SA what I got to know was most of the folks were interested on experiencing the CVT model only, not surprising given the heavy traffic we've on our poorly managed urban roads.

Since I was running a bit short of time, I asked for the manual variant, which to my immense joy, was readily available for a spin.

Driver's Seat Ergonomics and Controls

As a first part of drive experience I can't help but notice the same old key fob Honda has been using in their cars since the last decade, yeah functionality wise its nice and has a compact form factor too but it is looking a bit outdated for 2023 IMO, Honda should learn a thing or two from Kia while designing the key fob, just look at the 2023 Seltos' keyfob and you'll realize why I'm miffed.

Now, jumping on to the driver's seat I really loved the perfect ergonomics of the Japanese cars, I mean they get it so perfect every time, as a driver you can't help but thank these brands immensely for focusing upon this simple but crucial stuff so nicely, Italians and Indians need to learn a thing or two from the Japanese when it comes to ergonomics,really!

The visibility was perfect and bonnet was nicely visible even in its lowest position(my preference as a laidback driver),even the rear visibility was nice and the field of view covered by all three mirrors were adequate too. 

Though if I had to criticize, I would say I found the footwell to be a bit cramped,especially in the MTs, the lame excuse of a dead pedal was completely inadequate for parking my size10 Skechers while the ABC pedals felt a bit puny(especially after coming from a beautiful,large organ pedal of the Tucson).

The armrest wasn't adjustable and not much of a help, it had very little storage too since the handbrake has eaten away that space(again Honda could've given us an e-brake like the City e:HEV).

Drive and Performance

Firing up the engine, its a smooth and casual affair with EV matching silence at idle. Moving on, gearbox is typically Japanese with its precise gates and short throws which is a joy for old school enthusiasts like us(sadly new GenZ enthusiasts find it cumbersome and instead find cars with fancy audio system to be more entertaining ).

The pep low down is sufficient but no there is no whoosh, you would find in say a turbocharged Kushaq, the power build up is smooth but steady, revving the engine is fun but sadly the aural experience ain't all that exciting, the cabin in first place is heavily insulated and hardly any outside noises filter in, but even on pressing hard on the A pedal, the engine lacks that traditional VTEC characteristic and honestly sounds a bit strained and not sporty.

Also, it may just be that after years of driving turbo-diesels I'm finding NA petrols to be a bit lame and unresponsive for my liking, anybody who is coming from other NA engines would be better able to judge the drive experience, though I can definitely comment more about the ride quality aspect.

Ride Quality and Urban Handling

My drive was confined to the urban conditions only where the roads, especially during the monsoon is full of cracks and crevices, the Elevate felt confident, there was none of that jittery feeling as in the last gen City and the car irons out most of the bumps really well, also as mentioned 220mm GC was of immense help while tackling those crater-shaming potholes and huge, mountainous speed breakers, it was only the sharpest of bumps that made way into the cabin and thanks to SA playing Punjabi rock tunes to give me experience of sound system, hardly any crashing sound came into the cabin, the wheel arch cladding helping in no small measure.

Steering, typical of Honda was light to twirl and made maneuvering this SUV an easy task and in general light controls means managing this car in the urban confines especially by the female,newbie and elderly demographic wouldn't be a daunting task.

Overall Impression

Now, to summarize, if you've read my whole experience you would conclude that I have a very mixed feeling about this car and yes, you're right. See, in some areas this car does really well and offers something indigenous and innovative, also for those upgrading from cars of the past would really appreciate what Honda has to offer with the Elevate, you get decent but reliable engine and gearbox combo, non-offending looks, adequate features which compounded with Honda's fuss free ownership experience,

Also, there is still a certain snob of Hondas which is hard to ignore, but on the other hand, if you see in a broader aspect of things you can't help but notice how much ahead we've come in automobiles and how advanced the cars have become today, the Elevate feels just so last generation and especially if you compare it with the erstwhile BRV, the similarities become even more apparent.

Honestly if Honda would've launched this car at circa 2017-18 this would've had become a runaway success but in late 2023, only time will tell, although I do hope Honda prices it nicely and the product becomes one of the most sought-after choices in its segment, since its really all the car you need if you're a kind of no-nonsense person keeping their cars more than 10years if they run reliable and don't burn a whole in your pocket.

Thank you!

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Aryaan (Youtube Subscriber)

Disclaimer: Information is submitted by the owner of the vehicle through online form medium. Volklub-Sunderdeep Singh doesn't take any responsibility to confirm accuracy or authenticity of the information provided. Readers are requested to make their opinion by reading from other means as well and do take a test drive of the car you are interested in and ask all doubts from the authentic service/sales advisors in a particular brand.

Sole purpose of this review is to try providing readers with factual information where other readers have shared their ownership experiences that may help readers for their car buying decision.

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