DRIVEN: Honda Elevate is a roomy new compact SUV that brings back the value

Published Feb 21, 2024


It's been a while since Honda had a significant volume driver in South Africa, but the new Elevate could end up doing to the brand's local fortunes exactly what its name implies.

Honda recently ruffled some feathers by launching its new CR-V with an audacious million rand price tag, but the Indian-built Elevate plays at a much friendlier end of the budget spectrum. Although it doesn’t directly replace the WR-V, which is being discontinued in Mzansi, it does clearly fill a void for the brand in the compact SUV market.

The Elevate is available in two flavours, with the 1.5 i-VTEC Comfort manual model priced at R369,900 and the identically-engined Elegance CVT flagshipping the range at R429,900.

This puts the new compact SUV right into the heart of the compact SUV market where it will compete against the likes of Suzuki's Grand Vitara and its Toyota Urban Cruiser twin as well as the Volkswagen T-Cross and Kia Sonet.

At just over 4.3 metres in length, it is larger than the latter two and Honda has done a very decent job of packaging it all. The exterior design is more butch than curvy and while it's not necessarily a head turner it looks exactly the way you'd expect a modern SUV to look.

But it's the practicality that really impresses

Exploring the cabin at the local launch held in Cape Town this week, I was able to sit behind my driving position with ample leg stretching space, although the rear footwell had an unusual elevation.

The boot, as its 458 litre capacity implies, is really large and should have no trouble swallowing your family's vacation luggage.

The cockpit is pretty straightforward and apart from the 8-inch (20.3cm) touchscreen infotainment system, it's mostly traditional and analogue in the way it works. Opt for the Elegance grade and you also get a 7-inch (17.8cm) TFT driver display and wireless charging pad, which needs to be activated via a button below it on the dashboard.

When it comes to cabin materials, the Honda Elevate is very much built to a price, with hard plastics dominating the dashboard and even some hollow-sounding bits on the inner door panels.

What features do you get for the money?

The 1.5 Comfort base model rolls on 16-inch covered steel wheels, but comes with LED headlights, DRLs and taillamps.

Interior amenities include the aforementioned 8" infotainment system with four speakers and a reverse camera, automatic air conditioning, smart keyless entry, dual front airbags and ABS brakes.

The 1.5 Elegance gains LED front fog lights, 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels, chrome door handles and black roof rails on the outside. Inside you'll get to enjoy leather seats, an electric sunroof, six speaker sound system and auto headlights, while side and curtain airbags provide added peace of mind on our wild roads.

Let's take it for a spin

Speaking of wild roads, the local launch saw us looping the Cape Town peninsula. Granted, a family SUV like this is not built for pushing through mountain passes but we were impressed with the composure it showed through Chapman's Peak.

Body roll was very much evident but it had enough grip to tackle the corners with confidence and the ride quality proved comfortable throughout the journey.

But is the engine up to the job of long-distance cruising? After my short trip around the peninsula the jury is still out.

The Elevate's 1.5-litre i-VTEC normally aspirated petrol engine is a proven unit and likely quite bulletproof. It produces 89kW at 6,600rpm and 145Nm at 4,300rpm, but as those rev figures imply it is quite a peaky engine and for that reason I don't think it plays well with a CVT gearbox, which is fitted to the Elegance version that we drove.

Honda's VTEC needs a good rev to extract brisk performance and continuously variable gearboxes are notoriously whiny at high revs, so the Honda Elevate can get quite noisy if you drive at full throttle. Doing this, even at sea level, resulted in more noise than discernible speed gain.

But if you take things at a more relaxed pace and you learn to anticipate the 'steps' that Honda built into the transmission to simulate a conventional auto, the driving experience becomes quite painless and, dare I say, comfortable.

You can also change between these steps using buttons behind the steering wheel and if you really want to liven things up, the gearbox has a sport mode.

That said, the jury's still out on whether it has enough power to cruise comfortably on the open road at Gauteng altitudes so we'll have to wait until we've tested it up there before delivering a final verdict.

For what it's worth the Honda does have more power than aforementioned rivals like the Grand Vitara as well as the base-level Kia Sonet and Hyundai Creta.

A turbo would be great, but with vehicle prices having shot through the roof in recent years, normally aspirated 1.5-litre engines have become the norm at this price level. Ultimately our weak rand has turned us into beggars that can't be choosers.


Although it is evidently built to a price, the new Honda Elevate should tick many boxes for those seeking a practical and relatively well priced SUV. Further peace of mind comes in the form of a five-year or 200,000km warranty and a service plan that will sort you out for the first four years or 60,000 kays.

IOL Motoring