Honda Elevate:

The Indian SUV market has witnessed substantial growth, aligning with global trends. Surprisingly, Honda India has been notably absent from this thriving segment, missing out on significant opportunities. Although they had the WR-V, it couldn’t truly qualify as a full-fledged SUV. To address this gap, Honda has introduced the tailor-made Elevate, which made its debut just before India’s festive season.

With established players like Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos dominating the upper tier and Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara and Toyota Hyryder catering to the value-conscious segment, the question arises: Can the Elevate succeed in the competitive Indian market?

A Bold Design Stands Out

The first aspect of the Elevate that captures attention is its bold design. If road presence and an imposing look are what Indian customers want, then that’s precisely what Honda delivers, even if it means breaking away from its own design conventions. The Elevate boasts a bold, upright, and high-riding stance that speaks to the company’s willingness to adapt to the market’s demands.

One of the key elements that make the Elevate stand out is its massive, vertical grille. It’s an eye-catching feature that ensures the SUV won’t get lost in the crowd. The vehicle’s generous dimensions further contribute to its commanding presence on the road.

The squared-off and upright nose is an attention-grabber and sets the tone for the Elevate’s proportions. The bonnet line is set quite high and extends neatly into the equally elevated window line, which curves into the distinctive C-pillar.

Unlike some of its competitors that employ an abundance of cuts and creases in their designs, the Elevate opts for a more minimalist approach, focusing on adding muscle to the wheel arches. It’s an example of how Honda strikes a balance between a bold appearance and subtlety in design.

But it’s not just about appearances; the Elevate goes a step further by sporting proper 215/55 R17 tires mounted on attractive 17-inch alloys (available in the top-spec ZX variant). This not only enhances its aesthetics but also effectively fills out the wheel arches. The inclusion of beefy front and rear scuff plates, roof rails, a chunky C-pillar, and cladding on the sides complete what is undoubtedly an authentic SUV look.

In terms of detail, the front and rear light clusters are noteworthy. They not only serve practical purposes but also enhance the Elevate’s aesthetics. The slim headlight cluster is a striking contrast to the vehicle’s sizable grille and houses LED turn indicators and LED lights for both high and low beams. The dual-LED tail-lights extend outward, creating a visual effect that widens the Elevate’s appearance.

Honda Elevate Exterior 

While the Elevate presents a fresh and appealing design, it’s intriguing to note that it shares some components with the Honda City under the surface. The powertrain, steering, and suspension have commonalities, but they’ve been adjusted to suit the dynamics of an SUV rather than a sedan.

The platform itself has undergone modifications to accommodate a best-in-class 2,650mm wheelbase, which is 50mm more than the City’s. Additionally, it boasts larger wheel wells to accommodate a long-travel suspension and wheels that can go up to 18 inches in size.

Despite these enhancements, Honda engineers have managed to maintain a tight turning circle of just 5.2 meters. This ensures that the Elevate retains maneuverability, a crucial feature for city driving and parking.

The use of high-tensile steel has played a significant role in maintaining a reasonable curb weight, ranging from 1,206kg to 1,258kg, depending on the variant. This clever engineering ensures that safety and crashworthiness aren’t compromised.

Speaking of safety, Honda engineers highlight the benefits of the high window line, which results in sturdier doors. This feature is particularly crucial for side-impact crash tests, a significant consideration for export markets where the Elevate is destined. It’s reassuring to note that the doors offer a satisfyingly solid closing experience, though there may be some minor inconsistencies in panel gaps, particularly around the bonnet area.

The Interior: Honda Elevate 

In today’s automotive landscape, car buyers have high expectations for their vehicle’s interior. They desire a tech-filled haven of comfort and convenience. While Honda has recognized this need, it’s essential to understand that expectations have evolved rapidly in this regard.

The first impressions upon entering the Elevate’s cabin might not be overwhelmingly positive. It’s a cabin that leans towards the ordinary, focusing more on function than aesthetic grandeur. However, this isn’t necessarily a shortcoming. In fact, it’s kind of a testament to the company’s commitment to practicality and durability.

And Honda’s expertise in packaging shines through in the Elevate’s interior as the cabin boasts clever storage solutions and exceptionally comfortable seats, setting a benchmark for mid-size SUVs.

The addition of leather and mock wood inserts on the dashboard does lift the cabin’s ambiance somewhat, but it’s clear that the Elevate prioritizes robustness over opulence. The plastics and materials employed in the cabin may not match the plushness of some of its competitors, but they are undoubtedly built to withstand daily wear and tear.

But I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Elevate’s seats might be the best in the segment. As they offer generous under-thigh support and feature finely judged foam density that strikes a balance between being too hard and too soft.

While the Elevate inherits several components from the City, such as the steering wheel, control stalks, and window switches, there are some variations. For example, only the driver’s side window boasts one-touch operation, offering convenience to the driver.

The rear of the Elevate doesn’t disappoint either. It offers generous headroom and legroom, providing ample comfort to passengers. The high ‘H-point’ results in a nice and upright seating position.

As is typical in many Honda vehicles, the floorboard slopes upward beneath the front seats, serving as a footrest. The cabin’s width may not be expansive, but it offers a comfortable rear seat for two passengers, although it can accommodate a middle passenger if needed. 

However, it’s worth noting that the middle passenger won’t have a headrest and will rely on a lap strap instead of a three-point seat belt. This design choice may be due to the 60:40 seat split, which enhances luggage space while maintaining a best-in-class 458-liter boot capacity.

The Elevate also boasts large storage bins in all four doors, adding to its practicality. However, it’s worth noting that the glove box and central storage box could have been more spacious. 

While there are a pair of front USB-A ports and a rear 12V socket for charging, the Elevate falls slightly short of contemporary trends by not including USB-C ports, which are increasingly becoming standard.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that the Elevate does miss out on some features available in the City’s top trim. There’s no panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, or LED cabin lights, which are found in the City’s highest configuration.

This level of restraint contrasts with the recently launched Seltos facelift, which boasts these features. It prompts one to wonder why Honda didn’t equip the Elevate with these amenities, considering the evolving expectations of SUV buyers in 2024.

That said, the Elevate does cover the basics. It comes equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, and a sizeable 10.25-inch touchscreen with good resolution and functionality. One applaudable aspect is the presence of hard buttons for frequently used functions, ensuring ease of use.

Honda Elevate Saftey Features

The part digital instrument cluster is an area where the Elevate could potentially see improvements. While the classic speedo dial is functional, the 7-inch TFT color multi-information display (MID) which brings us to a significant aspect of the Elevate’s feature set: its comprehensive suite of Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) known as Honda Sensing.

These include a Collision Mitigation Braking System (CMBS), Lane Keep Assist (LKA), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), a Road Departure Mitigation System, and a Lead Car Departure Notification System. This last feature alerts the driver when the vehicle in front starts moving, a useful feature for those occasional moments of distraction at traffic lights.

Additionally, the Elevate offers an Auto High Beam function, which automatically toggles between low and high beams. This level of comprehensive ADAS features is one area where Honda has invested significantly. But does this compensate for the absence of other features? We’ll delve deeper into this question shortly.

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

Under the hood, the Elevate relies on Honda’s tried-and-tested 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine, which is available with both a CVT automatic and a 6-speed manual transmission. This engine is the same one that powers the City, although the Elevate doesn’t offer a strong hybrid option as seen in the sedan.

The 6-speed manual transmission is also shared with the City, with some modifications for the Elevate. The first and second gears have shorter ratios, and the final drive is shorter as well to accommodate the Elevate’s extra 150kg in weight. The result is a lighter and more agile driving experience.

One of the standout features of the Elevate is its light and responsive controls. The steering, clutch, and gearshift require minimal effort to operate, immediately putting the driver at ease. The Elevate moves off the line briskly and keeps pace with city traffic with ease.

However, it’s when the engine is pushed vigorously that its limitations become apparent. The 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine, with its 145Nm of torque, struggles to deliver strong low-end grunt. 

To maximize its performance, the driver needs to keep the engine revving higher, above 4,000rpm. At higher revs, the Elevate can become quite noisy, which can affect highway cruising comfort. Frequent downshifting is required for overtaking, and the gap between second and third gear ratios becomes noticeable on twisty hill roads.

Equipping the Elevate with just one engine option limits its potential and positions it alongside 1.5-liter naturally aspirated variants of other brands, which cater to the lower end of the segment. 

While the CVT automatic works well in slow-moving traffic and city driving, it exhibits the characteristic “rubber band” effect during hard overtaking maneuvers on the highway, which might not be the most relaxing experience.

On paper, the Elevate might not match the fuel efficiency of its turbo-petrol rivals, with official test figures of 15.31 kilometers per liter (kpl) and 16.92 kpl for the manual and CVT auto versions, respectively. However, in real-world conditions, the Elevate is likely to be the most economical petrol-powered mid-size SUV.

Ride and Handling

One area where the Elevate truly shines is in its dynamics. It stands apart with its superb steering system, which is arguably the best in its class. The steering is accurate, delightfully light at low speeds, and gradually becomes weightier as you pick up the pace. This balance between the front and rear ends results in surprisingly minimal body roll for such a high SUV.

The brakes offer progressive performance, and even though the rear features drums instead of discs, there are no noticeable shortcomings in braking performance.

The Elevate boasts a long-travel suspension with well-judged damping, which tends to be slightly on the firmer side. However, this design choice results in exceptional body control. Even at high speeds, the Elevate feels rock-solid, even on rain-soaked highways with standing water. 

Monsoons can result in torn-up roads, exposing deep ruts and potholes. Remarkably, the Elevate navigates these challenges with ease, despite running on tires with shorter sidewalls compared to some of its competitors.

The Honda Sensing System: A Closer Look

The Elevate’s much-touted Honda Sensing system encompasses a range of advanced driver assistance features. However, it’s important to note that these features may not operate optimally under certain conditions. 

For instance, the Lane Keep Assist (LKA) function requires a speed of over 72 kilometers per hour (kph) and necessitates proper lane markings for accurate operation. In heavy rain, the camera-based sensors may struggle to detect the lane markings, affecting the LKA’s performance.

On the other hand, the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) function works brilliantly, smoothly adjusting the Elevate’s speed to maintain a safe following distance behind the vehicle in front.

The question that arises is the practicality of these Honda Sensing features in the Indian context. In a country with diverse and often unpredictable road conditions, some of these advanced features may not be as effective as desired.

Price and Verdict

The Honda Elevate has generated substantial interest, but it faces fierce competition in India’s SUV market. While the Honda badge alone is a significant draw for many buyers, others may be attracted by the vehicle’s road presence and distinctive looks.

Beneath the brand’s emblem and beyond its exterior, the Elevate makes a compelling case for itself. It boasts a spacious cabin with a rear seat that offers ample legroom and headroom, making it a standout choice for many families. However, the Elevate’s appeal is somewhat limited by offering only a 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine.

Despite this limitation, the Elevate offers a pleasant driving experience and proves to be easy to handle on a daily basis. With an introductory price ranging from Rs 11 lakh to 16 lakh (ex-showroom), the Elevate is very competitively priced. In fact, the top ZX models undercut rivals with similar powertrains. While it may not have all the bells and whistles of some competitors, its spacious cabin and comfortable ride make it a strong contender in the SUV market.

For those in search of a reliable and functional SUV, the Honda Elevate certainly deserves a closer look.

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