2023 Honda Elevate review - stitch in time?
With the City and the Amaze clocking around 7,000 units between themselves every month, Honda certainly can't soldier on on the back of its potent sedan lineup. The world has moved on to more all-rounder cars with higher ground clearances and elevated driving positions and whether you classify them as crossovers or SUVs, they are the preferred flavour now. Thus the Honda Elevate. A car that promises all the niceties of a City, but in a more butch package that the audience wants today.
The Elevate was conceived during the pandemic but the design was definitely not discussed over Zoom calls. It's well thought out and executed with no awkward elements or out-of-place lines. The benchmarking against the competition shows in certain areas - like the Seltos-esque taillights and the kink in the window line or the (older) Creta-like C-pillar design and signature colour, but the overall design of the Elevate looks unique. It does look boxy in the imagery but that translates to an imposing stance on the road.
The big grille looks striking and its gloss black finish shouldn't be hard to maintain even in our conditions. A gloss grey chin spoiler/scuff plate available as an accessory is a must-have to enhance the frontal stance of this car. I'm not a big fan of white cars for the kind of image they portray in our country, but the Elevate looks best in that colour and the said spoiler and grille almost give it a mini-Land Cruiser vibe that is likely to appeal to many. The blue would be my second pick.
What complements the imposing face further is the high beltline that makes the side profile look quite muscular. The squared wheel arches are another rugged touch but the wheels could go a size up to match the butch proportions and high ground clearance of this car.
Despite what you read on the Internet, the Elevate's design is going to increase footfall at the dealerships and the muscular proportions and old-school lines of the Elevate will help the design age well too.
The boxy silhouette shows its advantages in the cabin too. The boot space is plenty for a family of five and the large, squarish boot aperture makes for easy loading and storage.
The aperture for the doors is wide too, which coupled with the higher hip point for the seats makes for easy ingress and egress. The old-school positioning of the keyhole under the driver's door handle is a bit of an eyesore in today's time but the chunky handles draw attention away from it. The doors auto lock or unlock depending on your proximity to the car and that's a nice touch when you are hands are full with shopping bags and children. The doors don't close with a clunk (like the Amaze/erstwhile BR-V) and seem on par with the Kushaq and Taigun. Despite the high belt line, the glasshouse doesn't seem too narrow from the inside and the high seating ensures good visibility outside of the windows.
The seats look exactly like those in the Honda City, but these have slightly firmer cushioning for enhanced highway comfort. Not to mention, the tan upholstery looks more upmarket than the beige cabins that we have repeatedly seen from Honda. The rear seats are a bit too relaxed for my liking and an adjustable recline would have been nice. The rear seat space is one of the best in the class with plenty of knee and headroom. Foot space is quite good too and slightly elevated for a more relaxed posture.
The front seats are just as accommodating as the City and the knee room is ample upfront too. Despite the darkish interiors and the lack of a panoramic sunroof, the cabin of the Elevate feels roomy and welcoming.
The fit and finish of the cabin are excellent, similar to the Honda City, but the choice of colours elevates the premium feel. A new 10.25-inch touchscreen finds its way into this cabin and its slick performance and intuitive interface will make current Honda City customers feel shortchanged. It ticks all boxes on the set of features you need on infotainment in 2023, including connected tech, smartphone app and even Alexa remote functionality. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto interfaces wirelessly with it and the feature is complemented by a wireless charger which can be switched off if you simply want to use it as a storage deck.
As for the drawbacks, the USB ports should have been type-C by now, the audio leaves me wanting for a richer bass performance, and the reversing camera feed is low resolution, though better than the Kushaq/Taigun.
Where the Elevate truly pips its European and Japanese competitors is in the fit and finish of the cabin which feels a touch more premium in all areas. It's only the Koreans that mar the Elevate in this regard and offer better features too. But the Elevate makes up for it with better comfort offered by the seats and is likely to score better on cabin safety too. Honda assures that the Elevate will offer ADAS features at a significantly lower price point than the recently launched Seltos and a long list of safety tech in each variant will be one of its biggest talking points.
Engine, Suspension, Ride & Handling
The Elevate shares a majority of its underpinnings with the City and sits on a 50mm longer wheelbase of 2650mm. Yet it feels more compact than the City when you hit the bends or drive on congested roads, and that's a good thing. The visibility is excellent and the contours of the high-set bonnet are visible giving an easy judgment of the car.
Insist on a longer test drive of the Elevate, because a short spin around the block won't do enough to tell you how well the Elevate rides. The ride quality is exceptionally good and the suspension is quite silent too even over sharper bumps, ruts and expansion joints.
And despite the cushy ride, this isn't your soft-riding Honda. The handling dynamics will hold a candle to the Kushaq or the Tiguan when you hit the winding roads or the highway. The body control makes the Elevate feel like some of the more expensive SUVs! Unlike the Honda City, the Elevate doesn't feel under-tyred and the 215-section tyres (across the range) complement the dynamics. But these road manners beg for more poke from the engine.
The engine too comes from the Honda City. 120PS felt like a big deal ten years ago, but in today's age of 150+PS or electrically assisted competitors, the naturally aspirated 1.5l i-VTEC petrol feels a bit lacklustre. But not everyone is looking for edge-of-the-seat entertainment all the time, and for that audience, this engine does its intended job rather well. Despite being naturally aspirated, it chugs along nicely under 3,000rpm and city tractability is excellent. On the highway, it will cruise at 100kmph at around 3,000rpm in top gear. It's only when you need to pull instant overtakes that you feel the dearth of torque and need to rev the engine beyond 5,000rpm to get the shove. This is how naturally aspirated engines usually feel, but today we are exposed to turbocharged engines even in hatchbacks, which promise on-tap torque and a fat midrange and from that point of view the Elevate's engine feels more dated than underpowered.
Go pedal to the metal though and the Elevate sprints from a standstill to 100kmph in a little over 12s. It even sounds evocative while making that sprint. Some might argue that the noise insulation of the engine bay could have been better but I quite like the mechanical sounds that creep in. Sure they sound better with the slick manual transmission than the CVT automatic. The latter has the inherent rubber band effect where the engine revs quite a bit before selecting the next gear ratio, though as we found out in the City, the effect isn't too pronounced. Honda continues to claim higher fuel economy with the CVT and our experience with the Honda City will have us agree with that claim. The Elevate is a heavier car than the City, but expect a real-world economy of 14-16kmpl for both transmissions. Unfortunately, there won't be a hybrid with the Elevate, but an all-electric variant is expected by 2025.
The short way to sum it up is by saying, "It's a Honda!" The long explanation isn't simple though. Existing Honda patrons and loyalists will take an immediate liking to the Elevate. It ticks all the right boxes on refinement, comfort and the no-frills approach that make most Hondas likeable and this audience will be rewarded with the high ride height, better bad road capability, enhanced safety and a superb cabin experience. In fact, Honda is expecting so many returning customers that they are set to ramp up their pre-owned car business too.
But to succeed in this space, Honda needs to attract newer customers to the brand too. The shallow features list is likely to make many customers shy away from the model. But if Honda makes enough noise about the safety tech and gets enough audience to see the imposing design of the Elevate in the flesh, there is a better chance for this SUV to succeed. Once the prospective customer drives it, the car will do the rest, methinks. But to ensure footfall at the dealerships, Honda needs an extremely competitive price tag - and given how aggressively the City the priced, they might just get the Elevate into the sweet spot with all bells and whistles blowing.
Words: Rohit Paradkar
Photography: Anis Shaikh
Starts Rs 10.9 Lakhs