REVIEW: Honda Elevate is solid and practical but wider range would lift its appeal

Published May 14, 2024


Just like its name implies, the Honda Elevate arrives at a time when the Japanese brand needs a high-value model to drive volumes in South Africa.

The importer has been struggling with low sales numbers for years now, with a relatively expensive range of products. However, Honda SA potentially has an ace up its sleeve with the new Indian-sourced Elevate.

It’s available in two flavours, with the 1.5 Comfort priced at R371,000 and the 1.5 Elegance stickered at R430,000.

Given that the 4.3-metre SUV is similar in size to a Suzuki Grand Vitara, Hyundai Creta and Mitsubishi ASX, you are getting a reasonable amount of metal for the money.

Its exterior styling is easy on the eyes, even handsome, though it may appear somewhat generic.

The Elevate looks like an SUV should look. Picture: Honda SA.

Its slightly boxy shape does result in a spacious interior and a generous 458-litre boot that’s good for holiday packing. The back of the cabin has loads of room. I’m average sized and sitting behind my driving position, I had space to stretch my legs.

Rear passengers also have aircon vents, although it was disappointing to see no USB ports in the back. There is, however, a 12V socket which you could plug an adapter into.

The rear cabin is spacious. Picture: Jason Woosey.

Some of the magic is gone too! More specifically, Honda’s “Magic Rear Seats”, whose squab folds upwards in one easy movement to instantly create a huge load space in the rear cabin, is missing in action here.

It is one of the things that made Honda’s small cars innovative and unique, but perhaps the company’s research has shown they’re just not used often enough to justify the price premium they might add.

This is a cost-cutting SUV, and it becomes apparent in some of the interior plastics and the black-and-white touchscreen infotainment system.

But given the practicality and generally good build quality on offer here, we think the Elevate still strikes the right balance for the price.

What features does the Elevate come with?

The 1.5 Comfort has a six-speed manual gearbox and comes with 16-inch covered steel wheels, two things that buyers at this level might not appreciate.

It does have LED headlights though and interior comforts include an 8.0-inch touch screen, reverse camera, smart keyless entry, automatic air conditioning, dual front airbags and ABS brakes.

The 1.5 Elegance adds a CVT gearbox, 17-inch two-tone alloys, leather seats, electric sunroof, six speaker sound system, auto headlights and four more airbags.

I can’t help but think Honda needs a middle model to slot between the two. This is especially considering that the average purchase price for a new vehicle in South Africa is just under R400,000, according to WesBank.

Surely something with CVT and alloys, but minus the leather and sunroof, would hit a sweet spot at around that price point?

What’s it like to drive the Honda Elevate?

As mentioned, buyers get a choice between manual and auto gearboxes and in both cases they pair with Honda’s familiar and proven 1.5-litre normally aspirated petrol engine that dishes out 89kW and 145Nm.

We spent a week with the CVT-equipped Elegance version, and although it is more powerful than some rivals like the Suzuki GV, this is a vehicle that prefers a more relaxed approach to driving.

The Elevate’s 1.5-litre engine needs to be worked hard at times. Picture: Honda SA.

With normal throttle inputs it delivers a refined driving experience with adequate performance. But the engine will need to be worked hard for some overtaking manoeuvres and steeper hills, resulting in a somewhat noisy experience as CVT gearboxes are droney at high revs.

Honda has built some steps into the CVT cones to emulate the feel of a normal automatic gearbox and at normal driving speeds this seems to work rather well.

It is a relatively relaxed vehicle to drive, just don’t try to treat it like a performance car.

Economy is quite decent too, with our car averaging around 8.2 litres per 100km, which we managed to get down to 6.7 l/100km on a brief highway stint.


Although it shows signs of cost cutting in places, the Honda Elevate is a solid and highly practical SUV at the price. It makes a reasonably good value argument, but Honda should surely consider adding a middle model to hit the sweet spot for those shopping around the R400,000 mark.

The Honda Elevate is sold with a four-year or 60,000km service plan.

IOL Motoring