The whittled-down portfolio of Honda Car India has been missing a sports utility vehicle for years now. In fact, after the CR-V was withdrawn, there has just not been an option from Honda in the fastest-growing body style in the passenger car market. It is probably one of the last big brands to miss out on having an SUV in its garage. So, it is exciting to note that the Elevate will be the first of five SUVs that will be launched by Honda India by the year 2030. And that it will also include a battery-electric SUV to be built on the same platform as the Elevate. Earlier this week, Honda officially unveiled the Elevate, and here are my initial impressions about this compact SUV that has been specially built for India.
At the global premiere, Honda officials said the Elevate has been developed from the ground-up with Indian buyer sensibilities in mind and that it has been worked on and tested across multiple geographies, including India, Thailand, and Japan. The Elevate’s positioning in the compact SUV category is a good spot for Honda to make an initial foray into. Future vehicles can easily flank this new SUV on either side of the size and price segments. It is also good to know that the Elevate has been engineered to handle the demands of both left-hand and right-hand drive markets.
Build and cabin
In terms of design, the Elevate seems to capture the language of several global SUVs from Honda, with a distinct tilt to some of its big SUVs in the US. The classic upright SUV stance combined with the high nose and nearly parallel lines that form the bonnet, roof, and shoulder. It would be very difficult to find a line that’s amiss in the Elevate, though it also seems like Honda has chosen to stay cautious with the new SUV’s design. The front design with that large, vertical bonnet grille, which also smartly packages a solid section, is clearly the most aggressive profile for the Elevate. The LED DRLs and the headlamps complement the front design. They also sport a fat chrome band that connects them and runs on top of the grille. The square wheel arches with their black cladding lend the key SUV character to the side profile, and the dual-tone 17-inch alloy wheels sporting 215/55 R17 Bridgestone Turanza tyres add to the bold SUV stance.
The belt line rises past the rear door handle, offering a bit of privacy for rear seat occupants. The C-pillar area is thick and essentially covers the section of the 458-litre boot. A slightly high-set shoulder means the window glass area is not exactly large, and the sunroof is also a relatively small unit. Yet, the amount of light coming into the cabin should be quite good thanks to a large windscreen and rear glass. The spare wheel has been packed away under the boot floor. The rear design is also simple yet smart, thanks to twin L-shaped LED tubes in the taillamps that seem to be connected and visually improve the impact of the Elevate’s width. The hexagonal grille is mirrored by the design of the tailgate.
It is a good-sized compact SUV at 4.3 metres long and a wheelbase of 2.65 metres (both are more than the Hyundai Creta), and that also promises good cabin space leverage with Honda’s trademark man maximum, machine minimum approach. The Elevate doesn’t look like a high-sprung SUV, but its ground clearance is said to be a high 220 mm. Honda officials claim that the Elevate’s structural rigidity and torsional stiffness will be good thanks to the increased use of high-tensile steel, which should enable it to offer improved safety while lowering its kerb weight. Of course, in Honda speak, this is part of the brand’s characteristic ACE body structure. All of these can only be experienced during the planned media test drive of the Elevate. The same would be the case for the suspension performance, though Honda officials say that it has been tuned to deliver a balanced ride.
The Elevate’s cabin features a simple high-set dashboard that runs parallel to the floor, with an extension of the hexagonal theme into some of the design elements like the aircon vents and the highlight insert for the centre stack. The centre console is also tall, offering good reach for the driver to key elements like the gear stick, the wireless phone charger, storage slots, and the controls for the auto aircon. Dashboard construction gets a trio of materials, with as many tones, including faux stitched leather, faux ash wood, and textured plastic. The steering wheel in the Elevate on display at the unveiling was also clad in leather with multiple controls.
The dashboard centre-stack is topped by a 10.25-inch, high-definition IPS touchscreen display that offers access to all the infotainment controls. Connectivity is offered through wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition to other apps and shortcuts, the display also throws up the images for the side view and rearview cameras. Background pictures for the display can also be customised. The instrument cluster is also a 7-inch TFT digital screen with real-time drive-related information being showcased in addition to the meters. It also allows the driver to customize the operations, such as the meter set-up, keyless access, lighting set-up, door indicator, and Honda Sensing functions. The Elevate’s seats felt fairly comfortable, with relatively decent levels of support and enough leg room and headroom for the average adult. The rear seats also offer adequate room, with a bit less thigh support. Tall passengers may find the headroom to be a bit tight. But my bigger concern was how women drivers and others of average build may take to the low-set seats, which even at their highest manually adjusted setting may still not offer a view of the bonnet edge. More opinions about the feel of being the wheel can only be offered after test driving the Elevate.
Engine and gearbox
For the powertrain strategy, Honda has chosen its 1.5-litre, DOHC, i-VTEC petrol engine that is already being offered with the City sedan, along with the same two gearboxes: the 6-speed manual and the CVT automatic. There will be no diesel engine on offer, but a battery-electric powertrain will be offered sometime within the next three years. For now, the 1,498 cc engine will also be offered in the same state of tune, delivering 121 PS of peak power and 145 Nm of peak torque (as in the City). If we go by the character of the engine experienced in the City, then it should be a mill that offers linear power delivery all the way to the peak at 6,600 rpm. Torque generated and consequent acceleration could feel fairly adequate with a strong band at mid-rpm levels. Honda has also managed to make the current CVT feel better than the previous generations, so much of that rubberband effect in its performance should have been ironed out. I’d still choose the 6-speed manual, which still feels slick and clean to use. Ratios for the transmission and throttle mapping would be different. I can offer more details and my opinion about the powertrain performance after the test drive that’s scheduled for next month.
Honda’s decision to focus on safety and a premium drive experience also means that the Elevate gets the suite of active safety features offered under the umbrella of ‘Honda Sensing’ driver assistance tech. Some of the features enabled by the front camera and related equipment include collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, auto high-beam, and active lane-keeping assist. Other safety equipment includes six airbags, hill start assist, vehicle stability assist, a rear parking camera, and the popular lane watch camera on the left door mirror for eliminating the blind spot while changing lanes or taking turns.
The trim strategy for the Honda Elevate has not been revealed yet. There are likely to be multiple variants, including ones that may not be offered with the Honda Sensing tech. But the Elevate will not get the hybrid powertrain that is currently offered in the City eHEV. But Honda should be able to benefit from the platform sharing advantages between City and Elevate. It will be officially launched before the festival season this year. Bookings open next month. Expect prices to range from about ₹11 lakh to ₹16 lakh.