Honda Car India’s portfolio had slowly whittled down to essentially just two models, both were sedans, a segment that isn’t the flavour of the season right now. The City, the City eHEV and the Amaze would have been the only models you could’ve chosen from until the Elevate was announced last month. Honda has been in multiple other segments in the past. In fact, there is no one segment in which the brand has not had a presence.

There has been a small cars and hatches in the Brio, Jazz and WR-V, MPVs in the Mobilio and BR-V, a premium sedan in the Civic and even a SUV in the CR-V. So, Honda has been present pretty much in all the categories, and yet the Elevate will be an entirely new model like no other in the past. Not just because it has been developed for India, but also because it is timely, relevant, points to an even more diverse portfolio in the future, and can genuinely rebuild and ‘elevate’ the brand’s image. And the Elevate is just the first of at least five new models to come in the next few years, including EVs, one of which will be on the same platform. So, Honda will come back strong.

But the Elevate’s success will be key to put Honda on the path to reclaiming its status as a brand that offers its buyers multiple vehicles in its portfolio. At the official unveil a few weeks ago, while it looked typically like a Honda, the Elevate exuded a lot of promise. Last week I finally got the chance to get behind the wheel and experience it first-hand. Here are my impressions after driving the Elevate over a mix of city and highway roads in and around Udaipur. 

The Elevate is a little over 4.3 metres long and the wheelbase is 2.65 metres, both of which are more than the Hyundai Creta

The Elevate is a little over 4.3 metres long and the wheelbase is 2.65 metres, both of which are more than the Hyundai Creta | Photo Credit: BIJOY GHOSH


At first glance, the Elevate’s design comes across as that of an uncomplicated premium compact SUV. The strong SUV stance and upright build for a vehicle in this size class will be noticed. But its design isn’t adventurous; in fact, it is typically Honda in being correct, but incapable of dividing opinions or stunning you. The design of the Elevate is, however, that of a strong upright SUV. The high waistline and the raised bonnet with its almost parallel to the road, long hood-line makes it look tall. The stance is also thick and sturdy due to the wheels sitting within the haunches at the rear and the narrower DLO that the design has created.

The Elevate is a little over 4.3 metres long and the wheelbase is 2.65 metres, both of which are more than the Hyundai Creta. Honda officials claim that the space in the cabin is also higher. Though it is larger in its dimensions, the Elevate doesn’t seem too much bigger than its competitors. The design represents an interesting mix of elements and seems to have drawn inspiration from multiple vehicles in Honda’s portfolio. The upright nose with the wide bonnet grille has probably mimicked the design lineage of a couple of Honda SUVs in the US market. The headlamps are connected by a thick chrome garnish that frames the grille. The entire front fascia is upright, and that SUV stance is accentuated by the wheel arches and a 220mm ground clearance. The tail-lamps at the rear mimic the Amaze’s lights, and they also manage to visually enhance the perception of width at the rear. 

Despite being based on the same platform as the Honda City, the Elevate has been designed and built from the ground up to be a SUV that delivers the expectations of buyers here. It shares much of the key components with the City. In fact, the petrol powertrain, the steering and even the suspension geometry are largely the same, though have been tuned for use in the Elevate.

Engineering enhancements to strengthen the C-pillar and the door panels, combined with the higher use of high tensile steel is said to make the Elevate a safer vehicle. Honda officials also claim that the high shoulder line and the construction of the doors enable the Elevate to perform better in side impact crashes. The front and rear fenders get faux skid plates adding to the SUV’s character. Fit and finish quality is good, though I thought that there are a couple of places where the shut lines could have been tighter. 

The dashboard is very appealing and the use of stitched leatherette panels, the large 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and faux ash wood trim inserts for the IP help elevate the cabin

The dashboard is very appealing and the use of stitched leatherette panels, the large 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and faux ash wood trim inserts for the IP help elevate the cabin | Photo Credit: BIJOY GHOSH


Step into the interior of the Elevate and that relative Honda conservatism continues for the cabin too. I found that the cabin’s theme seems to have been to create a clean, plush and consistent layout that will be universally liked, but won’t stand out. Honda’s choice of features for the cabin also seems to have been to ensure that it just about catches up with the competition (after all it is a late entrant) but won’t spring a surprise on them. The dashboard is still very appealing and the use of stitched leatherette panels, the large 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment and faux ash wood trim inserts for the IP help elevate the cabin. The seats are also nicely constructed with the same leatherette material, though unlike some of the competitors, this one doesn’t get seat ventilation. 

The headroom, kneeroom and overall space in the cabin is good and is claimed to be better than the current segment favourites. The amount of room available in the boot is also generous at 458 litres with the rear seats in use. There are a few parts that have been poached from the City’s cabin, but it is not too obvious. The seating position is good in the Elevate and the larger stalked mirrors also offer a good view of the rear.

The instrument cluster is a mix of analog and digital. The speedo is an analog unit, but the 7-inch MID is a HD TFT colour display that offers a split of drive-related info, vehicle settings and live ADAS info (depending on trim variant). The Elevate also gets some interesting additions that improve driving safety and value for the buyer, and these include a high intensity headlamp, an auto dimming rearview mirror, and an integration of the auto headlamps with the windscreen wipers. In the event of a sudden downpour, if you engage the wiper, the headlamps will be switched on automatically. 

There are a few premium features that are being offered only in the City and not in the Elevate (even in top trim variants); stuff like ambient lighting, and a larger sunroof. So, it does look like Honda wants to keep the City as its current flagship. But I found the Elevate’s seats to be a big highlight. Honda engineers were confident when they told me that extensive research into the ergonomics for the average Indian driver has gone in to ensure that lumbar and back support is class leading. After experiencing the uniquely constructed seats in the Elevate, I certainly would tend to agree. There is a wireless charger for smartphones and connectivity options include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Safety kit includes six airbags, hill start assist, vehicle stability assist and rear parking sensors and camera. But it misses a 360-degree camera view. 


In planning the powertrain for the Elevate, folks at Honda have dipped their hands into and picked the tried and tested engine and gearboxes that the City is being offered with. The 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder, i-VTEC, DOHC petrol engine of the City has been picked and is in the same state of tune too. The 1,498cc engine generates a peak power of 121PS and a maximum torque of 145Nm; the same state of tune in the City. The Elevate doesn’t get the diesel engine option or the strong hybrid. The gearbox options for the petrol engine are also carryovers from the City and include the 6-speed manual and the CVT (continuously variable transmission).

Honda officials say that the ratios for the transmissions have been changed to suit the character of the Elevate. While the CVT has been optimised for a 4 per cent improvement in efficiency, in the manual gearbox variant, the response has been increased for an 8 per cent improvement in acceleration. In the manual, the ratios for the first two gears have also been set closer for smoother shifting and better comfort at low speeds. 

During my test drive, the powertrain felt very much like in the City. I spent the most amount of time behind the wheel of the manual. This is a refined, free-revving 1.5-litre petrol engine. Its performance is best experienced while being in the engine’s mid rev-range, where the most power and torque is available. So, while you may need to shift pre-emptively and tap the throttle a little more for quick starts, the engine doesn’t feel strained or underpowered, but it can get a bit noisy in the cabin. Low speed performance in gear slots three and above were surprisingly good, with the engine remaining knock-free even at speeds lower than the average for the slot.

The top speed has been electronically restricted to 160kmph. And the ARAI-rated fuel efficiency is 15.3kmpl for the manual and 16.9kmpl for the CVT automatic. The shift quality of the manual gearbox is clean and buttery smooth, with progressive clutch action. There isn’t much of a perceptible head-nodding rubberband effect in the CVT, except under hard acceleration. But the mismatch in throttle input/ engine rev and on-road acceleration was a bit annoying. 

Honda engineers have also done much work on the Elevate’s NVH characteristics. Vibration reduction and noise deadening in the engine bay, foam application in key areas of the structure and the increased use of ultra-high strength tensile steel have all contributed to much improved NVH performance and it was very evident when I was driving through pouring rain during much of the day. Despite the high ground clearance, the ride quality is good, and so the well-contained levels of body roll.

Bottom Line

 The Elevate is Honda’s best bet yet for foraying into and taking up a chunk of the compact SUV segment. Its design gives the Elevate the necessary presence and intrinsic build to deliver a genuine SUV experience. The cabin is clean, plush, possibly as good as the City in many places, with seats that are unique and truly comfortable. But the lack of more powertrain choices will certainly be a problem, and the absence of a turbo petrol or diesel will be felt. The addition of camera-based Level 2 ADAS features (offered even in manual gearbox variants) is good and will raise the Elevate’s prospects amongst buyers in the segment who are hankering for more features, and getting it. 

The Elevate is a good package when viewed independently. But the bottom line for Honda will still be the need for it to be priced aggressively in the ₹10 lakh to ₹18 lakh range, which is currently teeming with choice.