The Honda Elevate reflects a significant shift in their approach to the highly demanding SUV segment in India, upon which the company’s fortunes depend. Departing from their traditional philosophy of designing low-slung cars and SUVs, the Elevate boldly embraces elevated proportions.
With a commanding height of 1,650mm and an impressive ground clearance of 220mm, Honda Elevate stands tall and confident.
While some engineering purists at Honda may consider raising the stance sacrilegious due to their pursuit of optimal dynamics through low-slung designs, history has shown that sleek SUVs may excel in hugging the road but not necessarily in capturing the hearts of customers. Previous models like the unsuccessful BR-V and capable yet insignificant CR-V lacked the SUV image that Indian buyers desire.
Honda’s earlier attempt at developing a Creta fighter, the HR-V, faced obstacles. The European-designed HR-V had a crossover-like low bonnet and an uncompetitive cost structure, leading to its abandonment. Honda had to return to the drawing board, and this time, they listened more to their customers than just their engineers.
The exterior design of the Honda Elevate fulfills Indian customers’ desires for road presence and an imposing appearance. The company demonstrates its willingness to adapt by defying its own conventions. The bold and high-riding Elevate stands as a testimony to this approach, helping it to stand out in the crowded mid-sized SUV market.
The vehicle’s design is characterized by a massive, vertical grille and generous dimensions that leave a lasting impression. The squared-off and upright nose sets the tone for the Elevate’s proportions, with a high bonnet line flowing neatly into the elevated window line, which gracefully extends into the C-pillar.
In contrast to the Korean competitors, Honda refrains from excessive cuts and creases on the sides but adds the right amount of muscle to the wheel arches, giving the Elevate a strong and rugged appearance. The vehicle is equipped with proper 215/55 R17 rubber on attractive 17-inch alloys, nicely filling out the wheel arches and avoiding the issue of being “under-tyred.”
Additional design elements like beefy front and rear scuff plates, roof rails, a chunky C-pillar, and side cladding contribute to an unmistakably authentic SUV look.
Furthermore, attention to detail enhances Elevate’s aesthetics. The front and rear light clusters boast slim headlight designs that complement the bold grille and incorporate LED turn indicators and LED lights for both high and low beams. The dual LED tail lights add to the visual width of the Elevate, giving it a compelling presence on the road.
Honda Elevate’s underpinnings reveal an intriguing connection to the City’s platform. Despite the fresh and appealing design, several components, such as the powertrain, steering, and suspension, share similarities with the City, albeit tweaked to suit an SUV’s dynamics.
The platform has been modified to accommodate a best-in-class 2,650mm wheelbase (50mm more than the City’s) and larger wheel wells, capable of supporting long travel suspension and up to 18-inch wheels. Remarkably, the engineers have maintained a tight turning circle of 5.2 meters (even less than the City’s 5.3 meters), ensuring maneuverability remains uncompromised.
Utilizing high-tensile steel has effectively managed the Elevate’s kerb weight (ranging from 1,206kg to 1,258kg, depending on the variant) without compromising crashworthiness.
The high window line contributes to sturdier doors, enhancing side impact crash test performance—an essential consideration for the export markets where the Elevate will be sold. While the doors close with a solid thud, there are some inconsistencies in panel gaps, particularly around the bonnet area.
Moving on to the interior and features, modern car buyers expect tech-filled comfort and convenience, which Honda’s product planners underestimated during the conception of the Elevate.
Stepping inside, the cabin lacks jaw-dropping aesthetics or the latest gizmos and equipment, giving a rather ordinary impression. The presence of leather and mock wood inserts on the dashboard slightly elevates the ambiance, but the plastics and materials fall short of the plushness found in newer models like the Seltos. Nevertheless, the cabin feels solidly built with durable materials.
The air-conditioning switchgear, thoughtfully retained as physical buttons rather than being shifted to a screen, offers a wonderful tactile feel. The air vents and door levers exhibit satisfying sturdiness.
Several elements are carried over from the City, such as the steering wheel, control stalks, and window switches. However, the Elevate lacks certain features found in the City’s topmost trim, such as one-touch operation for all windows, rain-sensing wipers, LED cabin lights, and a panoramic sunroof.
The absence of these features, including cooled seats and front parking sensors, feels stingy, especially when compared to the recently launched Seltos facelift, which includes such amenities. On the bright side, the Elevate does offer basics like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, and a sizable 10.25-inch touchscreen with good resolution.
Honda deserves applause for providing hard buttons for frequently used functions. The part digital instrument cluster may appear slightly dated, but the 7-inch TFT color multi-information display (MID) compensates by providing extensive information and customizable functions related to keyless access, lighting, door operation, and the Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) called Honda Sensing.
The Elevate impresses with its comprehensive suite of ADAS features, which 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, which alerts drivers when the vehicle in front starts moving. The Auto High Beam function is also included, automatically switching between low and high beams.
While this expenditure on ADAS features is commendable, the absence of other expected amenities may raise questions. However, before addressing this concern, it is essential to acknowledge one of the Elevate’s significant strengths: its practical and thoughtfully designed cabin.
Honda’s forte in packaging shines through with the Elevate, offering clever storage solutions and seats that set a new benchmark for comfort. The seats stand out as the best in class, providing generous under-thigh support and finely balanced foam density—neither too hard nor too soft.
Once you take the driver’s seat, you’ll experience Honda’s typically driver-centric layout. The infotainment system is perfectly positioned within the line of sight, and the pedals are well spaced out, including a dead pedal. The gear lever and controls fall easily to hand, and visibility outside the vehicle is superb, leaving you feeling in complete command. Honda has truly excelled in seat comfort.
At the rear, occupants enjoy generous headroom and legroom, thanks to a high ‘H-point’ that allows for an upright seating position. A unique Honda design feature includes the upward-sloping floorboard beneath the front seats, serving as a footrest. While the rear seat is ideal for two passengers, it can accommodate a middle passenger. However, the middle passenger may lack a headrest and have a lap strap instead of a three-point seat belt, likely due to the 60:40 seat split, which enhances luggage space in the already best-in-class 458-litre boot capacity.
The cabin boasts several nice touches, such as slots on either side of the handbrake for large smartphones and a large shelf in the center console with a wireless charging pad. A button to disable charging ensures your phone won’t overheat while utilizing the ample shelf space for storing phones and other miscellaneous items.
The Elevate offers large storage bins in all four doors, contributing to its practicality, but the glove box and central storage box could have been more spacious. While it provides a pair of front USB-A ports and a rear 12V socket for charging, it falls slightly behind current trends by lacking USB-C ports, which are becoming increasingly popular.
In terms of engine options, the Elevate features Honda’s tried-and-tested 1.5-litre i-VTEC engine with CVT automatic and 6-speed manual transmission choices. Although the engine performs well in city traffic, it lacks low-end grunt when pushed vigorously due to limited torque (145Nm).
While it offers flexibility and pulls smoothly from 1,500rpm to the 7,000 redline, it can feel sluggish at low revs, requiring higher RPMs to extract the most power. As a result, the driver often needs to work the gearbox to stay within the powerband above 4,000rpm. At higher revs, the Elevate becomes quite noisy, impacting highway cruising comfort.
Given its performance, the Elevate could benefit from a strong hybrid, turbo petrol, or diesel option for added torque and mid-range punch characteristics of SUVs. The current engine option places it alongside 1.5-liter naturally aspirated variants of other brands, falling slightly short. The CVT automatic functions excellently in slow-moving traffic and city driving, but it exhibits the infamous ‘rubber band’ effect during hard overtaking on the highway, leading to constant high revs and decreased relaxation.
Official test figures indicate that Elevate’s efficiency may not match that of its turbo-petrol rivals, with 15.31kpl and 16.92kpl for the manual and CVT auto versions, respectively. However, in real-world conditions, it is likely to be the most economical petrol-powered mid-size SUV.
Honda has nailed the dynamics of the Elevate, setting it apart as a class-leading mid-size SUV in terms of ride and handling. The steering stands out as the best in its category, offering accuracy, delightful lightness at low speeds, and progressive weight increase as you pick up the pace.
The balance between the front and rear ends is impeccable, resulting in a surprisingly minimal body roll for a high SUV. This makes the Elevate predictable and easy to maneuver through corners. The brakes are also impressive, providing progressive stopping power, and despite having rear drums instead of discs, braking performance doesn’t fall short.
The long travel suspension, complemented by well-judged damping on the slightly firmer side, works brilliantly. Body control is fantastic, and the Elevate feels rock-solid at high speeds, even on rain-soaked highways with standing water. However, the old-school wipers are less effective in heavy rain. Nevertheless, the Elevate handles rough road conditions with ease, confidently navigating through deep ruts and potholes, thanks to its sturdy build and tires with shorter sidewalls.
The much-touted Honda Sensing system, with its camera-based ADAS tech, performs well under certain conditions. Lane Keep Assist (LKA) can only be activated above 72kph and requires clear lane markings to function accurately. In heavy rain, the camera-based sensors may struggle to detect the lane correctly. However, Adaptive Cruise Control works brilliantly, smoothly adjusting the Elevate’s speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
The Elevate faces fierce competition in the market, but its reputation as a Honda and its appealing road presence attract many buyers. The comfortable cabin, particularly the rear seat with ample leg- and headroom, adds to its allure. However, the limited appeal stems from having only one engine option—the 1.5-liter i-VTEC—which is disappointing, as stronger engine options are lacking.
Despite this limitation, the Elevate offers an enjoyable driving experience and proves to be easy to handle and live with on a daily basis.
If competitively priced, it becomes a practical and reliable choice for everyday use. While it may not boast all the bells and whistles of some rivals, its spacious cabin and comfortable ride position it as a formidable contender in the SUV market. For those seeking a trustworthy and functional SUV, the Honda Elevate deserves serious consideration.
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Ritu is an aspiring journalist with 2 years of experience in business, politics, travel and lifestyle writing . She had previously worked for Entrepreneur India as Feature writer and aims to work her way to grad school, hoping if Columbia University will even consider her application. She is a literature enthusiast who finds her peace in Floyd.