Honda Elevate first drive review: The sensible Creta rival

The Honda Elevate is here and is set to take on the highly competitive mid-size SUV segment. Let’s see if it has what it takes
The Honda Elevate is a genuine Creta-fighter — in design, spec and approach.
The Honda Elevate is a genuine Creta-fighter — in design, spec and approach.Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Honda’s mid-size SUV is finally here! It has been years since SUVs took over as the dominant segment in the Indian market, but Honda was quietly selling hatchbacks and sedans, ignoring the lucrative mid-SUV space entirely. There were attempts. The BR-V, for example. But it didn’t do much to excite, and was more utility than sport. This is all set to change with the Honda Elevate. A genuine Creta-fighter, this — in design, spec and approach. But its not just the Creta that the Elevate has to deal with — it is the whole class. Seltos, Kushaq, Taigun, Grand Vitara, Hyryder, Astor, C3 Aircross, all here to have a bite of the same pie.

It is no secret that the Elevate is based on the Honda City. Not a bad thing since the latest City is an incredibly well rounded machine. It inherits the same platform and engine from the City, both tweaked to suit the SUV intentions of the Elevate. Can it impress in this segment that has become far more competitive? We’re about to find out. 

It inherits the same platform and engine from the City, both tweaked to suit the SUV intentions of the Elevate.
It inherits the same platform and engine from the City, both tweaked to suit the SUV intentions of the Elevate.Honda

2023 Honda Elevate styling

Honda has played it safe here. The headlamps are in the right place, the grille is the right shape, the rear is cool but not outlandish, the stance is exactly what you’d expect with an upright bonnet and strong haunches. Honda hasn’t tried to push the boundaries of design, but that isn’t to say that the Elevate is bland. It is a handsome looking car, with a simple approach to styling that works. It isn’t polarising, it isn’t shouty, it doesn’t scream ‘look-at-me’. And that probably works in its favour. It is restrained and subtle, and has a simplicity that I grew to appreciate as I spent more time with it. 

Presence is all important with SUVs and the Elevate makes a gentle statement in that department. It is nowhere as imposing as the blue-blooded SUVs that the Harrier and XUV700 are, and even against the likes of the Creta and Seltos, it seems to fit in rather than stand out. Dimensions wise, it has a width that is bang identical to the Creta, but it is longer overall (+12mm), has a longer wheelbase (+40mm) and is marginally taller as well (+15mm). That said, it still looks great rolling down the road and a fresh face in the segment is something to celebrate. Particularly one from Honda.

The Honda Elevate is a handsome looking car, despite the simplistic styling.
The Honda Elevate is a handsome looking car, despite the simplistic styling.Honda

2023 Honda Elevate interiors

I saw a comment online calling the interior design ‘lazy’. I beg to differ. I don’t think it is lazy at all. I think it is well thought out, intuitive and a rather enjoyable place to be. It starts with the seats — similar to the ones you get in the City, providing solid bolstering and an incredibly comfortable backrest. Best seats in the segment by a mile. The driving position is spot on. You have a commanding view of the road ahead and the inverse power dome of the bonnet. The steering wheel is familiar, as is the cluster behind it — straight out of the City. We’ve seen it before but I would like to compliment the person that designed the interface of the instrument cluster — super easy to use. On the dash is a large 10.2-inch infotainment screen with a crisp resolution (though touch sensitivity could’ve been better), that supports wireless CarPlay and Android Auto. The AC buttons are logical, the wireless charger has a button to turn it on (that’s a first!) And the storage spaces are well thought out.
It lacks a few features, I’ll give you that — cooled seats should have been part of the repertoire. The regular sized sunroof doesn’t cut it in this day and age. Electrically adjustable seats, a 360-degree camera, a reclinable rear bench and a full digital cluster are missing. No one needs any of these features, but they do fatten up the brochure and also make the in-car experience feel a little more upmarket. That said, Honda has done a solid job with its material selection with soft touch leatherette on the dash and door cards, plus faux wood and piano black inserts. They elevate the interi… I’ll spare you the pun, you get the point. 

In the rear, there’s a surprising amount of space — both knee room and headroom. The rear seats are well sculpted and offer good support. Much like the City, the Elevate gets a floor that is slightly angled for you to place your feet on. Not much to complain about in here!

The interior is well thought out, intuitive and a rather enjoyable place to be.
The interior is well thought out, intuitive and a rather enjoyable place to be.Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Honda Elevate engine and performance

The Elevate shares an engine with the Honda City — the same 1.5-litre nat-asp engine that makes 119bhp and 145Nm of torque. And unlike most other SUVs in this class that get a number of engine options, the Elevate gets the one. Consequently, the Elevate doesn’t really compete with half this class — the higher spec engines like the 1.5 TSIs from the Europeans, the 1.5 T-GDIs from the Koreans or the 1.5 hybrids from the (other) Japanese sit a cut above the Elevate in terms of performance (and most likely price). The Elevate will instead compete with the base drivetrains, which to be fair, is where the numbers are. 

The 1.5 i-VTEC is very, very familiar and feels exactly as you would expect it in the Elevate. Its got creamy smooth refinement, a willingness to rev and power that is concentrated in the middle to upper reaches of the rev band. At standstill, it is incredibly quiet — vibes barely creep in to the cabin and it runs absolutely silent. You’d think it was an EV, if you’ve got the AC running and drowning out the little noise it makes. As you pick up the revs, and with this engine you have to pick up the revs to get a move on, it does get louder inside the cabin. However, it must be said that this is a pleasant sound, and not noise. Its a creamy, nat-asp sound that permeates the cabin and adds to the driving experience rather than takes away from it. 

Once you’ve been spoiled by modern turbo engines, this nat-asp mill will feel a bit underpowered. It doesn’t have the outright grunt from the get-go and needs to be worked hard. Climbing uphill with five on board had me shifting down to first gear ever so often, so that it wouldn’t get bogged down. But by nat-asp standards, it has adequate poke and the willingness to rev, along with the smoothness at the top end means you won’t hesitate to rev it out.

By nat-asp standards, it has adequate poke and the willingness to rev, along with the smoothness at the top end.
By nat-asp standards, it has adequate poke and the willingness to rev, along with the smoothness at the top end.Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2023 Honda Elevate ride and handling

On first impressions, the Elevate does a solid job of dealing with Indian roads. Which means, low speed ride over bad roads is impressive — it is absorptive, soft and soaks up bumps and potholes without breaking in to a sweat. As you pick up speed, you realise that it is properly competent here as well. There’s plenty of stability and controlled vertical movement over larger wave crests and dips in the road. Hammer over small breakers and it doesn’t unsettle the car (though there is a small judder you can feel through the bump stops), and you can drive it at speed over a typical Indian road. You can feel a slight firm edge to the ride on sharper bumps and ditches, but it is biased for comfort, that is for sure.

That’s not to say that the handling is all over the place. The steering feels connected and the car doesn’t mind been chucked around on a fast, winding road. I thought that the cushy suspension set up and eco tyres would mean it wouldn’t hold a line well, but point it where you want to go and the Elevate obeys. The front end is obedient, you can feel the weight transfer but it is linear and adds to the seat-of-the-pant sensations, and mid-corner bumps are ironed out competently. It isn’t top of the class, I think the Kushaq and Taigun would still beat it on outright cornering. However, it does lend you plenty of confidence behind the wheel. The chassis has been reinforced compared to the City’s, to deal with the additional forces that would be passing through it with its increased ride height and taller stance. But on the go, it feels competent and well engineered. There are no chinks in its armour on this front.

On the go, the Honda Elevate feels competent and well engineered.
On the go, the Honda Elevate feels competent and well engineered.Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2023 Honda Elevate ADAS features

One of the tricks up the Elevate’s sleeves are the ADAS features it comes with. There’s a front radar and camera that lends it features like front collision mitigation, lane keep assist, auto high beam assist and it also gets adaptive cruise control. This is a fairly comprehensive set of features, which is more than what a lot of cars get but just slightly short of what the Seltos gets with its rear radars. The ADAS did come into play at some points during our drive, particularly the front collision assist that easily recognised pedestrians on the road. This system also turns back on every time you turn the car off, and then on again so if you want it out of the way, you’re going to have to turn it off every time you get into the car. But the features are easy to access from the steering mounted controls.

On the ADAS front, the Elevate gets more features than a lot of other cars in this segment.
On the ADAS front, the Elevate gets more features than a lot of other cars in this segment.Honda

2023 Honda Elevate price and verdict

Bookings for the Elevate are open, but the launch is slated only for September this year — still a couple of months away. We expect the Elevate to be priced well, to compete with the likes of the Hyundai Creta and its gaggle of rivals. Prices should start around the Rs 11 lakh mark and go up to Rs 17 lakh (ex-showroom) for the manual variants, and the CVT variants will be a small premium over that. 

The Honda Elevate has proved to be an incredibly competent machine. It doesn’t break new ground in any one department, but as a whole, it comes across as a very sensible SUV for very sensible people. It will appeal to the same people that like the Honda City — something sensible, stress free, comfortable and competent all-round. It does little to set the hearts of the enthusiast on fire, but it will impress with its sheer breath of ability. The whole thing is rather tastefully done and I think a lot of its appeal will come from the fact that it isn’t trying to be intentionally flashy and out there with its design or interiors. Sure, features may not be on par with the competition and now it comes down to how Honda actually price it at launch. We’re waiting for that announcement too, but until then, it must be said that the Elevate is competent in all the right ways and has what it takes to bring the fight to its rivals. 

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