Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT

Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT review. Image: Honda South Africa

Outside the Box: Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT review

The new Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT breaks all the rules of the sub-4-metre mini-SUV class. And we love it for that reason …

Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT

Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT review. Image: Honda South Africa

As with anything in life, it’s best to treat the new Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT with a healthy degree of skepticism. The South African had a quick introduction to it at the local launch. On the evidence of that encounter, we believe the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT could be the Japanese firm’s cure-all for a depressed new-car market in Mzansi.

However, like vegan chocolate that’s supposed to taste just as good as the proper stuff but be healthier, we’ll need more in-depth taste test. The issue with the current crop of urban SUV runarounds with raised ride heights is that they seldom tick all the boxes advertised. Either the go-anywhere capability is missing, or its strangely uncomfortable because engineers had to adapt an existing platform on a budget. Nevertheless, when it comes to busting niches, the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT is unafraid to colour outside the lines.


Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT
On or off road, the Honda Elevate is an impressive mini-SUV. Image: Honda South Africa

It requires only a cursory glance at the Honda Elevate to realise this mini-SUV does things somewhat differently. You see, manufacturers building their cars in India (like Honda does with this one), get tax breaks if the vehicle is shorter than four metres nose-to-tail. The Elevate was meant to be built in that mold, like the Renault Kiger/Triber, Nissan Magnite, Suzuki Fronx, et al …

The only issue is some of those cars – and we won’t name and shame them here – are pretty awful. And engineers at Honda must have caught a whiff of that and decided to pivot their mini-SUV at the last moment. Therefore, the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT breaks away from of the four-metre restriction (by a sizeable 312 mm) and is all the better for it. The chassis it uses is in fact the Honda Ballade’s.


Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT
Plenty of tasteful touches like LED light signatures front and rear. Image: Honda South Africa

Its strong, assured design helps you realise the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT is just as much about making a statement as it is about what it does. Look at the squared-off fenders, stocky stance and upright pillars. It simply refuses to be ignored and demands an opinion from passers-by. Some of whom think nothing of running across a busy street to take a closer look and share a chit-chat.

There’s a playfulness to it, which we love. It’s as if it was penned by a child let loose on a Toys R Us toy run. You could argue it’s not conventionally handsome, but you’ve got to admit it’s kind of bang on trend for mini-SUV-motoring circa 2024. And let’s not forget this is no R4-million supercar but rather a compact crossover from the subcontinent that costs a reasonable R429 900. You may think that’s expensive, but the Elevate range starts at R369 900 for the manual, which we’re sad we couldn’t get to test drive, too.


Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT
Note the floating-style central touchscreen and wireless charging slot. Image: File

Then you step aboard, and would you believe it, the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT gets even better. In the past, Hondas had about as much interior ambiance as a R5 Crazy Store, but the Elevate represents a positive adaptation. Our test car’s interior is a fairly austere grey and black (not the lighter brown pictured above). But it’s well put together and over time we have no doubt it will last the distance. The central touchscreen controls everything and has a sort of floating effect atop the dashboard. There is great graphics and response to inputs, too.

Sitting below it is a neat row of toggle switches like you get in a Ford Mustang. They handle all your climate control needs. Yes, you can forget plain air-conditioning here, ladies and gents. But the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT is not at all gimmicky in its execution. There’s a list of standard specification that’s as long as your arm. LCD multi-function driver display, steering audio wheel controls, reverse camera with park distance control, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay/Andriod Auto and smart access with a starter button so you never need to fish the key awkwardly out your pocket.


Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT
The naturally aspirated CVT won’t win any Formula 1 races, but it’s perfectly suited to urban driving. Image: Honda South Africa

So, the not-so–little mite has streaked ahead early, but can it stay out in front courtesy of a competent drive? Well, the drivetrain might not illicit unbridled excitement, but it does work perfectly for this sort of application. The Honda 1.5 Elegance CVT, just as the name suggests, makes do with the firm’s naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol motor. Good for 89 kW and 145 Nm of torque, it only needs haul around a lightweight-yet-rigid body shell that weighs just north of 1 200 kg.  

The naturally aspirated motor’s peaky power delivery doesn’t hamper progress either. In fact, it is perfectly suited for urban use. And it’s actually quite a little weapon when zooming off to the shops and such, if you keep it below 80 km/h. A lack of torque is only really evident out of the city on the wide-open road, when the four-pot petrol feels like it wishes it could give you more grunt. We tested the zero to 100 km/h sprint time and could only manage 11.32 seconds. This isn’t helped by the two-pedal CVT which would rather you kept engine revolutions low and speed moderate.


Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT
Soon to be emulated by others. Image: Honda South Africa

Nevertheless, the steering feel is wonderfully light and easy. And you really can feel the absence of weight in its easy movement and overall agility from point to point. It’s actually a fun little busy bee, flitting from A to B. Better still, the taller ride height of the mini-SUV means raised junctions and sleeping policemen are no match for the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT.

Suspension wise, you have tried and tested MacPherson struts up front and a sturdy torsion beam arrangement at the rear. While it’s fairly firmly sprung, Honda has opted for nicely sized 17-inch wheels wearing Yokohama rubber. So, compared to the rest of the compact crossover crowd, it’s also pleasingly chuckable.


Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT
Keenly designed and practical beneath the metal. The Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT is a winner in Mzansi. Image: Honda South Africa

There you have it, the high driving position, distinctive-yet-practical styling and sporting nature (in urban climbs) ensure the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT is a tempting prospect. And let’s not forget the very keen pricing, starting from R369 900 for the manual, and R429 900 for the Elegance CVT you see here. In fact, the more we think about it, the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT doesn’t have a whole lot of genuine competitors playing in its sandpit.

Many may think they’re in the same WhatsApp group but they’re more like adaptations of small hatchbacks. None certainly provide the same felling of QDR (quality, durability and reliability) and class-leading boot capacity (458 litres). We sure hope Honda South Africa can make hay while the sun shines, because cars as impressive as the Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT are bound to be copied very soon. What do they call that again? Ah, yes, the sincerest form of flattery. Good on you, Honda.


  • Best for: Mini-SUV head turner. Unarguably the most practical (458 litres boot capacity). Raised driving position, and a cool cabin to boot.
  • Not so sure: Turbo engine would’ve added more torque (but also more cost). We missed cruise control on the open road.   
  • Honda Elevate 1.5 Elegance CVT
  • Engine: 1 499 cc 4-cyl petrol
  • Power: 89 kW, 145 Nm
  • Performance: 11.32 sec 0-100 km/h (tested)
  • Gearbox: CVT
  • Economy: 6.75 l/100 km (tested), 6.1 l/100 km (claimed/combined)
  • Tyres: Yokohama Blu Earth 215/55/R17
  • Price: R429 900

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