Tested: Honda Ballade Elegance

The sweet nature

Every now and then, one slips through the net. Despite being voluntarily bombarded with the latest car-related information on a daily basis, the new Honda Ballade’s arrival at my house caused a smidgen of confusion. It looks nothing like the last Ballade I reviewed. When did they change it?

According to one of my unrelenting sources, at the end of May. This makes a lot of sense as I had just gone on honeymoon so my brain was fixated on other activities. Further research even revealed an invitation to the local launch and a comprehensive press release; which is coming in quite handy right now.

Many of you may remember the Ballade of days gone by; a lekker local version in the eighties and nineties of what was essentially a budget Civic sedan. Back then it was one of Honda’s best sellers so when this “City” sedan was born about three years ago, they quickly renamed it Ballade and brought it to town.

May 2014 saw the introduction of this refurbished Ballade which boasts with sufficient technical and design changes to confuse distracted journalists and win even more customers looking for a spacious, comfortable and affordable sedan. Slightly longer and taller, the press release tells me that 86% of its shape is new.

Its nose still reminds me of other models like the Civic or Insight – this is a good thing – while the profile is drawn with stronger lines, ending in a more sophisticated and elegant rear. The interior has also been spruced up with new shapes, controls and more space; especially at the back

Should you go for this Elegance model, you may enjoy a multi-function steering wheel with cruise control and audio buttons as well as a market-leading touchy-feely audio system. This 7-inch icon-based unit plays RDS radio, CD, mp3/wma, HDMI and Bluetooth sources through eight speakers.

More important to many Namibians is the fact that Ballade comes with black fabric seats and an even bigger boot (536L) with a wider and lower opening. Safety is taken care of by six airbags, active head restraints, traction control, stability control and seat belt pre-tensioners with load limiters.

Honda tinkered with the Ballade’s front suspension, electric power steering and engine ever-so-slightly to increase efficiency and comfort levels. For that trip into the South African countryside, 150mm of ground clearance will come in just as handy as the engine’s willing and frugal nature.

The 1.5-litre four cylinder petrol motor has identical power outputs to the previous Ballade (88kW/145Nm) but reduced friction and weight result in better efficiency. 0-100km/h takes 9.6 seconds (our best was a very impressive 8.3), top speed is 185km/h and claimed average fuel consumption is 5,9L/100km from the 40L tank.

While our weekly consumption average was 7L/100km, I reconfirmed my belief that 1,500cc engines are sweet, eager and free-revving in nature. Although the four 73mm cylinders have a relatively long stroke (89.4cm), this engine has no problem pulling the Ballade’s 1,060kg along at a decent pace.

Give it horns and the VTEC-equipped engine screams to almost 7,000rpm while annoying the traction control in first and second of its five forward gears. This peppy performance may decrease with additional weight but any Honda fan will delight in this motor’s exuberance at high crankshaft revolutions.

Just as enjoyable are the car’s light pedals, steering feel and comfortable seats. The instrument cluster houses a big speedo with eco lighting, a rev counter, digital fuel level and consumption displays as well as a trip computer. The missing temperature gauge is represented by a blue and red warning light.

The Honda Ballade has undergone sufficient changes to confuse distracted journos while offering better value and impressive toys. It is available in six colours, two trim levels, manual or CVT automatic gearbox with a 3-year/100,000km warranty, one year roadside assistance and 4-year/60,000km service plan. This 1.5 Elegance Manual model currently retails for N$220,990.


Performance

0-10km/h: 0.07 seconds
0-20km/h: 0.68 seconds
0-30km/h: 1.28 seconds
0-40km/h: 1.85 seconds
0-50km/h: 2.75 seconds
0-60km/h: 3.47 seconds
0-70km/h: 4.52 seconds
0-80km/h: 5.59 seconds
0-90km/h: 6.75 seconds
0-100km/h: 8.32 seconds
0-110km/h: 10.08 seconds
0-120km/h: 11.91 seconds
0-130km/h: 13.89 seconds
0-140km/h: 16.13 seconds

0-100m: 6.60 seconds @ 88.72km/h
0-200m: 10.19 seconds @ 110.84km/h
0-300m: 13.22 seconds @ 126.64km/h
0-400m: 15.93 seconds @ 139.25km/h

Maximum acceleration G-force: 0.53G

Altitude: 58m

All data captured by Racelogic® Performance Box

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