Tag: Honda South Africa

Honda’s WR-V wants a piece of the compact crossover cake

Honda recently launched their WR-V model, which wants a piece of the most competitive segment in South Africa, but is their newcomer the right car for the job? We recently got to experience the liveability of the affordable 1.2 Comfort model. 

The Tokyo-based automaker is no stranger to SUVs, with a broad range on offer from the modest BR-V to the more luxurious CR-V models – this was Honda’s induction into the world of sport utility vehicles in 1995. Suffice to say, they have an impressive history and current portfolio with extensive experience in the field, more than most of their competitors. Dinesh Govender, Honda GM states that the WR-V is positioned below the HR-V and alongside the BR-V, making it their most affordable five-seater compact SUV to date. Partly thanks to components and underpinnings being shared with the popular Jazz model.

That being said, Honda has followed the typical recipe of creating a compact SUV by taking one of their most popular, compact, FWD commuter vehicles and putting it through a stringent routine to get it buff enough to take on market leading bullies such as the dominant Ford Figo Freestyle or Renault Sandero Stepway. This, on paper at least, is a good thing – the Jazz (of which it is based) is a nippy little runabout that is comfortable and usable with a smooth drivetrain and an excess of spaciousness. 

On the outside, the silhouette remains unmistakably that of the current Jazz model with a similarly strong shoulder line feeding into the rear taillights while the rear-end exudes a similar busy-looking Asian-esque aesthetic. The extremities of the car are moulded in durable looking black plastic trim and the bottom of the front and rear bumpers feature butch looking silver diffusers. Honda is confident with the 173mm of ground clearance and short overhangs on the model since scratches and rashes on the low lying silver painted features would be visibly prominent. The front grille makes use of horizontal slats that allude to a widened track, rendering the perception of it being a capable SUV while the 16” alloy wheels finish the four corners of the car.

While this compact WR-V’s styling may not have been designed to win any beauty pageants, what it does succeed with is interior spaciousness and undeniable Honda reliability. Again, the interior arrangement is almost identical to that of its shorter Jazz sibling, with the layout of all dials, center console and vents positioned similarly. Both driver and passengers are afforded with ample leg, head and shoulder room which makes this a great option for longer journeys. 

Additionally, the ‘Magic Seat’ system makes light work of configuring the rear seats to swallow any parcels, bicycles or obscurely shaped luggage with an admirable 881 litres of cargo space once the seats have been folded into their most compact position. In a conventional configuration with 5 passengers, the boot can hold an equally suitable 363 litres, which is impressive on a sub 4-meter vehicle which has ample second row seat legroom. 

The driver dials consist of an analog rev counter and speedometer as well as a digital display with other crucial information. The Comfort model is equipped with a 5” touchscreen which has access to radio, bluetooth and the reverse camera which is quite un-useful due to its minute size. However, for what the small reverse screen fell short in displaying, the PDC equipped on the car assisted comfortably with. We would opt for the more suitably sized 7” infotainment screen found on the Elegance model. 

The WR-V range comprises two derivatives, Comfort and Elegance, both only employ the same punchy and fuel efficient 1.2-litre powertrain and five-speed manual transmission that is proven in countless other models. The ratings of 66kW and 110Nm did not struggle to move the 1081kg mass nimbly forward but the lack of a 6th gear for highway speeds impeded its comfort and efficiency at the maximum national speed limit. A combined fuel consumption figure of just 6.4 l/100km is claimed however we achieved 6.8 l/100km with our journeys being dominated by urban routes. As in the Jazz, the drive is comfortable but does not reward more exciting driving habits. 

Honda employs their tested Advanced Compatibility Engineering (ACE) body structure which allows for the even distribution and redirection of collision energy away from the passenger compartment in the scenario of an accident. Additionally, six SRS airbags, ISOFIX child seat anchors as well as an ABS with EBD are included as standard safety equipment across both models. 

In terms of pricing, the 1.2 Comfort model as we tested costs R 289 900 and the 1.2 Elegance coming in at R 327 300. This is unfortunately on the pricey end of the spectrum in comparison to the Ford Figo Freestyle, which tops out at R268 500 while the Renault Sandero Stepway maxes out less than both with a retail sticker of R251 900. Both models also come with Honda’s five-year/200 000km warranty, backed by a four-year/60 000km service plan.

A portion of the success of this SUV hangs on the reputation Honda have established in their extensive people carrier range. The WR-V garners inspiration from two of its best-selling siblings, the Jazz and BR-V yet the cheaper Jazz (which also includes a derivative equipped with a CVT) may still seem like the most logical option if you are looking for a reliable 5-seater that will comfortably get you from A to B.

Road Sailing with Honda’s new Ballade

Relative comfort and affordability are things that are seldomly mutually exclusive in the car market, particularly with the small sedan segment. Alex Shahini recently spent some time with the new 8th generation Ballade RS to evaluate the newcomers updates and how its disposition stacks it up against its competitors and predecessor. 

Japanese vehicles are revered among South Africans for their easy maintenance and indomitable reliability. While small sedan sales have been dwindling in favour of compact hatches and small SUVs, I would be certain that any number of e-hailing taxi services would comprise a selection of outgoing Ballade models in their fleet. While it may not be as popular as the primary choice found in the Toyota Corolla Quest, one of them is sure to have ferried you and your friends safely and comfortably home after concluding weekend festivities in the early hours of the morning. 

Yuishi Fukuda, president of Honda Motor Southern Africa says the new Ballade’s aim was mobility, with focus on providing the highest quality at a reasonable price. These core and entwined aspects that are crucial in the success of this newcomer in Mzansi which I feel it has hit the nail on the head with. 

The cabin for example, exudes that premium quality feel with a simple and minimalistic interior fascia, incorporating tactile touch-points and materials of high and durable quality, and finished off leather upholstery that makes it feel like a class above. This elevates the 8th Generation from the rapidly ageing interior from its predecessors and brings it into modern contention with more recent releases from Toyota and Suzuki. 

Additional comfort could be found in the overall spaciousness of the cabin for all occupants. While all RS models include a sunroof as standard equipment, my head would occasionally brush against the bulge on the headliner as a result of my forward seating position on account of my shorter than average legs. While it wasn’t completely invasive of my experience, the ample arm and legroom for passengers alludes to the cabin of a much larger car which is why entry-level additions will presumably attempt to chip away at the market share Toyota sedans dominate as e-hailing taxis. 

Fukuda placed additional emphasis on affordability and while the Ballade derivatives are slightly more expensive than their competitors, their build quality makes the additional outlay seem worth it. It will be available in 3 variations, all powered by a 1.5-litre motor mated to Honda’s revised version of a CVT. The entry level Comfort comes in at a competitive R344 300, while the better equipped Elegance is priced in the middle of the range at R375 400. Our RS variant costs just above R400 000 and is undoubtedly the flagship model with its aesthetic trim pieces and additional interior comforts that raise the overall experience. 

In the automotive world, the RS nameplate is steeped with illustrious and athletic connotations to a variety of different manufacturers that have made use of it over their histories. All instill a sense of power and an intrepid nature while behind the wheel. Honda went in a completely contrary direction to the norm with their RS abbreviation signifying Road Sailing. While this is a rebuttal to other RS models that have decorated motoring history, experiencing Honda’s RS model enables understanding behind the sheer confidence of naming the spec in accordance to the smooth nature of a boat sailing on water.

This is compliments of a smooth drivetrain and pliant suspension that negates any unexpected road discomforts. While the previous models made use of the same engine with a single overhead cam and Honda’s i-VTEC technology, the 8th Generation incorporates the use of a dual overhead camshaft which increases power slightly to 89kW at 6 600 r/min with 145 Nm available at a lower rpm of 4500 r/min. The revised engine head also improves efficiency and emissions with a claimed average combined consumption figure of 5.5l/l00km along with CO2 emissions of 131g/km. From our experience behind the wheel dominated by urban stop-start driving, we achieved just below a meagre 6.5l/100km. 

Where the drive experience falls short is its CVT and apparent engine whine at higher rpm. The i-VTEC that has become the butt of many jokes against Honda enthusiasts means that towards the higher rpm spectrum, this 4 cylinder engine produces an audible scream that channels its way into the cabin. Being in Johannesburg with a soaring altitude of 1750m and engine power significantly lower than provided ratings, the apparent mew becomes commonplace in everyday scenarios. In addition, the revised CVT undoubtedly provides high levels of comfort and enjoyment for a smooth journey but still feels out of place in comparison to a conventional gearbox with its constant adjustment in irregular traffic. To mitigate this uncommon feeling to most drivers, Honda have incorporated ‘G-Design’ shift control which simulates a traditional automatic transmission through the integration of artificial gears all the while retaining the efficiency of a CVT.

So what does the R406 100 Ballade RS provide you with and what is the final verdict? Its additional 110mm length and 55mm width from its predecessor provides the interior with a significantly more spacious stature. Also included in the price is smart entry with walk-away auto locking, rear-view parking camera and a 7-inch TFT display. On the exterior, wrap around LED headlamps and taillamps connect the strong shoulder line while all models come standard with LED DRLs that complete the chrome aesthetic on the front end. The Ballade range will include a five-year/200 000 warranty, as well as a four-year/60 000km service plan with 15 000km service intervals. For a bit more outlay in this competitive segment, the Honda provides a strong argument for high quality and comfortable mobility while retaining the authentic Japanese track record for reliability and usability.