• It's back, Honda has launched its latest version of the Ballade in SA.
• The new model competes with Toyota's Corolla and the Mazda 3
• The Ballade is now in its eighth generation.
• For more motoring stories, go to Wheels24.
Honda has a rich heritage of popular models all around the world, and with the first of a couple of new models now launched in SA, the Japanese brand is on the way to find favour with locals again.
Earlier in November, Honda South Africa launched two new models down in Cape Town, the first being an old nameplate in the guide of the brand new Honda, and a new little compact crossover that should surely do well for the brand.
The Ballade, now in it's eigth generation, was first launched in 1982. Now almost four decades later the launch of the new model coincides with the brand's twentieth anniversary here in South Africa.
About 13 years ago I owned an 1997 Honda Ballade Vtec model, of course it was dropped to the ground riding on low-profile tyres and larger rims, since being involved in the Cape Town underground culture. It also had smoked tail lights. But, it was the car that drove me safely up to Johannesburg when I had moved there. It had ample of room in the boot, and also in the rear, which provided even more space for the great trek.
The power of dreams doesn't resonate more true than it does for previous Hondaboys and girls. And the new car is sentiment to that.
I still see plenty of these older models around allover South Africa, but the new model is definitely for the younger Honda fan who has now grown up and has their own family. Now, with the more mature Ballade, owners from yesteryear could easily transition into the new model. Probably the most notable highlight in the mew model is the sufficient rear legroom. The boot is also quite large and would easily house a large pram or a golf bag.
Yuishi Fukuda, president of Honda Motor Southern Africa, encapsulates it all so well: "We unleash the power of dreams by focusing on real-world needs of our customers, and this is certainly true of the Ballade which is one of our longest-running and most successful nameplates in South Africa."
Fukuda says: "The all-new Ballade is a symbol of the brand's evolution in South Africa over the past two decades, and has contributed to Honda's peerless reputation for delivering exceptional durability, quality and reliability in every segment in which we compete."
"Our aim is mobility – to free people to enjoy their lives. That means that we must focus on providing products of the highest quality at a reasonable price," he adds. "To achieve this balance, everything we do, including our product design and business processes, is based on the pillars of quality, durability and reliability. Our customers trust the Honda brand because they know that they can trust our products."
In the past, the Ballade competed directly with Toyota's Corolla, but now the latter comes with a 1.8-litre or 2.0-litre engine and pricing starts from R380 200. Even the Corolla Quest, which is a lot more competitive in terms of pricing, comes with a 1.8-litre engine. The Ballade will compete directly with the Corolla and the Mazda 3, although I would also add the Suzuki Ciaz to the list.
Honda claims there's a new and improved 1.5L DOHC engine with i-VTEC which kicks out 89kW and 145Nm. The power is sent to the front wheels via a revised version of the brand's Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) which now features 'G-Design' shift control. The gearbox does tend to feel a bit laggy, but that's when you're driving harder than usual around the S-bending Clarence Drive in the Cape. Drive it the way it's intended, and you'll get used to it pretty fast.
The Ballade includes three models in its line-up, namely the new RS derivative - which is not a sporty version, it only boasts more funky styling, while Comfort and Elegant rounds up the rest.
The Ballade is the first model to introduce the company's global 'RS' brand name to Southern Africa. Honda uniquely defines the acronym as 'Road Sailing’' a nod to the smooth nature of a boat sailing on water.
The new model is also larger than the outgoing model: 110mm longer, 55mm wider, and 10mm lower, and there's plenty of space in the boot.
The Comfort and Elegance models are equipped with projector-type halogen lights, while the range topping RS is fitted with LED headlights and fog lights. All models come standard with LED daytime running lights and distinctive LED taillights.
The Comfort and Elegance models are equipped with 15-ich alloy wheels, while the RS gains 16-inch alloys.
The flagship RS model is further differentiated through the addition of exclusive RS design elements including front and rear sport bumpers, a rear trunk spoiler, a mesh-type grille and unique fog light housing.
The Comfort and Elegance models feature fabric upholstery, while the range-topping RS interior is adorned with leather upholstery.
A 20cm touchscreen display is integrated into the instrument panel and the infotainment system comes standard on the Elegance and RS models and grants the user full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. The unit also features Bluetooth and steering wheel controls.
Electrically operated side mirrors and windows, cruise control, automatic air-conditioning and auto headlights are all standard features across the range.
The flagship RS model gains a host of additional features and technology such as smart entry with walk-away auto locking, a rear-view parking camera, electric sunroof and an all-new 17cm TFT multi-information display.
The colour line-up includes a new Platinum White (Pearl), Radiant Red (Metallic), Lunar Silver (Metallic) and Modern Steel (Metallic)
1.5 Comfort CVT - R336 500
1.5 Elegance CVT - R366 900
1.5 RS CVT - R396 900
The range comes standard with a five-year or 200 000km warranty, as well as a four-year or 60 000km service plan.