• The eighth-generation Honda Ballade launched locally late last year.
• The range consists of three models, with only a 1.5-litre petrol engine on offer.
• We drive the flagship RS model.
Road Sailing. That's what the RS badge is abbreviated to that Honda's flagship Ballade sports.
The suffix is usually festooned on high-performance models on other brands, but the Japanese carmaker uniquely refers to it as 'Road Sailing'. The carmaker says it is "a nod to the smooth nature of a boat sailing on water."
Now in its eighth generation, the Ballade still offers practical motoring with the stable perceived build quality. The Ballade I spent a week with has no airs and graces, and it's there to do a job and make the driver feel as comfortable as possible.
When Honda launched the new model late last year Yuishi Fukuda, president of Honda Motor Southern Africa, said: "We unleash the power of dreams by focusing on our customers' real-world needs." The real-world needs Fukuda alludes were evident during my time with the RS model.
It rides on a platform carried over from the previous model, with some tweaking. The ride quality is commendable. However, I wouldn't go as far as to call it 'road sailing'.
The engine is also from the previous model, but now with double overhead cams instead of one. The quoted power outputs are 89kW and 145Nm which is sent to the front wheels via a CVT. Honda quote a 5.5-litre per 100km fuel consumption and I'm happy to report I matched it after a week of driving.
I'd have liked slightly more power for the range-topping model, but Honda has opted to use the 1.5-litre across the range. The CVT doesn't drone as much as other examples I've tested, and that's immediately a plus. I used the paddles to change 'gears' when the 'box laboured for too long.
The combination of engine, CVT, and work well together to offer a comfortable driving experience focused on your needs. It's a fuss-free journey that's highlighted by a supple ride and good noise, vibration, and harshness levels.
The fact that it runs on 16-inch wheels aids the ride comfort.
I chucked it through some corners on my favourite twisty city road, and its road holding held up well. The new model sits 10mm lower than the previous Ballade, and Honda reckons it the lower centre of gravity improves the car's overall driving dynamics.
The RS is a helluva comfortable place to be on long journeys, and the leather pews are soft with sufficient bolstering in all the right places. The 20cm touch screen is easy to use, although I'm not happy Honda hasn't fitted a volume knob.
The volume can be controlled via the lovely multi-function steering wheel or via a button next to the screen. The instrument cluster is strange as the rev counter is digital, and the speedometer is analog. I'm not sure what the thinking is, but I think they should've stuck to one or the other.
Space inside the cabin is superb, so is the quality of the buttons for the climate control and the leather-rimmed steering wheel. I can't praise it enough.
The RS model is what I'd call full house, and it's fitted with a sunroof, LED headlights and fog lights and a reverse parking camera for convenience.
It also has a huge boot, and the only stickler is that it feels lightweight and cheap when I banged it closed.My final thoughts on the Ballade are that it deserves to succeed.
For R396 900, it's fitted with everything you'd need in a family sedan. Perhaps what's most important is having the Honda peace of mind. It was made for real-world needs, not to show off.