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I grew up as part of a generation where a Honda was perceived as premium Japanese vehicle when compared with others brands from the same country. They were better built, more contemporary looking and leaned on their formula 1 pedigree – as a bit of marketing sprinkle – in terms of an athletic appeal.
Times change. I do not need to tell you that! Powers shift and things evolve. Honda as a brand has been softer in their approach over the last decade or so, losing their leadership in my mind. Their products remain well made but innovation has slowed, unfortunately. There is increased competition, all of which are on a par with Honda’s offering, in some form or another and some even better.
The Ballade is a stalwart with the brands offering that goes back 40 years over eight generations. This compact sedan in the newest Ballade remains trim with surprisingly good interior room, is well-made and pleasing on the eye.
A quick walk around the Ballade presents modern lines, which borrows from both Japanese and European design influence. The front is sleek and friendly looking, like most Japanese vehicles. The rear resembles the BMW 3 Series in the taillight design.
I drove the top-of-the-range RS model. Like all the other models in the range, the RS features the same 1.5-l four-cylinder motor (89 kW/145 NM), so do not be fooled by the exotic RS badge – this is not a sports sedan. Instead, Honda’s meaning for the RS badging is “Road Sailing”. Yes, the RS does have additional exterior and interior garb that elevates it from the standard Ballade and in reference to the badge the ride of the Ballade is supple and relaxed, almost as if you were sailing but on the road.
Highlights of the Ballade are its build integrity, spacious cabin, reassuring drive and ease in which to live with on a daily basis. The Ballade is offered in automatic transmissions only, an infamous CVT (Continual Variable Transmission). The reason they are popular is that they are lighter, smaller and cheaper to produce. There is also data to back up the fact that they can be slightly more fuel-efficient when compared to standard automatic gearboxes. The downside is their elastic sensation of that never feels like the car is actually changing gears. After spending a week with the car, I found the gearbox is well suited to the cars “sailing” character. Yes, if you plant your foot and go for a joy ride this is not the best gearbox for such escapades. Calm and steady is best.
The interior being spacious is also sumptuous, especially is the RS offering that features leather seating, which is rather supportive while remaining comfortable too. The dashboard is adorned with a standard touchscreen tablet for the car’s functionality. Adjacent to is the half-digitised instrument binnacle for the driver’s information which is managed by the controls on the solid steering wheel.
It’s a nice car the Ballade but as a began – the world is changing and there is ever increasing competition. Luckily, in the favour of the Ballade, the competition is older. On the downside, the Ballade hold a slight price disadvantage over its rival. These two factors aside sedans are less fashionable, so those less interested in trends and like a vehicle that is well-made the Ballade is worth a string consideration.
Fiat Tipo, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Almera, Suzuki Ciaz, Toyota Corolla Quest and the VW Polo Sedan.
1.5 Comfort CVT R336 500
1.5 Elegance CVT R366 900
1.5 RS CVT R396 900
The service and warranty
The Honda Ballade range is sold with a 5-year/200 000km warranty and a 4-year/60 000km service plan.
1.5 Comfort CVT R336 500
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