The family man’s commute
BRIAN BASSETT experiences largesse after giving lifts in the Honda Ballade 1,5 Trend Auto
DESIGNING a sub-compact family saloon is not easy, as it needs to be all things to all people.
So it will be good-looking to stimulate pride of ownership, peppy so that the owner can feel like a race-car driver occasionally, spacious to take the family on holiday in comfort and to accommodate all their luggage, as well as economical, so that the school and office run can be undertaken without destroying the monthly budget.
The Honda Ballade, which has been around since 1980 and is now in its fifth generation, is sold as just such a vehicle and I am grateful to Gary Stokes of Honda Fury Pietermaritzburg for allowing me a few days with the vehicle to find out whether this is, in fact, so.
The Ballade has quite a rakish feel to its design. The front end is aggressive with a centrally mounted badge flanked by twin sets of dual headlights. In the Elegance spec, the car also has a pair of fog lamps mounted low down on the front end, which seems to round off the face of the vehicle.
The car has strong lines at the side which gradually open to the rear, leading the eye naturally to the wraparound tail-light clusters linked by a chromed strip across the rear of the vehicle, above which is mounted the Honda badge.
The whole design is neatly and cleverly executed, and made me feel that it had been given intellectual as well as engineering consideration.
The Honda name is synonymous with build quality and the Ballade is an example of this.
The plastics are robust and the seats are covered with a quality cloth which can be cleaned easily. The doors are wide so that oldies like me can move in and out without any inconvenience. The seats at the front are fully adjustable, as is the steering wheel, so the driver will not be uncomfortable.
I managed to round up three members of the iconic Fatpack who accompanied me on a pilgrimage to Notties and even paid for the beer (although I was told not to expect this again for a while).
Everybody was impressed with the rear space and, at the end of the run, much later in afternoon, we all agreed that a journey to Johannesburg in the vehicle would be quite comfortable for four adults. The luggage space is generous at 536 litres and will easily carry your family’s holiday clobber.
Buttons ready to hand
The dashboard on the Trend spec I drove is simple, with all dials being placed close together in front of the driver.
There is no multifunction steering, wheel and controls are hand operated. However, everything is readily to hand and, once I became used to them, they were easy enough to manage.
The Trend also has Bluetooth and an Eco button, which puts the vehicle into a more fuel-efficient mode, which should help get the passenger out of the foul mood the Honda’s Bluetooth setup will put them in.
Another of the passengers, Wheels editor Alwyn Viljoen, advises fellow Luddites who want to play music off a digital device to pack an aux-cable and just link direct.
Viljoen said any attempt to link a cellphone to any Honda requires reading the manual, or you will earn a fail.
If you intend keeping the car for a long while, you should look at the Elegance spec, which is around R25 000 more, but offers everything from automatic transmission to front fog lights, multifunction leather-covered steering wheel, touch-screen display, cruise control, rear-view camera and paddle-shift
gear selection — to mention but a few.
Safety and security
The Ballade is equipped with the usual ABS and EBD, as well as emergency brake assist, vehicle stability assist, hill start assist, and six front, side and curtain air bags, seat belts for all and a highmounted brake light at the rear.
The Ballad also has remote, keyless entry, auto speed-sensitive locking and selective door opening. There is also an alarm, as a last line of defence should anyone break in.
The Ballade is a family sedan and I expected somewhat muted handling, but was surprised by the fact that it is a lively car, which responds well to fairly aggressive driving.
The engine is a 1,5-litre I-Vtec, which is available in five-speed manual or seven-speed automatic gearboxes.
The drive train delivers 88 kW of power and an impressive 145 Nm of torque, so that power is always available and driving on the N3 is no problem.
The car handles well in town and is a pleasure to park while shopping. With smaller engines, an automatic gearbox always enhances driving pleasure and, if I were buying the car I would certainly elect the auto box.
Fuel consumption is around seven litres per 100 kms, while 0-100 km/h will take you 12 seconds in the automatic and top speed is around 176 km/h, at which speed the car is quite stable. Not, of course, that I would ever drive at that speed.
Costs and the competition
The entry level Ballade is about R200 000, while the 1,5 Elegance auto will cost you about R236 000.
Remember, there are special deals offered sometimes and you should consult the Internet before buying.
The car has a 100 000 km or threeyear manufacturer’s guarantee and a four-year or 60 000 km service plan.
This area of the market offers many choices and you should also have a look at the Volkswagen Polo, Kia Rio, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Corolla Quest, to name just the top sellers.
The luggage space in the Ballade is a generous 536 litres, enough to swallow all your family’s holiday clobber.
Attempting to link a cellphone to any Honda without reading the manual will earn you a fail. In our book, only a GWM Steed 6 has a more obdurate system.