The fam­ily man’s com­mute

BRIAN BAS­SETT ex­pe­ri­ences largesse af­ter giv­ing lifts in the Honda Bal­lade 1,5 Trend Auto

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

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.

Styling

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.

In­te­rior

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.

Han­dling

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.

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

The lug­gage space in the Bal­lade is a gen­er­ous 536 litres, enough to swallow all your fam­ily’s hol­i­day clobber.

PHOTO: AL­WYN VILJOEN

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.

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