So­phis­ti­cated con­ve­nience

BRIAN BAS­SETT boots up the new Honda Bal­lade Ex­ec­u­tive

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

HONDA first in­tro­duced the Bal­lade in 1980, when Mercedes-Benz were cus­to­di­ans of the brand in South Africa and sta­tus-con­scious own­ers re­ferred to their pur­chases as Mercedes Hon­das.

The Bal­lade is known as the “City” in its In­dian home mar­ket and in South Africa the Bal­lade is to Honda what the Corolla is to Toy­ota.

The Bal­lade is based on the un­der­pin­nings of the MPV­like Jazz and I can­not help some­times think­ing of it as a booted Jazz.

In 2015, the Ex­ec­u­tive ver­sion of the Bal­lade was in­tro­duced as a re­sult of cus­tomer de­mand and new fea­tures were added to the ex­ten­sive list of the El­e­gance.

We of­fer our ap­pre­ci­a­tion to Gary Stokes, dealer prin­ci­pal of Honda Fury, Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, for al­low­ing us to drive the car for a few days. at the touch of a but­ton for added vis­i­bil­ity and safety. It also has chromed door han­dles that un­der­line the Bal­lades’ smart ap­pear­ance. All win­dows are elec­tri­cally op­er­ated. The en­tire de­sign, while con­ser­va­tive, is well ex­e­cuted and the re­sult is a good-look­ing car. The in­te­rior is un­ex­pect­edly spa­cious and, thanks to am­ple rear leg and head room, will take four adults in sin­gu­lar com­fort. The seat­ing is cov­ered in ro­bust leather and the front seats are ad­justable.

The driver’s seat can also be raised or low­ered. The plas­tics are tac­tile and ro­bust, while build qual­ity is of the best. Like the Jazz, the Bal­lade is un­likely to rat­tle, what­ever the road sur­face. The boot of­fers a gen­er­ous 536 litres of space.

The leather-cov­ered rake­and-reach steer­ing op­er­ates the six-speaker ra­dio/AUX/CD sys­tem and three dif­fer­ent plugs take care of all your tech­nol­ogy needs.

The multi-func­tion steer­ing also of­fers tog­gles to op­er­ate all in­fo­tain­ment, cruise con­trol and Blue­tooth func­tions. The dash­board is sim­ple, al­most min­i­mal­is­tic, and the ana­logue gauges, sur­rounded by a pleas­ant blue light, are sup­ple­mented by a dig­i­tal panel show­ing trip mea­sure­ment, fuel con­sump­tion and ex­te­rior tem­per­a­ture.

In an era that has seen smart­phone cul­ture in­creas­ingly in­ter­twined with car own­er­ship, there has been a rapid pro­lif­er­a­tion of in-car touch­screen in­ter­faces.

In the Bal­lade, the sev­eninch touch­screen dom­i­nates the cen­tral stack and has large icons, as well as scroll and zoom de­vices that recog­nise the user’s tap and ac­cess a wide range of information.

The HDMI port al­lows the down­load­ing of con­tent from smart de­vices, in­clud­ing nav­i­ga­tion. All of which makes the Bal­lade ideal for tech-savvy buy­ers on a bud­get. The Bal­lade Ex­ec­u­tive has a class-lead­ing range of safety fea­tures.

The usual ABS with EBD, six front, side and cur­tain air bags, seat belts with pre-ten­sion­ers and load lim­iters , Isofix an­chor­ages, Ve­hi­cle Sta­bil­ity As­sist, Hill Start As­sist, Emer­gency Brake As­sist and a re­verse-view cam­era, which of­fers both a dy­namic tra­jec­tory dis­play and oblique kerb view. Many of these fea­tures one would not ex­pect on a ve­hi­cle with B-seg­ment price po­si­tion­ing. The Bal­lade Ex­ec­u­tive also has a fac­tory-fit­ted se­cu­rity sys­tem. The Bal­lade Ex­ec­u­tive’s tried and tested, 1.5-litre iVTEC, four-cylin­der, 88 kW/145 Nm, fuel-in­jected petrol en­gine will take you from 0 to 100 km/h in around 12 sec­onds.

The five-speed man­ual gear box is easy and pleas­ant to op­er­ate. and the steer­ing is di­rect and the drive en­joy­able.

In town, the car parks eas­ily and has suf­fi­cient power to move you out of trou­ble quickly. On the N3, there is enough power to pass long loads safely and the Bal­lade Ex­ec­u­tive cruises eas­ily at 120 km/h, but moves quickly to 140 km/h if the driver is not care­ful.

Top speed is around 180 km/h and ex­pect around seven litres per 100 km of fuel con­sump­tion in the com­bined cy­cle. The car also per­forms well on dis­trict roads and even at speed han­dles damp road sur­faces with ease.

The Bal­lade is not, how­ever, an off-road ve­hi­cle and it is much more com­fort­able on a con­ven­tional tarred sur­face than on rut­ted, muddy roads.

The Bal­lade Ex­ec­u­tive is a solid, con­ser­va­tive fam­ily sedan which, with the many fea­tures that are packed into it, serves the needs of most mod­ern mo­torists. The Bal­lade Ex­ec­u­tive man­ual comes in at about R280 000, while the au­to­matic will cost you around R300 000.

The car comes with a three­year/100 000 km man­u­fac­turer’s guar­an­tee and a fouryear or 60 000 km ser­vice plan.

The car we drove was a 2016 model with 18 000 km on the clock. The ask­ing price is R225 000 — so a sav­ing of R55 000 for just a few months of own­er­ship.

Cur­rent eco­nomic cir­cum­stances truly make it an auto buyer’s mar­ket.

Also browse the Kia Rio, Hyundai Ac­cent, Toy­ota Corolla Quest and VW Polo Vivo, to men­tion just a few other top sell­ers.

PHOTO: QUICKPIC

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