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FIRST DRIVE: Honda’s 2014 Ballade

2014-05-27 10:29

A SECOND CHANCE? Honda's new second-generation Ballade has another chance to win over the sedan-loving public. The car goes on sale from June 1. Image: Honda


Honda has launched its second-generation (of the new generation) Ballade in South Africa and is quite upbeat about the addition to the family.

The new car will be on sale from June 2014 and has been improved in every sense: bigger dimensions, more cabin space, enhanced engine and interior.

IMAGE GALLERY: 2014 Honda Ballade

The Ballade, with its 1.5 four-cylinder petrol engine and choice of five-speed manual or 'auto' constantly variable transmission comes in two specifications – Trend or the higher-specced Elegance.

Graham Eagle, director of sales and marketing at Honda SA, told Wheels24 that the outgoing Ballade had been the local automaker’s “most troubled model” and came with a whole lot of bad luck. It was launched in 2011, two weeks after the tsunami hit Japan and slammed into the company's HQ and main plant. Sales dropped in SA and no stock was coming in.

A few months later (October 2011) the factory was flooded again just after production of the new model started. The Ballade only had a chance to entice buyers in June/July 2012 when it was re-launched.

The new Ballade has already sparked a lot of interest from existing customers with the Ballade being Honda’s best-selling sedan since its re-launch in 2012. The fresh version has a more “modern appeal”, says Eagle.


The new car looks very similar to the outgoing version but Honda says only 14% of its sheet metal's DNA is shared. This one now has sharper lines and is longer and taller; it’s 45mm longer at 4.40m, the wheelbase has grown by 50mm to 2.60m and it's five mm taller at 1.47m. The boot volume is 30 litres bigger at 536.

The front has been redesigned with a chromed grille and added fog lights in the bumper.

While the engine has been tweaked to be more dynamic and efficient, power is the same at 88kW and 145Nm at 6600rpm.

Honda said: “Innovative solutions such as reduced internal friction, weight reduction and its i-Vtec variable valve-timing and the car’s more aerodynamic shape have allowed significant improvements in performance,  fuel economy and emissions.”


I’m still not a fan of the CV transmission even though Honda has aimed for lower engine revolutions through the seven virtual gears "to make the most of the engine’s urge". It still has that distinctive whine that makes the car feel extremely lazy which is rather disappointing because the new engine does feel livelier than that of the outgoing model.

I’d definitely opt for the manualwith its gutsy attitude that gives the impression it can take on slower traffic and the twisty roads of Kromdraai, towards North West, on which we drove this week.

However, the CVT’s lower weight and improved efficiency do reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

The Trend and Elegance units are identical in looks but the latter has shift paddles, Honda’s Econ button on the CVT version to adjusts throttle mapping, shift patterns and cruise control. This button also displays three colours on the instrument clusters depending on driving style: blue for normal, green for eco-driving and red when in sport mode.  

The manual models will reach 100km/h in 9.6sec, return 5.9 litres/100km and reach 185km/h. The CVT version has a claimed fuel thirst of 5.9 litres/100km, makes 100km/h in 11.1sec and tops out at 190km/h.

Also, tyres are now 175/65/R15x 5.5J with 15" steelies or alloys instead of the previous 16" - a tyre size most owners battle with on any vehicle.


Cloth upholstery; clean and neat facia with a new "floating" look; there’s also a new audio system and new multifunction steering-wheel (taken from the Civic) with cruise control, Bluetooth and audio functions.

The Elegance derivative adds a reversing camera with three viewing options: top, normal and top-down view – for when you’re about to hit a wall!

The highlight in both derivatives, though, is the new 18cm colour touchscreen. It has an icon-based graphical user interface for the infotainment system and emulates smartphone screen functionality by offering gesture-based control - including tap to select, swipe to scroll, slide to move and pinch to zoom.

There’s a high-definition media port which allows images, video and audio data to be accessed from devices and displayed on the Ballade’s screen. Pretty cool.

Honda says aftermarket iOS or Android applications can be used to add useful functionality – turn-by-turn wireless adapter linked to the car’s diagnostic port.

The Ballade has an almost premium feel and if I were to buy a new small  sedan for the family I'd much rather save money and buy this over Toyota's Corolla or even a Chevrolet Cruze.

Prices include a three-year or 100 000km warranty, a four-year or 60 000km service plan and a  year's free roadside assistance.

Ballade 1.5 Trend - R195 900
Ballade 1.5 Trend CVT - R210 500
Ballade 1.5 Elegance - R220 990
Ballade 1.5 Elegance CVT - R235 590

2014 Honda Ballade spec sheet

Read more on:    honda  |  launch  |  south africa  |  new model

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