Honda Might Be Late to the Party Today, but Was Always Ahead of the Curve

Honda recently revealed all there is to know about its upcoming SUV Elevate and we even got a chance to drive it. Now Honda might be late to the party now, but a quick look at its past will reveal it was always ahead of the curve and the Elevate embodies that sentiment as well.

By Dhruv Paliwal | on August 3, 2023 Follow us on Autox Google News

Turning up fashionably late to a party is one thing and then there is simply late, a point where the early crowd has gone home, the fun crowd isn’t so fun anymore, and you are arguably left trying to level with the inebriated ones who believe the world begins and ends with the point they are trying to make. Translate this into car terms, or rather SUV terms, and Honda has been rather late in turning up to the SUV party with the Elevate. In fact, the SUV party is no longer an SUV party (as sedans have started to gate crash it). And this took me back to the good old days when Honda was a first-mover.

The year was 1998 and Honda entered the Indian market with the City. It was technically the third generation of the City globally, but it was the first-gen for India and it was a show-stopper - and ahead of its time. To give you an example, the first-gen City featured fully independent rear suspension. It had an engine capable of revving to 7,200 rpm in the case of the V-TEC version and even the non-V-TEC version managed a healthy 6,800rpm. You got power-adjustable ORVMs! And all of it worked and would continue to work today. How can I say? Well, I own one! In fact, it’s soon going to run out its on-paper life, but give the engine a boot full of throttle even today and you realise that it will outlast a modern car in its sleep. I am not joking. The amount of abuse my City’s 1.5-litre naturally aspirated in-line four-cylinder engine has suffered at my hands is not even funny. And all it has to say, even after all this, “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?”

What’s the point of all this? Why am I ranting about a 20-year-old car, today? Well, firstly, it is so I could thank Honda. Thank you, for not bowing in to the pressure when every other carmaker around you was hopping onto the bandwagon of any new gimmick that could hold the customer’s attention even for a second. And secondly, thank you Honda for not bucking into the trend of bringing in a new car and creating a segment that lies between already-existing segments just to call things “segment-first”. 

Back in the day, when Honda brought the City, it was a revelation. It was an aspirational product, one that even enthusiasts loved - but there was nothing gimmicky about it. Honda wasn’t chasing the whims of the customer. Instead, it showed the customers that this is how cars can be - practical, yet fun. The customer will always want the shiny new thing that everyone else is buying. We are all humans at the end of the day, so it’s built into us to want shiny new things or features in this case. 

But, if you are the carmaker, you have done the research. You have tested new cars, and new features and you would know what’s going to be more beneficial for us in the long run, than us ourselves! Case in point, Honda brought in the independent rear suspension a quarter of a century ago, and while it made the car more expensive, Honda still went ahead with it. But then, eventually, this piece of technology disappeared. Since very few other automakers went after it and soon abandoned it due to the pressure of being cost-effective, it disappeared from the following generations of the City too. 

Also Read: Opinion: The best mid-size sedan in the business is…

But even today, when I take my City out for a joy ride, the ride quality over broken roads, of the tier 2 city that I call home, remains the best in the business. It makes me wonder, wouldn’t it be better to bring back this manufacturer’s approach? One where the manufacturer thinks about the long-term benefits that a customer will gain rather than the short-term rush of getting a new, but gimmicky feature like a sunroof? I can tell you this, do such a thing and even after 20 years, millions of drivers with no back pain will utter a silent thank you!

But coming back to Honda being late to the party with the Elevate. I am yet to drive the car, but from what I have heard from my colleagues - it’s a stellar job in all areas where a car should be the best. There is no fancy turbo-petrol engine option on offer, just a simple, high-revving naturally aspirated petrol engine that will sing its song all day without a care in the world. And for those of you who got seduced by the ground clearance of other small SUVs on the market, let me tell you this - the Elevate has 220mm of it and that makes me want to call it a “real SUV.” And from what I have heard, it’s dynamically sorted to drive as well. 

So, thank you Honda, because even if you were late to the SUV party, you were late because you did what you have always done. Nailed the basics and chose to make the Elevate what an everyday SUV should be, regardless of modern trends that chase gimmicks over practicality.

If you are a Honda City fan and have stuck around till the end, we want you to know that you are not alone in your love for the City, especially the first-gen model. A lot of us in the editorial team at autoX have had the pleasure of owning one, and here’s how we remember it:

Dhruv Behl, Editor-in-Chief: "Fun; Practical; Reliable. Not many machines fit that illusive description, but these three adjectives perfectly describe the first-gen City. Mine wasn’t a VTEC, but the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder motor still loved to rev – and it was bulletproof to boot. Clearly, this was a well-engineered machine that was built to be really driven, while being inherently reliable at the same time. I still miss it..."

Ishan Raghava, Managing Editor: "Fast, loud, fun to drive and an absolute hoot, that was my experience with my Honda City. My City was the first-generation VTEC with a custom paint job, modded exhaust and a custom stereo system. Revving till 7,200rpm, I pretty much drove it everywhere flat-out and I did put on some serious mileage on it - 5 years and 200,000kms! I always loved the engine, the slick gearbox, the visibility and the steering feel. And if I could buy and use one today, I would do it all over again!"

Manav Sinha, Digital Editor: "The City holds a special place for me as it was the car that perhaps started it all. The type 2 model, adorning the luscious golden paint, was a car that I learnt the most in - be it how to be a better driver or how to take care of a car mechanically. Maybe, I remember it being more magical than what it was 'cause of the soft corner I have for it, but I would still jump on the opportunity to drive it once again for kilometres at a stretch, in a heartbeat."

Karan Mathur, Multimedia Producer: "My experience with the first-gen Honda City was always of those borrowed from friends. In fact, one example which I fondly remember belonged to the author of this article - Dhruv Paliwal. Even though the car looked dated outside, it was a gem of an automobile to drive. Peppy, hunkered down, great feedback and rock stable at high speeds. I would always find excuses to use it whenever I could, especially if I had to get somewhere in a hurry!"

Tags: Honda Honda Elevate Elevate City Honda City

1 Comment


Good take on the Curve:)

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