AS AN enthusiast of all things automotive, I struggle to understand how some people can look at a car and see nothing more than a tool that takes them to work and back.
These same people would gladly sacrifice performance, character and elegance for practicality, safety and a reasonable sticker price.
This may seem like a foreign concept to us car lovers, but I must admit that on certain occasions I, too, want a car to be nothing more than a means to an end. Now, before I lose my petrolhead membership card, allow me to explain…
On Friday, last week, we were filming a Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series and a Ford Focus ST – both brilliant cars in their own right. After driving the Toyota across a field in the middle of nowhere, I switched over to the ST, which quickly used its 184kW to put a massive smile on my face.
It was a great day out, but after a day behind the wheel of these two cars, I was worn out! Luckily, the remedy to my predicament was waiting back at the office – a Honda Ballade.
Looking at it for the first time, I knew it wasn’t going to rock my world in the same way the ST did. To be honest, it didn’t look like it was going to do anything at all. The Ballade isn’t stunning, sporty or any of the other adjectives normally used to describe the styling of a vehicle. It’s just a few metres of inoffensive, nondescript bodywork.
On the inside it’s more of the same. There’s a seat to sit in, pedals to make it go forward and stalks behind the steering wheel to let other road users know where you’re going. While the interior styling may not be mind-blowing, it is of a good quality, so any non-car person can take comfort in the knowledge that it will last a lifetime.
The quality interior is further enhanced by a generous amount of comfort and convenience features. The air-conditioning works a treat and the audio system does a good job of coping with even the most shocking tunes out of my shock rock USB collection.
The Ballade’s cosseting interior was slightly at odds with my taste in music though. The tasteful seat upholstery clashed horrendously with The Prayer of the Refugee blasting through the stereo. This conflict forced me to scramble for my relaxing tunes USB, which certainly did its part to highlight the best attributes of the Ballade.
For one, it has loads of space on the inside and in the boot – 506 litres to be exact. The seats are extremely comfortable and the suspension setup is perfect for those who want a car to soothe instead of surprise. Honda has also ensured that the Ballade is easy to drive and easy to live with.
It’s powered by a laid-back 1.5-litre VTEC petrol power plant; it produces a perfectly acceptable 88kW and 145Nm of torque and dispatches the run to 100km/h in under 10 seconds. It’s not the most powerful power plant around, but it is silky smooth and suits the relaxed nature of the car. If driven in a way Ballade owners would be proud of, it should get close to Honda’s claimed fuel consumption figure of 6.3 litres/100km.
If you’re a motoring maniac looking for something to set your world on fire, this isn’t it. The Ballade offers zero excitement, but the trade-off is loads of space and practicality at a highly competitive price.