Honda Ballade to return In all my years of interest in motoring, I cannot think of anyone Iâ€™ve engaged with on the topic who hasnâ€™t driven in, owned, known someone who owned, or at least has some memory or opinion surrounding the Honda Ballade. Launched locally in 1982, the Ballade was assembled and marketed under the auspices of Mercedes-Benz South Africa. This unique collaboration allowed the Honda passenger car brand to establish a foothold in SA in terms of credibility and dealer network. At the same time, the Ballade provided MBSA with a uniquely positioned compact car that was able to meet the needs of its discerning customer base. Since the Ballade was sold and serviced through MBSA dealerships, it became instantly popular among Mercedes-Benz owners wanting to add a second, smaller and more affordable quality car to the family garage. The Honda Ballade quickly established itself as an important player in the burgeoning compact sector, pioneering features such as air-conditioning and optional automatic transmissions at a time when these were unheard of in small cars. Sales were driven by buyers becoming increasingly aware of the unique combination of quality, comfort and convenience offered by the Ballade model range.
In its first year, the Ballade only attracted 1 500 customers, but by 1992, sales had risen to a monthly average of a 1 000 cars. The Ballade collaboration spanned 19 years, during which 171 100 vehicles were sold. During that period, six generations of the Ballade were launched, representing a total of 45 variants.
The original 1,3-litre engine was gradually augmented by more powerful engines, including 1,6 VTEC and 1,8-litre units, however the core of the range were 1,5 and 1,6-litre units which provided a good combination of performance, economy and durability. As the world’s largest engine builder, Honda was able to equip the Ballade with advanced powerplants, while MBSA’s exacting assembly standards ensured a degree of quality unique in the compact car sector at the time. “The original Honda Ballade was a small-car pioneer that established many of the core values SA customers associate with the Honda passenger car brand to this day – quality, reliability and high levels of ownership satisfaction,” says Graham Eagle, director of sales and marketing at Honda SA. One of the most iconic nameplates on the South African motoring landscape is set to return when Honda SA launches an all-new Ballade passenger car in the first quarter of next year. With the task of living up to its namesake as the brand that established Honda as a passenger car brand in SA, as well as set elevated standards for small cars in terms of quality, service and luxury, it is quite a challenge that new Ballade faces. “We are delighted to reintroduce the iconic nameplate to the local market. After an absence of 10 years in South Africa, the Honda Ballade returns to offer another quality sedan option to the Honda customer bridging the gap between the Honda Jazz and Honda Civic ranges. We are convinced that it will have a significant impact on the small car market, much like the original did all those years ago” says Eagle. The new Ballade will make its debut in the first quarter of 2011, and will reflect Honda’s commitment to bringing the enjoyment of motoring to a broader audience through products that are relevant, affordable and environmentally responsible. No information is currently available regarding the model line-up and powertrain options, but will be published closer to the launch date. Here’s to another generation of Ballade motoring memories. - Kevin Willemse