We have driven the Honda Mobilio, a new seven seater that promises space and flexibility, comfort and class-leading fuel efficiency
MPVs or multi-purpose vehicles will be the next volume drivers. Not our prediction, but something car makers have been telling us for a while. Now though, they have started putting their money where their mouth is. We already have the super successful Toyota Innova roaming our roads for ages (and it has started to show its age). More recently, Maruti has done exceedingly well with its 5+2 seater, the Ertiga; an MPV that's clearly setting the benchmark in terms of sales.
We have had others too. There's the Enjoy from Chevrolet and the Evalia from Nissan. But neither has found significant takers. Clearly then, doing an MPV isn't the sure shot way up the success elevator. An MPV must also satisfy some basic needs - space and comfort, ease of driving, affordable running, and most crucially, upmarket styling.
Honda, the latest entrant in this space, is confident it has all these aspects and more, sorted with its new MPV, the Mobilio. Let's find out if it is in fact true...
On the styling front, the Honda Mobilio has hit the jackpot. Not only is the Mobilio the most contemporary looking MPV in its class, it has that hint of premiumness and sportiness that will have buyers swooning over it. The headlamp, the bonnet resembles that of the Brio and the Amaze. Moreover, the completely revised bumper with its aggressive design - particularly the lower half - gives the Mobilio a whole new character. It also runs 15in wheels and with a roofline that doesn’t exactly look tall, this Honda MPV has a stretched and hunkered down stance. It might look low but it has a respectable and befitting - given our road condition - 189mm of ground clearance.
It's the rear of the Mobilio that truly sets this MPV apart. It has large, wrap around tail lamps; a bumper that wouldn't look out of place on Honda's high end sedans; and smart detailing - like the plastic inserts on the bumper, the floating D-pillar and the tastefully executed creases on the tail gate. It is the Mobilio's best angle and one that gives it an added air of richness.
Not everything is as rosy on the inside though. The dashboard is borrowed from the Brio and the Amaze, which should help in cost saving; and we are fine with that. Our problem is the faux wood; it looks cheap and wrong. But, Honda says, MPV buyers love it. We also thought some plastic bits weren’t up to the mark. The textured plastic looks par for the course, but the matte black plastic looks quite entry-level. The fit at places like for the glovebox could have been better too.
However, on the crucial frontiers of space, practicality and comfort, the Honda Mobilio scores a resounding A. It can seat seven with decent roominess. And thanks to a sliding second row, the knee room in the third row, even for adults, isn't too bad. There's enough head room and with all three rows in place, enough boot space to carry two medium sized suitcases. The Mobilio, like the Brio and the Amaze, isn't a very wide car (in fact, the MPV is only 3mm wider). Therefore, the shoulder room, especially for three abreast seating in the second row, is just about average.
Also, sitting in the middle of the second row is a big compromise. There’s hardly any intrusion on the floor, yes, but thanks to the central armrest, back support and cushioning for the middle occupant is nowhere near comfortable. The rest of the seating, though, get a thumbs up. The seat squabs are large, and with reclining seat backs for all three rows, one can spend long hours in them. One might argue about the slim seat backs, but apart from making the Mobilio's interiors feel slightly inferior than they actually are, there’s no other issue with them; in fact, these work well.
The ride quality is agreeable too. The Honda Mobilio is set up stiffer than the Amaze and the Brio - to carry more people and load, naturally. But, it never feels harsh or unruly, even with just one person on board. At slower speeds, there's hardly any bounce or noise from the suspension and it rounds off the bumps well. It doesn't lose its composure over undulating roads or over a series of pronounced rumbler strips either. And the faster you go, the better it gets.
Straight line stability is impressive as well and the Honda Mobilio isn't averse to quick direction changes either. It isn't as sharp as the Brio, obviously; given it is longer, heavier and it sits on a longer wheelbase. But, never does it feel lost around a series of corners. The turn in is predictable; the body control, manageable; and the grip levels, acceptable.
Sure, it could do with better steering feel, but then over assisted steering response has been an issue with Hondas for years now. And, it isn't something Honda wants to rectify because majority of the buying public like the ease of maneuverability such a steering offers. Speaking of maneuverability, the Mobilio has a reasonably tight turning circle and good visibility too.
Now to the engines. The Honda Mobilio comes with a petrol and a diesel engine, both borrowed from the Honda City and in the same state of tune. The petrol at 119PS is the more powerful of the two with the diesel making 100PS. But, both engines are easy and reasonably quick revving units and offer decent purchase towards the top of the rev band. The latter however has significantly more torque. And this reflects on the road.
The diesel has more alert throttle response and better driveability and overtaking ability. It is also the easier one to drive with load. Though, Honda has reworked some of the gear ratios to give the petrol Mobilio more grunt lower down the rev range, the diesel is still more effortless to drive. Both engines are mated to 5-speed manual gearboxes and come with the promise of high fuel economy figures. The ARAI figure for the petrol Mobilio is 17.3kmpl and that for diesel is 24.2kmpl, making the Mobilio the most fuel efficient MPV around.
Recapping then... Good looks. Check. Interior space and flexibility. Check. Comfortable seating for seven people. Check. Diesel and petrol engine options. Check. Easy to drive. Check. As you can tell, the Honda Mobilio checks all the relevant boxes and more. It's a well thought out and well executed MPV. In fact, it might just be the best buy in its class. All that remains now is its pricing, which we believe will be between Rs 6-9 lakh; a little more than the Ertiga, but significantly lower than the Innova.