Honda’s stated aim of becoming India’s third-largest car-maker is already coming true. But the Big H is far from resting on its laurels. The new Honda Mobilio MPV is due to be launched in India on July 23rd. We get behind the wheel to bring you this exhaustive road test of Honda India’s latest family car.
Design & Engineering
The Mobilio's rear doors are 195 mm longer than those of the Amaze.
That the new Mobilio is built on the Brio platform is obvious; the front end styling and interior dashboard give the game away. However, Honda’s designers have been hard at work to give the Mobilio a character all its own. When viewed in profile, the extended wheelbase and longer rear doors have been neatly done, with the ‘lightning strike’ kink in the rear door, and the crisp crease along the sides. The floating D-pillar effect, courtesy of an extended, blacked-out rear quarter glass is another unique and delightful design detail. The sharply-styled tail lamps borrow some cues from the recently-introduced new Honda City. At the rear, we also see reflector in a matte-black mesh surround, which break up the mass of the rear bumper quite well.
In fact, when compared to the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga, which is its most obvious competitor, the Mobilio takes the crown for styling.
The Mobilio is built on a stretched Brio platform, with a similar independent front suspension and a torsion beam axle at the rear. The engine is mounted transversely and drives the front wheels. In fact, the Mobilio’s compact-car underpinnings also contribute to making it feel very car-like from behind the wheel, as we’ll see later in this road test.
The spare wheel is mounted below the rear bumper. This saves space, but changing a puncture can be tedious and time consuming.
Interiors & Comfort
Dashboard not the prettiest, but score on functionality. Faux wood trim looks and feels cheap.
MPV’s are all about space and flexibility, and this is one area where Honda’s engineers have spent a lot of time and thought in eking out every last inch of space within the Mobilio’s cabin. The Mobilio is a 7-seat MPV, with three rows of seats. Packaging all this within 4.4 metres was a challenge, but Honda has achieved this quite admirably. The second row splits 60:40 to allow access to the third row. There’s a simple one-touch mechanism to flip and tumble the second row seats, which customers will appreciate. The third row seatbacks also fold in a 50:50 ratio, although the tumble function sees the whole seat flipping forward.
Moblio offers lots of versatility and practicality. Third row seat backs fold 50:50, which is better than the Ertiga which does not.
The second row of seats are on rails, and can slide forward and back by up to 4 inches, increasing leg room for passengers in the third row if required. The third row has enough shoulder-room to accommodate two passengers side by side, but the low seating position leads to a crouched posture, which isn’t comfortable over longer distances.
The dashboard is a straight lift from the Brio, and that much is obvious from the moment you open the doors. However, Honda has tried to give the Mobilio faux-wood finish, but the plasticky inserts used on the dashboard and door pads feel cheap and look quite tacky, to be honest. However, customer feedback indicates that this is what the Indian car buyer wants.
Black and beige colour scheme lends airy ambience; glovebox is spacious; roof-mounted blower, but AC not very effective
What we did like was the faux-leather upholstery of the seats, which seemed well-finished. The beige colour scheme and black-and-beige dashboard have also been designed to suit Indian tastes. The Mobilio has a full black dashboard for the Indonesian market.
During our road test of the new Honda Mobilio, it was cloudy for the most part with the temperatures in the high 20s, but even then we felt that the AC was struggling to cool the cabin effectively. Honda’s engineers told us that the Mobilio uses a larger compressor from the Honda Freed, along with a separate condenser for the rear blower. However, we felt that the cooling performance could have been better, and this will be a consideration for prospective buyers.
Performance & Handling
Driving pleasure and driver involvement aren’t what MPVs are about, but this being a Honda, expectations may be higher. And true to form, Honda have managed to engineer an MPV which doesn’t feel a handful. Disclaimer: the Mobilio is NOT sporty, but it isn’t drab and dull either from behind the wheel. It displays surprising levels of grip, and while you do have body roll, never does it feel like it is going to tip over.
The Mobilio drives differently depending on which engine option you choose, and I have to say it is the diesel which proves nicer to drive. It’s not just the strong torque and good drivability of the diesel, but also the steering, which feels more positive. In the petrol Mobilio, the steering feels overly light and twitchy, which never inspires confidence.
The petrol Mobilio is powered by the same 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine which powers the Honda City. It produces a similar 119 PS and 145 Nm of torque. The i-VTEC motor has a reputation for being rev-happy, but this characteristic does not suit a car of the Mobilio’s character. You need to rev the engine to get the most out of it, and it sounds thrummy and raucous when you do so.
The Mobilio diesel uses Honda’s i-DTEC diesel, which Indian customers are now familiar with. This 1.5 diesel has 100 PS and 200 Nm of torque, but it is the low-rpm response which makes the diesel very easy to drive. Max torque comes in at a lowly 1,750 rpm, and the low gearing makes it very tractable too. The Mobilio’s gearing is two percent shorter compared to the Amaze, thanks to a shorter final drive. This we surmise is because of the higher kerb weight of the Mobilio, which is approximately 100 kgs more than the Amaze.
Honda has also spent time and effort on refining the NVH characteristics of the new Mobilio, and it indeed feels quieter than the diesel Amaze. Engine noise is well isolated from the passenger cabin. However, there is considerable wind roar in the Mobilio.
The gearshift in both versions feels quite notchy, but shifts are positive and we never missed a gear change, even when driving spiritedly. Braking is confidence inspiring too, but a fully-loaded Mobilio might require the driver to exert considerable effort on the brake pedal.
Fuel efficiency or mileage is often a make-or-break factor when buying a car, particularly in India, but Honda does have a reputation for making some of the most fuel-efficient cars on our roads. The diesel Mobilio has been rated at 24.2 km/l by ARAI, while the petrol Mobilio has a mileage figure of 17.3 km/l. These figures best those of the Maruti Ertiga quite comfortably, and real-world mileage should be expectedly higher too.
Honda haven’t announced the variant details for the Mobilio yet, but the top-of-the-line V-spec we drove had ABS and two airbags for the driver and front passenger. However, we expect the Mobilio will offer ABS on the lower variants too, particularly with the diesel version, similar to the Amaze. Indian legislation is still some way away from specifying ABS as mandatory on all cars sold in India, but manufacturers ned to take the lead on this issue. Nissan for example, has been a pioneer for safety in Indian vehicles, and Honda would do well to follow its compatriot manufacturer’s lead.
We do hope that Honda will offer basics like a rear defogger and rear wash-wipe on all the variants of the Mobilio. In the case of the Ertiga, Maruti only offers these conveniences on the highest ZXi/ZDi spec.
The new Honda Mobilio will be launched in India on July 23. We’ll have to with until then to get the variant details and pricing, but that doesn’t prevent us from evaluating the rest of the package. The basics are all in place for this new MPV, and it drives quite well, is easy to operate, offers plenty of space and flexibility, and offers customers the choice of two engines. It does appear to have more luggage room with all 7 seats in place, as compared to the Ertiga.
This being Honda, the company will price it at a premium to the Maruti Ertiga, which is its most obvious competitor. By our estimate, customers can expect to pay about Rs 40-60,000 more for a Mobilio than an equivalent Ertiga. Honda does have the highest customer satisfaction and quality indices though, which go some way to justifying this premium. Of course, we will need to wait to do a full comparison test with the Ertiga, but the Honda Mobilio does appear to have covered most of the basics of style, driving feel and practicality better.
In the Indonesian market, the Mobilio enjoys considerably higher sales than the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga, and if that is any indicator, then Honda has a true winner on its hands. However, it Honda has fewer dealerships and service centres as compared to Maruti, and that may prove to be a limiting factor for what is otherwise a very good car for the Indian family car buyer.
Maruti Ertiga, Chevrolet Enjoy, Toyota Innova, Nissan Evalia