Honda has launched its first 7-seater MPV, the Honda Mobilio, in the Indian market with the hope that it’ll further bolster its sales comeback. We drive it for our Honda Mobilio and to find out if the Honda Mobilio can keep Honda’s mean streak going.
In a complicated market like India, people carrier MPV’s have always been a tough sell – with the segment witnessing more misses than hits over the years. And the reason behind these failures has mostly been because of two major factors – pricing and looks. As we’ve seen in the recent past, Indian customers just don’t take to MPV’s that are too van like – they don’t want their cars looking like taxis, plain and simple! And then there’s the question of pricing. As is well known, Indian consumers are suckers for value pricing and will go to great lengths to avoid any products that they deem to be overpriced.
Things changed dramatically, however, with the introduction of the Maruti-Suzuki Ertiga a couple of years ago. Here was a product that didn’t look like a van, offered a decent amount of space, and was priced well. As you would expect, Indian consumers absolutely lapped it up – and in doing so created a brand new segment, the privately owned MPV. So, naturally, other manufacturers immediate got interested. And the first challenger in this segment is the Honda Mobilio. So we did our Honda Mobilio to find out how good the car actually is.
Having seen some tough years in the Indian market off late, Honda has been on a massive resurgence ever since the launch of the Amaze last year. This has been followed up by the new City, and both these launches have been smashing successes. In fact, Honda’s sales for the years 2013-14 stood at over 134,000 units – their highest ever in the Indian market. So, it’s safe to say that the company has pretty high expectations from the Honda Mobilio to further bolster this sales growth.
Based on the same platform as the Amaze, theHonda Mobilio is aimed primarily at large families that need the extra space. The first impression, then, is quite impressive – beginning with the volume of interior space available in the car. The extra space in the Honda Mobilio has been created by extending the wheelbase by 247mm over the Amaze – while the length of the car goes up to 4.4 meters. The rear doors are also larger, which eases access to the second and third rows of seats.
A proper 7-seater MPV, the Honda Mobilio is a comfortable vehicle – providing a surprising amount of space in all rows. So, while the front seats are quite comfortable, the adjustable second row has enough space for three full-sized adults to be seated comfortably. And while the third row is only wide enough for two people to fit, there is adequate space for two adults. The one issue is the raised floor in the third row, which does mean that the legs of the occupants in the back are set a little too high. And while that might be a bit of a concern on long journeys, for short trips it’s quite manageable. Another remarkable thing is that even with all three rows being used, there’s still enough boot space available to store a reasonable amount of luggage. To give credit where it’s due, the space management by the Honda Honda engineers in the Honda Mobilio is excellent. One thing that impressed us a lot during our Honda Mobilio.
The design of the car too is fairly pleasing – with the front carrying on the Brio / Amaze design language, while the sides are dominated by two strong character lines and a rearward swoop that blends into the rear bumper. The window-line also gets an interesting kink in the rear door, which adds to the character of the Honda Mobilio. And while the big chrome front grille makes the Honda Mobilio look quite distinctive, I think it’s a little over the top. The wraparound tail lamps, though, are quite stylish and lend a balanced and pleasing look to the sharp edged rear end. Overall, the design is better executed than the Maruti Ertiga – with the rear end making a definite impact. Most importantly, it definitely doesn’t come across as a commercial vehicle.
As far as the interiors are concerned, one can clearly make out the Amaze lineage – with the dashboard and other components remaining largely the same. The main addition are the rear AC vents mounted in the roof, which have independent controls. And while the interior design and build quality is quite functional, it’s not something you’ll ever be in awe of. In fact, in parts, the plastic quality could certainly do with some improvement – such as the dash and the door pads, which look and feel a little tacky with their hard plastic surfaces. Fitted to our test car, which was an upper end model, were exclusive features – such as a touchscreen audio system with built-in navigation and wood trim on the dashboard and door pads. Due to some niggles, though, Honda announced that these items would not be available at launch – and will be reintroduced in the Honda Mobilio as an option at a later date. So, at launch, the Honda Mobilio will offer the same 2-DIN audio system as the Amaze.
Engines options on the Honda Mobilio are the familiar 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel and 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol from the Honda line-up. Producing 118bhp, the petrol is quite pleasing to drive and the smooth powerplant moves the Honda Mobilio along nicely. However, like most other Honda petrol engines, it does its best work when revved high in the rev range. On the other hand, the 99bhp diesel powerplant delivers its peak torque from a mere 1,750rpm. So, in city conditions, it feels easier to drive – with the diesel engine delivering sufficient overall performance. Of course, as one would expect, the obvious volume seller will be the diesel. And while the engine has more than enough power and torque, it’s still too loud. The engineers claim to have worked on the NVH levels, but they haven’t quite found the sweet spot as yet, and we felt it too during our Mobilio Honda.
When it comes to ride and handling, the Honda Mobilio seems to be quite well setup. To be honest, we weren’t able to do a complete test with a full load of passengers on board. Driving it with two passengers aboard, the Honda Mobilio seems quite well balanced and offers decent stability at high speeds. The electrically powered steering, though, remains a disappointment, as it feels quite synthetic. It offers no feel at all, and weighs up strangely when turning. However, this being a people mover, I don’t think most customers will be too disturbed by that. Their larger consideration will be the ground clearance under a full load, which the Honda Mobilio has clearly been designed to tackle – as it features a massive 189mm of ground clearance to clear our crumbling roads effectively.
So, despite the slightly high NVH levels, the Honda Mobilio offers consumers a very comfortable and well-designed package for families that need the space and additional seating. Add to that Honda’s blue chip brand reputation, as well as an efficient diesel engine, and the Honda Mobilio is likely to be an oft seen sight on our roads.
Engine: 1,497 CC / 4 cylinders / 16 valves / SOHC / i-VTEC
Transmission: 5-speed manual / front-wheel drive
Power: 118 BHP @ 6600 RPM
Torque: 145 NM @ 4600 RPM
Engine: 1,498 CC / 4 cylinders / DOHC / 16 valves / turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual / front-wheel drive
Power: 99 BHP @ 3600 RPM
Torque: 200 NM @ 1750 RPM