Honda’s success tide that began with launch of Amaze sedan literally got converted into Tsunami with its City saloon sweeping away the rivals to reclaimthe glory of its past days. Powered by Honda’s first-ever diesel technology i-DTEC for India, both these vehicles are instrumental in putting its parent Japanese manufacturer back into horizons of ruthlessly competitive Indian auto market. And now joining this winning contingent is another Honda, the Mobilio, which has sets its eye on exponentially growing MPV segment of Indian market. With word’s largest population second only to China, Indian market has tremendous potential for MPV vehicles. Lately the double digit growth witnessed by this people mover category is an indication of huge untapped opportunity MPV segment comes inherited with. The robust sales of Toyota Innova and Maruti Ertiga provide another vindication about the long-term growth sustenance this segment promises to hold in an unabated manner.
So hardly any surprise why Honda has decided to invade this MPV territory that has been under strict surveillance of its compatriots Toyota and Maruti. Both these Mobilio rivals are well-entrenched with ground zero realities and are sure to give Mobilio tough time before ceding even an inch of their turf. But then Honda seems to be quite confident as it has got the proper strategy in place for both of its adversaries. Mobilio has planned to counter Innova on pricing front by retailing itself at much lower price point while Ertiga will be offset on basis of better styling and feature list. On the paper these strategies deem fit for purpose though in reality even before countering the rivals claims its the overall package of Mobilio that has to prove its worth to buyers in the first place. Now whether Mobilio can do it or not is exactly what we find out in this road test review.
Unlike other vehicles in its class, Mobilio is handsomely beautiful in its outside appearance. Despite of being familiar frontage like Brio and Amaze, Mobilio feels quite fresh in its demeanour. Dynamic chin with sculpted bumper takes away any hint of the plain-Jain design and thick chrome bar on grill makes quite symmetrical design with leaf-drop headlamps on either side.
Side view of Mobilio is particularly pleasant as most of times there is hardly any designing element other than sleek character lines. Mobilio does have these strong character lines though the icing on cake is these are drawn with a healthy dose of not only flair but also practicality. The rising thunder bolt line that merges in between B and C pillar; thereby starting a kink has not only visual appeal but it also helps to augment the cabin space feel by increasing the glass area. The well-crafted floating D-pillar helps the Mobilio to camouflage its visual bulk in addition to providing wrap-around look for rear windscreen.
Rear of Mobilio too has been crafted with uninterruptable focus as Honda seems to have held their nerves even in arears that usually designers neglect. Wrap-around tail lamp cluster is not only wide in appearance; it also makes a seamless symmetry with side profile and D-pillar. Roof spoiler and black plastic inserts help to further augment the visual appeal of Mobilio.
In terms of dimensions Mobilio comes with 4386 X 1683 X 1603 (L X W X H, in mm) measurement while the wheelbase is rated at 2652 mm. Now despite of coming with class-leading ground clearance of 189 mm, Mobilio doesn’t come across as a very tall car and in fact feel am hunkered down version in front of some of its rivals. Overall Mobilio passes the design test with flying colours and probably one of the best looking MPVs’ presently on sales in India.
One of the most crucial buying considerations in MPV segment is space and its overall flexibility though with the increasing discernment quotient among customers’, overall feel and quality of the cabin has also started to figure prominently in list. We gauge Mobilio on both these aspects starting with space.
With overall wheelbase of 2652 mm, Mobilio is a spacious and flexible 7-seater MPV. Starting with front row, driver and co-driver can fit comfortable in the seats though the bolstering and support is not best in the lot. Integrated headrests are nowhere as comfortable as adjustable could be though they do save the cost.
Middle seat in comparison, feels more spacious and roomy thanks to good amount of legroom and knee room availability. Head room too is liberal in supply and even long creatures won’t scrape their heads to roof. That said the average width and abnormal middle cushioning in the second row will sure make things difficult for middle passenger. Further we feel seat squab a bit short and so is the thigh support. On flexibility front though middle seat scores quite high as its one touch tumble seat is quite a breeze to operate.
Third row, contrary to our expectations, came out surprisingly roomy and the reclining adjustment makes it further useful even for adults. Legroom and knee room is quite high though the high seating positions spoils its utility a bit. In comparison, Maruti’s Ertiga scores over Mobilio with its proper and more normal third row seating. Nonetheless Mobilio scores quite high on space and flexibility front and with even these 3 rows upright, Mobilio has a decent amount of boot at disposal.
Overall quality of material in Mobilio is average though on this price point we feel customers’ will accept this. Two-tone black-beige dash is starlight lift from Brio and feels a fit familiar now. Steering wheel comes with mounted controls and instrument cluster features illuminated blue rings.
There is enough storage space in Mobilio with separate bottle holders for front and at back. Separate air vents in roof has been provided for middle row that is sure to come handy in keeping the temperature within desired limits for last two rows. Glove box is a bit shallow and could have come with larger capacity.
Heart Of The Matter
Mobilio comes with both petrol and diesel engine with similar 1.5-litre capacity. Our test-drive car is powered by Honda’s i-DTEC diesel technology that has taken the market by storm since its inception in Amaze sedan. In Mobilio too, Honda is hoping to create magic with this 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that puts out 100 PS and 200 Nm of power and torque respectively. Now unlike what we experienced in Amaze and even in City, Mobilio comes with a lot more quieter and refined iteration of i-DTEC. This is a welcome change as this Mobilio diesel feels a notch above than its siblings in terms of overall refinement and insulation.
Linear power delivery remains one of the strongest virtues of this engine and Mobilio has not tinkered with this useful aspect. Dabs to Mobilio’s throttle invites quick responses as Mobilio lunges forward with desired alacrity and eagerness. Like Ertiga, Mobilio too feels like a car and one often tends to forget its lengthy footprints while manoeuvring it. With light clutch and even lighter power steering, city driving in Mobilio is quite a breeze. On highway too, Mobilio feels quite powerful and engine feels rev-happy especially in its mid-range. Spinning the rpm in the power band of 3000-4000 rpm yields the best results though going past 4k limit is of no use.
Both petrol and diesel engines in Mobilio come mated with 5-speed manual transmission that is slick, direct and easily on of the benchmarks in shifting experience. Throws are short, precise and very direct that inspire confidence though one need not to use the gearbox often because of the excellent drivability of Mobilio. Brakes are hard in their biting and very reassuring and we didn’t get any signs of pedal wobble even on the test-drive vehicle. Now this speaks volumes about the quality of Honda.
Riding on 15” tyres, Mobilio showed its composite and well-poised nature on both ride and handling front. Despite of having a bit stiffened spring settings, Mobilio is good riding vehicle. The suspension works silently and quite apt at absorbing the road undulations and waviness. Only potholes and big rough patches seem to disturb the composure of Mobilio and that even tends to abate as whack rises. On stability front too, Mobilio continuous to impress us despite of being having an average track width.
Handling characteristics shown by Mobilio is on par with competitors and despite of being over 4.3 metres in length, Mobilio does a good job in containing body roll. While chucking around corners, there is body roll though it doesn’t threaten to go out of the limit. A slight tap at brake or even a bit release of accelerator is all Mobilio requires getting back to its line. 15” wheels are indeed helpful in overall stability of Mobilio. Steering wheel is light and boon to use in city though in terms of feedback there is nothing to write home about.
Learning from past mistakes has made Honda India a lot wiser; at least we can surely say this on pricing front. After pricing Amaze and City competitively, Honda has got its hand right on Mobilio pricing. Mobilio retails starts from Rs 6.49 lakh for base petrol variant and stretches to Rs 10.86 lakh for top-end diesel model. On value for money front, Mobilio scores quite highly compared to Toyota Innova though it still lags behind even more affordable Maruti Ertiga that has starting price of Rs 5.99 lakh. But then as overall value constellation, Mobilio triumphs over Ertiga by a handsome margin. This Honda comes across a more accomplished and complete package than Maruti and this explains why it feels right in asking for relatively more bucks. We don’t think it is an unreasonable demand from the Honda and sure in coming months people will think the same way.
Style & Substance 4/5 Ride & Handling 3.5/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3.5/5 Safety & Equipment 3.5/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 4/5 Fuel Efficiency 4/5
Value for Money 3.5/5