Honda's promising Mobilio MPV is finally here. Soon to be launched with petrol and diesel engines under the hood, this seven-seater, however, is an MPV with a difference. Whereas regular MPVs use as much vertical space as possible, the Mobilio eschews boxy dimensions for a sleeker, more interesting profile.
HOW DOES IT LOOK?
This is evident when you take a quick walk around the car. Up close, it's the nose that gets your attention first. Yes the Brio-like details are easy to spot, but Honda has made the chin of the car much sportier, and there's also an attractive-looking bar of chrome across the grille. Walk around to the side of the car and it is the clever lightning bolt-like feature and the 'floating roof' that are well executed. What's interesting is that this detail also has a practical use; it effectively drops the otherwise climbing window line and allows the rear of the car to be more airy. Also nice are the big tail-lights and the grown-up, Honda Odyssey-like rear of the car.
What you also notice is the sheer size of the car. At 4.4 metres, it’s much longer than an Ertiga and the 2,650mm wheelbase, though not as generous as the Ertiga’s, still frees up a lot of space. To make it drive like a regular car, Honda has stiffened the chassis considerably and beefed up the springs as well in the interest of better dynamics.
WHAT’S IT LIKE INSIDE?
MPVs are all about space, and Honda has always been good at scooping the most space out of a limited area. To that end, the Mobilio’s dash is pushed as close to the windscreen as possible, and the seats have been made very slim. As a result, there’s plenty of room up front for even extra-large-sized adults, and legroom in the rear is surplus as well. This is especially true if the second-row seats are slid all the way back on their rails. The flat floor is a bonus and the seats provide good support, but perhaps a tad less than the long and soft seats of the Ertiga.
Stepping into the third row is easy enough too, due to the big rear doors and the way the second row seats tumble forward. Legroom for third-row passengers isn’t great, but if you slide the middle row forward you get some respite. Our beef is that the third-row seats are placed too low, forcing you to sit with your knees pointed to the roof, which is not very comfortable.
Also, the leather seats are a bit hard (the cloth seats are a bit more comfortable) and the fact that the dash has been carried over from the Brio doesn't sit too well either. Yes, the new two-tone dashboard looks a bit better and you get an aftermarket-looking double-DIN touchscreen audio system with Bluetooth on some versions, but the mock wood treatment looks a bit tacky and frankly not in keeping with the premium position the Mobilio aspires to.
The Mobilio’s trump card is the amount of useable luggage space it has on offer, even with all three rows of seats in place. Also, the low loading height is a big help when loading heavy bags.
HOW DOES IT DRIVE?
Behind the wheel, the Mobilio feels very car-like and is, in fact, enjoyable to drive. It uses the City’s 117bhp, 1.5-litre petrol engine, which has healthy pulling power, and because this Indian version has wider-spread gear ratios, you tend to rev the engine harder than usual. The flexibility of this engine also really feels amazing. A mere tap on the throttle after 2,000rpm gets the car leaping forward, and if you keep your foot down, the Mobilio gathers pace really quickly. In fact, performance from the petrol is so strong all the way up to 7,000rpm, this very sporty motor feels a bit out of character on a practical car like this. Honda could have tuned it to have a bit more grunt in the bottom end.
The 1.5 diesel is also taken from the Amaze and City, but in the Mobilio it comes with a better sound insulation package. It’s more silent than before, both at idle and at high revs. No, this all-aluminium diesel still doesn’t set a benchmark for refinement, but noise levels are not as obtrusive as in other diesel Hondas, and are quite tolerable.
It’s the pulling power and responsiveness of the 1.5 diesel that makes it perfectly suited to this seven-seater MPV. The engine pulls cleanly from under 2,000rpm, unlike the Ertiga diesel, which suffers from a lot of turbo lag, This gives the Mobilio punchy performance, even with a full load. Unlike the dizzy petrol motor, this one doesn’t like to be revved, even by diesel standards. Hence, it's best to amble in this engine's broad torque spread, which makes driving in the city and on the highway equally effortless.
With 189mm of ground clearance and a long wheelbase, the Mobilio rides pretty well. There is a hint of stiffness, but otherwise the Mobilio absorbs the bumps well, especially once you get the speed up. It’s remarkably stable on virtually any surface, and the rear end feels nice and tied down. In fact, the rock-stable rear suspension makes the front end feel a touch light, and this is exacerbated by the steering, which has a slightly numb feel around the straight ahead position. There’s very little body roll for an MPV, but yet this is not a car that likes to eagerly dart into corners.
Prices start at a reasonably competent Rs 6.49 lakh for the petrol and Rs 7.89 lakh for the diesel version; about Rs 70,000 more than the entry spec petrol and diesel Maruti Ertiga. But at Rs 8.76lakh and Rs 10.86 lakh for top-spec petrol and diesel trims respectively, the Mobilio feels a bit pricey. Can this premium be justified? For many, the smart looks, especially from the side and rear, will be reason enough but the top-spec cars could have done with a bit more equipment. The spacious and airy cabin, decent luggage space, strong engines and well-sorted dynamics can only add to its appeal.
Yes, there are flaws, like the basic dashboard design and a rearmost seat that isn’t as comfy as we expected, but none of these are really deal breakers. What will make you sign that cheque is the fact that the Mobilio is not just a practical and capable people mover. It feels like a proper family car and has an upmarket look that sets it apart from the others.