The Toyota Innova may be one of the costliest MPVs in India, yet the Innova rakes in over 4,000 units every month for the Japanese manufacturer, even after being on the market for a decade. Other manufacturers have tried, and failed, to conquer the Innova’s segment. The Nissan Evalia tried to play the price card, but was a fiasco in its attempt. The Aria, simply put is forgotten.
Maruti on the other hand attacked the MPV market using a car below the Innova (in terms of price and size), and unearthed a new volume segment with the Ertiga. Now, Honda is squarely aiming at the Ertiga’s segment with the Mobilio, an MPV that will cost about the same as an Ertiga, yet offer as much space as the Innova.
Here’s our first look at the Mobilio diesel.
The Mobilio wears the familiar face of the Brio/Amaze. The headlights, which are now a common sight on Indian roads thanks to the Amaze, are connected by a thick chrome grille, below which a slightly sportier bumper (compared to the Brio/Amaze) is seen.
Until the front door, the MPV may be associated with the Brio or Amaze. From there on, the Mobilio takes a different design language: The rear doors are long, something that can clearly be observed on the photos by the extra large windows, and the vehicle extends further to a total length of 4,386 mm. If you were to compare the rear doors of the Mobilio with the Amaze, the Mobilio’s doors are longer by 195 mm and taller by 145 mm.
Speaking purely numbers, the MPV measures 4,386 x 1,683 x 1,603 (L x W x H in mm) with a wheelbase of 2,652 mm (247 mm more than the Amaze) and a ground clearance of 189 mm. The increased ground clearance of 24 mm was achieved by using 15-inch wheels as compared to the Amaze’s 14-inch. Also, the tire section of the Mobilio is 185 as compared to the 175 section tires of the Amaze.
There is no denying that certain elements of the Mobilio look extremely stylish. The downward kink of the rear windows, the partially blackened out C-Pillars and the taillights infuse fresh energy to a segment which otherwise sees sober, rectangular shapes.
For those seeking more fizz, Honda will offer the Mobilio RS with a souped up bodykit, projector headlights, side skirts, rear spoiler and aggressively designed bumpers.
Inside, the Mobilio’s dashboard is lifted from the Brio/Amaze. The reason for doing so is because this particular dashboard used up the least interior space, says Honda.
On the one hand, the quality of materials used in most areas is rather good, and a notch better than the Ertiga. The quality of the steering, door inserts, control buttons for the windows and indicator/wiper stalks are acceptable for this segment. Even though the faux-wood center console looks shabby, it doesn’t feel bad or cheap to touch.
However, Honda needs to understand that the design of the dashboard is a bit too plain, and now, a bit too repetitive. While the layout has good functionality, the design is a bit disappointing for a car that will cost INR 10 lakh. Cost cutting exists, but not on parts/areas which are directly visible to occupants. For example, the cloth insulation on the inside part of the bootlid appears hastily bolted and can easily be taken apart.
The view from the front seat is almost similar to the Amaze, though you’re seated a bit higher from the ground thanks to the 189 mm ground clearance. Moving to the second row, the extra-large windows and wide doors provide for a spacious feel. The rear seats add a few features compared to the Brio/Amaze as they come with adjustable headrests, 60:40 split layout, reclining seat backs and sliding benches. The second row scores well on comfort as there is adequate kneeroom and headroom. However, we would have liked the option of captain’s chairs on this MPV.
Moving to the third row, initial impressions are that it is a notch above the Innova’s in terms of space and comfort; the Ertiga pales in comparison. As we mentioned before, the second row has the option of sliding fore and aft to liberate more legroom for third row passengers. When adjusted for a 5’8” adult seated in the second row, a 5’10” adult can be seated in the third row in decent comfort. Add to this the fact that the third row seatbacks can be reclined in a 50:50 split, and you're not going to have unhappy passengers at the rear.
Access to the third row is rather easy as well, and requires minimum effort. The one-step tumble function of the second row works like a charm and in no time, you can access the last row of the Mobilio. Even with all seats in place, you’re left with 223 liters of luggage space.
In many ways then, the interior packaging of the Mobilio is well thought out for the Indian buyer.
Honda will reveal the variant plan for the Mobilio only at the time of launch. However, expect the top-end variant to come with foglights, alloy wheels, rear wiper/washer, ABS, EBD, dual front airbags, steering mounted controls, an AVN (Audio Visual Navigation) system, reverse camera and rear AC.
Engine and Gearbox:
The Mobilio we’re driving here is powered by the four-cylinder 1.5-liter i-DTEC diesel engine which produces 100 PS and 200 Nm of torque, just like in the Amaze and City. The transmission is handled by a 5-speed manual gearbox.
In terms of performance, the Mobilio feels exactly like the Amaze, which is a good thing. There is swiftness to the way this MPV moves, and the 1.5-liter engine has no turbo lag as it spreads its torque out evenly. The Mobilio diesel is a good 160 kg heavier than the Amaze diesel, yet this weight addition is hardly felt while driving the car. Flat out, 0-100 km/h should be dispatched in about 15 seconds. The top-speed (for petrol and diesel) is limited to 140 km/h just like the Brio/Amaze.
When it comes to driving at city speeds (or even at higher speeds), you don’t get the feeling that you’re in an MPV, rather the driving experience feels identical to the car its based on. Even at speeds nearing the electronic limit, the Mobilio feels planted and secure to drive.
Honda say that compared to the Amaze, the Mobilio diesel offers better NVH. In our short drive, we could notice minor improvements to the engine noise insulation of the car, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Also, tire noise and wind noise could have been better controlled.
The 5-speed gearbox offers quick and easy shifts, and the clutch is on the lighter side. The 6-speed gearbox found in the City was not used on the Mobilio in the interest of price competitiveness.
Ride and Handling:
Much like the Ertiga, driving the Mobilio is a bit like driving the car its based on. What this means on the road is that the Mobilio’s body roll is well contained for a three-row 7-seater. The controls, which are carried over from smaller Hondas, are light and easy to operate. There are times when you may forget you’re driving the Mobilio and think you are in an Amaze, thanks not only to the familiar instrumentation, but also the similar driving manners.
The ride quality of the Mobilio is acceptable for most road conditions. Its clearly not as comfortable as the Innova, and is also a notch below the Ertiga.
Brakes and Safety:
Braking is handled by discs at the front and drums at the rear. The brake feel is positive and the car comes to a stop without much fuss. The top-end variant of the car comes with dual front airbags, ABS and EBD.
Honda claims the Mobilio diesel will achieve 24.2 km/l. Our short drive of the car saw it return 14 km/l, but when driven with a light foot on the highway with a couple of passengers and luggage, we reckon the car should be good for figures in the range of 20 km/l.
Honda gives us the impression that the Mobilio will be aggressively priced, much like the Amaze. The car is extensively localized in India, and many of the parts are shared with the Amaze and Brio. Estimate the Mobilio diesel to cost INR 7.5-7.75 lakhs ex-Showroom, New Delhi, for the base diesel variant.
“An inexpensive car that will carry 7 people in comfort and offer low running costs”, summarizes the Mobilio in a sentence.
Where the third row of the Ertiga is cramped, and when used, offers little boot space, the Mobilio’s last row is accommodating and even with all seats in place, there is considerable room for the weekend bags. The downside to this spaciousness is that Honda have used the Amaze’s dashboard and trim, which doesn't look very upmarket.
On the outside, the Mobilio is not all that large compared to the Ertiga, but relatively less bulky compared to the Innova. And to drive and maneuver, the large Honda feels nearly the same as smaller Hondas which is not a bad thing. This gives the car good city credentials.
The engines, petrol and diesel, claim to deliver the best of both worlds - power and efficiency. And to top it off, the Honda badge enjoys a premium image compared to a Maruti.
The overall package of the Mobilio is sensible, which is what customers in this segment could ideally want. The Mobilio, we think, is the second winning launch for Honda in 2014.