Honda Mobilio Long Term Review
The Mobilio is a very easy-to-drive MPV that offers oodles of space and practicality
This is not the first Mobilio from Honda but the second generation model. Yes, Honda has introduced the Mobilio earlier in 2001, which was only meant for the Japanese market. With the second generation Mobilio, which is based on the Brio platform, Honda is targeting emerging markets including India. Our country has a huge demand for MPVs and with the recent trend of compact MPVs, the Mobilio plays an important role for Honda to keep up with the competition. India’s favourite MPV of all time is the Innova and buyers haven’t found the ideal replacement of the big Toyota yet. Major reason behind this is to get a good balance of both private and commercial buyers, which is a tough nut to crack. Many MPVs came and went (read Nissan Evalia and its doppelgänger the Ashok Leyland Style) but very few manage to spin the volumes in this segment. We spend some time with the Mobilio to gather our initial impressions whether it is a fleet segment oriented MPV or a car with added practicality for your family.
The Brio family has had very similar front styling that wasn’t appreciated well by many people. However the Mobilio still has a slight edge over the Brio and Amaze when it comes to the front profile because of the added drama on the bumper and the thick chrome slat on the nose that many Indians admire. The rear styling though, of all the three cars has been drastically different from one another. The most appealing tail is the Mobilio’s, which doesn’t look like an extended Brio but a newly designed vehicle. The rear three-quarters is the best angle to look at, which doesn’t appear as a typical boxy MPV and instead comes across as an upmarket estate. Sadly the mature rear design doesn’t match well with the front from some angles but it grows on you over time.
There is a great sense of space the moment you enter the cabin. Getting in and out of the car is effortless too, which is a boon for aged people. The dashboard is derived from the Brio, which is identical and could’ve got some premium bits as it looks a tad basic in the Mobilio. There is one differentiating element on the dashboard, which is the faux wood panel that covers the instrument cluster and centre console area, it has a “love it or hate it” appearance to it. The optional AVN system gets a host of connectivity options including CD, AUX, USB and Bluetooth. It also gets navigation system and doubles up as a rear parking camera. It is an ergonomically rich cabin and all the controls fall well in the reach of the driver. There are a few small yet significant features missing in the Mobilio such as electric folding mirrors, automatic climate control system, one-touch lane changing indicator, there is auto up function for the driver-side window but no auto-down.
The Honda Mobilio offers great visibility outside with a huge glass area and not so thick A-pillars. The mirrors are also big enough to keep a check on the traffic behind you. The middle row windows are the biggest windows I have ever seen in a car. There’s no chance of feeling claustrophobic and nauseous even while travelling at high altitudes. While the cabin is spacious, the seats are also supportive providing comfort on long drives as well. The third row is just okay for adults for short trips due to the low and flat seating but the kids would be happy sitting there having dedicated arm rests and cup holders. The second and third row can be folded for hauling lots of luggage but even when all the three rows up, it offers ample storage space of 223 litres.
Honda is offering the Mobilio in two very potent engine options derived from the City – 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol engine and the 1.5-litre i-DTEC diesel. Our long term tester comes with the more popular motor, the diesel. Contrary to initial reports of the engine being too loud inside the cabin, I found the NVH levels quite acceptable and not very intrusive. When the oil burner is cold, it is a tad loud but settles down soon. It’s only near the redline when the engine sounds gruff. The i-DTEC mill produces 100 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque. Power delivery is very linear with very little turbo lag to deal with. The 5-speed manual gearbox is slick and the clutch is light. We are getting around 15 km/l of efficiency with mixed driving conditions.
The Mobilio’s car-like dynamics add a lot of confidence in driving
In spite of being a MPV, the Honda Mobilio is surprisingly good fun to drive. The car responds well to your inputs and the handling is very predictable and safe, keeping the passengers settled while cornering. The steering feels great to hold with contours and is responsive depending on the speed. The turning radius feels long when compared to hatchbacks but for a car this size, it is quite practical. The further icing on the cake is the ground clearance, we have encountered some roads getting blocked that forced us to take u-turns on those small dividers and this MPV just went over them like a cake walk. With all the load and passengers, it doesn’t get affected much and the high ground clearance is quite useful on those under-construction highways as well.
The suspension setup of the Mobilio is such that the low speed ride feels a bit stiff but as the speed increases, it gets flatter and more composed. The vehicle just ignores broken tarmac and undulations at high speeds but sometimes the rear tends to bounce on bigger potholes. High speed stability is quite impressive and with the combination of comfortable cabin and driving position, long drives are fatigue free. The Mobilio feels more car-like to drive with its relaxed dynamics compared to other MPVs on offer in this segment.
I have been driving the Mobilio more for personal use and it doesn’t give you the feeling of driving a cab or a typical utility vehicle. It feels like just another car which is user-friendly and very practical. I’ve been doing frequent airport runs with the Mobilio and with a versatile cabin, it is a breeze to carry luggage and people together. The dashboard does look a bit out of style and there are some crucial features missing. That said, it is a trouble-free car for the driver because there is nothing complicated to deal with, everything is straight and simple to use. The i-DTEC motor isn’t the engine for outright performance but its city-oriented behaviour makes the Mobilio an easy-to-drive MPV in traffic situations. My initial impressions are positive as I’m not missing my previous long term car, the Nissan Terrano because this is an equally good workhorse. What I’m missing is the road presence.
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta
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