I am leisurely driving this new vehicle near Sula Vineyards on the outskirts of Nashik when I notice headlights flashing in the rear-view mirror. It is a Toyota Innova. At the drivers request, I pull over. Two curious souls emerge and start checking out my vehicle. After answering their queries, as I am about to get back to the road, another car pulls over, this time a Honda City. Soon enough, two people on a bike stop and admire the upmarket styling of my machine. Quite clearly, the vehicle I am driving is attracting a lot of eyeballs. After all, it was one of the stars at the Auto Expo 2014 and will be launched in India on July 23. Please welcome the Honda Mobilio, the compact multi-purpose vehicle (MPV).
MPVs are not new to India. From the Innova to the Tavera, from the Evalia to the Xylo, you can spot numerous on Indian roads. But while most MPVs are large and generally seen as taxicabs, it was the Maruti Ertiga that changed it all two years agoit created a new segment of compact, family-oriented MPVs. The Ertiga gave Indian families space, comfort, ease of driving and affordability. The Honda Mobilio goes a step further and adds upmarket styling to that list.
The Mobilio is based on Hondas lightning bolt design language which gives it a unique identity. While the smartly done up front resembles that of the Brio and the Amazewith the grille being a nice differentiatorit is the rear section that sets it apart. Large, wraparound tail-lamps, fine detailing and sharp design lines on the tail-gate look lovely. In fact, the rear three-quarter is the best angle to look at the Mobilio. The side profile, too, is arrestingthe chiselled creases give it a lot of aggressiveness, large middle windows are practical, and a class-leading 189-mm ground clearance coupled with 15-inch tyres give this MPV a raised stance.
The Mobilio uses Hondas man maximum, machine minimum philosophy and this results in a decently spacious cabin. While the dashboard and the front seats are pretty much similar to that of the Amaze (the Mobilio has more headroom, though), the difference starts showing once you move towards the middle row, which is quite spacious. Further, large windows adds to that feeling of space. The last row, as expected, is short on legroom, lacks thigh support and cannot seat big adults (but by pushing the middle seats forward, a bit more space can be created). However, there are two good things about the last row. One, the seats can be reclined. Two, the access to the last row is one-touchsimply by pulling a lever, the middle seat folds forward with a spring and the wide door ensures you can easily enter the last row. Then, there is decent luggage space (223 litres) that can be expanded to 520 litres by folding the third row. Overall, while the look and finish of the cabin is not as striking as the exterior, it doesnt really disappoint you. And as far as space management is concerned, this cabin is hard to beat.
The Mobilio borrows both its petrol and diesel motors from the City. The 1.5-litre petrol i-VTEC is a gem of an engine that produces a peak power of 118 bhp, while the 1.5-litre diesel i-DTEC produces 99 bhp. The claimed fuel-efficiency is 17.4 kmpl (petrol) and 24.2 kmpl (diesel). Pretty impressive for an MPV. Both engines are mated to a five-speed manual transmission and, as of now, Honda has no plans to launch the automatic version of the Mobilio.
The Mobilio is very car-like to drive and it is only the high seating position that makes you realise you are steering an MPV. Both the petrol and diesel motors are powerful enough to haul it and the diesel engine, especially, has ample torque. The outstanding 189-mm ground clearance and a long wheelbase ensure the ride even on broken roads is comfortable. While the Mobilios straight line stability is impressive, the best thing is that, unlike some other MPVs, there is very little body roll in it. The turning radius of the petrol version is 5.2 metres while that of the diesel version is 5.4 metres (because of a heavier engine). And while parking is not much of a problem, we believe Honda should install rear parking sensors across all variants.
As I said, while the Mobilio adds upmarket styling to features such as space, comfort, ease of driving and affordability, yet its success, to an extent, depends on its pricing. If Honda is able to price it at around Rs 7 lakh for the base petrol model and Rs 8 lakh for the base diesel, the Mobilio will be a champagne on a beer budget. This way, it will be slotted right between the Ertiga and the Innova and will pose a challenge to both. Not only this, the Mobilio seems so desirable a vehicle that it can even attract customers who generally dont look beyond sedans.