Honda Mobilio 1.5 i-VTEC / 1.5 i-DTEC Review: Evolved Mobility

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Added in: Honda

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From the good old days when 20 passengers stuffed tight into the boxy looking Mahindra UV was a common sight in rural India to the sturdy, reliable and comfortable Toyota Innova becoming a rage, the Indian UV market has come a long way. User expectations have spiraled through the roof, and new products such as the Mahindra Xylo and Maruti Suzuki Ertiga have tried their bit to offer comfort and sophistication without breaching the sensibilities of an extremely price conscious and VFM driven audience. The Ertiga, of the two models mentioned above also met with good success, creating a unique niche for itself, and drawing customers from other segments as well in the process.

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Building on the evolving MPV segment, Honda Mobilio, the latest MPV offering from Honda, aspires to take the game to the next level. Bringing in Honda’s globally renowned styling, packaging and engineering values into one neat and frugal package, designed keeping the requirements of the Asian market in mind, the Mobilio may bring in a whole new bunch of customers into this segment. We drove the delightfully styled and exceedingly well packaged new MPV from Honda on the inviting roads around Nashik. Here’s all you need to know about this bright new people mover

Design and Styling

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The Mobilio is based on the Brio/Amaze platform, and glaring visual similarities between the products are quite evident – especially at the front. Even with all the similarities, however, the products are technically very different. The wheelbase on the Mobilio, for example, has been extended to make space for seven adults. The front track of the Mobilio is narrower, while the rear track is wider as compared with the Amaze. The increased length of the car along with a totally different body type front door onwards presented a challenge to the Honda designers. After having a good look at the car, we have to say that they dealt with the predicament rather well.

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Up front, the nose of the car is quite similar to that of the Brio/Amaze. While the shape of the bonnet and headlamps remains the same, the bumper, the grille and the associated details have been given a thorough makeover to lend the Mobilio an identity of its own. The big, bold grille, drenched in chrome seems to have been taken from the more premium Honda City. The chin of the car looks very different from the Amaze, thanks to the black treatment of the central air dam and the elliptical fog lamps. The honeycomb mesh effect surrounding the fog lamps adds a dash of sportiness to the face of this smart MPV. The angular, flared out lower flanks of the bumper are also more aggressively designed than the Amaze, and work well towards offsetting the people mover image over the car and lending it an air of athleticism.

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In profile, the big new 15 inch wheels help distract the eyes from the unusual length of the car. While the styling is similar to that of the Brio / Amaze till the B-pillar, aft-that, the designers at Honda have given the surface a fresh new twist in profile. The ascending window sill takes a momentary drop post the B-pillar before starting its ascent again and ending its journey above the tail-lamps.  Not only is that an aberration from the regulation shoulder-lines, it’s also a very functional detail – maximizing the glasshouse area and augmenting the feeling of space and airiness for the second row occupants.

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The quarter panel on the front window is blacked out and features three ribs as a styling element. The B and C pillars are blacked out, but the upper part of the window rims is finished in body color.  Another delightful design details is the glass panel of the fixed third window which extends and wraps itself around the D-pillar, making for a floating roof effect – a unique and charming detail for the segment.

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The second door has a mild crease passing through the handles and merging into the curve of the car’s haunches. The side skirt below the door sills also extends out with a sharp crease towards the rear wheel breaking away from the drab template of an MUV and carrying on with the athletic demeanor of the front end.

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At the rear, when looked at straight-on, the Mobilio gives away its tall dimensions and relatively narrow track. To offset the tallish rear view, however, Honda have included plenty of horizontal elements in the rear design.  To start with, the roof spoiler adds some meat to the view, and adds some mass to what in its absence would have been a flimsy, basic roofline. The overall look of the rear is more angular than organic with plenty of wide, horizontal elements.

The Honda City-esque tail lamps are horizontally aligned too, and are connected by a wide, straight panel with a sharp crease, and holding the Honda emblem in the center. The shape of the registration plate recess too is also very angular

Honda Mobilio India

The low loading lip of the boot has sportily styled and connected honeycomb mesh inserts flanking it with slim, wide horizontal reflectors within. The lower portion of the bumper too has extensions with sharp creases to maintain the sporty theme from the front end.

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Overall, the Mobilio looks like a well designed and well finished product in the flesh –more so since it represents a segment which has been perceived traditionally as dull and boring. The Mobilio’s design, with its deviation from the norm and pleasant details in certain places, manages to delight. The car looks very nice when looked at from the front or rear three quarters. The length of the car is more evident in profile, but Honda have done a good job of offsetting it by introducing unusual elements and adding a zing of sportiness to the overall package. The Mobilio by virtue of its cool exterior and spacious interior should appeal a lot not just to the traditional MPV segment buyer, but should make many a sedan buyer pause and give this body type a thought.

 Next page for cabin and features>>>

Cabin and features

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The dashboard of the Mobilio has been lifted from the Amaze / Brio duo in a bid to share the parts bin and keep the cost down. The touchscreen panel on the center console is brand new though. Equipped with a rear view camera, satellite navigation and all the audio controls, the new touch screen does manage to add a lot of value to Mobilio’s dash.

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The chunky steering wheel with its wire mesh bottom spoke looks nice and sporty. Look through it and you’ll see the familiar instrumentation, taken, again from the Amaze / Brio duo – though this is one is blue backlit unlike the amber lit Amaze unit. Left pod represents revs, central unit has a speedo and the right pod houses tell tale lights. The MID shows you average consumption, though it doesn’t yet have a distance to dry readout.

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Air conditioner is manual, though the Mobilio now features dedicated roof mounted A/C vents for the second row occupants. The A/C vent unit for the rear passengers comprises three horizontally positioned vents with a controller knob to the right – using which one can control the air-flow on three levels or shut it completely. Another change on the dash as compared to the Amaze is insertion of chrome / satin silver rings around A/C vents and shifter stick. The top spec VX variant comes with glossy faux wood inserts on the dashboard and door panels, which though very well finished may not suit every car buyer’s taste.

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The Indian Mobilio has received some changes over its Indonesian and Thai counterparts. Keeping the Indians’ perception of space in mind, Honda have introduced the car with a two-tone black beige interior for this market unlike the all-black treatment given to the international product. The central armrest for the second row passengers is also an India specific change. The A/C for the car was also equipped with a heater to cope with the severe North Indian cold.

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In terms of storage spaces, the Mobilio boasts as many as 11 cup / bottle holders across the cabin. The front door panel comprises a big bottle holder and a map pocket. Then there are three cup/bottle holders between the front seats. The rear door panels have space for two bottles each – though the central arm-rest doesn’t feature any recesses. For the third row passengers, there are two bottle holders, one on either side, accompanied by another recess for holding wallet / cellphone – though the recess on the right is deeper than the one of the left for some reason.

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The glove box is average sized. Both front and rear door panels have arm-rests with recesses to store wallet/mobile. There is also a reasonably sized trough below the center console with enough space to hold a big wallet of a couple of small cellphones. There is only one power outlet in the entire car though, which in our opinion is an oversight for a people mover.

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The second row of seats is split in 60:40 ratio. Both the second row seat units allow fore and aft adjustment and are adjustable for recline angle as well. This adds tremendous flexibility to the seating layout, allowing for various permutations and combinations between the front and middle seats to facilitate comfortable seating for everyone aboard. Both seats in the second row can be tumbled easily – making for easy ingress and egress for the third row occupants.

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The knee space is sufficient if not liberal, and a reclining seatback makes you find a more comfortable seating position easily. Headroom is more than sufficient and passengers with average height would still have a couple of inches between their scalp and the roof. Shoulder room, though, isn’t sufficient for three fully grown adults to sit abreast. Having its origins in the small Brio and Amaze, the Mobilio isn’t a very wide car, and seating three in the middle row is a bit of a squeeze. As mentioned earlier, the middle row gets its own A/C vents with three outlets and a flow control unit.

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The third row seats are quite well designed and come with adjustable head-rests. These seats are positioned relatively lower on the floor, resulting in knees pointing upwards and not a very comfortable seating position. The knee room is limited – though the fore-aft adjustability of the middle row allows for optimization of available space. The fact that the third row of seats is adjustable for recline angle also adds tremendously in making sitting in the relatively tight space more comfortable.

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The space in the Mobilio’s third row isn’t as much as the Ertiga, though it more than makes up for it by offering a decent sized boot with all three rows of seats up. While the boot space in the Ertiga is next to non-existent, the Mobilio will easily accommodate a large and a medium sized suitcase in its boot with ease, with space left for a couple of haversacks.

In terms of luggage flexibility, the third row backrests on the Mobilio can be foldet flat 50:50 to make space for luggage. The third row seats can be further tumbled forward to release even more space.

Honda Mobilio boot

Honda have attached the spare wheel below the car’s body to release more boot space. You have to turn a bolt in the boot to lower the stepney. The compartment for jack and other tools has been created on the right hand side in the boot area.

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Overall, the Mobilio manages to encapsulate a lot of space within its well designed exterior. Slim front seats meant to liberate maximum leg-space may not be as plush as the ones on more expensive cars like the City, but they are quite functional and offer good comfort. The middle row, though, could have done with a bit more thigh support. While the third row space in the Mobilio may not be segment leading, the availability of much more bootspace as compared to the competition makes it a more versatile product.

Next page for Engines and Performance>>> 

Engines and performance

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The Honda Mobilio, like the Amaze and the City will come equipped with 1.5 liter i-VTEC petrol and 1.5 liter i-DTEC Earth Dreams diesel engines. The power and torque output of the engines remain largely unchanged, though the two engines have been tuned to cope with the requirements of new body type, heavier kerb weight and higher specified gross laden weight.

In terms of numbers, the petrol engine puts out 119PS of power at 6600 rpm and 145 Nm of torque at 4600 rpm. The amazingly linear and torquey i-DTEC diesel pumps out 100PS of peak power at 3600 rpm and 200 Nm of torque at 1750 rpm. The absolute highlight of the diesel Mobilio is its remarkably high ARAI certified fuel efficiency of 24.2 kmpl which makes it by far the most fuel efficient MPV in the country. The petrol Mobilio has been rated at 17.3 kmpl by ARAI, which is a great number too.

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Let’s start our discussion with the more relevant to the segment 1.5 i-DTEC unit, which comes mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. Seen prior in the Honda Amaze and the City, the i-DTEC diesel unit leads the pack in terms of linear power delivery and good tractability from the bottom of the rev-range. The big news about the i-DTEC unit on the Mobilio, however, is its significantly better NVH performance. While the i-DTEC engine sounded very noisy on the Amaze, and slightly less noisy on the City, Honda engineers have taken enough measures to ensure that the Mobilio’s cabin remains relatively well insulated from the noise. It’s not quiet in a segment leading way, but is a significant improvement over the previous two products.

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On the move, the diesel unit has its generous reserve of torque at avail from as low as 1200 rpm. The Mobilio pulls from slightly above idling rpm, making it an extremely drivable car for the stop/start city traffic. While we haven’t performance tested the car on VBOX, a good look at the test times of the Amaze and factoring in the extra weight suggests that Mobilio should be able to hit the ton mark in about 16 seconds or thereabouts.

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Thanks to the linear and relaxed demeanor of its engine, the Mobilio feels at home doing cruising speeds of 100-120 km/h. Hitting upto 140 kays isn’t a sweat, but the performance starts fading away in the higher part of the rev range. The Mobilio is more about hassle free, torquey, fuel efficient driving than hitting your enthusiastic nerve with the addictive turbo surge post 2000 rpm like most other small turbo diesel engines. It’s an incredibly practical unit, extremely suitable for the Indian requirements.

The rev limiter on the diesel engine cuts in at about 4400 rpm. To ensure that you don’t take race starts from a standstill and cause damage to the engine in the process, the engine won’t rev above 2000 rpm at a standstill.

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The 1.5 liter i-VTEC petrol motor has been around for some time, and everyone identifies it for its sporty character. The petrol engine with its size, power and torque figures feels apt for a seven-seater machine, and offers good pulling power from low revs. The rev happy engine, which feels very eager on the City seems slightly out of its element on the Mobilio, probably because of the wider gear ratios. The response from the motor is crisp as ever, though, and it revs all the way to its 7,000 rpm red-line. The Petrol Mobilio, thanks to its more powerful motor is also quicker to hit the ton, and should have a higher top speed as well. It’s a versatile engine, with good low-rev response and grunt, and an equally potent top of the range performance.

 Next page for ride and handling>>>

Ride and handling

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There is a marked difference between how the petrol and diesel variants of the Mobilio feel from behind the steering wheel. The steering on the petrol version is extremely light, making it incredibly easy to maneuver in the tightest of spots. A turning radius of 5.2 meters is class leading, and the Mobilio is indeed as easy as it gets to pilot in cramped spaces. On the downside, however, the light steering on the petrol variant is devoid of feel or weight, especially at the dead center. During our drive on the Nashik-Mumbai highway, we found the steering wanting for some more mass and communication. The speed sensitive unit stiffens up with speed, but we would have wanted the extent of firmness to be higher.

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On the other hand, the steering wheel on the diesel variant feels well weighted and offers plausibly better feel as well. The underpinnings on the two cars are similar. However, the diesel variant, thanks to its better steering feel inspires more confidence around corners.

Steering feels aside, the underpinnings of the Mobilio have been sorted beautifully well by the boffins at Honda. The Mobilio is a sure-footed campaigner and takes to corners with great confidence and very well contained body roll. While the cars in this segment are not meant to be chucked around corners disdainfully, the Mobilio showed impressive poise when we hurled it around the bends of the inviting Kasara Ghat.

Honda mobilio wheel and tyre

A special mention needs to be made of the 185/55 R 15 Bridgestone B250 rubber here, which has been built to order for the Mobilio. The level of grip offered by the tyres was impressive and we managed good corner speeds without any wailing noises emanating from underneath the running board. Sure, the Mobilio is not apex hunting tool – but for the purpose it’s been built for – it may well be the new benchmark in the sub-10 lakh rupee MPV segment.

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As regards ride quality the Mobilio is sprung on the firmer side – and that’s one of the reasons why it handles so well for an MPV. Having said that, the car takes broken roads in its stride quite well, with only the slightest hint of the dampers’ willingness to expand into position at slow speeds. It may not be the plushest ride that we have experienced in the sub-10 lakh category, but it’s mighty good with the composure and absorbance improving further as your load the car up with more people.

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At 189mm, the Mobilio also boasts segment leading ground clearance. Honda have taken due note of the problems reported with the earlier generation City, where the car scraped its belly with every speed breaker. The Mobilio impresses on that count, dispatching even bigger than average speed-breakers with disdain. We even took the car off the road to find a shooting spot, and while the terrain wasn’t suited for an MPV at all, the Mobilio managed just fine.

 Next page for verdict and tech specs>>>

Summing it up

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Even after being based on the humble Brio, the Mobilio by no means is a blow-up job. The way this car drives, proves that Honda have put in a lot of effort into honing the Brio platform for a bigger body type. Exterior styling, interior packaging and choice of engines offered – everything is testimony to Honda’s maturity as an international carmaker, who knows how to adapt to local markets with great finesse. The Mobilio looks premium and desirable, and may just pull a whole bunch of sedan buyers towards itself.

The prices for the car have not been announced, nor have been the variants and features. However, based on our experience with the top end VX variant, the Mobilio does come across as a very strong product. If priced well, there’s no doubting that this chic MPV has all the makings of becoming another hit product for Honda Cars in India.

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Technical Specifications

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Next page for Honda Mobilio Image Gallery>>>

Honda Mobilio Image Gallery

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