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Mobilio by Honda: The people mover's story - a preview

Snapshot: Honda will launch its Mobilio in July. Will it be a worthy competitor to the Maruti Ertiga? Will it affect the Toyota Innova? Our two-bit take…

In many restaurants and you would be surprised, big hotels, a single base curry can give you the choice between mutton curry, chicken curry, anda curry or paneer curry. Similarly, these days car manufacturers are treating engines and platforms the same way and companies like Volkswagen can given you mutton, anda, chicken or paneer – right from a humble Skoda to a Porsche can share stuff like engines etc. What the Germans can do, the Japanese can surely do better and if the upcoming Honda Mobilio is any indication, they have succeeded at it.

The Mobilio is a seven-seater multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) with the same underpinnings as the little Brio, with engines from the City lineup. Sounds confusing? Read on to get a better taste of things to come…

Overview

At 4386 mm, the Mobilio is alas, larger than 4 metres, so will not qualify for the sops which sub-4 metre vehicles get. But then, this is a full-fledged MPV, as explained earlier complete with the ‘punishment’ 3rd row of seats. We call them ‘punishment’ seats because we have yet to come across a vehicle with 7 seats, which is comfortable in the last row.

Exteriors:

The Mobilio is quite interesting from the outside. Wider shaped lamps, a prominent front bumper chin and creases carrying on right to the rear give this MPV a balanced look. The rear glasses have a black band carried over to the rear, over interestingly shaped tail lamps. There is of course a LED high mounted stoplight at the back, and the complete heated rear glass and wiper package to make it look upmarket. Upper end versions will also get nice looking alloys, and smart looking reflectors on mesh inserts in the rear bumper. Heat absorbing green class makes life a little simpler because in Delhi you cannot put any kind of extra tint on your car windows, to prevent naughtiness apparently.

You also get interestingly shaped fog lamps up front (with chrome inserts on high-end versions, if you please!) and the usual blinker in the outside rear view mirrors. The bumpers themselves are very well designed with a prominent chin line and give the MPV a butch look.

Interiors

The interiors of the Mobilio are surprisingly good. Although a lot of it (at least in the front) is a carry over from the Brio and the Amaze, the overall fit and finish never cease to…uh…amaze. The plastics look drab, but are solidly built to last long and not squeak. The multi-coloured dashboard for India tries to inject some enthusiasm, but is let down by vast acres of textured stuff and the slightly offset audio system. Honda generally offers its own factory-fitted USB/Aux-in sound system with no CD player and it seems this is what the base model Mobilio will get. Upper versions could come with a reversing camera and the touchscreen DVD thingy. Of course, steering wheel controls would also be part of the game.

The front and rear seats would be similar to the existing cars, with the exception of the middle row, which has a very unique one-touch tumble feature, wherein the middle row falls flat at the lift a of a lever for easy ingress and egress to the ‘punishment’ 3rd row seat. Of course, a second row air-conditioning blower is standard for those really hot days.

Want more? Well you have the familiar instrument cluster from the Brio and Amaze with its large speedometer, flanked by the tach on its left and the Eco indicator and other telltale lights on its right. It also has a multi-information display (MID), which gives you important information like ‘Distance-to-Empty’, average fuel consumption and other geeky but essential stuff. Rest of the vehicle is swathed in beige upholstery and carpet and roof lining and…etc. etc. The air-con works great, but it has only conventional knobs – no electronic control here!

Engine & Transmission

The interesting bit here is that while the complete vehicle is developed on the Brio platform but utilises the new City’s powerplants. What this essentially means is that you get a petrol 1.5-litre engine that puts out around 118 horses with 145 Nm of torque, whilst the diesel version does duty with a 100 horses and 200 Nm of torque. The petrol engine gets a 5-speed manual and could possibly come with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) as well, whereas the diesel would get only the manual tranny. If the petrol version gets the CVT, then this would be the first MUV in India to have an automatic.

Performance & Handling

This is no sports car and is not intended to be driven like one. However, performance is brisk and the Mobilio is no slouch. It handles quite well for its size as well, and the whole drive is about the confidence it imparts to the driver. Suspension is quite good as well, and the car simply thumps over potholes. Even when lightly loaded, it runs quite well. Worthy of mention here is the phenomenal 189mm of ground clearance, which would put many a big SUV to shame. Fuel consumption cannot be commented on right now, but figures similar to the City can be relied upon, which is a good sign.

Safety

The Mobilio comes with Honda’s proven G-Con (G-Force Control) body, which means it has passed quite strict crash safety standards. Select versions also get anti-lock braking (ABS) and airbags, though Honda too follows the trend of Indian manufacturers skimping on essential safety aids. For example, no side airbags or curtain bags are available. Overall though, safety standards of the Mobilio are the best in this segment.

Summary

The Honda Mobilio will be the best vehicle in its segment when it goes on sale in July. Its mix of features, specifications and the Honda promise of reliability and serviceability means that the Mobilio could easily straddle the segment as its leader. We expect the pricing to be between 7 lac to 12 lac, for all variants. At this price point, the Mobilio could well be the master of mobility in its segment.

Competition

So whom does the Mobilio compete with? The Maruti Ertiga is the first vehicle that comes to mind, followed by the Chevrolet Enjoy. Many people would also pitch in with the Innova, but the Innova is in a bigger category and in the commercial segment it is easy to dethrone it. The Mobilio instead would probably concentrate itself more in the personal usage segment where people like to travel together. It seems to be a very promising player and with all its bells and whistles and the Honda name behind it, the Ertiga should be scared. Very scared. The Enjoy? It will stay in the taxi segment…

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