Text & Photos: J Srikant

2014-07-31 13.58.32 - CopyWhen Honda Cars India came out with its premium hatchback Jazz in 2009, it gave people a new perspective about Honda’s cars – they are unbelievably spacious. Ever since, all models that Honda has launched in India have set new benchmarks in their respective segments for space; Brio in hatchbacks, Amaze at the entry-level, and City in the luxury sedan segment. This time Honda Cars India is making space, ‘literally,’ for itself in the MUV segment with its recently launched ‘Mobilio.’ Based on Honda’s philosophy of ‘Man maximum, machine minimum,’ -Mobilio portrays space as its trump card to ace out competition.

Mobilio was launched early this year in Indonesia, which is not too different to India when it comes to infrastructure and customer needs. Honda has already sold close to 50,000 units in Indonesia since January, capturing 23% of the market. The Japanese auto major said that the idea behind Mobilio was progressive Private Jetliner, which has three core elements. First is show which represents styling; comfort representing ease of use, large cabin space, sedan-like ride; and assurance which represents fuel economy, affordable price and sufficient ground clearance. Looking at it head-on, a person with an untrained eye would be hard pressed to notice any difference between Brio, Amaze and the Mobilio. But gaze a tad longer and the deviations between Mobilio and the other two begin to appear. The bold chrome grill and the stylised bumper give Mobilio a bulky feel, a must attribute in any Indian MPV.

Where Mobilio really makes a statement is in its side profile with strong character lines. Even the window line, with its curvy design, gives the second row passengers a bigger window area and a roomier feeling. The darkened third row window merges into the rear window, which makes the car look longer than it actually is. Other aspects are the larger-than-normal back door. It is nearly 145mm taller and 195mm wider than the Amaze’s rear door. The decent wheelbase of 2652mm allows for this size of door which helps in easy ingress and egress for the second and third row passengers. The wheelbase of Mobilio is lesser than that of its nearest competitor Maruti Suzuki Ertiga’s 2740mm but manages to free-up much more space for its occupants.

2014-07-31 14.02.10 - CopyThe biggest challenge for the team was to design the overall package. To keep the styling and yet give this kind of space on the inside,” said Junichi Teraoka, Head of R&D, Honda Asia Pacific. “In fact, there always used to be differences between our team and the stylist,” he joked. Mobilio is based on the same Brio platform which has been extended to include the third row seating. According to Honda, a lot of market research went into the development of Mobilio, right from the features to be included in the car to even the length of the car. The length of the car has been kept at 4.4metres after looking at the average parking space available at home and shopping malls. The turning radius too has been kept at 5.2 metres which is similar to Ertiga.

Mobilio rides on 185/65 R15 profiled tyres which do look sufficient for the size of this car. The power to these tyres is provided by 1.5 litre i-VTEC petrol engine and 1.5L i-DTEC diesel engine which churn out 119ps @ 6,600rpm and 100ps @ 3,600 rpm respectively. These are the same engines which have been used in the fourth generation Honda City launched late last year. We drove Mobilio’s diesel version with the still relatively new iDTEC engine to gauge whether the NVH issues which were noticed with Amaze and City still persist. They do, but to a far lesser extent than before. Taking customer feedback, Honda has added some insulation to Mobilio which was non-existent in Amaze.

On the outside, the company has worked on improving the rigidity of the centre pillar, rear cabin and tail gate frame. But it is in the interiors that most improvements have been done. To reduce external noise penetrating into the cabin, Honda has employed dashboard insulators, door seals, rear side lining, floor carpet and roof lining. “We have taken a look at the overall body construction and the ways by which to reduce the vibrations by taking countermeasures in the body wherein we have focused on the back portion of the car. In engine section also, we have used new material for the hood insulators,” informed Teraoka. The engine also has been re-tuned and the engine timing has been modified to further reduce vibrations.

The results are palpable. The engine is now much quieter and vibrations less harsh, which allows you to enjoy the smoothness and power delivery of this Honda engine. And as for power, it is readily available across the rev band. The diesel engine gives out a torque of 200Nm @ 1,750 rpm and the petrol mill churns out a torque of 145Nm @4,600 rpm. But what will impress buyers the most is the claimed fuel efficiency of Mobilio. The diesel variant has ARAI certified mileage of 24.2kmpl whereas the petrol will run at 17.3kmpl. To achieve this kind of efficiency, Honda has looked to reduce the weight at all possible places. “At specific positions in the body structure, we have used high-tensile steel which gives it the sturdiness and yet helps in reducing weight, “said Teraoka. “Also, the diesel engine is all aluminium because of which we are able to reduce weight by a good margin.”

Mobilio also manages to impress with its handling prowess. Thanks to its monocoque construction, the car is able to ride more or less like a sedan. All that mass at the rear seems to disappear into thin air when taking a tight corner. However, body roll is not completely absent and you do tend to press yourself into the seat to stay in your original sitting position while taking a tight turn.

Coming to the interior, the first question that always pops up is how Honda manages to free so much space for the passengers. While some of the tricks are visible like thinner seats and scooped dashboard, there are value additions beneath the skin as well. Honda has moved the sitting space for the fuel tank under the second seating to increase the third-row. The fuel tank is also flat shaped, which does not eat into the second row space. We also found the second row armrest quite wide and comfortable, for two to rest their elbows, without jostling much for space.

So is Mobilio more spacious in the third-row than its competition? Well, not to a huge extent. The second row has been given the sliding option which is a practical addition in an MPV, although this feature is only available in the top-end V trim. This does increase the leg-room to a certain extent for the third row passengers. However, the low seating in the third row will make long distance travel a little uncomfortable for adults. What it beats the competition in, is the boot space. With the 3rd row up, the Mobilio has an impressive boot space of 223 litres which goes up to 521 litres with the 3rd row folded down. Even the loading is low which makes it easy to stack bulky suitcases into the boot.

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