Can you have everything in one vehicle? Can the runabout, the hot hatch and the MPV exist in one affordable model? From experience, we’d tell you that the answer is automatically no. Like the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is.
But Honda has created something that aims to be that Swiss Army knife of vehicles--the one model that might address the transportation needs and hopefully the driving pleasure of the majority. That product is the Mobilio MPV, and we’re going to find out if it can deliver.
The Mobilio looks like a stretched Brio because, well, that’s essentially what it is. It wears the increased proportions well, thanks to creases incorporated into the body. The face design seems exaggerated a little, and this draws attention to the Honda. I personally like the aggressive grille-and-bumper combination. It gives the Mobilio’s character a little snarl.
Seen from the side, this MPV is easy on the eyes. The large greenhouse is proportionate to the big doors. The rear angle has a good-looking JDM vibe courtesy of the roof spoiler and the red RS badge--the red-and-white color scheme is actually reminiscent of the revered Type R line of Honda. Overall, the Mobilio does well in the looks department.
The Mobilio interior is on the spartan side, but not depressingly so. The fit and the finish feel at par with the Brio and the Brio Amaze, which is acceptable. There’s a lot of plastic, especially in the doors, but they feel resilient and durable. The dark hues of the materials, broken by little touches of chrome, create a pleasant cabin atmosphere.
Finding an ideal seating position takes a little time, but once you’re settled in, the forward view is excellent and there’s ample support for your body. That can’t be said for the second row, however--its seats could use more thigh support, and the three people seated here shouldn’t have personal-space issues. The third row is functional and not merely a formality. Full-size adults can sit here, but ideally not for long distances. There’s even a row of A/C vents mounted on the ceiling to cool those seated in the second and third rows.
The Mobilio may be based on the Brio platform, but its engine comes from the 1.5-liter family of the Jazz and the City. This is necessary because the added weight requires more power, and we can say that the 118hp output and the 145Nm torque it packs are just enough for urban motoring. Even with several passengers it doesn’t feel underpowered. Step harder on the go-pedal and you will hear and feel the four-cylinder engine straining. Slot the shift knob in S mode, though, and Honda-like performance can be derived--but not the full-on experience.
The good news is that if you don’t fill up the Mobilio with many passengers regularly, fuel consumption averages a reasonable 8.7km/L even in gridlock situations. But given this powerplant, expect that figure to go down once occupants reach the third row due to more weight on the engine.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The suspension is on the firm side, and it doesn’t bounce too much over speed bumps. Still, the ride is pleasant, the Mobilio finding an agreeable balance between resistance and comfort. The steering is responsive enough, but one can’t help note a slight delay in feedback--especially when you see the H badge of the steering wheel. The logo reminds you of the missing nimbleness due to the MPV form.
On the road, body roll is kept to a tolerable minimum, and I had no problem maneuvering in tight urban traffic. I also have to commend the Mobilio for its good brakes. At no point did I have a difficult time modulating the left pedal. The Mobilio does have a long body, so I wish it had parking sensors.
The steering-wheel audio buttons are a welcome addition, and they feel a little premium compared to the rest of the cabin. The tiller buttons operate a 2-DIN head unit that has a beautiful interface.
The Mobilio’s GPS-equipped unit has all the features that cars in higher price brackets have: CD, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and navigation. However, I did find the Bluetooth connectivity to be unstable sometimes. Reconnecting after starting the engine can be frustrating.
The Mobilio is not the magic solution to the transport needs of both the family man and the driving enthusiast. But what Honda has done is come very close to addressing both ends of the motorist spectrum, and it’s an amazing achievement. Brand loyalists with a keen eye might nitpick about the level of trim, but keep in mind the Mobilio’s attractive price point.
If you don’t really need the third row, go for the City or the Jazz. You won’t regret it. But if you want a seven-seater MPV that has a good ride and can dish out doses of fun, the Mobilio deserves your vote.
SPECS: HONDA MOBILIO 1.5 RS NAVI CVT
Engine: 1.5-liter in-line-four i-VTEC gasoline
Power: 118hp @ 6,600rpm
Torque: 145Nm @ 4,600rpm
Drive layout: FWD
Photos by Dinzo Tabamo
UPDATE as of June 11, 2018: Honda Cars Philippines was the first car manufacturer to reveal its 2018 price list—you know, the one under the new Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. As expected, higher excise taxes mean higher car prices. Almost every model in Honda's Philippine lineup saw a jump in price. Almost. Higher-end vehicles such as the Honda Legend, Honda Pilot and Honda Civic Type R saw no increase. So good for you if you could afford them in the first place. Big news this year is the introduction of the diesel-powered Honda CR-V. Gone are the days when having a diesel engine meant putting up with harsh cabin noise for the sake of fuel economy. Today's oil burners are much more efficient, and the CR-V's Earth Dreams Technology turbodiesel revs up with only the tiniest hint of noise heard inside. Power delivery from the 118hp, 300Nm mill is a bit livelier than expected with a light load, with a slight kick once you hit the power band. Our test netted us 12km/L in heavy city traffic.