It could be said that seven seats are a major selling point for cars these days. For quite some time, Honda was missing out on that vital market although they do offer seven seats in the Pilot and Odyssey albeit with price tags out of reach for the middle-classes. These days, if you want a bigger slice of the market, you need a compact 7 seat MPV at more attainable prices. For Honda, that car finally arrived last year in the form of the Honda Mobilio.
On looks alone, the Mobilio looks promising. The long tail is a constant reminder that the car can seat seven while the tallish roof line promises a lot of room inside. While the front doesn't hide the fact that the Mobilio is based on the Brio city car, the rear looks a lot more distinct. Long wraparound tail lights add a touch of class and makes it look like a product that was well thought of and not an afterthought by the manufacturer. Granted, MPV's aren't exactly lookers in the first place, but the Mobilio does a good job of wrapping a utility vehicle in a good looking suit.
If you own a Brio, the dashboard layout will look very familiar for you. From the round aircon vents to the instrument binnacle, the Mobilio apes its sedan and hatchback counterparts. This does mean excellent ergonomics all throughout with all the switches and dials exactly where you expect them. From the driver's seat backwards, it's all different. I would rate the legroom highly even when the front seats are pushed back and taller colleagues of mine didn't complain about the space.
This being an MPV, it's generous with cubby holes and storage pockets although, in my opinion, the Mobilio needs more storage space up front to maximize its versatility. As for interior quality and materials, it's what you expect from this class: Hard wearing plastics with grain patters to boost cabin ambiance. Fit and finish is also what you expect from a Honda although I do have to say the factory radio isn't the easiest to use. During its one week stay with me, I never figured out how to access the options. A shame, really, because sound quality is pretty good.
The main reason why people buy this sort of car is its seven seat capacity and on that front, the Mobilio fares well for a compact MPV. Getting to the back is an easy one-step affair. Simply pull the seatback adjuster and the back rests tumble forward and along with the bottom cushion. The sixth and seventh seat accommodations are generous for a car this small. As a bonus, one can slide the second row forward for more room but even with the second row fully slid backwards, I still had reasonable legroom. Certainly a better place to stay than the “8-seater” CR-V from 14 years ago.
Normally, vehicles equipped with third row seats come with largely compromised cargo areas with seven seats up. For its size, the Mobilio leaves a decent amount of space behind the third row. It has enough space for a small stroller or lot of backpacks.
With all that said, the Mobilio has a lot of showroom appeal but what is it like the moment you drive it out of the dealership?
Steering is fingertip light at low speeds, devoid of feel like in most electric power steering systems. Once on the move, it weights up progressively but still remains effortless all throughout. Effortless can also be described with its engine when driving around the city. The Mobilio is equipped with a 1.5 liter i-VTEC unit that produces 120 PS and 145 Nm of torque lifted straight out of the Honda City and Jazz and is paired to a continuously variable transmission.
The combination of the engine and transmission gives enough confidence to pull itself out of trouble and just enough for overtaking on the highway. At low speeds, the CVT is quick to react and doesn't feel sluggish off the line. Even when loaded, it pulled us up with ease going up the winding roads heading to Timberland and putting the CVT is sport mode gave us more confidence when going up steep hills. NVH needs a little work though, with the occasional buzz stemming from the drivetrain. That's not to say it's noisy inside but a little more isolation will enhance its driving and riding experience even more.
Still, I wouldn't complain about its consumption at 11 km/l in the city with heavy traffic and 17.6 km/l on the highway. When I drove this car through hellish payday traffic, it didn't even dip below 9 km/l.
Speaking of ride, the Mobilio's McPherson Strut and torsion beam combination results in a rather soft ride. However, the lumbar cushions are on the thin side, as with most of the cars in its segment. Not thin enough to give you backache, (they're actually alright) but sudden road imperfections are transferred straight to your body. Still, the Brio-based roots give you a car-like ride that isn't wallowy or choppy thanks to well tuned damping.
The minor gripes aren't enough to outweigh the positives this car has to offer. Apart from its strong showroom appeal, the Mobilio's powertrain and transmission combination gives you a relaxed drive be it in the city or province. Its talents are enough for you to enjoy it everywhere you go rather than just being a city runabout. As I returned the keys, I can't help but think that the Mobilio is actually a very well thought out car for our market.
At Php 877,000, it's on the higher end of the compact MPV spectrum but it does offer class leading power, a CVT transmission that helps it score high fuel economy ratings and generous interior space. Perhaps its no surprise then that it has become Honda Philippines' second best-selling model, just behind the City, despite the fact that it hasn't been around for a year. Honda may have been late to the party but they were able to give us one heck of a present.