Seven seats seem to be a key selling point these days. Perhaps it's in our culture to cram as many people inside a car or our family oriented values. Nevertheless, a lot of us find the idea of more seats as comforting, just in case we need them. That said, there are loads of seven seaters flooding the market now, varying in size and price. The lower the prices, the better.
Honda was relatively late to the mass-market seven-seater party game. Sure, there was the '10-seater' CR-V back in the early 2000's but the Japanese automaker unveiled their first true seven-seater in the country in the form of the Mobilio. Launched in 2015, the Mobilio shot up the sales charts, becoming one of the best-sellers in the Honda lineup. Now, there's an updated model and it's keen on carrying on its successful beginnings.
So what exactly have Honda done to update the Mobilio? For starters, there's an entirely new front fascia and, for me, it makes the Mobilio a more mature-looking car. It's no longer looks like a Brio with a longer body. The larger, upswept headlights give the Mobilio a hint of aggression and the RS trim level adds to that. At the same time, the 'Solid Wing Face' grill complements the new headlights, almost making it appear as an all-new model.
It does, however, retain the shape of the older RS model but that's no bad thing. With a more squared-off look, it looks more cohesive than its bug-eyed predecessor. Speaking of things that have been retained, the sides and the rear have been carried over from the pre-update cars. That means it still has its low liftover height, making it easy to load items into the cargo bay. Much like before, the updated Mobilio looks more like a station wagon with a taller roof than an MPV.
Honda also went to great lengths in revamping the Mobilio's interior. It no longer shares the circular-themed dashboard of the Brio. Giving it a more grown-up look is a dash straight out of the Jazz which, for me, gives the interior a more substantial feel. Yes, there are hard plastics but the textures do lift the ambiance somewhat. Also new are the seats and I have to say that it's a definite improvement over the old ones. There's thicker padding and thicker bolsters, rectifying the the rather uncomfortable seats of the pre-update model. I do wish they added a seat height adjuster as part of this update.
Space is no issue with the Mobilio. There's stacks of headroom thanks to that raised roof while the second row still offers a lot of legroom, even with tall occupants in front. Also, there a surprising is the amount of space in the third row where adults below 5'8” can sit in relative comfort. As for utility, it can easily take in a substantial amount of groceries and boxes although the hinges for the tumble-forward third row seats prevent it from having a truly flat floor. Hopefully, the next-generation model comes with fold flat seats while retaining the impressive cargo capacity.
After all the changes from inside and out, Honda kept the 1.5-liter i-VTEC engine under the hood. Power ratings are unchanged at 120 PS and 145 Nm of torque, the same figures as the BR-V, Jazz and City. It is then mated to a continuously variable transmission with a seven speed mode. We've come to know this powertrain combo as a smooth mill, with the CVT giving adequate grunt from a standstill and the engine delivering its power from the mid-range and onwards.
With 120 PS under the hood, it's enough for inner city jaunts and adequate on the highway. It won't set any new performance benchmarks but it wasn't the purpose of the car in the first place. The more important matter is it's performance with a full load of passengers. With six on-board and stacks of boxes to boot, the Mobilio still had enough pulling power to carry itself. The engine does become a bit more vocal on steeper roads but it's not under a lot of stress. Perhaps it needs just a little more pulling power but a fully laden Mobilio will perform just fine.
This being a Honda, one expects good fuel economy figures and the Mobilio delivers on that front. Extremely heavy traffic (two hours to cover 21 kilometers) netted 8.4 kilometers per liter, not a bad showing considering it stood in a standstill for most of the time. On other days (one hour to cever 18 kilometers), this figure moves up to 9.4 kilometers per liter while a highway jaunt registered 15.6 kilometers per liter.
Thanks to the new seats, the Mobilio is a far more comfortable commuter. There's more back support and the thicker padding means you feel the seat frame after spending hours in traffic. It still rides about the same as the pre-facelift model but the seats make a world of difference. This is a car you wouldn't mind sitting for hours while driving. That said, there is a hint of firmness in the ride when the car is empty but it smoothens out with a full load. At the same time, it could use a fair bit of extra sound deadening for a quieter trip.
Despite its status as a family runabout, the Mobilio can be a surprisingly fun steer. Perhaps its the Brio underpinnings (beefed up for seven-seater capacity) but it's light and fairly dynamic to drive on winding roads. Yes, the steering is light and doesn't offer a lot of feedback but the chassis itself is good. The light steering does pay off around town, making it maneuverable and easy to park. Further helping in maneuverability is the reverse camera.
The update also brings forth a new price tag. Now at Php 1,029,000 for the RS variant, it is Php 47,000 more than its initial release. It may have breached the one million peso mark but for that, you get a gar more cohesive exterior, a grown up interior, a new infotainment system and a more comfortable riding experience. All things considered, it's well worth the price upgrade.