Compact seven-seat MPVs lend themselves well to the Indian market. Not too large for city traffic, car-like to drive and spacious enoughthey have considerable appeal. Yes, seven-seat SUVs are probably more appealing, but they are much larger, heavier, more cumbersome to drive and mostly more expensive too.
The Maruti Ertiga, the first of these hatchback-based compact MPVs, came in last year and created quite a sensation. Based on the Swift, it was able to carry seven passengers, but it was also compact, affordable and easy to drive.
Now, Honda wants to get in on the action with the new Brio-based Mobilio, its recently shown seven-seater. Unveiled in Indonesia, one of the largest markets for cars like these, the Mobilio uses a longer wheelbase to give it more space, just like the Ertiga.
Honda has made sure its seven-seater looks very different from the Brio hatch and the Amaze saloon. The front does resemble the Brio, as the basic proportions are similar, but a wider grille and a sportier new chin give the nose an all-new look.
Honda has also used many visual tricks to help mask the cars length and van-like proportions. Theres a kink in the window line, two upward moving cuts along the side of the body, massively flared wheel-arches and even a floating design for the rear pillar of the car, the latter achieved using part sheet metal and part blacked-out glass. Big wheels hide the back of the body and complete the picture. The Mobilio looks best from the rear thoughthe wraparound look of the rear windscreen, the flared haunches, the big tail-lights and the attractive split at the bottom looking just stunning.
But MPVs are all about space, and Honda has really given the Mobilio a leg up here. The Mobilios 2,650 mm wheelbase is 245 mm longer than even the Amazes, which itself has a longer wheelbase than the Brio. This should give the compact MPV plenty of space, especially considering how good Honda is when it comes to interior packaging. Whats important to note, however, is that Marutis Ertiga has an even longer wheelbaseat 2,740 mm. The Mobilio fights back with a longer overall length and a roofline that has also been changed to create a more spacious cabin; the overall height is 105 mm taller than the Amaze. This is also partly because of the 20 mm increase in ground clearance to a solid 185 mm. So cabin space should be pretty impressive.
On the inside, the look of the cabin is familiar. The very compact and space-efficient dash has been carried over from the Brio and Amaze to keep costs down and the Mobilio gets the same slim front seats with the fixed headrests as well.
Hondas mini-MPV will also get an impressive set of engines. Unlike Marutis diesel Ertiga, where you have to wait a bit for performance to come surging in, thanks to the small, 1,248cc diesel engine, the Honda will be powered by the larger 1,498cc 98.6bhp i-DTEC diesel. We know, from the Amaze, that this motor provides instant throttle responses and plenty of pulling power at low engine speeds.
The Mobilio will also be introduced in Indonesia with a version of the Citys current 1.5-litre i-VTEC petrol motor that develops 116bhp and 14.6kgm of torque, and this engine is also likely to be sold in India.
With three rows of seats, Hondas excellent packaging skills, aggressive styling and a strong diesel engine under the hood, the Mobilio will surely give the Ertiga a run for its money. Expect to see the car in India first at the Auto Expo in 2014, with the production version hitting our shores towards the middle of next year.
*Based on the same platform as the Brio and the Amaze.
*Wheelbase has been stretched to 2,650 mm for more space.
*Will use the same 98.6 bhp diesel engine as the Amaze.
*Could use the Citys 1.5-litre petrol instead of the Brios 1.2.
*Will make its Indian debut at the 2014 Auto Expo in February.
Honda Mobilio: Key specs
Engine size: 1.5 (P), 1.5 (D)
Price from Rs 6-10 lakh*
Installation: Front, FWD
Power: 116 bhp, 98.6 bhp
Torque: 14.9 kgm, 20.39 kgm
Gearbox 5-speed manual
Ground clearance 185 mm