The year ahead is expected to be a slow, uneventful one for most car manufacturers in India—most have only minor refreshes and new variants planned. Not so for Honda though, the Japanese automaker that has been on a comeback trail in India since the 2011 launch of the Brio petrol hatchback. The Brio was followed by the Amaze—compact sedan on the Brio platform—petrol and diesel variants, which saw the company zooming up the sales charts.
Apart from the new Honda City sedan, Honda’s big launches in 2014 are expected to be the Honda Mobilio MPV and the Honda Jazz premium hatchback. All are expected to sport both diesel and petrol engines, precisely what the market wants. Among the three, Mobilio is expected to be the big hitter for Honda in 2014.
Originally, Honda built the Mobilio for Indonesia, where the MPV market is well-developed. The Mobilio is a seven-seater built on the Brio platform, and will be slightly bigger than the Maruti Ertiga, its direct competitor. Variant to comparable variant, it is expected to be priced just a bit higher than the Ertiga. This will be exactly on the lines of the Amaze’s pricing—just a bit higher than competitor Dzire. Priced thus, Honda’s premium brand image can take buyers away from Ertiga.
We recently got a chance to drive the automatic petrol variant of the Mobilio at the Twin Ring Motegi race circuit in Japan. The car is very similar to the Brio inside, thanks to parts-sharing with the Brio and Amaze. As its dimensions are slightly larger than competitor Ertiga, passengers will have a bit more legroom, making even the third row bearable for short distances for adult passengers.
The Mobilio in India will likely feature the petrol and diesel engines of the Amaze, most probably in the same state of tune; so power and fuel efficiency characteristics are expected to be similar to the Amaze.
Externally, the Mobilio is more attractive than the blander Maruti Suzuki Ertiga and will appeal to the style-conscious urban buyer. Design is similar to the Brio or Amaze, with a new bumper design making it more aggressive-looking. Even from the rear, the MPV appears smarter and with more personality than its closest competitor. The Mobilio is expected to hit Indian roads in April-May 2014. We can expect Maruti to fight back with a refreshed and Ertiga and offer special editions to fend off the challenge, but the market