Honda's new subcompact MUV lacks dramatic styling or the fun factor, but soccer moms will have a field day in this vehicle
At last year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Honda Motor president and CEO Takanobu Ito said the company would give more importance to its regional markets and develop special models to suit different customer requirements in each region.
With R&D operations in different regions around the world, including Asean and Thailand, Honda is rolling out new models that are exclusively sold in certain markets such as the Brio, which qualifies for Thailand eco-car programme, and the Mobilio subcompact MUV (Multi-purpose Utility Vehicle), which is its latest Asean/Asian model.
Although it was first launched in Indonesia and also sold in India, the Mobilio was actually developed by Japanese and Thai engineers at the Honda R&D Asia-Pacific centre in Thailand. Production takes place in all three countries with the vehicles offering slightly different specifications.
In Thailand, Honda plans to sell 10,000 Mobilios per year. It’s the first Honda MUV to be produced in Thailand and opens up a new segment for the Japanese automaker.
Judging from the design, it’s easy to recognize that this isn’t a global vehicle. The engine and front floor belongs to the Brio, while the design from the centre pillar to the rear end is new. The result is it’s a very Asean-looking people carrier. I don’t know, but it makes me think of Proton’s MPVs from Malaysia.
For the Thai market, the Mobilio is priced from Bt597,000 for the entry-level S version to Bt739,000 for the RS AT top model featured today.
I didn’t get to drive the Mobilio much, taking it around for a spin on Hua Hin roads for less than 100 kilometres. But for this kind of vehicle, the driving characteristics seem to be less important than versatility and user-friendliness.
While the 120-ps i-VTEC engine with 145Nm has just about enough power and torque to get the Mobilio moving satisfactorily, Honda executives claim a best-in-class fuel economy of 16.6 km/litre, thanks to an efficient CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).
The handling is okay until you reach high speeds, and then the steering starts to feel too light. The suspension, meanwhile, soaks up cracks and bumps well, which is a priority for a people carrier.
According to Honda executives, the Mobilio is targeted at City and Jazz customers who want a replacement vehicle but don’t want to move up to the Civic or Accord. They would prefer a multi-purpose vehicle that is affordable and is capable of accommodating the whole family comfortably.
And this is why the Mobilio comes with both 2-row and 3-row seat variants, allowing it to carry as many as seven people. The second row seat has backrest-incline adjustment and the third row seat has 50/50 split folding mechanism.
In the entry-level S variant, the 60/40 split fold-and-tumble type rear seat has a 100mm slide adjustment that dramatically increases rear legroom.
The cabin is pretty spacious and offers a good atmosphere. There are ceiling air vents for the second row passengers, and generous headroom thanks to the raised roof lining. Meanwhile, the luggage area has a waterproof floor, allowing you to take along all sorts of things and not get it all dirty, for example a muddy bicycle. Once the rear backseat is folded, there are also two more multi-purpose storage areas.
All variants come with handy features such as an Eco indicator, additional power outlets and 11 cupholders. Strangely, there’s no B trip meter, something that should have been offered due to the nature of the vehicle that’s supposed to be driven upcountry a lot. The turning lights don’t have a soft touch function like some other Honda models either. Sometimes I think it’s time that Thai customers demand the full package from automakers in every model marketed here.
The interior design is pretty simple, but there’s a good attempt to add some stylishness to it. A satisfactory level of equipment is offered, and the highlight includes a 7-inch Advanced Touch audio system with a HDMI port for audio and video connection, as well as wireless connectivity for some specific smartphone models, Bluetooth and USB and a multi-function steering wheel. Lower models get a 2-DIN audio system with USB and aux inputs.
Safety features include dual front airbags, ABS brakes, seatbelts for all 7 occupants, rearview camera and speed-activated auto door locks.
For the past two years Honda has been launching a large number of new and improved models, offering a wider range of vehicle for consumers.
The Mobilio seves as another choice for those looking for a subcompact MUV that’s affordable, economical and versatile, although there’s not much styling or the fun factor involved. Soccer moms will be having a field day in this one.
Honda Mobilio RS AT specs
Engine: 4-cylinder SOHC 16-valve i-VTEC
Bore and stroke: 73x89.4mm
Compression ratio: 10.3:1
Max power: 120ps/6,600rpm
Max torque: 145Nm/4,600rpm
Transmission: continuously variable transmission
Suspension (f/r): McPherson strut, stabiliser/torsion beam
Steering: powered rack and pinion
Turning circle: 10.4 metres
Brakes (f/r): vented disc/drum
Track (f/r): 1,472/1,475
Ground clearance: 189mm
Wheels: 15-inch alloys
Tyres: 185/65 R16
Fuel tank capacity: 42 litres
Distributor: Honda Automobile (Thailand)