The BR-V’s Handsome Brother
Honda originally launched its first ever compact MPV, the Mobilio, back in 2015, the year in which Honda Cars Philippines was diversifying its product line-up. Its first compact MPV, which utilizes the Brio platform, easily climbed up the sales charts. It became one of Honda’s most popular models in the Philippines, but Honda was also quick to notice that nowadays, everyone wants a car that possesses a pseudo-SUV personality; one that has enough black cladding and ground clearance to be marketed as a ‘7-seater SUV.’ Ever since the BR-V came in, which is basically a jacked-up and rugged-ized version of the Mobilio, Honda’s compact MPV went into obscurity, overshadowed by its BR-V sibling. Now, Honda has gave it a refresh last year, bringing with it a sharper look by utilizing the same assertive face found in the Civic. Honda has given to me the keys to the Mobilio RS, and from first impressions, it looks very handsome indeed, which begs me the question, should people opt for this instead of the BR-V? Let’s find out.
Make no mistake, designing an MPV to look sleek is no easy feat, but with last year’s mid-cycle refresh, Honda has clearly nailed it with this Mobilio RS. It has all the right ingredients to make it look as every bit as good looking especially when compared to its rivals. This particular Moblio RS is coated in a fresh shade of Phoenix Orange Pearl, and it certainly make this car pop. With its slick two-tone alloy wheels, tapered halogen headlights with LED guide lights, aggressive front and rear bumpers, side skirts, and a rear spoiler to top it all off, the Mobilio RS gives off a wagon vibe. Don’t let the RS badge fool you, though. While we’ve seen the RS badge become associated to cars like the Ford Focus RS, Porsche 911 GT3 RS, to name a few, RS in this case means “Road Sailing,” which means this is just an aesthetics upgrade over the mid-tier E variant of the Mobilio. Don’t let that put you off, though, as this is definitely the most handsome small entry-level MPV on sale right now, and if we were to base everything on looks, I’d definitely pick this over the BR-V, as well as its rivals.
Honda’s designers have gone to great lengths to upgrade the interior. Its predecessor had the same dash layout as the Brio’s, which mean it wasn’t the best in terms of fit and finish, so Honda decided to completely rip that out of the car and replace it with a much nicer and more modern dashboard design. It shares many traits with the Honda Jazz and City, and that’s a good thing. While the plastics are all hard to the touch, the graining is a lot nicer than it used to be, making it feel more upmarket even compared to its rivals. The manual air conditioning uses a digital interface, which gives an impression of the car having automatic climate control. Like the exterior, selecting the RS variant also gives you an upgraded interior compared to the E variant, with Honda throwing in some nice splashes of orange details to spruce up the cabin ambience.
Space and Practicality
Interior packaging has always been a Honda hallmark, and this Mobilio is no exception. Despite the car’s short dimensions, there’s abundant space for all three rows. Finding the ideal driving position can be difficult for some body types since the steering wheel only adjusts for rake, and the driver’s seat height can’t be adjusted. The front seats are more comfortable now on long journeys, thanks to more padding and improved back support.
Thanks to relatively thin seat designs, Honda’s engineers have truly maximized the Mobilio’s interior. There are stacks of head and legroom for the second rows, with three adults being able to sit abreast comfortably, too. Its appeal is further boosted by the seat’s ability to adjust forward or backward. The third row is best left for children, but my 5’10” frame was able to fit at the third row comfortably, though at a pinch. Nevertheless, this shows that the third row can still fit medium-sized adults comfortably.
With all three rows upright, the Mobilio RS has a volume of 223 liters, while folding the third row increases the capacity to 521 liters. Thanks to a low floor, loading items into the trunk is easy.
Features, Safety, and Infotainment
As expected with this top trim RS variant, it is loaded with features that range from passive entry with push button start, a 4-speaker audio system, a slick touch screen infotainment system with navigation, as well as an impressive list of safety kit that range from hill start assist, rear view camera, ISOFIX child seat anchor points, dual SRS airbags, ABS with EBD, and, you guessed it, electronic stability control. We believe that electronic stability control should be standard on all cars, regardless of price.
The Mobilio’s slick new infotainment system is the same one found in the Honda Jazz and City, and like in those cars, the user interface is excellent. Touch response from the Android-based infotainment system is snappy, with nicely-sized icons that makes it easy to tap into menus even while on the move. It’s so easy to use, one does not need a degree in Software Development in order to understand how to use the infotainment system. Just like in the Jazz RS I reviewed previously, connecting my phone via Bluetooth has been the easiest in this infotainment system. It was an easy, single step process. Manufacturers, take note. This is how you easy an infotainment system should be.
Under the hood is a 1.5-liter L15A SOHC i-VTEC engine that produces 120 hp @ 6,600 rpm, and 145 Nm of torque @ 4,800 rpm. Transmission choices remain the same, with this RS variant mated solely to Honda’s Earth Dreams CVT with a 7-speed manual mode, propelling the front wheels.
How It Drives
Out on the road, the Honda Mobilio RS presents drivers with commendable driving dynamics. Right off the bat, the Mobilio’s powertrain advantage is felt. With 120 hp on tap, it accelerates off the line with more eagerness compared to most of its rivals. Equipped with a CVT, the Mobilio manages to ring out the most out of the engine. Other rivals make do with only a 4-speed automatic transmission.
While this segment isn’t necessarily known for passionate driving dynamics, the Mobilio RS manages to deliver the good stuff. Its suspension is on the stiff side, but it’s not to the point that it can be considered uncomfortable. As a payoff to its firmer suspension, the Mobilio RS manages to hustle through corners with more control and eagerness compared to its rivals. While the numb steering somewhat detracts the Mobilio as being a truly dynamic car, it is fast and accurate enough that you know where to point the vehicle through a turn. This is no surprise, as the Mobilio utilizes the Brio’s platform. As a whole, the Mobilio is one of the nicer small MPVs to drive.
Out on the highway, the Mobilio RS manages to provide a commendable amount of overtaking power. Being only a hundred kilos heavier than the Jazz RS, the powertrain doesn’t suffer too much of a penalty when it comes to moving its own weight, though you really still have to ring out the engine a bit since all the power is in the higher rev range. Load it up with 6 passengers, and the Mobilio suffers from the same problem as its rivals. Overtaking becomes more of a planned act rather than something you can do spontaneously, and hill climbs now pose a challenge on the car’s engine, but because the Mobilio uses a CVT instead of an outdated 4-speed automatic found in its rivals, the transmission has much more freedom to put the engine into its optimum gear ratio in order to fulfill the task.
The 1.5-liter i-VTEC and CVT combo has come to be known as a smooth and commendable powertrain, but it’s also one that has been known to be fuel efficient. With a slightly heavier weight penalty compared to the Jazz RS I’ve driven before, the Mobilio still manages to provide a fuel economy figure of 10.2 km/l during the entire time it was with me, making the Mobilio one of the more fuel efficient small MPVs out there.
On The Downside
Aside from the lack of height adjustment for the seats and reach adjustment for the steering, we wish that the Mobilio RS would have better sound insulation, as there’s too much wind, road, and engine noise permeating through the cabin. That said, this is an entry level small MPV, so these niggles are somewhat expected on MPVs at this price point.
The BR-V is essentially a jacked-up version of the Mobilio, and by and large, the two vehicles feel quite similar, which brings me the question, should people opt for this Mobilio RS instead of the BR-V? For most reasons, it’s a resounding yes. Not only does it look more aggressive, but it’s also P78,000 less than a similarly-equipped top-trim BR-V 1.5 V Navi. Compared against its rivals, the Mobilio RS ends up as a much more polished product. It provides the best driving experience in its segment, coupled with class leading safety and convenience features. Topping it all off are looks that truly stand out in the parking lot, especially if you opt for this Phoenix Orange Pearl color. While crossovers and SUVs are all the rage these days, I think Honda BR-V buyers should take a look of this Honda Mobilio RS.
Exterior Design: ★★★★★
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★★
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.3 out of 5