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Honda Mobilio RS facelift (2017) review

The Honda Mobilio has its traditional MPV rivals beaten, but can its facelift cope with the arrivals of the Toyota Sienta and the brand’s very own BR-V?

What’s new?

The Mobilio has become the third model in Honda’s small car lineup this year to undergo a mid-life facelift. Just like in the minor-change City saloon and Jazz hatchback, alterations in the Mobilio MPV have just been kept to the visual side and specification sheet.

The biggest design tweak in the Mobilio takes place up front where the head lights, grille and bumper feel much more pronounced in appearance. This can specially be felt in the RS model, as tested here, costing 763,000 baht. That’s around 30k higher than what the top-of-the-line Suzuki Ertiga Dreza and Toyota Avanza asks for.

However, during its first three years of this current generation, the Mobilio faced some new alternatives. The first came from its very own house: the BR-V SUV, something like a jacked-up Mobilio. The second one is the Toyota Sienta, likewise a seven-seat MPV but with sliding doors (to directly rival the Honda Freed, whose sales have been discontinued in Thai showrooms).

And with just a price premium of some 60k over the Mobilio, the BR-V may sound like the trendy choice of an SUV and Sienta as the proper MPV with easy levels of usability. Is there any saving grace left in the Mobilio?

Interior is well-designed but is flooded with hard plastics.

What’s cool?

Whether you’re going to like the Mobilio’s new face is certainly for you to decide, but the changes certainly help lift its presence on the road over the pre-facelift model. Add that with RS’s trim like roof-mounted rear spoiler.

The interior remains neatly designed, ergonomically speaking. And that new centre screen housing rear parking view, infotainment and smartphone connectivity all lend to sense of modernity.

That the E85-capable 117hp 1.5-litre petrol engine and CVT automatic transmission have been carried over is no bad thing. Power is adequate and acceleration is more linear than in either the Avanza or Ertiga, both using circa-100hp motors and four-speed automatic transmission.

Even Mitsubishi’s all-new Xpander seven-seat MPV-cum-SUV, due on Thai forecourts later this year, doesn’t seem to be of an on-paper threat in performance terms to the Mobilio: 105hp 1.5-litre petrol unit and four-speed auto.

Apart from handling more neatly than its direct rivals, the Mobilio offers slightly more grip and finesse than in the similarly powered BR-V, which has a higher-riding body and nearly 70kg more of weight to shift around.

Rear-most seats don’t disappear, but load area is still decent.

What’s not?

While the Mobilio’s interior looks reasonably good on the eyes, the tactile quality feels low-rent thanks to plastics that don’t only feel hard but also pungently form part of the “new car smell” many Thais generally loathe.

And to many people we’ve talked to, the looks of the rugged BR-V is more preferable to those of the Mobilio. And yes, the Sienta from Toyota may not have a superbly designed cabin, but its sliding doors help for easy entry and exit in tight parking spaces.

Rear parking camera should be useful for most potential clients.

Buy or bye?

If you compare the Mobilio against the Avanza and Ertiga, it still a far better MPV by packing more punch, more car-like handling and slightly higher levels of functionality. With this facelift, Honda has merely made a class-beater fresher than ever. OK, the range-topping Avanza and Ertiga are around 30k cheaper but hardly any when it comes to the more basic versions.

And whether the Sienta’s more stylish exterior and more practical doors can compensate for its more inferior performance can be debatable for some. The BR-V, meanwhile, wants to charge more for its butch looks in the form of the popular SUV body.

In the end, the Mobilio wins in its own game, but the battlefield has just gotten wider with some comparable alternatives worth contemplating. The Mobilio’s saving grace would probably be its honest MPV intentions.

Rear parking camera should be useful for most potential clients.


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