Which one to kill – Mobilio or BR-V?

To say that Honda is savage is an understatement. We are talking about an automotive company who will gladly discontinue automotive icons like Integra, Prelude, and S2000 in a heartbeat if it doesn’t perform financially. This fact is not new, way back when Soichiro Honda and Takeo Fujisawa was still kicking and laying the foundation of the company it is now, they both spar a lot. In one story of Honda biography, when developing the Honda 1300 in the 1960s, Soichiro Honda had quarrels with his engineers. Takeo Fujisawa then intervene. There’s some conflicting story from various sources, but suffice to say, business decision talk happened and although the 1300 with air cooling is out for a sale, it’s short lived, making way for the Accord. So guys, if you’re a true hardcore Honda fan, look for the Honda 1300 as to my knowledge, it’s the last Honda car that Soichiro Honda technically involved in.

Anyway… Back to which one to kill, Mobilio or BR-V…

The problem with Mobilio and BR-V is that they kind of overlap with each other. Similar interior and utility makes it hard to justify buying one from each except for the price, which the Mobilio has advantage over the BR-V. Yes the BR-V have better NVH (noise, vibration, harshness), but it’s marginal and the only thing it has to the general populace is its SUV look. However I couldn’t dismiss the engineering merit BR-V carries such as the actively cooled CVT, that uptick in power and more head room on the third row.

If I’m in the position of the bean counters looking at the big picture, I will kill the Mobilio and keep the BR-V for its second generation. The Mobilio only sells well in Indonesia, and for a regional project that’s bad. The BR-V sales in the region is on the rise, because globally, people leans towards everything SUV or strong stance looking MPV. This is why cars like Mitsubishi Expander succeeds, because it crosses the boundaries between your mommy and daddy car. Unofficially, they call these cars MUV, a portmanteau from MPV and SUV, although the original meaning is very far from a simple combination of words. In United States and Europe, they just call these kind of cars, crossovers.

Off course strong brand is a strong brand, and the Mobilio has established itself in Indonesia very well with 200 thousand units running around in the country to date. My take killing the mobilio is killing the car, but not the name. So the next generation Mobilio physically is dead, replaced by a second generation BR-V, but call it the Mobilio in Indonesia while the same car is called BR-V anywhere else.

My idea for the next generation 7 seater is pretty standard, make the car wider and with fold flat 50:50 third row seat. The 1.5L i-VTEC and CVT combo is potent as is, perhaps a 1.0L i-VTEC turbo is warranted to put Honda in the forefront of automotive technology, but I’m worried about the lack of maintenance culture and Honda engine tolerance for low grade fuel.

Honda main competitor is obviously the Mitsubishi Expander, and because it’s physically a larger car, the current gen Mobilio/BR-V is simply a smaller alternative. Sure, large isn’t always good, bigger car, heavier weight, more frontal area and thus less fuel efficient but it’s what the market demanded, so Honda needs to follow suit. I don’t like tall cars, the Expander almost grazed that line, so I’m still okay. What I wanted from a second generation Mobilio/BR-V is a wider car, the current gen headroom is already good but the shoulder room needs a lot of improvement. In either current gen Mobilio or BR-V, I always scrap elbows with the driver when I sit in the front passenger seat. Especially when the driver is pulling the e-brake.

There’s also another issue with Mobilio and BR-V life cycle. The Mobilio is due for a major change in most likely a year’s time, since it’s already in the market for 6 years now, while the BR-V only entered its 4th year now. So will Honda pull similar move like the Amaze in India? Changing the model in just 4 years? I really hate to be Honda product planner now.

I love Honda and its fighting spirit, they always fight hard with fresh and exciting product portfolio. However I just don’t like the Mobilio from the start. It’s too generic, and not Honda special. Honda should never go with the principle “what they need” anymore. Yes, the Mobilio is what the market needs, but not what they want anymore.

The Brio Family, 7 years later

The Brio, Mobilio, BR-V, and Amaze was the start of Honda new platform sharing project in ASEAN and India. It’s a weird start at first with flooding on the Thailand factory that delays the first car in the project, the Brio.

But then it seemingly starts so well, Honda sales in Indonesia shoots through the roof with the Mobilio, netting almost 80 thousand units in when it was first release in the country alone. The car even gets a very hot welcome with 22 thousand units when it was launched in India. The Brio sells steadily well in Indonesia, reaching top sales for micro cars in Indonesia every year until today (2019). The BR-V and Amaze sells pretty well on its sophomore years as well.

Yet here we are 7 years later after the Brio and subsequently the Mobilio, BR-V, Amaze strong starts has become weird plenty fast. Honda wanted to sell a family of product line, but in reality every region has a specific demand and Honda can’t please every market segment in the region.

Let’s start with the Mobilio first.

I have negative predisposition towards the Mobilio, because outside the engine and transmission, it’s not a Honda to me. There are small details that only Honda engineers can pull yes, but it was clearly designed to maximize profit first and utility later. No second row smart seat like the Fit/Jazz? No problem, but why the third row seats didn’t fold flat? And why the third row seat dangles freely with only a hook to secure it when it’s being fold up? Is it a smart solution? Probably, but it comes out very cheap feeling.

The Mobilio still sells well in Indonesia, but numbers are going down steadily. From near 80 thousand units when launched to just 20 thousand units average for the last three years. The market competition simply heats up exponentially in the last three years. The Wuling Cortez is killing the Mobilio with its amazing value. For the list price of the Mobilio RS, you can get a turbo charged Wuling Cortez that is roomier, and with more amenities. Mitsubishi Expander/Nissan Livina duo offers a roomier car with more daring design for less money than the Mobilio. The Mobilio looks like a bad value product today compared to the competition.

The only thing going on for the Mobilio is the very good fuel mileage and good engine (see my previous comment about everything else about the car is not a Honda except for the engine and transmission). The Indian market is more cruel than the Indonesian market. With more competition from the get go, the Mobilio lackluster sales with only 3 thousand units sold in 2016. Honda India killed the Mobilio.

Now let’s go to the Amaze.

The Amaze, the Brio sedan takes off to a grand start in India, with 65 thousand units sold. The sub 4-meter sedan is a hot segment in India, this is where the Brio Amaze shines bright. The problem is with the design, it just looks weird, period.

The first gen Amaze is the Brio with added trunk. The proportion is simply off. A sloping hood and fenders gives the illusion of a smaller car with a huge rear, the same issue as the Honda City fourth gen (GD8).

Noticing this issue, Honda India in just after 4 years (one of the shortest life cycle of any Honda products), releases the second generation of the Amaze with a proper sedan design. The second gen Amaze looks special, it looks premium. From the Indian reviews I read on forums and youtube reviews, the Amaze is simply… Amazing. It’s not the best in class for everything, but it’s pretty well balanced from driving dynamics, interior space, and subjective design (I prefer the Suzuki Dzire).

The Amaze sales drops to 20 thousand units in 2017, but bounced back hard in 2018 with the release of the new second generation model topping at 65 thousand units sold. Probably massive clearance discount on the last gen helps, but I see massive success of the Amaze in India for many years.

And then we have the BR-V.

The BR-V… Ah… Arguably the most misunderstood model from the family. The penultimate model, the ultimate Mobilio… What… NO! The BR-V IS NOT A DRESS UP MOBILIO!!!! It’s annoying, but this is what the consensus is in the market where the Mobilio and BR-V sold together.

2019 BR-V

The BR-V is always disregarded as the Mobilio+ because aside from the front profile, the rest of the exterior looks like the Mobilio. Nissan did it with the Grand Livina X-Gear, so why Honda should be different? Well, because it is. Even though the BR-V resembles the Mobilio, it is almost a new car unto itself.

The chassis code difference is telling, the Mobilio with DD4 and the BR-V with DG1 shares the same mother but a different father. The BR-V CVTs is equipped with a cooler that connects to the radiator. This means the car has tougher chops to do some offroads and able to withstand taller gears on longer period of time. This also means you don’t have to worry the transmission heating up on steep inclines like in mountain courses/roads. There are more dampeners installed on the front end and revised steering to curbed vibrations. On chassis side, the third row of the BR-V has more headroom than the Mobilio. Simply put, you pay more for BR-V because it is a more capable car than the Mobilio.

The BR-V just entered its fourth year, but it really comes in the worst time. The Mitsubishi Expander/Nissan Livina Duo is taking its market share like a champ. The Wuling Almaz, a CR-V sized car but at the same price of the BR-V offers a MUCH better value for money. The BR-V Sales drops from 38 thousand in its first year in Indonesia to just only 9 thousand two years later in Indonesia. However numbers are steadily growing in Pakistan and India.

Almost forgot the Brio, the one that started all.

Ah the Brio, the magical car that started it all. A way for Honda to utilize Indonesia government special tax ruling for cars built in Indonesia and using engine under 1.2L. Aside from the amazing engine and class leading 5 speed auto, there’s not much to it. Its cramped second row, lack of sound proofing and laughable cargo space makes way for pure driving exhilaration. Its short wheelbase makes the car feels light and agile and nobody will laugh when the car is fully modded.

In India, the Brio sells poorly, and with the Amaze as a roomier alternative and not for a lot more money, our friends there flocks to the latter than the former. Only in Indonesia that the Brio excels with sales growing steadily year by year. With the “second generation” just released in 2018, with bigger second row and a proper trunk, the car is predicted to soar past 60 thousand units sold in 2019 alone.

I put a parenthesis in the second generation comment because funny enough, the chassis is still DD1 according to wikipedia, the same one as the first generation. Structurally, the car has its wheelbase stretched by about 6 Cm, which is a huge increment for a car that size. Interior wise, the car still uses the same interior design from the outgoing model, most likely this is why the car still shares the same chassis code.

Thankfully, the second generation improves aplenty in the NVH department. Since I own the first generation, test driving the second generation felt strange. The feel is the same, it’s like driving my first gen Brio but with a bit more weight from the get go… But it’s noticeably more silent and better road noise at all speed range. Luckily, it’s not available in blue like the outgoing model, phew… Money saved.

Honda is truly stuck in the moment with two of their major line up in the middle class economy market… And you don’t want that as it’s statistically the biggest market today. At this moment, Honda can only put cash on the hood for Mobilio and Mobilio in Indonesia to survive the Mitsubishi/Nissan and Wuling onslaught. There is a loyalty discount for current Honda owners if wanting to buy another Honda, but the amount is still less than the value of the competition. I’d say Honda should give the Mobilio and BR-V about 8-12% price reduction in whatever form. At that price point, the Mobilio is attractive, the BR-V is still a hard sell, but hey, it’s a Honda!

Source:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Mobilio

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Brio

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Amaze

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_BR-V

Official 2019 Honda BR-V Refresh

Surprise! Well… Not really…

So there you go, the official image of 2019 Honda BR-V refresh. The tacky door molding is gone thank heaven! While the overall look is like I said in the previous post, understated elegance. Looks okay, not that premium looking, compared to Toyota/Daihatsu Rush/Terios or the Mitsubishi/Nissan Xpander/Livina, but well it’s okay.

The chrome mustache is now slightly off colored like the HR-V refresh. The headlamp is the same with the original model, but featuring a brighter daytime running light system. It’s not a major refresh really, you can even say the outgoing model is cleaner looking even. All models are now sporting a 16″ wheels, I don’t know how it will affect the fuel efficiency, but definitely it will have a slight adverse effect.

Just like the appearance, everything else is upgraded in terms of “same thing new skin” stuff. The interior on the higher end trim is now leather clad, and like the Malaysian BR-V, it sports the old Civic steering wheel. Funny how from all of the minor improvement abound on the BR-V, this thing is the one that makes me say, okay job Honda…

Before, the back seat of the 3rd row is a one piece, now it’s a half piece… I wanted the same mechanism like in the Toyota/Daihatsu Avanza/Xenia, where the 3rd row 50:50 split, folds and tumbles forward independently, this is good effort, a B minus, well it’s a passing grade where I teach.

Mechanically, it’s the same, same L15A, same CVT and 6 speed manual option. I like the red color though. Expect the same thing to come to Malaysia sometimes end of the year.

Do expect some more words about the car, but probably in a couple of days.

Come check every details on Honda Indonesia BR-V website:

https://www.honda-indonesia.com/model/br-v

If you need info and wanted to buy one (Indonesian only) I can refer a good sales guy, drop a comment below.

I’ve seen the 2019 BR-V refresh, it’s okay

So you guys should know about the upcoming 2019 Honda BR-V facelift, it’s already leaked by several local news outlet. No pictures yet, but the leaks described something about keyless entry, revised front and rear design, bigger wheels, and praise God, no more door molding. Well, I have seen the picture, but not going to put it here, I have to protect my source. Anyway, I’m satisfied with it… Satisfied, but not ecstatic.

Honda design has always followed a creed, understated elegance. Never too flashy, never too out there and the facelifted BR-V followed suit. On the Prestige trim, from the front, there’s a new daytime running light, looks like LED, quite bright, but got to be careful with DRL term, Honda used it quite loosely. The huge chrome moustache has been toned down with a black grille stealing the focus, but the chrome treatment is still a prominent feature on the lower end trim. Again, the refresh follows the understated elegance. It’s definitely not Mitsubishi Expander/Nissan Livina duo LOOK AT MY UNIQUE TWO-TIER HEAD LAMP look.

The stop gap refresh Honda Indonesia pulled last year was off to a cold start. Personally, I don’t like it. Honda added side molding/bumper on the doors of the BR-V. According to my source because “according to research”, people wanted a more rugged look for the BR-V. Well, that research is wrong. Many SUVs with better off-roading pedigree doesn’t even have that big of a door molding it just makes the car very pretentious looking. Just looked at serious off-roading vehicles, the Jeeps, the Land Rovers, those gargantuan American trucks, NONE have a tacky looking door molding.

Engine wise, it still carries the L15A, Naturally Aspirated 1500cc i-VTEC engine, the old trusty workhorse. No issue there, but I was hoping for for the P10 engine, the turbocharged 1000cc i-VTEC engine. Yes it’s a three cylinder, but with 129PS at 5500 RPM and 200 Nm of torque at 2250 RPM, it’s more than adequate to scuttle the BR-V easily. My reasoning is simply to bring the BR-V inline with CR-V (turbo engine option), and to simply keep Honda at the forefront of engineering.

I do like the 2019 BR-V refresh look. It’s not going to rock my world or anything, but if any, my beliefs in Honda products is second to none… And since in the budget I can choose either Mobilio or BR-V, most likely I’ll go for the BR-V.

A note to Honda – BR-V Edition

With Mobilio and Brio receiving its mid-cycle refresh, the BR-V is the only model out of the platform that has yet to receive a refresh.

The BR-V, to me is the ultimate Mobilio, the best iteration of the platform bar none. From the outside, it looks like a Mobilio with a facelift, a very good face lift, but it’s so much more than that. The BR-V receives extensive sound proofing, better mechanics and inside it has more headroom than the Mobilio. Yet, for all of its superiority over the Mobilio, I still can’t wrap my head around the third row seat utility.

The BR-V like the Mobilio, has a third row seat that tumbles forward for extra cargo area. Yet, even though the third row back seat can be folded 50:50, the base is not divided. So if you want to fit an extra tall item, you either have to sacrifice the third row seat altogether or put the item on top one of the folded backseat, which, because it’s a cushion, won’t give a stable base to put things on.

I had this one particular case last week when I was driving with 4 other person on my Freed. I was out buying some gardening stuff, some short plants, some horizontal pots, and some compost. Because the third row seat folds 50:50 individually, my big friend can still sit at the back comfortably with only one seat folded, although the compost smells kind of makes him wanted to kill me, but hey, it still works. If I drive the BR-V, the big dude had to sit in the second row with two other big dudes which is not at all comfortable. I’m still boggled by the notion that Honda engineers and designers sorely left out the utility that makes a Honda, a Honda, from the platform altogether.

I know, I know, cost cutting… But Toyota Avanza has 50:50 individually splitting third row seat that tumbles forward… A Toyota for crying out loud… Which I have nothing against, but, it’s a Toyota.

Also, for a premium car, or at least the most expensive car that shared platform with the Mobilio, and the dinky Brio, why the heck BR-V door panels ARE LIFTED ENTIRELY FROM THE BRIO!? Or… WHY DOES IT SHARE PARTS FROM THE CHEAPEST ENTRY LEVEL MODEL!?

Goodness gracious… My Freed is 7 years old and starting to show mechanical and electronic issues, although not disturbing to say the least, but it’s annoying. Frankly, I don’t see myself replacing the Freed with the Mobilio, if I do, that’s because I’m desperately needed to change the Freed, and I’m blood tied with Honda. The BR-V however, has a chance. Comes next year, rumors abound that it will receives a refresh and you know what’s coming next year also? Second generation Toyota Rush/Daihatsu Terios. I’m sure if Honda didn’t offer a substantial refresh on the BR-V, next year, it will be a bloodbath for the model.

So for summary, my note for Honda BR-V:

  • Do something about the door panel lining. Differentiate it more than Brio door panel lining.
  • Use true split 50:50 for the third row.
  • A true LED DRL with brighter lighting.

That’s it… It’s very straightforward. The BR-V is the flagship product of the Brio, Mobilio, BR-V trio in Indonesia. The basics are there, it’s just that the devil is in the detail.

A note to Honda

Like anything in this world, nothing is perfect, so does Honda and its products. In this entry series called ‘a note to Honda’, I’m casting away my fanboyness to anything Honda for constructive critiques.

Honda never shied away from using an existing platform for a wide variety of cars, some are amazing because of it, but some has weird peculiarity because it uses the same platform.

Honda built its car using global platforms, a mainstay term today but a unique concept back in the day. There was a time one platform called Honda small global platform underlines 5 model back in early 00’s with the Fit, Fit Aria (City), Airwave, Mobilio, and Mobilio Spike.

For more than a decade, Honda never use platform sharing as aggressive as back in the early 00’s with the Fit line. Now they are back with full force with the Brio line. Spanning 4 model line, it might not be as frugal as the Fit platform sharing, but it sets out what’s good and bad about Honda. I’ve wrote about the Brio platform in the past, but more of overview of the platform. Here I will be much more critical of the platform and many about Honda in general.

So next, let’s talk about the Brio.

 

Honda Brio Platform Review

Honda is no stranger on making a platform for a car, albeit shares less than one can imagine, until the Honda Brio. Supposedly launched in 2010-2011 period in Indonesia the Brio had several delays due to natural disasters, Thailand flooding and Japan earthquake. Superstitious people would chalk it up to bad foretelling of the car, itself a new endeavor, a new car to slot in below the Fit/Jazz. In Indonesia, the Brio is supposed to be put in the new category of low cost green car category which was in legislation hell. There are plenty who oppose this new “cheap” car regulation, citing that it will increase traffic congestion and further increase subsidized fuel consumption. Not waiting for the regulation, Honda finally launched the Brio in 2012 in Indonesia to a lukewarm reception. The 1.3L engine was praised for its power and the 5 speed auto is class leading but not much else to talk about the car, as the Brio is a no frill, no specialty car and it shows.

The dinkiest Honda

Brio cheap interior is acceptable and usable, but the (only) adequate second row seat and the very cramped cargo space makes it less than ideal as Honda “young family first car” and more of a second car for established family. Unlike the previous entry level Honda, the Fit/Jazz, the Brio utility is sorely lacking. The smart seat that allows for cavernous cargo is none existent on the Brio, worse still, the car’s cargo space is the smallest in the class. There’s also the issue of the all glass rear hatch. The market perceives it as a total effort to reduce costs and increase the risk of losing the entire rear hatch on a rear crash situation. The biggest gripe of all lies in its pricing. The car was priced starting at Rp. 149 million, at that time, very expensive for a car that still offered manual window and the range topper was priced at Rp. 170 million. In retrospect, a good condition second generation – second hand low mileage Honda Jazz worth less of the Brio and the range topper is too close to entry level third generation Honda Jazz, both of which offered bigger space, better utility and power. The sales are so dire that rumors flew around that the car got discounted more than 20%, the biggest for a Honda in recent history.

Then, the LCGC regulation came to effect and the Brio finally receives its final specification, a 1.2L engine per the regulation. Like a breath of fresh wind, the regulation made the entry level Brio quite an affordable car, even the range topper fully equipped with automatic windows is priced roughly about 20% cheaper than the outgoing 1.3L (ironically per the discount). Sales pick up but the perception of success is never associated with the car. Apparently, the Brio isn’t Honda perfect weapon to gain significant numbers. In 2012, Honda was number 7 in Indonesia.

Then 2013 came and rumors about a long wheel base 3 row seats Brio heated up. There was quite uproar in the automotive scene in Indonesia since Honda doesn’t have an entry level 3 row seat that is extremely popular in Indonesia (Avanza/Xenia, Grand Livina). The only 3 row seats Honda offered in Indonesia is the Freed, and its place on the market is quite premium. Thankfully, by proxy of always offering (near) premium products, the market thinks of Honda as a premium brand, number 7 notwithstanding. The Brio, at first regarded as not so much as Honda savior is now starting to show why Honda made it in the first place. Think of the Brio not as a singular product but more of a variant from a scalable platform.

As a platform, the Brio received its first variant with the Brio Amaze or just the Amaze. A sedan version of the hatch, it was launched in India with plenty of excitement; the first affordable sedan from Honda. Unlike the Brio, the Amaze comes equipped with a respectably sized trunk and made it a true young family first car. Not just a variant, the Amaze was specifically created to adhere to India sub 4 meter car tax exempt regulation.

AMAZE-ZING! It’s a pun…

The Amaze has a longer wheelbase than the Brio, at 2405 Millimeter, it’s 60 Millimeter longer than the Brio and the review shows. The Amaze has more usable knee room for the second row occupants, and the added trunk, at 400 liters are top of the class in India. For better or worse, the Amaze dashboard is lifted directly from the Brio, with a slight chrome trim here and there. The overall design of the Amaze is still largely Brio, with front half of the Amaze is basically a Brio with body painted bumper part. It’s the back half of the car that defines the Amaze as its own design.

The idea of a long wheelbase Brio seems not too far fetched with the Amaze creation. The Amaze shares plenty of the Brio frame and equipment that an astute fan should’ve been able to guess the design elements of the long wheelbase Brio would look like.

Then the third variant of the Brio made official by Honda Prospect Motor (Honda Indonesia) as the Mobilio in 2013. At 2650 Millimeter, the Mobilio wheelbase is a whopping 30,5 Centimeter longer than the Brio. Just like the Amaze, the car comes out looking like the Brio even though with some clever design changes. First visual elements that people noticed are slightly fuller and longer bumper like the Fit/Fit Shuttle, making the front of the car more balanced with its additional length. The second striking visual element is the thunderbolt side body motive and flowing glass panel on the third row. To say that the Mobilio is visually striking is an understatement. Compared to its competitors back in 2013 the Mobilio is subjectively more pronounced in term of design, especially the RS trim, with its bold chrome in your face and projector headlights. It’s a testament to Honda designers because the Mobilio front end is basically the Brio, so much so in fact that Brio owners can change their car to look like a Mobilio, even the more upscale looking Mobilio RS.

Mobilio – The fancy MPV

The Mobilio being a front engine – front wheel drive car offers lowered stance and extra rearward space like its competitors. Compared to its rivals, the Mobilio sits in the lower end of the spectrum at a height of 1603 Millimeter and the head room is adequate for the class, Freed this is not. Inside, the Mobilio dashboard is lifted straight from the Brio, just like its Amaze cousin. Chrome trims here and there, some wording and lighting but it’s still Brio’s dash. The Mobilio second row is decidedly huge, knee room and shoulder room is generous, 2 adults and 1 children can sit comfortably (three adults can fit if necessary). The third row knee room is actually okay, however the raised floor (because the fuel tank sits underneath the third row) forced people with tall build has to seat knee up, almost squatting.

Brio, Amaze and Mobilio, all share this same dashboard panel until 2016

Mechanically, the Mobilio is bestowed with two engine choice in India, the 1.5L i-VTEC gasoline engine and the newly developed 1.5L i-DTEC diesel engine while other countries where it’s sold the car is only available in gasoline trim. It also has two choices of gearbox, a 5 Manual gear and a newly developed CVT. The CVT is Honda’s own second generation that comes equipped with torque converter. With the torque converter, off the line acceleration improves dramatically, and it does feel like it has more power down low according to my own experience. I drove the first generation Jazz with CVT and off the line acceleration is certainly not the car strong point, but the Mobilio CVT does deliver better acceleration on wide open throttle condition especially on “S” gear.

Being quite low, the car has quite pleasurable driving demeanor, especially with the standard engine being a 1.5L i-VTEC unit that is proven reliable and pumps out respectable 118PS. The 5MT is standard Honda, it’s not S2000 but more than adequate for daily driving with effortless clutch resistance. The CVT as mentioned is very nice on road. Much like any CVT, it offered silky smooth acceleration albeit people who are not used to CVT will feel weird about not feeling any gear changes.

In Indonesia, the Mobilio became perennial best seller with massive adoption and for the first time ever in the history of history, Honda Mobilio became part of Indonesia biggest taxi fleet, Blue Bird, breaking more than two decades of Toyota domination.

Mobilio RS – The fancier MPV

The Mobilio sales is so great, it beats the long running Daihatsu Xenia as the second best selling 7 seater in Indonesia, itself a great accomplishment that none before it ever came close. In April 2014, Honda even managed to land third best selling brand in Indonesia beating the likes of Suzuki and Mitsubishi which is surprising because Honda doesn’t sell commercial vehicles unlike those two. At the end of 2015, Honda secured its third place well above Suzuki.

Completing Honda onslaught of taking Indonesia market by storm is yet another variant of the Brio, this time an SUV variant. Around May of 2015, rumors are strong that Honda is going to have a 7 seater SUV derived from the Mobilio. Some quick to point out that the car is just going to be another dress up like Nissan Grand Livina X-Gear or Chevrolet Spin Activ, with extra body cladding, accessories and jacked up ride. Well, they couldn’t be more wrong as the official design sketch of the car shows a heavily modified Mobilio with completely different front end, revised rear end, and completely new dashboard and interior trim.

The BR-V as it’s christened by Honda Prospect Motor shows Honda engineering skills at its best. The BR-V is essentially a jacked up Mobilio, but the thoroughness of changes made it stood out.

Rhinoplasty at its best

First of all, the front end receives a major overhaul featuring angular front end which gives the car a strong rugged character, usually a design trait demanded from an SUV. The standard projector headlights gives it a premium look, and the body cladding gave the car that extra girth synonymous with SUV. From the front, nobody can challenge the car from the platform it was based on. The side and rear however gave its Mobilio heritage loudly. You can point out from the side that BR-V is rooted from Mobilio from the window frame kink, and the rear even though extensively reworked features the same frame rear glass panel with modified rear light. Inside, the massive change in dashboard almost make the BR-V a class higher than the Brio or Mobilio, with angular dashboard design that seemingly lifted from the Jazz/City.

Mechanically, by Honda Indonesia website, the car receives slightly more powerful engine with 120PS (Mobilio 118PS), a new ratio for the CVT unit and a 6 speed manual transmission. All running on a wider 16″ track.

Visually, the changes are more than skin deep though. From the specifications, the car grew taller, wider and longer. One thing to note is that the BR-V wheelbase is actually 10 millimeter longer than the Mobilio; A very peculiar trait. You can chalk up the size increase from the width, height and length of the car because of the stylized bumper and body cladding, but wheelbase is an absolute measurement of the space between the wheel axles and additional 10 millimeter means theoretically the BR-V offers better leg room than the Mobilio.

Sitting inside the BR-V second row however, I feel no different to the Mobilio, still generous leg room, and with enough width to seat 2 adults comfortably. To my great delight and surprise, it’s the third row, which offers improvement especially the headroom. On the Mobilio my head hit the roof liner with the seat fully reclined, but on the BR-V, I have about 3 Cm of clearance with the same seating position. The third row seating position like Mobilio is still not very well comfortable for my build, but the additional headroom is a very welcome change.

In short the BR-V, at first looks like a Mobilio with revised front end is basically a bigger car inside than the Mobilio, even excluding the body cladding, bumper and roof rack. This is quite the news and one that Honda should put in its marketing materials. I myself visited 5 of Honda dealership in my town checking out the BR-V, and only one salesperson daring enough to accommodate my aggressive questioning. So I sat on both Mobilio and BR-V, and I experienced first hand that the BR-V offers improvement in higher ceiling.

Oh by the way, any of you readers from Jakarta, Indonesia and interested on buying a Honda, please give a shout to Mr. Suno from Honda Mugen Pasar Minggu. Very helpful salesperson. Tell Michael sent you.

All the Brio based car shares this style of dashboard from 2016, with the BR-V at the top end having Multi Information Display (real time fuel consumption meter)

The Brio, Amaze, Mobilio and BR-V completes Honda first attempt to mass produce a platform with minor retooling and many parts sharing. In Indonesia the numbers speaks for themselves, the increase in Honda sellout year on year is massive, pushed by Brio and Mobilio sellout. However not everything is fine as in India, the Brio and Mobilio sales have been lackluster, only the Amaze helps Honda bottomline from the platform. The main problem lies in the India market itself. As a market with 1+ billion population, India is considered a veritable cash cow for many automotive brands, both domestic and import. As such, potential buyers are flooded with choice. It seems that the Brio with its barebone design and to some extent the Mobilio cannot survive in a competitive market. A stark contrast to Indonesia market where 7 seater MPV is only dominated by Toyota/Daihatsu collaboration Avanza/Xenia for almost two decades, which used as a benchmark really is not that high to begin with.

Personally, I want some changes to the platform, but only slightly. The biggest change I want is to make the floor flat from the first row to the second row seat structure (right now the floor only flat up to the leg area of the second row). This way, the third row will have a natural leg room while the bench seat sits on top of the fuel tank/spare tire/utility space. The new Toyota Sienta uses this kind of seating arrangement to great effect. It’s very simple on paper but perhaps slightly difficult to cram all under smaller package like the Mobilio and BR-V, however the result would be a better seating position for adult on the third row.

For a first effort, the Brio platform offers a good… Well… Platform…. For Honda to develop. Its modularity might hold the key for Honda approach in the future for developing countries. However lesson should be learned from India, the Brio should leverage its cost saving in economy of scale only and not doubling down on cost benefit ratio by choosing cheap material and simplistic interior. The Fit, Civic, CR-V and Accord might be Honda most recognized global model, but will the Brio platform able to be integrated to Honda mainstay portfolio? Only time will tell, and one I eagerly awaits what’s in store for the second generation.