係本田 Mobilio Spike

A Japanese delicacy, sampled in Hong Kong.

2002 Honda Mobilio Spike

You can enjoy  quite a few regional specialties in Hong Kong. They serve milky, sweet tea in ‘tea cafés’ and a pineapple bun accompanies this very well. Or try a Hong Kong-style French toast. Other local specialties, or regional specialties, are the JDM/emerging market cars that we don’t get in Europe. I am not saying all of these cars would be sure-shooting successes if sold here but it would be a little boon if Japanese companies could at least

consider sending a few over in small batches to satisfy what I think is a concentrated and distinct pool of customers. One car that might have found a cult following is shown here today, seen on Christmas Day 2022 at Repulse Bay.

2001 Honda Mobilio Spike. How the surfaces of the front end might be demarcated. It’s very austere.

Hong Kong is known for its tall buildings and high-density urban life. The astonishing thing is that half of Hong Kong is forest and mountain. Forty minutes drive from the super-packed core of HK are the beaches of Repulse Bay and Stanley Harbour where you can swim and then enjoy a turkey and plum pudding meal (if you wish). It was here I saw the Spike.

2002 Honda Mobilio Spike, Repulse Bay, Hong Kong

The Spike is a variant of another Honda vehicle, the Mobilio which, to my eyes, looks a little like a design taken to full-size model stage and rejected.

2001 Honda Mobilio (wikipedia).

The elements of the Mobilio don’t add up; it seems unrefined and inconsistent. Perhaps that’s why a year later Honda threw the Spike variant onto the market, released in Japan in September 2002. It has a very distinctive front-end treatment seemingly inspired by the patch plans and fillet boundaries of a CAD model.

2002 Honda Spike: source

The initial ‘standard’ Mobilio appeared on Dec 21, 2001, a vehicle with a lot of space and an efficient 1.5 litre engine. The theme is intense practicality, akin to a Japanese equivalent of a Renault Kangoo but less agricultural in its essence. Honda’s team of designers had the chance to offer a huge cargo area, more than a metre tall and a little short of 2 metres deep. The interior could be altered to five modes of use, one of which was long mode (wardrobes). The others were utility, twin, refresh and adjustment. Each side had a sliding door (did you know the Previa Mk1 had one sliding door?).

Honda also aimed for a higher level of recyclability with many interior parts, for example, made of olefin resin.

The Spike version differed from the earlier one in a few ways. On the outside there is a much deeper panel behind the C-pillar and the doors are different, to accommodate a zig-zag feature under the mirror. There is less black-out marking below the DLO as well. All in all, the Spike is more akin to mid-cycle facelift.

2005 Honda Spike (facelifted): wikipedia

The Spike didn’t last long in this form. In 2005 it received a facelift bringing it into line with other Hondas, more precisely their frontal treatments. There was more flow around from front to sides and the headlamps gained a more trapezoidal shape and so Honda lost the rigorous, disciplined look that made the Spike Series 1 stand out.

In one short period, Honda offered a car in three forms: abandoned design proposal, fully-worked concept and bland production version. How much did all that cost? Compare that Renault’s 1997-2009 Kangoo which remained much the same for a longer period, Honda’s transformations are somewhat remarkable.


Other dishes to be had in Hong Kong draw from Cantonese and Mandarin cooking traditions: Pig tongue with chilli sauce (T22), Honeycomb stomach in chili oil (T20), Spicy smoked knuckle (T35) and sweet and sour pork belly (best eaten really hot). Hong Kongers also enjoy a version of the baked custard tartlet which is a Portugese influence. You can, of course, get pretty much every other style of cooking too. It’s a global city.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

27 thoughts on “係本田 Mobilio Spike”

  1. Good morning, Richard. The Spike almost looks like an origami car. With all these sharp lines the thing that catches my eye is the round fuel filler door. I’m glad they didn’t put a rectangular door in there.

    Even the watered-down facelift version is still quite nice. 係本田 indeed.

    1. …. There´s room for deliberately square vehicles and this is one of them. It´s comparable to the Kangoo Mk1 or Ford Transit Connect Mk1 for its rigorous adherence to design rules.
      After reading 1200 kg of UK car magazines, reference to Noddy cars, Postman Pat and breadvans don´t work they way they used to.

  2. Good morning Richard. Thank you for another automotive curiosity. I love the severity of the Spike’s original design, which seems wholly fitting for a ‘box on wheels’. It’s a shame they felt the need to make it more conventional and corporate looking in the facelift (which, as Freerk says, isn’t bad, in any event).

    For me, the only detail that jars is the front door’s leading edge shut-line. Rather than diagonally, I would have drawn it down vertically, then curving around the wheel arch, in other words, a mirror image of the rear door’s trailing edge shut-line.

    1. It seems you really did miss out an alternative career as a car stylist, Daniel. I can´t say I am troubled by that line. For me it was invisible. Yes, it could be directly vertical (and one might wonder what required a deviation from this). The overall severity of the design is really pleasing. I really like the way the main surfaces at the front are handled. And then there´s the boldness of the minimal box-on-wheels. Design is about fitness to purpose and this car is ready for daily, practical and enjoyable use. I think cars like this worm their way into one´s affections even if they seem far from conventionally exciting looking. The Transit Connects I have driven have this quality. Although the main job they do is carrying stuff, they are very laid back vehicles to use and their robustness, if for me, an oblique kind of luxury.

    2. I actually like this front door shutline (although I didn’t see it before you mentioned it). For me, it adds a sense of forward dynamism / motion to the otherwise quite static shape. I don’t think a more conventional shutline could have achieved that.

      So far I fail to see the ‘zig-zag’ feature under the mirror that you mentioned, Richard. Can you elaborate on that?

    3. Hi Simon. Does vehicle like the Spike need a sense of dynamism? I like it precisely because it has no such affectation, so is true to its intended purpose.

    4. If you look at the official Honda image (silver metallic) and inspect the area under and forward of the mirror you will see a pointy, brighter area. I can see what it´s supposed to do. I´d have eliminated it.

    5. I think I can see it now. It’s also visible on your photo with the red lines.

      It looks like they put a chamfer on top of the door skin and then had to manage the junction of this chamfer to the more upright surface of the A-pillar. I don’t find it too jarring, I think the extension of the chamfer into the front wing adds some structure to this otherwise very large panel.

    6. Yes, Simon. That´s a good summary. The alternative is to end the chamfer before the door ends or to lead it upward to fade out on a A-pillar metal/door frame. The Daihatsu Move (I think does this) The Opel Meriva “A” runs it all the way to the lamp.

    7. Daniel: the dynamism of the line is at a very low level indeed. It´s consistent with the vehicle having some sense of forward directionality. It´s almost at a subliminal level of presence.

    8. I missed the door shut line, too. It occurred to me that part of the purpose of the shut lines both front and rear could be to take some visual length out of the wheelbase.

    9. Daniel: I missed your comment on the dynamism. Yes, I also like the calmness of such a design, but in the end it’s a car and made for moving. We’re still far away from today’s aggressiveness here…

    10. Good evening all. Count me as another one who didn’t notice that front door line.
      At 1.5 litres, I take it this is sort of Honda’s answer to the Nissan Cube? I too prefer the original Spike for it’s extra cubularity; the facelifted one is not as distinctive, too generically Honda.
      While maybe not a vehicle I would choose to own, I feel better for knowing that it exists. Many modern designs can’t do that.

  3. Another unknown gem! (Well, to me, obviously.) Thanks! There really should be a movement for utilitarian car fanciers or rather: people who appreciate a design that’s fit for purpose. It doesn’t have to be utilitarian (far from it), but it would ideally cut through the marketing fluff and me-too-ism that permeates so much of the car market and that (in tandem with regulations either not entirely thought out or specifically aimed at achieving this) is making car ownership an impossibility for an ever larger part of the population. Unfortunately such a movement by its very nature would require influence and thus run counter to the DTW Charter. 😁

    Even in a compact country like mine, much of the (physical, social and regulatory) structure of society is based on the availability of transport. For a good many people, public transport cannot satisfy that same transport demand, even if it could be scaled up to meet it in a purely numerical sense. I fear that killing off that availability will have unforeseen consequences.

    This grumpiness thing seems infectious… and especially inappropriate for a post featuring such an uplifting car. Apologies.

  4. More on topic: it really is an interesting microcosm of car design. I can see what they were going for with the original Mobilio, but the design lacks polish (particularly the headlights, although they are rather period-appropriate for Honda). The Spike is a rather neat evolution with, as had been mentioned here, a very rigorously applied styling theme, and the facelifted spike is a watered-down (but still nice enough) version of the same design.

  5. The first thing that occurred to me was that they really do have various Ford Transit / Connect vibes, which is interesting to see. Also interesting is how ‘soft’ the first version’s design is. It really does look like a concept.

    There appears to be a model with slimmer, more vertical headlights, too, which I like as it reminds me of a Ford Fusion. I regularly see what must be personal imports of things like this, so there’s clearly a niche market for them.


    1. The Mobilio in the ad has the same design of lamps as the last Prelude and the Ford Fusion. They wanted to line up the corners of the lamps with shutlines. Neat.

    2. Here’s a video, including the interior. It all looks very calm and civilized and I like the lack of dividing console in the front.

      In addition to the large shape themes being handled well, there’s some nice detailing, too. I wonder if / suspect that some of these things are toned-down for international markets. If so, it’s a shame.

  6. I’ve recently been doing a deep-dive on these sort of cars (wanting something to transport bikes in and maybe weekend camp.

    The JDM MPV seems such a better thought out proposition than their Euro equivalents, drawing on the same sort of design restraints that apply to the smaller Kei vans/cars. (Honda N-Box, N-Van etc).

    Vertical sides and a 90° Flat back is so much more practical and spacious feeling because the boxiness maximises the space, and clever features like the way the seats fold flat leaving huge spaces big enough for Bikes, Ladders, fridges is just amazing. And being car-based not van based, the ride is rarely ‘agricultural’ by all accounts. Seems this Mobilo is a smaller ‘Jazz/Fit’ sort of size, but there’s a bigger one called the Step WGN which is mining a similar vein at one size up. The 2022 version is suitably boxy – almost retro, but also super-rational and I’d give my hind teeth to get one in the UK.

    So unfussy and boxy – I love it.

    The previous version had an amazing double action rear tailgate that opened vertically like a tailgate, but also houses a ‘door’ for more traditional entry and exit.

    Take that Skǒda!

    H-Van is one of their Kei-size offerings and the interior space combined with no b-pillar when the seats are down is amazing. Bigger than a Transit Connect. People comfortably camp in them.

    Such a shame these have to come over only as grey imports, once the Japanese have had their 10 years of fun with them!

    1. “People comfortably camp in them”

      Not sure about the comfort, but “camp” is definitely a euphemism. Perhaps after “10 years of fun” these still-young Japanese people might be able to afford a house.

  7. Many kei cars have masculine/feminine or aggressive/kawaii versions, and that I think is the impetus for having both Mobilos simultaneously. If the chiseled and chamfered bodywork on the Spike vs. the curvy bottom on the regular Mobilo isn’t enough of a tell, the names surely drive the point home. The Suzuki Alto/Lapin is another example.

    Andrew wrote about it here: https://driventowrite.com/2021/11/08/daihatsu-mira-tocot-review/

    According to https://www.statista.com/statistics/1122625/japan-share-kei-car-ownership-by-gender/ only 37% of kei car drivers in Japan are male, which suggests that there is some market share for the taking if the right product comes along, that gives manufacturers enough incentive to take the extra expense of making same-branded non-identical twins in this segment only.

    1. These examples of the Alto Works both seem ready to run in the WRC…

      Thank goodness four point harnesses and a roll cage are required!

  8. The graphics on the badge appeal too. A 3D ‘spike’ in the middle of the word, which is comparatively flat to the surface. Smart and playful!

  9. By coincidence, Auto Express this week reported that the previously JDM-only Lexus LM is heading to the EU and the UK. The LM is a more luxurious version of the Toyota Alphard/Vellfire MPV, and the more unusual aspect of it is that while it comes as a conventional seven-seater, they also seem to be importing the luxurious four-seater option.

    Perhaps Lexus has identified a market for chauffeur-driven transport, as that would seem to be the target: there is even a partition, the lower section of which can be fitted with a 48-inch display. It is unclear whether ashtrays are fitted, but the rear armrest should definitely get the DTW seal of approval!


  10. Interesting to see the new Ford Tourneo Courier, which is pretty similar in concept. I think it looks good – practical and cleanly-designed.

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