Test driving Mahindra NuvoSport N8 AMT

Mahindra pushes out Nuvosport — its latest utilitarian offering — on to Indian roads

In the automotive world, a name can make or break your car’s sales potential. After all, one of Mahindra’s rivals recently renamed one of its launches because it sounded a lot like a deadly virus. Nuvosport — the name — is a departure from Mahindra’s other offerings, like the KUV 100 and TUV 100; it doesn’t end with numbers and a double-o.

The NuvoSport is essentially the Quanto with a makeover. The LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL) above the headlamps are distinctive and give the car’s visage a permanently surprised look. Other elements on the NuvoSport’s front end, such as the grille, air dam, fog-lamps and skid-plate design, are great too. The NuvoSport’s Quanto underpinnings really come to the fore when you look at it side-on, but are hidden underneath a re-designed tail-lamp unit.

The cabin, too, has been given a bit of an upgrade. The two-tone black and grey interior motif is easy on the eye, and the chrome-lined AC knobs are snazzy, too. The Kenwood 6.2-inch touchscreen, while was simple to use, was lacking in the plastic quality.

There is barely enough room for anyone more than a couple of children. Pics/Sanjay Raikar
There is barely enough room for anyone more than a couple of children. Pics/Sanjay Raikar

The seat position is pretty high up, allowing one a clear view of the road ahead. While they are comfortable for the most part, thigh support is a little wanting. The front seats also have lumbar support, which is great for those long stretches. Speaking of long stretches, the 60:40 split second-row seats also recline in the NuvoSport, which makes riding in the back a lot more bearable. An area for improvement would be the inclusion of second AC vents.

LED daytime running lamps over the headlamps are distinctive
LED daytime running lamps over the headlamps are distinctive

While the NuvoSport is a seven-seater, the third row is not big enough to fit two full-sized adults; kids shouldn’t have a problem, though. Boot space is an improved 412-850 litres based on optimal seat-fold positions.

The engine is a 1.5-litre 3-cyl unit
The engine is a 1.5-litre 3-cyl unit

Mahindra says that the ladder-frame that the NuvoSport is built on is the same third-generation development built first for the Scorpio. It also says that the engine is a more evolved version of the mFalcon80 found on the KUV 100. However, this two-stage turbo infused 1.5-litre mHawk100 powerplant produces the same power and the same torque at exactly the same revolutions per minute. So that’s an output of 100 PS at 3,750 RPM and a torque rating of 240 Nm from 1,600-2,800 RPM. Power is still delivered to the rear wheels; only what’s definitely brand-new about this whole setup is that it is now done through a five-speed AMT, or the old five-speed manual, if you so choose.

The cabin of the NuvoSport is quite snazzy
The cabin of the NuvoSport is quite snazzy

Cabin insulation levels are satisfactory. Since the engine peaks at 3,750 revs, there’s basically a long flat line in the power curve in the upper reaches of the mid-range of the rev counter. Top-end whack is conspicuous by its absence. This means quick early shifts are required, but the AMT, like all AMTs in the Indian commuter bracket, is set up to provide maximum fuel efficiency, even if that is to the detriment of outright performance. The AMT doesn’t sway from convention in this respect, because it is torpid on the shifts.

The steering on the NuvoSport felt light when cornering on Mahindra's kilometre-odd test-track, and communicated adequately as well. There was significant body-roll, but the car held its shape without too much wrestling as long as you don't come into the corner hot. The ride quality could only be vetted on a small patch of the track, but felt comfortable enough at speeds below the 45-50 km/h mark. Braking wasn't as sharp as desirable, and the feel was little on the spongy side.

We also got behind the wheel of the manual variant of the NuvoSport, and the big difference is, of course, the gearbox. The five-speed manual definitely allows you to extract more performance out of the mHawk100 engine. The gearbox has a long throw, and while shifts are comfortable, it isn’t the most rapid gearbox out there. The ‘Eco’ mode definitely changes the way the engine behaves, making it slower and more efficient to drive.

Safety-wise ABS with EBD and dual-front airbags are available as options right from the base variant, and other features such as steering-mounted controls and cruise control are also present on the top-end variant.

Price-wise, the NuvoSport retails at Rs 11.43 lakh (OTR, Pune) for this N8 AMT variant, which is a slightly hefty tag for a sub-four-metre car, but considering there’s no other car that goes up directly against it, Mahindra do enjoy a bit of a monopoly with the NuvoSport.

Need to know
Mahindra NuvoSport N8 AMT
Engine Type: 1,493 cc, turbocharged, three-cylinder, diesel
Max Power: 100 PS @ 3,750 rpm
Max Torque: 240 Nm @ 1,600-2,000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed AMT
Price: Rs 11.43 lakh (on-road, Pune)

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