The pluses outweigh the nots in Mahindra’s new super-compact SUV. Here’s why you should give it a ride
It’s not often that you draw all the looks and curiosity-induced enquiries when driving around the city at the crack of dawn. Even less so when doing it in a car that carries a Mahindra badge (whose products are more workhorse than show pony) and a price-tag hovering around the Rs 7.5 lakh mark. Don’t let the price fool you, though, because Mahindra’s new KUV100 — pronounced ‘one-double-o’ — is no ordinary car. Now that we’ve got the convoluted nomenclature out of the way, we can dig a little deeper into what the KUV brings to the fore.
The Mahindra KUV 100 will compete with the likes of the Grand i10. PICS/Sanjay Raikar
The reason the KUV drew so many glances wasn’t just because it’s a brand-new car and is generating much advertising buzz around the country, but because of its distinctive looks — Range Rover Evoque-like face, those daytime running lights (DRL) that underline sharp swept-back headlamps, the sculpted hood, and the distinctive belly pan that gives visual testimony to the car’s SUV credentials. Swipe right.
Best interiors we have seen in a Mahindra so far
We also admire the rear end, and those sweeping lines, snazzy tail-lamps, that chunky bumper with inset rear fog-lamps and what is steadily turning into a must-have inclusion for purely aesthetic reasons, a rear spoiler. Swipe right. When looked at broadside, though, the proportions seem a little off with the substantial body and dated-looking little 14-inch wheels really standing out. This, coupled with the disproportionately flowing lines, the sudden and sharp downward swoop on the roof, and that skirt cladding all, taken in as a package, give the impression of a little too much going on. A little bit of simplicity would have helped here. Swipe left. The Chevy Beat-style vertically mounted door-handle is still pretty cool and does brighten things up here.
Boot space isn’t something to write home about
The interior of this car is fairly representative of its exterior. The first thing you notice is the bench seat in the front row, the next thing that will stand out is the gear-lever which is mounted on the centre console, but more on that anon. The car also comes with the traditional front seat configuration, although the position of the gear-lever remains the same. The lack of bucket-seats in this variant results in a bit of to-and-fro sway when taking corners, even when you are strapped in.
Thigh support is wanting in both rows, as is knee-room in the second row. In contrast, head-room is more than sufficient, thanks to the KUV100’s tall stance. Moving past the seats and on to the dashboard, which looks good with its inverted crescent shape, and the dual-tone quality of the dash is offset by a glossy-black finish. However, the plastic quality towards the bottom half of the whole unit could do with some improvement.
The Mahindra BlueSense compatible infotainment is rustic, easy-to-use and comes with bluetooth and USB connectivity. The ergonomics are of a decent quality and all the buttons and knobs work well. The twin-pod information cluster glows a devious red, is pretty straightforward, and even gives you a distance-to-empty readout. Boot space is underwhelming at 243 litres.
There are a couple of secret storage bins in the rear floor-board and under the front passenger seat for that stash. Now for the fun part. I put the key into the illuminated key hole and gave it a twist, and that mFALCON D75 diesel engine came to life. It isn’t obnoxiously loud, as some diesel-engine cars tend to be, and Mahindra’s effort at insulating the cabin can be commended. This all-new in-line-three turbo-diesel powerplant from Mahindra is a proper step forward overall. The refinement levels are pretty respectable and it produces a decent 77 PS at 3,750 RPM and a cool 190 Nm of twist from 1,750-2,250 RPM. The quickness of the KUV100 is exemplified by our test results: it did 0 to 100 km/h in 15.33 seconds.
And, because the torque comes in so low down the rev range, you can comfortably pull away from as low as 1,200 revs, which means frequent gear-shifts are not needed when driving in chock-a-block traffic. The ride on the KUV is on the softer side, which is great when you’re taking in the bumps at low speeds, but bothersome when approaching a speed-breaker carrying any vestigial momentum. Handling, too, is slightly hampered by the soft suspension setup, and while the steering is well weighted for low-speed darting, high-speed cornering isn’t all that comfortable, with significant body-roll, a side-effect of the car’s height factoring in too. Braking is easily achieved and without too much squiggling about — we came to a complete standstill from 100 km/h in 3.3 seconds.
While the KUV does have some drawbacks, as a budget car it is an option that is definitely worth consideration, especially when you consider how frugal it can be. You can put the car in the eco mode to save fuel, and it comes equipped with Mahindra’s micro-hybrid (start-stop) technology in-built. All this translates into 16 kilometres to a litre in the city, and an extraordinary 23 on the highway.
Mahindra KUV 100 D75 K8
|Engine||1,198 cc, 3-cylinder, turbocharged, diesel|
|Max Power||77 PS @ 3,750 rpm|
|Max Torque||190 Nm @ 1,750-2,250 rpm|
|Price||Rs 7.67 lakh (on-road, Pune)|