Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) has had a huge head start over the others in the sports utility vehicles space. Its background in making affordable UVs and SUVs has been instrumental in its quick ‘Rise’ up the sales charts with some very focused and modern vehicles launched during the last decade. But, the recent paranoia about diesel vehicles and their contribution to high pollution levels in cities seemed like it could threaten to derail Mahindra’s growth plans. Obviously, M&M has been aware of its over-dependence on diesel engines and so right after its acquisition of Ssangyong of South Korea, it has been investing in developing a new line of petrol engines.
Mahindra is timing the launch of one of the first petrol engines from this line in the new KUV100. This new sub-compact SUV, already being heavily advertised, is M&M’s answer to the huge jump in interest amongst small car buyers. An affordable, sub-four-metre SUV is the latest must have in the urban car buyer’s garage. And of course, petrol power is back in the business amongst these buyers Get deals on Mahindra KUV100
EXTERIORS AND STYLE ;
First and foremost the KUV 100 looks imposing right from the word go! The front end is typical Mahindra with a large two-tier bumper. The massive wraparound headlamps add to the flair of the KUV and to keep replacement costs low, it is created of multiple sections. Clever! In profile the KUV 100 stands tall and also offers a generous 180mm of ground clearance.
Look closely and you will also spot that the rear door handle is mounted behind the rear windows. At the back the KUV looks like a hatchback. Large tail lamp units look good and overall we would say that it is a smart looker. But the other big thing about the KUV which you can’t see is the fact that it is based on a monocoque chassis and this is Mahindra’s second attempt at a monocoque after the XUV.
INTERIORS AND SPACE ;
Slide in the KUV’s driver seat and you are greeted by a modern-looking dashboard whose showpiece is the large central console with the high accommodated gear-lever. You sit at a good height and ingress height is very good making it ideal for elderly people. We had the 6-seater version on test and though Mahindra has made a floating dash to accommodate a third person upfront we highly recommend to go for the five-seater version with bucket seats. Firstly the bulging centre console makes it best for children. So if you love your small ones, you don’t want them to go through a face full of centre console with no airbags to save them in an unfortunate accident. Although you can fold the middle backrest to use it as a front armrest, it gets in the way of you shifting gears. The seat itself though is comfortable with good back support and the wide cabin gives you an airy feel. Even at the rear, space is good with the wide cabin and flat-floor making it good for three people. You sit at a good height and it has one of the most comfortable seats in the segment. But it doesn’t particularly feel airy at the back thanks to the rising window-line, large front bench arrangement and the blacked-out section right next to your face where the exterior door handles are placed. Even getting in the rear seat is compromised by the small rear door. Although the KUV gets good fit and finish for a Mahindra, it can’t match the likes of Hyundai or even Maruti in this respect. The dash-top gets a uniquely grained plastic which looks nice but as you go lower down things gradually get low-rent. The black centre console which is finished in matt-black feels old-school and there are many places where bits are ill-fitting and have hard edges. Interior quality is one area where the KUV just hasn’t kept pace and feels a generation behind the Grand i10 or even the Swift
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE;
The KUV100 is powered by three-cylinder, 1.2-litre petrol and diesel engines that are part of a whole new family of engines developed in-house, called mFalcon. The petrol engine produces 83PS and 115Nm of torque, while the diesel offers 78PS and 190Nm. Both are currently mated to 5-speed manual transmissions and an AMT version will come later. The oil burner offers decent performance and feels smooth but noisy even inside. Performance should be comparable to hatchbacks though only a full road test will help us decide. The petrol feels slightly underpowered but is smooth and slightly quieter. Petrol and diesel both get the same tachometer that redlines at 5000rpm, though the petrol obviously revs higher, accelerating up to 6000rpm.
The diesel also gets a micro-hybrid or start-stop apart from a power/eco mode selector which makes a noticeable difference to performance. Power mode offers good response, but switch to eco and acceleration feels slower instantly, apart from the engine barely crossing 3500rpm. In-gear acceleration is comparable to hatchbacks, and the diesel is what offers a torquey feel typical of SUVs. It is difficult to say whether the petrol will be in demand or the diesel since buyers in this segment are divided, though Mahindra feels the push in the case of the KUV100 will come from the petrol version.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
To further fine-tune the suspension to suit Indian driving conditions, Mahindra has partnered with US-based Cayman Dynamics – the same company that helped develop the TUV300’s suspension. And the results, at least as small cars go, are largely successful. The KUV’s suspension absorbs small and medium-sized bumps admirably well, and thanks to the 170mm of clearance, the small Mahindra isn’t caught out on the largest of speed breakers either. But before you ask, the KUV is no good off-road. Even large urban potholes gobble the KUV’s small 14-inch tyres, so you have to be careful on them. Also, the suspension doesn’t work as quietly as some of the competition’s, and you can hear a fair bit of the action underneath, and at times, even the dampers on rebound.
At higher speeds, it’s easy to tell the KUV is a softly sprung car. There’s a constant up and down motion, especially from the rear suspension and this is most felt when the rear seats are unoccupied. Drive fast and you’ll also notice lots of wind noise near the A-pillars. The KUV’s soft setup and high centre of gravity also mean it’s not that well tied down around the bends. There is plenty of body roll and even the brakes could do with more bite. The slow ratio steering is not the most feelsome either, but it feels well weighted and though a bit dead around the centre position, it gives more than enough confidence in typical driving conditions.
SAFETY FEATURES ;
Given the increase in awareness towards occupant safety in India-made cars, Mahindra has taken the first steps in ensuring that its products meet current and future safety norms.
The new monocoque platform consists of ultra-high strength steel for better structural rigidity, and features such as ABS with EBS and ISOFIX child seat mounts are standard across all variants. Driver and front passenger airbags are optional in all grades.
The KUV100 is a unique proposition as no other vehicle at this price point offers high ground clearance and an SUV-like stance. It has decent engines, is easy to drive and the fit and finish – though not best in class – isn’t bad by any stretch. But what really works for the KUV100 is the fact that it gets ABS as standard across all trims. And even then, it is priced superbly. It is a great value for money offering. The K8 is the best option and if you cannot afford it, then the K6 is a good value proposition as well.