Mighty Mahindra is Surprisingly Capable

Look at the car in the image above. It’s not pretty, is it? It looks a little bit as if a double-cab crashed into the back of something you’d expect to find in a Pokémon episode.

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But what if I told you this was one of the most surprising cars I had the privilege of driving in 2017? Not only that, but it was one of the few cars that actually grabbed my attention before I even got it behind the wheel.

The reason behind its ability to surprise is the price. This top-spec model retails for a smidgen under R350 000, which is more than R200 000 cheaper than its mainstream rivals. Obviously, it’s laughable to suggest that a humble Mahindra is in the same league as these bakkies, but at that price, can it be ignored?

The answer is no. You simply can’t ignore this bakkie, no matter how much you’d like to make fun of it and there are numerous reasons why.

But before we get to that, let’s get the looks thing out of the way first. It’s not the most handsome bakkie ever made, but that hardly matters if you’re the owner. Who spends most of their time sitting outside their car anyway? And besides, it’s way better looking than any other bakkie fitted with those horrifying over-the-top stickers and bonnet scoops.

With that settled, let’s move onto what has traditionally been one of the downfalls of these “cheap” bakkies – the interior. It’s not like they ever skimped on equipment, but the fit and finish left a lot to be desired. These bakkies used to feel like they would fall apart after 20 000km and that’s in a best case scenario.

The Pik Up is different. While not in the same league as the Ranger/Amarok/Hilux, it seems to be made of materials that will last much longer than its owner will. That’s already a good start.

The generous list of standard equipment, on this top of the line model, is another feather in its cap. It comes with durable, comfortable upholstery and a large 6-inch full-colour touch screen display featuring navigation.

You also get automatic wipers and headlamps, air-conditioning, central locking, cruise control and a multifunction steering wheel. Line it up next to its competitors that cost R550 000 or more and you’ll struggle to find a feature they have that the Pik Up doesn’t.

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To me the best part of this new car is the engine. I don’t remember the last time I drove a Mahindra, or what model it was, but I do remember that it suffered from horrendous turbo lag. You’d have to plan crossing intersections very carefully, as the lag could literally be timed in seconds.

The next-generation 2.2l 4-cylinder engine sounds more impressive on paper. It even has a cool name – mHawk. Mahindra claims 103kW and 320Nm of torque, which is entirely believable. In fact, it feels stronger than that. Best of all is the lack of turbo lag. This time round you only feel the slightest hesitation before it starts pulling, and then it pulls rather strongly.

The turbodiesel engine is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels, and will also be available with 4×4 transmission with low range. The entire range of the Next Generation Mahindra Pik Up are fitted with a MLD (Mechanical Locking Differential) as standard.

That’s a lot of bakkie for R350 000, so where’s the catch? Well, the first time I noticed an obvious omission was on a gravel road. I was accelerating out of a corner in second gear and the back started swinging wide. It was easy to catch, but it reminded me how accustomed I had become to bakkies with traction control…

As for 4×4 abilities, I don’t doubt that it will be exceptional. It doesn’t have a locking rear differential, but when was the last time you used that feature on your current bakkie. You only really need it in serious off-road conditions, and I don’t know many people willing to submit their R600 000 bakkie to that kind of torture.

Yes, the Ranger/Amarok/Hilux/Navara are better cars, but are they R200 000 better?

The answer is no.

 

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