The Indian giant has quietly slipped a great little car into the compact SUV market, and it is astoundingly good.
In a time when car companies are struggling, and when a few manufacturers have left the country, Mahindra is bucking the trend and growing steadily and not too slowly. Sales are up, customer satisfaction is up, dealership numbers are up, and the cars have gotten exponentially better. The latest Mahindra to hit our local market, the XUV300, is the ultimate example of this.
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The XUV300 is a small urban SUV, much like the immensely popular Ford Ecosport, the Haval H1, the Suzuki Ignis, perhaps the Renault Captur and not a mile off the far more expensive Toyota C-HR.
How does it look?
My first impression of the XUV300 was that it is extremely handsome. It is a striking small car with harmonious proportions and a good balance between macho and classy, between adventure and urbanity. I thought that the XUV300 might have been designed by Pininfarina, the Italian design firm now owned by Mahindra, but apparently, Pininfarina gave only a bit of input and tested the car in their wind tunnel. No matter where it was designed, it looks classy.
What’s under the hood?
Driving the XUV I found it a great little car, which no caveats such as ‘For an Indian car’ or ‘For the price’. It is a great little car, period. (Please excuse the Americanism – I just ate flapjacks.) The engine of the vehicle I drove (a 1.5ℓ turbodiesel that produces 85kW and 300Nm) is lively and smooth, although it does have a bit of turbo-lag, and the six-speed manual gearbox is good enough to do it justice. Another engine is also available, a 1.2ℓ with three cylinders and a turbocharger, which delivers 82kW and 200Nm, also with a six-speed manual. An automatic gearbox will be available at a later stage.
What about the bells and whistles?
Potential buyers will be blown away by the interior of the XUV300, as I was. Mahindra uses a unique, easy to understand naming convention for their vehicles: the letter ‘W’ followed by an even number, the higher of which means the higher-spec levels. The XUV300 (pronounced XUV three double O, by the way) is available in W6 and W8 spec, and even the W6 model comes standard with a 17cm full-colour touchscreen display as well as steering-wheel-mounted controls.
The W8 model also gets dual-zone climate control with three pre-set memory settings, keyless access with a start-stop button and automatic headlights, cruise control, a glass sunroof and a luxurious leatherette fabric for the upholstery (as opposed to the fabric on the W6).
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Tell us about safety
The W6 specification level is equipped with ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cornering braking control and discs on all four wheels. It also has impact-sensing door locks and a high-mounted stop lamp in the rear spoiler. An emergency braking signalling system is fitted to all models, as are two front airbags and ISOFIX child anchors on the rear seats.
The W8 specification level adds five more airbags – side, curtain and a driver knee airbag to the list totalling to a class-leading seven airbags, while also adding electronic stability (ESP) with rollover mitigation. The XUV300 W8 also adds warning lights on the front doors, hill-hold assistance, an anti-theft alarm system and seatbelt reminders on all seats.
If I were to introduce caveats I would say that this is the best Indian car that I have ever driven, by a long way. And if I were to hazard a premonition, I would say that this will quickly become the best selling Mahindra in South Africa, as long as the company can keep up with the incredible demand in its home market and spare enough XUV300s for Mzansi.
The bottom line?
The XUV300 is priced at R249 9999 for the W6 1.2 petrol, R274 999 for the W6 1.5 diesel, R304 999 for the W8 1.2 petrol, and R324 999 for the W8 1.5 diesel. These prices include an impressive 5-year/150 000km warranty and a standard 5-year/90 000km service plan.
- The price
- Turbodiesel engine’s power and frugality
- Interior spec levels
- Engaging drive
- Not much, although the boot is a bit on the diminutive side.