Three in ONE

This Skoda is city car cheap, small wagon con­ve­nient and hot hatch quick

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@carsguide.com.au

THE world’s big­gest trac­tor maker has in­tro­duced a sev­enseat peo­ple-mover.

Mahin­dra is a gar­gan­tuan In­dian com­pany that builds ev­ery­thing from scoot­ers and vans to planes and ar­moured per­son­nel car­ri­ers. It al­ready sells the Pik Up work­horse ute in Aus­tralia.

It has turned its at­ten­tion to SUVs with the XUV 500, the first ve­hi­cle de­vel­oped for a global mar­ket, not the rather less com­pet­i­tive In­dian mar­ket.

VALUE

The XUV 500 is the cheap­est seven-seat SUV in Aus­tralia. It costs $29,900 for the front­drive model and this price in­cludes drive-away costs, which work out to about $2500.

It is a chunk cheaper than the far from bril­liant Holden Cap­tiva 7 ($32,990 drive-away). But it is not a Holden. Mahin­dra does not have the same en­gi­neer­ing strength, street cred or dealer net­work.

The XUV 500 comes with heaps of stan­dard gear: cruise con­trol, six-inch touch screen in­for­ma­tion dis­play, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, stop-start en­gine tech­nol­ogy, swivel­ing xenon head­lights, rain-sens­ing wipers, Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, two-tone leather seat trim and cli­mate con­trol vents in all three rows (with rear con­trol).

TECH­NOL­OGY

The only en­gine is a 2.2-litre four-cylin­der diesel that uses a vari­able ge­om­e­try tur­bocharger. Out­puts are 103kW/330Nm, which is more than enough torque for ev­ery­day driv­ing.

The fuel ef­fi­ciency is also im­pres­sive, av­er­ag­ing 6.7L/100km. This is as­sisted by a stop-start sys­tem that kills the en­gine at idle, which is not some­thing you expect in a car at this price point.

Un­for­tu­nately, there is no au­to­matic trans­mis­sion avail­able, which im­me­di­ately makes it a sales also-ran. The six-speed man­ual is pass­able, but not great.

The en­try level car sends its power to the front wheels. The AWD­model runs as a front­driver un­til it senses slip and sends up to 50 per cent of the power to the rears. You can lock in­AWDat low speeds.

DE­SIGN

This is the best-look­ing Mahin­dra to date, but that is not say­ing much.

The Pik Up is so ugly it gen­er­ates pity but the XUV 500 is dif­fer­ent. It de­pends on in­di­vid­ual taste but we like the shape. The float­ing grille and pumped out wheel arches are bold and show this is a mod­ern, in­de­pen­dent de­sign, rather than a generic copy of an ex­ist­ing model.

The in­te­rior is mod­ern with a 6-inch high­res­o­lu­tion screen in the mid­dle of the dash­board. Its in­stru­ments and but­tons are well laid out. A lot of the sur­faces feel cheap. The in­te­rior is

tar­nished with a vast ar­ray of bad wood­grain, but the leather used for the seats is bet­ter than ex­pected.

SAFETY

Mahin­dra’s crash safety his­tory is poor, the Pik Up man­ag­ing three stars from five. How­ever, the XUV 500 is a new de­sign and has just been awarded a four-star safety rat­ing from ANCAP. Still, it is a low fourstar rat­ing, with some cabin in­tru­sion is­sues, but four stars will ap­pease many buy­ers. Elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, rollover mit­i­ga­tion, six airbags and anti-lock brakes are stan­dard.

DRIV­ING

The ba­sics of the XUV 500 are good but it is blighted by qual­ity is­sues.

Qual­ity ap­pears to vary greatly from one ve­hi­cle to the next. Two cars we tested in In­dia last month were im­pres­sive, be­ing rel­a­tively quiet with no rat­tles. The ve­hi­cle we tested in Aus­tralia last week was not

good enough to sell.

There were sev­eral rat­tles, all of which were loud enough to drive you mad, some in­te­rior panels fit­ted poorly and the en­gine seemed nois­ier than the In­dian cars.

Then, sud­denly, the turbo started mak­ing a ter­ri­ble noise. Mahin­dra is look­ing into it.

All brands have is­sues and col­leagues on the launch tell me the other ve­hi­cles were bet­ter. But what if you bought the dud one?

On the up­side, it is spa­cious. There re­ally is room for seven, the diesel is strong and fu­el­ef­fi­cient and it comes with masses of stan­dard gear.

The sus­pen­sion han­dles most ter­rain but needs to be tuned bet­ter for our roads.

VERDICT

Even at this price, the qual­ity is just not good enough.

The XUV 500 has great po­ten­tial, but that is of lit­tle con­so­la­tion if the one you bought is rat­tling to bits.

Mahin­dra will lift its game but for now shelling out an ex­tra $3090 for a Cap­tiva 7 seems like a smart move.

Roomy: There is gen­uine space for seven peo­ple and the leather in the seat trim is bet­ter than ex­pected

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