Three in ONE
This Skoda is city car cheap, small wagon convenient and hot hatch quick
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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