There’s more to Mahin­dra than cheap ‘n cheer­ful utes. As NZ4WD Ed­i­tor Ross MacKay found at the launch of the XUV500 auto SUV.


Most of us drive cars, utes or SUVs equipped with au­to­matic trans­mis­sions th­ese days. So it should come as no sur­prise that lo­cal Mahin­dra im­porter put to­gether a press launch ded­i­cated to its new six-speed XUV500 self-shifter. The XUV500 (pro­nounced five dou­ble O) has been avail­able here in six-speed man­ual form for the past two years and will now sell along­side the auto. Both front wheel drive and (on-de­mand) AWD ver­sions are avail­able, priced at $36,990 for the front-driver and $39,990 for the all-wheel-ca­pa­ble model. The XUV500 bridges the gap that has so far ex­isted in the lo­cal mar­ket be­tween small-to-medium two-row, five-seat mod­els like Mazda’s CX5 Honda’s CRV and Toy­ota’s RAV4 with larger three-row, seven seaters like Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Ford’s Ter­ri­tory. With its dis­tinc­tive – if a lit­tle fussy – mix of curves, edges and minimal over­hangs front and rear the XUV500 could pass for a com­pact, Suzuki Vi­tara-class SUV. Stand be­side one though and you re­alise it is more Mit­subishi Out­lander or Holden Cap­tiva 7, an im­pres­sion backed up by the wheel­base, which, at 2700mm, is the same as that of a Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Santa Fe. At 1890mm across, it is also wider than a Santa Fe (1880mm) and a Holden Cap­tiva (1849mm) and at 1785mm it is taller than even a Ter­ri­tory (1768mm) and Mazda CX-9 (1728mm). Mahin­dra here has been wait­ing for the auto ver­sion of the XUV to turn up so they can start build­ing aware­ness amongst SUV buy­ers, and lo­cal ex­ecs be­lieve they can sell as many as 200 (across man­ual and auto mod­els) a year. On the ev­i­dence of a short test drive on the day of the launch that would ap­pear to be a def­i­nite pos­si­bil­ity. For a start the XUV500 comes across as a prac­ti­cal, well-built and specced SUV with par­tic­u­lar ap­peal to the cost­con­scious buyer. Tick­ing off the ba­sics, the en­gine is an ea­ger (if just a tad un­so­phis­ti­cated) 2.2 litre diesel-turbo (t)oiler, which, though mod­est in its claimed out­put (103kWs/330Nm) ex­hibits im­pres­sive flex­i­bil­ity in the face of the close to two tonnes (kerb weight of the AWD ver­sion is 1915kgs) it has to lug around. The all-new six-speed tip­tronic au­to­matic trans­mis­sion (made by Ja­panese Borg-Warner part­ner Aisin and com­ing com­plete with steer­ing-wheel mounted change pad­dles) must also take some of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for get­ting the most out of the en­gine, such is its in­tu­itive sense of what gear is needed when, and slick, pol­ished ac­tion. Steer­ing feel and feed­back is not par­tic­u­larly sharp or in­ci­sive, while sus­pen­sion ac­tion and with it ride and han­dling also err on the side of solid and de­pend­able, mean­ing ‘bang-for-your-buck’ is where the ul­ti­mate ap­peal of the XUV500 lies.

Fair enough too, be­cause for (well, in the case of the front-driver) un­der $40K a buyer gets a ver­i­ta­ble moun­tain of stan­dard com­fort and safety fea­tures. Stan­dard spec in­cludes three rows of leather seats, with the driver’s elec­tri­cally ad­justable and more than enough room for two adults to use the two seats in the third row (yes I tried!), six airbags, satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion with a seven-inch touch screen com­plete with ‘pinch-to-zoom’ func­tion, Bluetooth phone and au­dio stream­ing con­nec­tiv­ity with voice recog­ni­tion ca­pa­bil­ity, plus a re­vers­ing cam­era with par­al­lel and an­gle park guide­lines. The glove­box is also big enough, ap­par­ently, to swal­low a 15 inch lap­top com­puter… and the centre con­sole in­cludes a cooler box! On a more se­ri­ous note the XUV come com­plete with ESP (Elec­tronic Sta­bil­ity Pro­gram) with rollover mit­i­ga­tion, ABS (An­tilock Brak­ing Sys­tem) with EBD (Elec­tronic Brake­force Dis­tri­bu­tion) plus the sort of tyre­pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem usu­ally only seen on ve­hi­cles cost­ing at least twice as much. And that’s not for­get­ting Hill De­scent Con­trol (HDC) and Hill Hold Con­trol (HHC), or hill start as­sist, the only bum note the fact that ANCAP has only awarded it four (rather than the five of most of its com­peti­tors) stars. Of course, one swal­low a sum­mer does not make, but later this year Mahin­dra will add an even higher spec (W10-cfm W8) to its XUV500 line-up with key­less en­try and start, an elec­tri­cally ad­justable driver’s seat and elec­tric, pow­ered sun­roof. Af­ter that will come a line of petrol­fu­elled mod­els and even­tu­ally other mod­els de­vel­oped in con­junc­tion with sis­ter com­pany SsangYong and (no doubt) Pin­in­fa­rina.

Dis­tinc­tive lines dis­guise full medium SUV size of XUV500.


High roof and long wheel­base means XUV is full seven-seater.

Mahin­dra Pres­i­dent and Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Pravin Shah with the new XUV500 auto.

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