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Mahindra KUV100 a little firecracker

03.06.2016

Ever heard of a jack-of-all trades? Well one can easily consider Mahindra to be such a jack. Apart from dominating the agricultural, telecommunications, alternative power, property and second-hand car market in large, emerging countries, they also specialize in building and developing cars. Well, when I say cars I actually mean SUVs. They have an entire range of them and now they have introduced their smallest one into the South African market, the KUV100. I spent time behind the wheel putting this little thing through its paces.

 What is it exactly?

For starters the KUV100, pronounced KUV-one-double-zero is a mix match between an affordable hatchback and a crossover. A market that Mahindra reckons is not fully exploited yet, what with the likes of the Toyota Etios Cross, Renault Sandero Stepway and the VW Polo Vivo Maxx being the main contenders. They are all hatchback based rugged urban cruisers with a desire for adventure and that won’t break the bank. So how does the new kid on the block stack up to the school yard bullies?

Those odd looks

Yes, it does look a tad bit strange, yet identifiable, however the more time I spent with it the more the looks started to appeal to me. It looks different, more SUV without the self-raising flour than beefed up hatchback. It kind of, in a way resembles those small fluffy dogs, a Toy Pom, I think. The KUV100 is built on an all-new monocoque platform and designed in-house with contemporary urban crossover styling cues.At the front the designers have gone for a raised look with a small, lateral grille design. This gives the car its aggressive SUV look while at the rear it looks more sedate hatchback with those 3D-like tail lamps. Viewed from the side though and it is clear to see that the car was designed by someone who loves sharp angles and prominent lines, even the sides of the headlamps have been stretched backwards to form part of a character line and the rear door handles are imbedded into the rear C-pillars. I do feel that the 14-inch wheels tend to look lost under that tall body, they should be 16-inch.

Hatchback SUV meets

As far as the hatchback DNA goes the little Mahindra offers the same sort of practicality as one would find is a Suzuki Swift. Okay the boot on the KUV100 is not all that voluminous, expect 243-litres of space with the rear seats up and 473 litres when they are folded down. Rear leg room is sufficient as you would expect on a car this size. Speaking of size, the Mahindra is small and thus easy to park, which will come in handy when you do your end of the month mall expedition.

On the SUV side of things, well let’s face it, it’s not a bundu bashing monster with low-range. Instead the KUV100 appeals to those looking for a more versatile vehicle, something that they can take off the tarmac without worrying about damaging it. Suspension travel of 150mm at the front and 200mm at the rear should aid in getting to that cycling destination with ease. The interior is also made from durable plastics and the seats are finished in cloth.

About the interior

Now I know that you can’t compare a car like this to the German offerings, however when you look at where they company was a few years ago to where they are now I’d say that the improvements are coming along quite quickly. The KUV100 features a simple yet ergonomic interior layout. From the driver’s seat you do get the sense that the KUV is giving you a more commanding driving position, much like that of an SUV which should give it an edge over the competition. The dashboard has also been raised so there is no centre console, instead, a joystick-inspired short-shift gear lever is mounted in the dashboard for both convenient use and as a space-saving measure, leaving a flat floor unencumbered by the usual transmission tunnel. All the ventilation dials have been placed opposite the gear lever and the design looks good to be honest. Some questionable areas to consider can be the handbrake. Remember those old pull and twist mechanisms found on bakkies of the 80s? Well the KUV100 uses one of those.

Furthermore the car makes use of gloss black inserts though out the cabin which adds a sense of pizzazz to the interior. As for specification levels, well Mahindra will be offering three different levels of specification. Badged as the K4+ this entry level model comes with a long list of items as standard. The K6+ builds on this list and the K8 has everything, like LED daytime running lights, alloy wheels, front and rear fog lamps, puddle lamps on all doors, silver-accentuated rear door handles, and start-stop technology in the case of the diesel model.

Under the hood

Mahindra South Africa has decided to offer two engine derivatives which is great because one of them is a turbo diesel. It features the brands new mFalcon D75 intercooled 1.2-litre, three-cylinder motor which is good for 57kW and an impressive 190Nm of torque, expect 4.4litres/100km according to Mahindra. My only concern is the fact that the power is sent to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual gearbox. At highway speeds the engine tends to sit at around 3500 rpm manking a bit of a noise, a 6th gear would have been nice. The same can be said for the petrol motor which is also a 1.2-litre unit, it develops 61kW and 115Nm of torque. Unfortunately you have to ring its little neck out on the open road. In an urban environment it seems to be happy skipping about at 80km/h while drinking just 5.9 litres/100km. The drive is decent however it does tend to role a bit through the corners.

Verdict

After sitting in traffic, driving the open road and pretending to be a rally driver on some gravel I found that the diesel derivative is the one to get, it impressed me the most. Overall the car is a fun, practical alternative to the cars out there already, cars such as the Hyundai Grand i10, Suzuki Swift, Toyota Etios Cross and many others. It’s a hatchback ready for adventure and at a starting price of R149 995 you can actually have money left over for the adventure.

Pricing:

The Mahindra KUV100 model range is available in seven colours. Recommended Retail Prices (including VAT) are as follows:

KUV100 1.2 K4+ Petrol                                  R 149 995

KUV100 1.2 K6+ Petrol                                  R 169 995

KUV100 1.2 K6+ TDiesel                                R 187 995

KUV100 1.2 K8 Petrol                                    R 179 995

KUV100 1.2 K8 TDiesel                                  R 197 995

Article written by Justin Jacobs
03.06.2016
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