Now this giant has been selling vehicles on our market since 2004, with particular emphasis on bakkies. That's changing, however, and Mahindra aims to grab a bigger chunk of the passenger car market with some surprisingly good product.
One of the latest leaders in this onslaught is the KUV100 - a chunky, cheeky, cheerful little compact SUV with hatchback overtones (which probably makes it a crossover, but the definition of these vehicles is always blurry).
Of course, while the KUV100 is no serious off-roader it is a pretty thing, and has a handy 170mm ground clearance plus the likes of a front scuff plate, while short overhangs front and rear mean it's good on bad roads.
The rationale behind the front headlights is interesting.
"Modern, athletic sunglasses served as the design cue for the sculpted wrap-around headlights with integrated indicators," says its makers.Go figure.
There are five models in range, all using a Mahindra-developed mFalcon 1.2-litre three-cylinder motor in petrol or turbodiesel flavour.
To me for a week fell a top-range 1.2 K8 Tdiesel, and I rapidly warmed to this wieldy, extroverted little Indian. Output is 57kW at 3 750rpm, with 190Nm between 1 750 and 2 250rpm with drive to the front wheels, while fuel consumption is a claimed 4.4 litres/100km. Shifts are taken care of by a five-speed manual.
Mahindra doesn't seem to have any performance figures to hand, so let's just say that the KUV100 is "brisk," happily able to keep up with traffic and bowl along at freeway speeds.
Wisely, it rolls on 14-inch wheels with tyres deliberately chosen for their slightly taller sidewall profile and wide tread. Useful on our gravel and pothole-poxed roads, and a wonderful change from the low-profile tyres mounted on costly, damage-prone rims that so many cars wear, and which are so woefully unsuited to our roads.
Naturally, the higher you climb the model range the more kit you get, but all KUV100s come with wide-opening doors to make ingress and egress easier, while folding the rear seats boosts luggage capacity from 243 to 473 litres.
Also included as standard is tilt-adjustable steering, plenty of cup and bottle holders, two 12V accessory sockets, power windows, immobiliser, ABS with electronic brake force distribution (EBD), corner braking control (CBC), and a collapsible steering column. Plus you get dual front airbags.
Even the entry-level model gets air-conditioning, but rise up the range and you get extra aesthetic enhancements, such as blacked-out B-pillars and colour-coded door handles. By the time you hit K6+ level you can expect an infotainment system complete with a rather squinty little 3.5-inch display, Bluetooth, a cooled glove box, and a six-speaker sound system with steering wheel controls.
It also gets a bit more posh with mood lighting and piano-gloss black interior accents, plus keyless entry.
The range-topping KUV100 K8 I had in diesel guise - with the motor being acceptable but just the tiniest, teeniest bit unrefined next to what we're used to - gets yet a little more tinsel. Including daytime running lights, start-stop technology, and puddle lamps.
This a worthy, impressive entrant with just some minor touches dating it - like an umbrella-type handbrake. And while something like a Ford EcoSport will prove a more compellingly polished buy, you'll pay substantially more. Besides, just watch Mahindra's products improve exponentially with each new incarnation.
KUV100 1.2 K8 TDiesel R197 995
Pricing includes a three-year/100 000km warranty on all models, and a three-year/50 000km service plan on the K6+ and K8 derivatives (optional for K4+).