Let’s start with the styling, this car is likely to divide opinion, it really does look very tiny wherever it goes. As for the actual form of the car, well I can’t say that I am a fan of the way that it looks. This was backed up by the 30-odd people that I asked during my week with the car, a vox pop of sorts.
The front end when viewed straight-on actually looks quite muscular however move around and you’ll see those massive stretched front lights with strange slash surfacing that begins in the middle of the rear door and extends to the rear-end, which, come to think of it, is better, more hatchback-like. Overall then it’s something entirely quirky and definitely an acquired taste.
Inside I was pleasantly surprised, the overall feel in terms of quality and design is no worse than Japanese products made in India, think Toyota Etios Cross, Suzuki Swift Dzire, and Honda Brio amongst others in terms of fit and finish. As for the colours inside, well, it is typical of the brand with grey and beige everywhere.
In terms of space I found that four occupants can fit in the vehicle comfortably, there is no shortage of space however as you’ll discover in my ‘Driving’ paragraph, four occupants might prove a problem for the petrol variant. It might not be epitome of luxury but when you consider that you can get a well-kitted small crossover for between R150 000-R200 000 in this economic climate it starts to sound more appealing.
The top-of-the-range T8 model that I had on test benefits from a multi function steering wheel, onboard display/tip computer as well as a tiny infotainment screen with Bluetooth/USB which proved very easy to use. I also enjoy the fact that the gearlever sits in the dashboard, making changing gears really rather easy. I don’t like that old-school push/pull handbrake lever though. The benefit of placing the gear lever and handbrake in the dashboard though is noticed in that centre console where there is ample space to store items such as your smartphone, wallet and other paraphernalia where prying eyes cannot seem them.
The little KUV that I drove, as I mentioned, was fitted with a 61kW/115Nm 1.2 litre naturally aspirated 3-cylinder motor which sounds quite conventional but up at the reef it struggles, meaning that it has to be driven fairly hard most of the time to make progress. That’s where the tiny fuel tank comes in to play.
The 35 litre unit combined with the fact that I was driving the car hard meant that I got around 350km on a tank of fuel, which is not ideal, making the vehicle difficult to take on extended trips and quite expensive to run.
While there has not been an official crash test done on the car (at the time of writing) I can tell you that it comes with ABS brakes with EBD as well as front and passenger airbags. We will revisit the safety issue when an official test is conducted.
The KUV100 is so close to being a great bargain compact crossover, but it is let down by its small fuel tank and asthmatic engine. The quirks such as the odd handbrake and strange looks can be overlooked due to its competitive pricing. Perhaps the little diesel variant remedies the most noticeable shortcomings however in terms of the model that I was presented with I would say that it’s close, but no cigar.
Pricing: Mahindra KUV100 1.2 G80 K8 R179 995