I've long been intrigued by the brand though, because everybody I've bumped into who'd owned one seemed to be satisfied with their purchase. Then, early in February I was surprised to be invited on a one day meet-and-greet with a couple of the Indian vehicles on tar and in the dirt near Eston, and two weeks ago an XUV 500 W8 family SUV arrived in my driveway for a longer evaluation.
About the car
The XUV, first launched about five years ago, has proved to be fairly popular here with sales of between five and 80 cars a month. It's a mid-sized SUV that offers surprisingly high specification levels for between R273,000 for the entry-level W4 4x2, and R375,000 for the W8 4x4 with all the bells and whistles. The model supplied to us was the R355,000 W8 4x2 that shares the specifications of the flagship model, but without the four-wheel-drive system.
All of the recently facelifted models share a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine that delivers 103kW of power at 3,750rpm and 330Nm of torque at 2,800rpm so on paper it's a capable performer. Drive is via a six-speed manual gearbox to the front wheels in the 4x2 versions, and to all four through a Borg-Warner all-wheel-drive system in the more dirt capable models.
The Mahindra is an attractively styled vehicle, so first impressions are favourable. Once you climb inside the cabin the budgetary restraints become more obvious, though, with some of the plastics looking rather iffy. It's not horrible though - I just got the feeling that jacking the visual and tactile aspects of the trim up a little would vastly benefit the appeal of the car as a whole.
Once you settle in and take a look at the whole package the car begins to claim territorial advantage hand over fist. The W4 versions include as standard a satellite navigation system, tyre pressure alerts (including for the spare), a reverse camera, reading lamps and mobile phone charging points in all three rows of seats, puddle lamps, a 7" touch-screen colour display with video and photographic viewing capacity, i-Pod connectivity with aux input and Bluetooth, six airbags, a refrigerated cool-box in the centre console, intelligent light and rain sensing headlights and wipers, hill-hold and hill-descent control, ESP with rollover mitigation, leather upholstery, and a host of other features.
One likeable one was a second wide-angle interior mirror that helps you correctly target the kid that started all the trouble before you lash out, and an umbrella holder!
That's all very well, but what's it like to drive? In short, good. Surprisingly so. The XUV is, contrary to what some publications have reported, not based upon a bakkie frame with the engine driving the rear wheels in 4x2 versions. It has a monocoque chassis with front-wheel-drive, MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link setup at the rear, and ride quality is very good.
Handling and steering feedback are well up to scratch, and the gravelly-sounding diesel does a good job of hauling the wagon along at a decent pace while sipping between seven and eight litres of fuel per hundred kilometres.
The Mahindra XUV is, in our opinion, well worth a look, whichever specification level appeals to you. It offers loads of comfort and space with very acceptable performance in a surprisingly likeable package at a budget price. It comes with a five-year/150,000km warranty and a five year/100,000km service plan.