The TUV300 is a curious creature. Despite its compact family car dimensions, it shares most of its DNA with the humble bakkie. Foregoing unibody construction for a more robust body-on-frame design, the TUV300 might be more rugged than your average crossover but the downside is fairly agricultural ride quality and moderate levels of noise, vibration and harshness. Over smooth surfaces, the ride comfort is acceptable but as soon as the road surface deteriorates, the chassis and body tend to have a protracted disagreement and the cabin “jiggles”. If you’ve driven bakkies or SUVs such as the Toyota Fortuner, this will feel very familiar.
The TUV300 is also rear-wheel drive. In a segment where most cars are simply raised-height, front-wheel drive hatchbacks, some buyers might be pleased by this, as rear-wheel drive is regarded as being more suited to tackling gravel roads. And given the TUV300’s ride height, the car is well suited to this pursuit.
While the car is advertised as a 7-seater, the fold-down, military-style (face each other) rear seats are not fitted with seatbelts. For obvious safety reasons, we advise that you don't use them to transport passengers.
Build quality and standard features
While the TUV300 does feel cheaply made, with hard plastics dominating the cabin, it’s not badly made. Everything feels properly screwed and glued together, and there were no rattles or squeaks to speak of during our test period. The incredible beige-ness of the interior aside, it's actually well-specced. There are no option boxes to tick at all - everything is included in the purchase price.
Bluetooth audio and telephony are standard, all controlled from the steering wheel, and the radio/CD player includes an aux jack and USB port. Rear park-distance control is a handy feature but there’s no reverse camera. There’s ample storage space in the cabin and the front seats are particularly comfortable on long journeys, with the driver’s seat featuring a fold-down armrest.
Engine power and efficiency
While the 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine does sound quite gruff, it’s no worse than a similar turbo-diesel from, say, a Toyota Fortuner. And it doesn’t have the typical unbalanced feel of a 3-cylinder; if no one told you it was a 3-cylinder, you probably wouldn’t notice.
Power and torque is quoted at 74kW and 240Nm and while that power figure seems a little low, the torque more than makes up for it. The engine develops its torque smoothly and the power band does feel quite wide for a turbodiesel. As long as you don’t stab at the throttle, the TUV300 actually makes brisk progress in urban areas and is competent at highway speeds. Overtaking manoeuvres, however, need to be planned carefully as it’s not the sort of car that can spontaneously sprint past slower moving traffic.
The TUV300 offers generous interior space, and, in particular, boot space. The rear bench can easily accommodate 3 adults side-by-side, but take note that there are no ISOFIX child seat mounts. The spare wheel is mounted on the back of the car (protected by a hard plastic cover in body colour) and as such, the boot space is especially deep - buyers should have no trouble throwing in children’s bicycles and a month’s worth of groceries. Of course with the rear seats folded down into place, this does essentially negate the boot area, which is a downside.
The purchase price also includes a tow bar, very handy for bicycle racks and of course trailers. The TUV300 feels like it should cope with everything up to a light caravan.