Mahindra XUV300 First Drive Review — Return of the SUV King?

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In the beginning, at least in the Indian SUV market, there was Mahindra. The carmaker dominated the SUV market for ages, first with its lineup of Jeeps and then with vehicles like the Bolero which sold by the thousands and only had competition from Tata Motors.

UPDATE: Mahindra Automotive has launched the XUV300 at a compelling starting price of Rs 7.90 lakh ex-showroom (India) — click here to know all the details (including variant-wise pricing).

However, all that changed with the sub-4-metre compact SUV. Despite several attempts at cracking the segment, Mahindra and every other carmaker in India found themselves lagging behind a familiar foe in the form of Maruti Suzuki. The carmaker better known for its hatchbacks had taken over the sub-4-metre compact SUV segment with the Vitara Brezza.

Now though Mahindra's back with the XUV300, banking on a popular name and a boatload of features to draw customers away from the Brezza. So can the XUV300 take Mahindra back to the top of the SUV pile?

Design And Styling

The XUV300 is based on the Tivoli SUV from Mahindra's South Korean subsidiary, Ssangyong. The new XUV300 keeps numerous design highlights of the SUV it is based on. However, like with the similarly re-badged Alturas G4, Mahindra has tweaked the design of the XUV300.

Up front, the new XUV300 looks a lot like its larger sibling the XUV500. This family design can be seen clearly in the grille and lighting setup up front. The grille features a thin horizontal strip of chrome running across the top. The Mahindra badge in the centre is flanked on either side by three vertical rows which sport chrome inserts that give the grille a rather toothy look.

Flanking the grille on either side are projector headlights which are connected to the fog lamps by the LED DRLs. Immediately underneath the fog lamps are the front parking sensors. The lights themselves are on either edge of the front bumper which houses a large air dam that features four horizontal chrome lines running across most of its width. Underneath the air dam sits a faux skid plate done up in silver. The sculpted bonnet adds more muscle to the XUV300's looks and along with the wide front track of the SUV give it a rather planted look when viewed front on.

When viewed from the sides, the XUV300's design looks unbalanced (more on that later). Further accentuating the bulging wheel arches are the character lines running above them connected together by the beltline of the Mahindra SUV. The wheel arches play host to large 17-inch diamond cut alloy wheels shod with Alnac 4G 215/55 tyres from Apollo.

The illusion of a floating roof is helped along by the blacked out C-Pillar. The illusion is further enhanced by opting for the dual-tone colour setup, as seen in the car above. Also seen is the black plastic cladding which runs around the SUV and gives it a more rough-and-ready look.

The C-Pillar is the point where the unbalanced nature of the XUV300's design is seen. To squeeze the XUV300 under the 4-metre mark, Mahindra has shrunk the rear end of the SUV and it looks rather odd and squashed when viewed from the side.

The rear end of the all-new XUV300 is curvaceous. Dominating the XUV300's rear are the taillights which feature a rather unique lighting pattern. A large Mahindra badge sits in the centre above the area for the registration plate. The boot lid also sports XUV300 and variant badging. The rear bumper sports a rather large faux bash plate in the centre. Like the one up front, this too is done up in silver.

The Cockpit

A black and beige dual-tone theme will greet owners as they step into the new XUV300. This theme extends from the dash to the doors and gives the XUV300 a rather nice look on the inside. The dashboard itself is rather nice to look at and features multiple design elements. These include the scooped out section just above the rather large glove box — a place to keep your phone and other small items.

The way the air vents in the centre for the two-zone climate control setup are shaped is rather odd. The duo are pointed towards the driver and front passenger and with the lack of rear vents just seem like an odd move in an otherwise good design. The controls for the climate control can be found under the touchscreen infotainment display.

The new Mahindra XUV300 features a leather-wrapped steering wheel which adds to the premium feel of the SUV. The left spoke of the steering wheel features controls for the infotainment system and also allow drivers to make/ pick up phone calls. The buttons on the right are for the cruise control system and to give voice commands for the infotainment screen.

Mahindra offers multiple modes for the steering setup. However, it has rather oddly placed the buttons for this on the centre console rather than where it should be - on the steering.

The instrument cluster features two analogue dials for the speedometer and the rev counter. Owners of the XUV300 can customise the colour of the dials. Mahindra offers 5 different colour configurations: White, Sky Blue, Blue, Yellow, and Red.

In between the dials is a 3.5-inch multi-information display which shows information ranging from the trip meter to average speed and driving time. It is this display that also acts as a host for the tyre direction monitoring system, which is a rather brilliant add-on feature from Mahindra.

The central section between the two front seats sees the leather-wrapped gear knob sit in the centre. Between the gearbox and the centre console is a small storage space above which sit the AUX and USB ports along with the 12V socket.

Stereo And Infotainment

The Mahindra XUV300 features a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment display. The infotainment system features connectivity options for both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay along with Mahindra's own Blue Sense app.

The infotainment display also supports other input options including Bluetooth, AUX and USB. The display can also connect to the internet if a dongle is plugged into the USB ports.

When using the Blue Sense app, the infotainment display can be controlled using a smartwatch. The Blue Sense app allows owners to control everything from the audio to the climate control and also view the vehicle's documents. The app also reminds owners of due services and can be used to summon help in case of emergencies.

The infotainment display on the XUV300 also offers satellite navigation with 3D maps which show speed alerts and along with a host of other features. The touchscreen allows access to the tyre pressure monitoring system and also acts as the display for the rearview camera.

The only flat spot in the entire infotainment system is the audio setup. It is quite a good setup on its own, however, if when compared to the brilliant Harman system in the Tata Nexon, it falls behind in terms of the overall aural experience.

Practicality, Comfort And Boot

The Mahindra XUV300 is a comfortable vehicle to be in for any drive be it long or short. The seats up front are large and heavily bolstered. They are also rather comfortable, even on long road trips.

The seats are mounted a lot lower to the floor of the XUV300 compared to other SUVs in the segment, which is nice. This allows for a good range of seat heights, allowing drivers to tailor the seating position to their preferences. However, the lack of reach adjustment on the steering wheel is rather bothersome, especially for taller drivers. Another issue is the A-Pillar, which creates a blind spot which can be annoying in slow moving traffic.

The rear seats also are quite a comfortable place to be despite the lack of rear A/C vents. The legroom at the rear is quite good as are the knee and headroom. The rear seats offer a good amount of under-thigh support.

The seats can easily seat three people thanks to the lack of the usual transmission tunnel hump in the floor's centre at the rear. Those who prefer to have just two at the rear can fold down the central armrest which also hosts two cup holders.

The XUV300 offers multiple cubby holes and storage spaces galore. The glove box is quite large as is the storage space under the driver's armrest. The door pockets are large as well and can hold 1-litre water bottles with ease.

The all-new Mahindra XUV300 is just the second SUV in the sub-4-metre compact segment to be offered with a sunroof. The electrically operated unit is a welcome addition and gives the cabin a much airier feel.

The boot of the XUV300 is quite spacious. Mahindra has not revealed the official capacity of the boot. However, the boot does feel like it could easily swallow up a weekend's worth of luggage for the family without much complaint. For those looking for a bit more space, the rear seats fold down in a 60:40 split and open up a whole load more area for storage. The only issue with the boot is the high loading lip, which makes loading and unloading items a bit of a chore.

The fully sized (steel) spare wheel can be found in the boot of the XUV300 along with the tool kit and is very easily accessible.

Engine, Performance And Driving Impressions

The Mahindra XUV300 is offered with two engine options - 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol and the same 1.5-litre turbo-diesel found on the Marazzo MPV.

The petrol engine is a brand new unit that displaces 1.2-litres and comes fitted with a turbocharger. The turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engine of the XUV300 kicks out 110bhp at 5,000rpm and 200Nm of torque (best in the segment) between 2,000-3,500rpm. The 1.5-litre turbo diesel engine, on the other hand, cranks out 115bhp at 3,750rpm and 300 Nm of torque between 1,500-2,500rpm.

Both engines are paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox, which will be the only transmission offering at launch.

The XUV300's diesel engine is the most powerful unit on offer in the sub-4-metre compact SUV segment in India and is the one we got to experience. The engine is torquey and quite fun to drive. However, it suffers from turbo lag under 2,000rpm, which can be really felt if your doing a ghat run or climbing an incline.

The gearbox is quite smooth to operate and the clutch pedal while light has quite a bit of travel. The brakes, which are discs on all four wheels (another segment first) were rather brilliant and slowed the XUV300 down quickly. The lack of a dead pedal to rest one's left foot though is annoying.

Mahindra has kept the same basic suspension setup found on the Ssangyong Tivoli for the XUV300. However, the Mahindra XUV300's springs and dampers have been tweaked for Indian roads. This shows in the rather pliant ride, which allows the SUV to go over bumps and ruts without causing much of a fuss. At higher speeds, the Mahindra SUV feels quite planted.

The Mahindra XUV300 is the first vehicle from the carmaker that drivers will have fun to chuck around a corner. Body roll is kept in check and the XUV300 actually gives drivers the confidence to push it around a corner. The handling characteristics, for a SUV, are quite nice.

What makes the XUV300 even more engaging to drive are the multiple modes for the steering. Mahindra gives drivers the choice of three steering modes (from lightest to heaviest) - comfort, normal and sport. The steering modes are a brilliant addition and make the XUV300 a compact SUV that people would prefer getting behind the wheel of.

(The Mahindra XUV300 petrol was not present at the drive, so we'll have to reserve judgement on that till whenever we get our hands on one.)

Key Specifications

Dimensions

Length 3,995mm
Width 1,821mm
Height 1,617mm
Wheelbase 2,600mm
Tyre size 215/55 R17
Fuel tank 42 litres

Powertrain


Petrol
Diesel
Capacity
1.2L
1.5L
Power
110 bhp @ 5,000 rpm
115 bhp @ 3,750 rpm
Torque
200 Nm @ 2,000–3,500 rpm
300 Nm @ 1,500–2,500 rpm
Gearbox
6-speed manual

Safety & Key Features

Mahindra has packed with a host of safety features including 7 airbags (front, side, curtain, knee) which is another segment first. Other safety features on the Mahindra XUV300 including ABS with EBD, hill hold assist, ESP, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview parking camera, heated and power fold rear view ORVMs, height adjustable seat belts, seat belt sensors for all seats, ISOFIX mounts and disc brakes on all four wheels.

The XUV300 comes packed with features including automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a sunroof. Other features include two-zone automatic climate control, anti-pinch windows, auto dimming IRVM, cruise control, keyless entry and many more.

DriveSpark Thinks!

The Mahindra XUV300 packs a host of features along with spacious interiors, a muscular design, good build quality, and powerful powertrain options into a package that is definitely a brilliant all-rounder. Whether the Mahindra XUV300 can really knock the Maruti Vitara Brezza of its perch on top of the SUV mountain still remains to be seen and will be highly dependent on the price.

If the XUV300's pricing is kept competitive compared to the Vitara Brezza then Maruti better batten down the hatches. Considering the brand association of Mahindra and SUVs in India, the Mahindra XUV300 is one Cheetah Maruti should be keeping a wary eye out for on in its mirror, because it may just be gearing up to storm past.

What We Liked

  • A feature-packed SUV
  • Powerful powertrains
  • Host of Safety Features
  • Pliant ride
  • Steering modes

What We Didn't Like

  • Squished rear end to meet sub-4-metre SUV requirements
  • A-Pillar blind spot
  • Lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel

What You Need To Know

The Mahindra XUV300 will go on sale on February 14 and prices are expected to range between Rs 8-11 lakhs.

Rivals

The major rivals for the Mahindra XUV300 are the Maruti Suzuki Brezza, Tata Nexon and the Ford EcoSport.

Reporting by Promeet Ghosh; Writing by Dennis James; Editing by Jobo Kuruvilla

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Read more on: #mahindra #review
Article Published On: Wednesday, February 6, 2019, 12:10 [IST]
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