Introducing the next evolution of its products, Indian auto giant Mahindra has unleashed the bold and dynamic new compact XUV300 onto the South African market. We took it for a short tour of the Western Cape and walked away highly impressed.
South Africa became the first international market outside of India to launch the new XUV300 – a definitive indication of just how important our market is to the auto giant, described by their top executives as the ‘second home’ of Mahindra.
But the real reason why the XUV300 was launched here straight after its Indian introduction is purely that it has been available in European and other markets for a while now – albeit in revised form. Based on the global X100 platform of the Mahindra group, the XUV300 was developed from a SsangYong product called the Tivoli, and when the development of the facelifted Tivoli started, Mahindra decided to get involved.
Its research centre in Chennai combined the latest Mahindra drivetrains to the X100 platform, while the styling department carried over the ‘cheetah-inspired’ design language of the XUV500 into the new model. The XUV300, the first of a new generation of Mahindra vehicles, was born.
While the new Indian SUV displays some design clues from its donor, the angular lines have been slightly softened to suit the Mahindra design. The dual tear-duct style LED-strip daytime running lights flanking the bold grille and trapezoidal lower air intake was clearly inspired by the XUV500, and wide LED taillights, bold wheel arches and diamond cut alloy wheels gives it a squat stance.
A floating roof, side cladding, wide sculpted rear-quarter hip line, roof-mounted spoiler, and high-mounted stop lamp gives it a Volvo XC40 look, offset by the billet grille with chrome highlights at the front. The flagship W8 model receives 17” wheels, dual tone roof rails, and silver front- and rear skid plates.
In contrast to most other Mahindra models, the interior has a distinctly European flavour, although the light beige leatherette seats and cabin trim (that can soil easily) in the W8 model may not be to the taste of everyone with the W6 featuring premium black fabric trim. Both models have steering wheel controls, a full-colour infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
A standard sunroof, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, keyless access with stop-start button, seven airbags, automatic headlights, Tyretronics tyre pressure warning system, front and rear parking sensors, a reverse parking camera with parking assistance and automatic rain-sensing wipers ensure the W8 is better equipped than most of its European, Korean, and Japanese rivals.
Two new Mahindra developed engines are available in the XUV300 – a three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbo-petrol engine delivering 81 kW and a healthy 200 Nm of torque, or a four-cylinder 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine, rated for 86 kW and 300 Nm between 1,500 and 2,500 r/min. Both are coupled to a 6-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.
The good balance of the engine and drivetrain combination made the W8 Diesel model feel decidedly perky with the ample low-down torque guaranteeing easy overtaking.
While it looks deceptively small, it’s surprisingly roomy inside and the luggage compartment can be extended both vertically, with three height settings for the luggage floor, and horizontally by folding the rear seats forward.
All this, combined with its quiet engine and the absence of excessive road or wind noise, contributed to a pleasant driving experience. Perhaps the most surprising was the unbelievable ride comfort. It never felt too soft or too jittery, and over undulations on the dodgy sections near Philadelphia, its suspension absorbed the road imperfections with aplomb. The Smart Steering system, with Comfort, Normal, and Sport modes, allowed you to choose a setting suitable for the road, and after some experimentation, I decided to stick to Sport mode, as it felt weightier and gave better feedback.
Our circuit of the Swartland and Cape Winelands confirmed that the new XUV300 spearheads the next chapter in vehicle development from the Indian manufacturer. It is well-specced, drives and handles well, it is safe, and it can compete on even footing with European and Asian rivals like the Ford EcoSport, Renault Duster, Hyundai Creta, Nissan Qashqai, and Suzuki Vitara.
It is keenly priced too, retailing from R249,999 for the W6 petrol to R324,999 for the W8 diesel, with much higher spec levels than the Ecosport 1.5 TDCi Ambiente and comparing favourably with the Duster 1.5 dCI Prestige EDC.
COMFORT & CONVENIENCE: 3/5
RIDE QUALITY: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
Report by FERDI DE VOS | Images © MAHINDRA SA