Compact SUVs, they come in two sizes – S and XS, the latter getting the crucial excise duty advantage and yet we have very few options. Mahindra quite literally started the sub 4-metre compact SUV segment (the highly outdated Premier RiO aside) by taking a big saw and chopping off the backside of its Xylo MPV, OK, there certainly is more than what meets the eye but I digress. The MPV based Quanto faltered on many fronts and new entrants in the segment lead to sales dropping drastically. Time for a new SUV for the UV specialist then, only thing being, the TUV300 isn’t the successor to the Quanto but we at MotorBeam feel it fills those shoes till the updated model is launched. After driving it on the Mahindra test track, we quite liked the product but time for a detailed road test to judge the real character of this “Tough Utility Vehicle”.
Taking inspiration from the ‘battle tank’, TUV300 has been shaped in a rather boxy manner which may or may not go well with the customer, reason being that some may find it tough and rugged while others may think that it is too plain jane to stand competition like Hyundai Creta, Maruti S-Cross, Ford EcoSport and Renault Duster. Mahindra TUV300 pictures of the outside testify the company’s attempt to come up with a rugged vehicle, but what really works for the SUV is that despite its small size it manages to appeal customers and is not mistaken for an oversized hatchback. Despite its sub-four meter length, the SUV does not seem petite or compressed, probably because it is not feature clad on the outside, the unnecessary styling to make it look sporty has been skipped which works well for it. Front is bold, the engine hood is short and front apron is unusually wide. Radiator grille is reminiscent of Jeep and a hint of chrome is evident around the rectangular openings. Head lights are designed in such as way that fits well with the bold front end. Body coloured lower bumper gets square shaped fog lights featuring chrome surrounds. Air inlets are again wide that add to the aggressive stance. Wheel arches are rather rectangular than round, side view is simple, the black treatment around the window frame, dual tone power adjustable ORVMs, body painted outside door handles and window beltline altogether lends a suave look. Rear too has been designed in line with the rest of the body, a set of simple tail lights and mounted spare wheel are equipped on the tailgate. And the black painted roof rails have been atop appear sport
The cabin of the TUV300 is a mix of beige and black, with some dull silver thrown in. While it isn’t the best quality from the Mahindra stable, it does just fine for the price point. The space is enormous, and the cabin proportions felt exact. Taller/heftier members of our team had little to complain about during the drive.The all new dashboard layout is marvellous in our opinion, and Mahindra has perfected its beige-black combination with this particular model. The centre region is coloured in black, while the upper and lower halves are beige.The black design stretches all the way into the front console, extends around the instrument cluster and envelops the steering wheel as well. The centre console is laid out in a simple yet, eye catching manner. We personally feel that it is one of the best looking fascia designs in a Mahindra. The piano black finish for the console adds some zest to the look, and the silver garnish looks nice as well.
Positioned at the top of the console are two AC vents, and right below them is the 2 DIN audio system that comes with Bluetooth, AUX and USB connectivity. The buttons to the radio are spread around the small screen.At the bottom of the fascia, you have three large AC knobs with chrome surrounds. A 12V power socket along with a USB and AUX-In port have been integrated in front of the gear lever, and resting between the front seats are cup holders and other storage options. Power switches for all four windows are also hosted in the console area between the seats, while a small storage pocket is present behind the hand brake. We personally felt that these small pockets wouldn’t hold anything substantial, but you could find them useful for keeping spare change or your keys.
Look up at the roof and you’ll find a cabin light console that resembles that of the Scorpio. Also included here are swivel lamps and a Bluetooth mic. Talking about the inner comfort, we were quite satisfied with the ergonomic build-up of the seating. The front passengers get the benefit of the individual armrests, while headrests for all of the seats further ramp up the comfort. The vinyl and fabric mixed upholstery quality is acceptable. The steering wheel inherits the standard Mahindra design that you can easily spot in other vehicles of the brand including the Scorpio and XUV500. The shiny emblem of the company rests at the focus of the wheel, and audio controls have been incorporated at the left.
The chunky steering wheel is nice to hold. For the top end variants, there is a silver garnish on the lower side of the wheel, which adds an upmarket touch. In front of the steering wheel, the instrument cluster houses the tachometer and the speedometer, and when you take a closer look, it feels as though the company never falls short of chrome. The dials have a chrome touch too.
Mahindra offers the TUV300 with a 1.5-litre diesel engine. But, it comes in two states of tune. First being the mHawk80 which has a power of about 84bhp, while the second engine is the mHawk100, which produces close to 100bhp of power. Both these come with a five-speed manual transmission and the powerful engine has AMT option too. The powerful engine comes only with the top variant T8, with 100bhp. This an improvement over the 80 bhp version.
Engine refinement is good, and there is very limited vibrations at low speeds. It is at high speeds that the engine becomes noisy. The engine has good power. There is good enough torque at almost any engine speed. The boost that one gets from a diesel engine seems to be missing on the 80bhp. The 100bhp is a tad quicker, but nothing that one can speak off. The 100bhp engine is more suited for the AMT version and has ironed out a lot of issues that came up with the 80bhp version.
The gear lever on the Mahindra TUV300 is tall but it easily gets slotted. The clutch pedal too is light and it makes it easy to drive. The AMT is a bit sluggish in shift, but is good enough for city use. There have been issues with this transmission, however now it the problems have been fixed.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
The TUV300 will be Mahindra’s first SUV which will actually sit on the new body on frame chassis which has been developed for recently for the new generation Scorpio. The advantage of this new chassis is that it weighs much less than its earlier ladder on frame chassis, although the length of the Chassis will be actually shorter than that of the Scorpio for obvious reasons. For that reason expect the new TUV300 to also handle better than the compact SUV Quanto
The TUV300 is offered with dual front airbags and ABS as optional on the T4 variant while the T6 variant gets ABS as standard. Airbags and ABS with EBD are standard offerings on the T8 variant. This is quite a good step taken by Mahindra since safety is quite a norm now and most customers have finally realised the importance of these features. In terms of service, well the automaker has a lot of service stations across the length and breadth of the country and there are service centres located in remote areas too. Hence, TUV300 buyers need not worry much when it comes to servicing their vehicles.
The Mahindra TUV300 is a refreshingly good product from Mahindra with appealing looks, a very well made interior that is also well designed. It is spacious, doesn’t cost the earth and has a pretty good ride and handling package too. If only the TUV300’s engine was more powerful and more responsive, it would have been an even more potent vehicle than it is today. That said, we are sure that the TUV300 will be a runaway success for Mahindra as most of its customers do not really care how powerful it is and are more wooed by how nice this compact SUV actually looks on the outside and insides and of course, how fuel efficent it is.
What is important to note here though is the fact that the TUV300 will not only take on the likes of the Ford Ecosport but also the likes of the premium hatchbacks like the Hyundai i20 and the Honda Jazz along with compact sedans like the Ford Aspire and the best selling Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire, and that is when its value for money quotient will really make sense.