Some call the compact SUV phenomenon a bubble while other calls it the next growth engine of automobile industry. No matter which side of the opinion you are, compact SUVs are all rage in Indian automobile market. A segment that didn't exist few years back is now buzzing with activity as every manufacturer now looks to have its share in this fledgling pie. Mahindra which has literally mastered the SUV category couldn't have stayed away from this segment for long. They had tried with Quanto before but effort minted little success though this time with new TUV300, company is confident of hitting the bull's eye.
The new offering is spacious, built very well, has RWD configuration, and boasts 184 mm of ground clearance. All these are the virtues that could certainly make TUV300 a success in Indian market though competition is equally competent. Ford EcoSport and upcoming Maruti XA Alpha are certainly not the pushovers. So to know whether new Mahindra TUV300 has got what it takes to humble the competition, we get behind its wheel and here's our first impression.
Style, Design & Interiors
Mahindra's assertion that TUV300 is inspired by battle tank does seem credible as the looks of the SUV really resembles to rugged machine. Straight and unconventional lines define the turnout of TUV300. Upfront, there is familiar Mahindra lineage grille flanked by smart looking square headlamps. Square bumper with rectangular fog lamps accentuate the rugged demeanour and so are by chiselled bonnet. In profile, the character of the SUV is defined by backward sloping pillars which lend sort of motion effect to SUV.
Glossy wraparound rear panel add nice contrast to the overall colour scheme while adding some nice detailing to the silhouette. Rear of the SUV is in line with the overall theme of the car. Rear mounted spare wheel comes in two-tone finishing with Mahindra insignia sitting right in the middle. Rear step board sticks out like a sore thumb and is aesthetically flawed inits position.
Inside the cabin, there is less drama as controls, switches and ergonomics are straight and uncluttered. Top T8 variant features black-beige upholstery with 2-DIN audio system and well laid out rotary AC controls. Dials are chunky and has very tactile feel to them. That said, the power windows switches are placed between front seats which is flawed place.There are plenty of storage and stowage spaces throughout the cabin. Front seats are well supported and nicely bolstered, and feel comfortable even on a long run drive. Individual armrests at the front are another positive in the SUV as driver seat is height adjustable and so is steering wheel which adjusts for rake.
Middle bench has been designed to accommodate three occupants, and though headroom and legroom are good enough, shoulder room for three abreast is a kind of squeeze. Transmission tunnel compromise the legroom a bit for the middle passenger though it is not a big botheration. There is provision for jump seats at the back though these are good only for children or short distances.
Engine, Transmission & Driving Dynamics
TUV300 features 1.5-litre, 3 - cylinder version of mHawk diesel which powers the range of other Mahindra vehicles. Comp claims that this unit is developed ground up with an investment of Rs 300 crore. Compared to Quanto, TUV300 has lower output with 86 PS and 230 Nm of max power and max torque respectively. That said, the max torque is now produced at lower revolutions which makes thing unit more tractable and drivable. Engibe is quick off the mark and enough gtunt is available down the barrel. Torque is delivered right from the low rev range though proper spooling of turbo commences only post 1500 rpm. Refinement though is mediocre as sound starts filtering inside as revs zoom past 2000 rpm mark. We also felt the pulsating effect of these vibes onto gear lever which falls in hand quite easily. The mill is not very rev-happy as post 3500 rpm, the engine ceases to progress.
The engine comes mated with 5-speed manual transmission as well as option of AMT. We sampled manual gearbox which is somewhat notchy in shifts. The throws are far from slick, and the whole set up needs accurate and sorted precision. It seems Mahindra has to cover a lot of ground before getting into leagues of its counterparts. Top variant T8 sports micro hybrid technology and double eco indicators for enhancing fuel efficiency.
Dynamics, as we expected, is just about average as TUV300 is built on the ladder frame chassis against the standard of monocoque chassis. There is lot of body roll if you try to bend it over curves which means limited fun quotient for regular city commuters. Compared to Ford EcoSport, TUV300 pales in handling department. Ride, on the other hand, is quite cushioning and absorbing at low speeds though starts feeling jittery as the whack increases. Steering wheel too feels a bit heavier than normal and while it is boon on highways, it is deterrent for the city manoeuvring.
With the price range stretching between Rs 6.90 lakh for base T4 trim to Rs 9.12 lakh for top T8 AMT variant, TUV300 offers a great value for money. Its direct rival Ford EcoSport is substantially dearer, and although Ford offers much more mature dynamics, Mahindra offers better ergonomics and spacious interiors. It comes with seven-seat configuration and even though jump seats at the back are not that much spacious, these still serve the purpose for short journeys. Further its rugged suspension and rough handling add to its positive aspects. In sum, Mahindra TUV300 has got the makings of a winner.
Style & Substance 3/5 Ride & Handling 3/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3/5 Safety & Equipment 3/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 3.5/5 Fuel Efficiency 3.5/5
Value for Money 4/5