Luring and winning over the customers in any business is quite a task and if the segment belongs to Indian small car industry, then this challenge reflects altogether different kind of intensity. Hatchback segment of Indian car industry is already overcrowded with more than 25-odd model already battling outhard for customers in the fray. But even this doesn’t seem to deter the home grown auto-major; Mahindra from chancing its luck in this category. Already buoyed by the positive response of customers in utility vehicle category, Mahindra has now decided to focus on other volume segments. And what better to start than 5-door segment that continuous to account for major chunk in overall sales numbers. With Verito Vibe; Mahindra has set the ball rolling but with a pinch of twist. Contrary to popular practice of swelling the sedan from hatchback, Mahindra has gone squarely opposite as it squeezesits saloon; Verito to flush out Verito Vibe. Seen as company’s significant step towards diversification of its portfolio that for the years has been overly relied on the SUV sales; this step reflects giant leap in company’s strategic manoeuvre. With the starting price of Rs 5.63 lakh, Vibe is expected to take on the likes of Swift, Vista and Polo etc. which by any means are not going to be easy task for this home-grown auto major. Whether Verito Vibe will be able to pull off the feat of conquering the hatchback segment or not; is moot point we answer in road test of Verito Vibe.
Honestly speaking we would have liked some fresh design of the front face though the same facia, with some cosmetic changes, has been carried over from Verito to cut down the extra expenses related to alteration of the sheet metal. Nose of the car is snub and overall front view is boxy. Two-part grill carries the Mahindra lineage and is flanked by puny headlamps. Though there are subtle hints of infusing some character in form of creases and V theme, still these are too weak to get noticed.
Profile view of the Vibe however has some interesting details. For one there are prominent wheel arches that along with roof rails provide some racy character to the Vibe. But the most important details are the positioning of the rear tail lamps; making Vibe a unique one in its category. Mounted on the C-pillar the tail lamps make good symmetry of design as these blends seamlessly with the roof rails.
These LED tail lamps are the most differentiating feature of Vibe though the liking of this design is subjective in nature. Wing type chrome bar at the rear completes the high mounted fifth door of the hatchback though low aperture and high loading lip is bound to create some problems in loading-unloading the baggage.
Overall expect the rear end the Vibe fails to impress us hugely on the design front. Some knife-work at least on the front face intended to chop-off excessive blandness would have certainly given Vibe a brighter prospect as some of its established competitors are spot-on in terms of their styling and aesthetics.
Design has never been the forte of Mahindra vehicles (except XUV 5oo) and company has always relied more on the practicality of its vehicles. So no wonder, Verito Vibe follows the same custom of Mahindra by providing overwhelming feeling of space and practicality. In fact Verito Vibe has got best in class cabin space with widest back seat having 3 independent headrests. So if you are looking for a hatchback hat can sit three fully fledged adults abreast at the back, Vibe is the right answer for your need. There will be no jiggling of knees and no twitching of shoulders either even in case of 5 persons on the board. Having said that we found rear seat of Vibe is placed a little low causing some poor thigh support which could be irritating in long journeys. Nonetheless Verito Vibe scores perfect ten in the space and practicality dimension.
But the score tends to slide down the scale as soon as we start to scrutinize the comfort and quality factor of cabin. Seats are wide and large but they severely lack on the bolstering part. There could be an excuse for non-supportive nature of the rear seat however front seats should have got some proper contouring and support for making the driver position more comfortable.
Similarly two-tone colour scheme look sombre and use of beige would have brightened the cabin feeling more than the used dull grey colour. Door pockets are small and don’t hold even the small bottles. 2-Din music system is standard in top model and has the features of USB and aux-in as standard. Similarly there are power switches for windows and he mirror can also be adjusted electronically in D6 variant of Vibe. Dials continues to disappoint us not because of their size but due to their non-differentiating nature. Although very readable, you can’t differentiate between the two to tell which one is for which task. Al least on rpm meter the numeric must be embedded differently than that of speedometer.
Similar to cabin space, boot space also tends to be on decent side with total swallowing capacity of 330 litres however there are some agronomical glitches in Vibe’s trunk. First of the entire boot space is fixed without the provision of parcel tray. Opening aperture is small and loading lip is too quite high. Access to loading-unloading is also not as easy as we would like.
POWER & PERFORMANCE
With the option of only diesel engine, Vibe has been on offer with the choice of three variants. Power to the wheels will be available through the Renault 1.5 dCi engine displacing 1461 cc by breathing through 8 valves. This single overhead cam engine is good for generating 65 PS of power in addition to making 160 Nm of torque. Refinement of the engine is good and so is the drivability. City driving is quite easy in Vibe as it pulls cleanly from the low rpm and the slick gear shift also infuses some excitement quotient in the whole process.
City driving is the strongest virtue of the Vibe and it is really easy and zippy in traffic. Clutch too feels light and the overall driving process is light and less cumbersome than many other diesel cars.
Mid-range also feels good and Vibe responds sharply to the throttle responses. Engine feels quick though it is still no match to the rev-happy nature of Fiat’s multi-jet diesel engine. In comparison it feels lame though in isolation Vibe makes a good case for itself.
Power to wheels of Vibe is channelled through the 5-spped manual transmission. Clutch as we already said is light and easy. Shifts too are slick but just a bit short of being called a slick and snappy. Gear ratios are well matched to the engine curves as Vibe offers excellent drivability. The lag is curtailed to minimum andcity-driving has been well kept in mind. Even in 4th gear Vibe could pull handsomely from low revolutions without much stalling from the engine. On the extreme you have to downshift but unlike other cars even one step downshift is good enough to get you going well along with the traffic. Overall Mahindra has done a good job in engine-transmission department and Vibe will suite the urban driving style with its good low-rev demeanour.
In terms of suspension hardware there is no significant diversion from the standard specification of the vehicles. This means McPherson strut does the duty at front while torsion beam is employed at rear to suspend the wheels. Top variant of Vibe; D6 is shrouded with 185 mm wide rubber on 14” alloy wheels with an aspect ratio of 70.
Suspension of Vibe is good combination of ride and handling abilities just like its engine that shows good prowess on both drivability and highway capability. Ride is composed and the undulations, jerks are dispatched with good cushioning ability. Only in case of potholes the Vibe gets thoroughly disturbed however that happens only at slow speed. With Vibe speeding up, the cushioning becomes smoother and less disturbing.
Handling too isn’t bad as Vibe grips the road well. It’s far better handler than its big brother; Verito and chopping-off the butt has provided much needed relief to the Vibe on the handling front. Vibe takes on well with all cornering manoeuvres and only on the extreme speed it tends to steer out. Overall Vibe is better than average car on dynamic abilities.
Vibe represents Mahindra’s significant step towards its foray into the hatchback category. Though they have gone to pull out all the stops on the fronts of space, practicality and dynamic front to make Vibe a formidable proposition still we think Vibe lacks seriously on overall feel-good factor. Though Mahindra has tried hard to upgrade overall aesthetic package of Vibe, it stills share the uncanny similarity with its blood-brother Verito. Though there is commendable attempt from company to shed the long attached boredand boxy feeling with some interesting tail lamp design, still we are not very sure whether it will go down well with middle urban class. Similarly the interiors are lacklustre and despite being practical one, these scores immensely low on desirability factor. Though the competitive pricing of Vibe still provides some favouring odds however only time will tell whether the customers subscribe to same view or not.
Style& Substance 3/5 Ride & Handling 3.5/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3.5/5 Safety & Equipment 3.5/5
Power& Transmission 3.5/5 Fuel Efficiency 3.5/5
Value for Money 4/5