INTRODUCING AN AUTOMATIC OPTION MAKES MAHINDRA MORE ATTRACTIVE
If you’re a city slicker you’d be forgiven for letting the Mahindra brand fly under the radar. The Indian marque has a strong following in rural New Zealand, but the big smoke has been problematic because of a lack of automatic models. Manuals are fine for open road driving, but they’re not as practical for city folk burdened with hours of slow-moving traffic.
But now Mahindra has introduced the new mid-sized SUV XUV500 automatic.
The XUV500 — that’s pronounced XUV five double O — received a strong refresh from the previous model last year, which until now has been available with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Priced from $36,990 for the front-wheel-drive XUV500, Mahindra wants its SUV to be seen as a value-for-money proposition, and it delivers.
Even better, off the showroom floor, you have a three year, 100,000km warranty to cover any unforeseen problems with the vehicle.
“We’re targeting 200 XUV500 sales which we think we can achieve,” said Mahindra New Zealand marketing manager Steve Vermeulen.
“The first shipment of FWD XUV automatics has already sold out as well.”
The exterior was designed by Pininfarina, the Italian design firm recently acquired by Mahindra. Pininfarina has given the XUV a distinct look that makes it stand out from the competition.
Most obvious are the rear quarter panels, which feature swooping flares that break up the otherwise clean lines of the vehicle.
These were a polarising feature for the journalists assembled at the launch but the XUV500 is distinct from other SUVs on the road. Depending on which colour your XUV is, the rear quarter panels don’t look too bad either, and particularly good in red.
The Mahindra’s biggest selling point is the seven-seat arrangement. With many families looking for a vehicle with those extra two seats, the XUV500 and its low entry price becomes an attractive proposition.
Each seat is wrapped in leather, the rear seats offering plenty of leg room for adults as well as ISOFIX child restraints for the littlies.
The collapsible rearmost seats can take two adults in reasonable comfort, too, with enough leg room for an average-sized adult male.
Back seat passengers have a climate control system which is independent of the system used in the rest of the cabin.
This means there shouldn’t be any complaints from those sitting in the rear of the vehicle.
But the rest of the interior’s fit and finish isn’t up to the standards we’re used to from Mahindra’s Japanese or European SUV rivals — for instance, the cheap-feeling plastic in use for trimmings such as the air vents.
But where it counts, the Mahindra delivers.
Sitting in the high-positioned driver seat, you feel like you’re in a big, safe vehicle. ANCAP rated the XUV500 as a 4-star vehicle, with Mahindra NZ management claiming it wasn’t far off that magical 5-star rating.
With an easy to use 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, including satellite navigation and a smart reversing camera system, the tech side of things is nicely taken care of and is right up there with more premium manufacturers.
Powering the XUV is the same 2.2-litre diesel found across the range, producing 104kW and 330Nm of torque.
Though down on power compared with direct competitors, the engine makes up for this with an excellent potential fuel range of 946 km. If driving for economy doesn’t give you a buzz, the engine provides plenty of grunt on the open road for overtaking manoeuvres when called upon.
My launch driving partner and I at first thought the suspension was a little hard, especially with the drive route starting on a gravel road.
But as we drove further around the Auckland coast and on to sealed roads the vehicle’s suspension felt more comfortable.
“It’s not a cheap product, it’s a value-for-money product,” said Mahindra president and chief executive, Pravin Shah, who was visiting New Zealand from India for the launch.
“We want to establish the brand and win the hearts and minds of consumers,” he said.
With a well-priced product including that all-important automatic transmission, Mahindra will surely grow in this market.