Some call it just a bubble, while others, including the leaders at some of the largest global car corporations think it’s the next direction the car industry is going to take. Irrespective of what eventually happens, compact SUVs, or crossovers, as they are better known as these days are all the rage in the Indian car bazaar at the moment. A segment which didn’t exist a while ago is getting increasingly cluttered with every car manufacturer trying his bit to get a share of the pie.
Mahindra, being the leaders in the SUV segment, couldn’t have stayed away from the lure of creating a compact SUV of their own for too long. After trying their hand at the sub-4 meter class with the part UV, part lifestyle Quanto, they have come up with a more aggressive looking offering this time around. The TUV300, as the new compact SUV is called, has the space to seat seven, and with its RWD configuration, and 184mm of ground clearance, the ability to go off the road if the challenge ahead is not too tough.
We reported live from the launch event of the new compact SUV, while also getting the chance to sample the ‘battle tank inspired’ machine at Mahindra’s Chakan test track. Here we have our first drive review of this interesting new machine for all those of you who are looking at this segment with interest.
Styling and appearance
Mahindra asserts that the TUV300 has drawn its lines from a battle tank. The car in some sense does come across as a rugged machine, thanks to its straight, conventionally SUV-ish, and dare we say, boxy lines, though the comparison with a war machine is taking the notion a little too far in our humble opinion.
The TUV300 looks its best when viewed front on from a low viewing angle. That grille is the best rendition of Mahindra’s family identity, though there’s no getting away from the uncanny similarity with the frontal appearance of Jeep’s new models. The theme up front is very straight and horizontal, with well defined, clutter-less creases forming the TUV’s brawny face. The pronounced bonnet shut line is flat and straight with the Mahindra emblem sitting right below it on top of the chrome lined, tastefully done radiator grille with five vertical slits. The lower portion of the radiator grille turns inwards to let the bumper appear extended out.
The grille area is flanked by the big headlamp assembly where the main illumination unit with static bending feature gets a square shape, while the rest of the elements, including turn indicators and pilots are surrounded by angled lines – the only aberration to the otherwise staunchly square theme.
The large front bumper looks muscular with clearly defined horizontal lines above and below the large (and rectangular) central air dam, which is flanked by chrome lined (and square) fog lamps. The lower portion of the front bumper, though again very horizontal in theme, has two very small faux wing-like extensions on either side. Contrasting black coloured bash plates and mud flaps below the body coloured bumper complete the SUV look up front.
On the sides, the TUV300 has its own unique character, underlined primarily by those backwards slanting pillars defining the greenhouse area. That shape lends the SUV a sense of motion even at standstill, and tries its bit to add to its dynamic appeal. Black window frames, a glossy black rear wraparound panel, along with black roof-rails add some nice contrast to the colour scheme, while also lending an air of sportiness to the package.
Flared wheel arches, along with strong horizontal character line underline the car’s somewhat overly chiselled profile. It isn’t entirely in sync with the swept back appearance of the windows area, though it should appeal to those who want that extra blend of brawn in their rides. ORVMs are big, wide and like the rest of the car’s design, rectangular, with a two-tone treatment.
With a relatively high seating position, Mahindra have provisioned for a footboard to aid easy ingress. Ten spoke, 15 inch alloys wrapped with 215/75 R chunky looking CEAT Czar H/T provide the footwear. Handles on the top end T8 variant are painted in body colour. The mHawk eagle insignia, along with ‘powered by mHawk’ badges sits somewhat below the A pillar, slightly towards the bonnet.
The rear end, carrying on with the overall design brief, features horizontal lines on the tail gate, which extend onto the tail-lamps. The straight-cut, horizontal theme is somewhat broken by the tailgate mounted spare wheel, which comes with a two-tone cover. The top quarter of the spare wheel cover gets black treatment, with the rest of it painted in body colour. Mahindra brand badging sits in the middle of the spare cover with the sides partly cut out to expose the tread of the tyre. The spare wheel has Mahindra and TUV 300 lettering on its left side on the tail gate, with the variant marking to its right.
While the tail-lamps do accommodate the horizontal creases from the tail gate, they aren’t exactly square, and are the rare few elements which do not conform to the square overall theme. Those tail units have a pointed, triangular-ish shape on the sides, extending into the car’s profile, somewhat following the cues of the headlamps. The bumper at the rear gets parking sensors and a rubber-clad, ribbed step board in the middle to allow easy access for the foldable rear jump seats. Mahindra has concealed the exhaust, and it’s not visible until you take the viewing angle to the ground.
In all, the TUV300 is a mixed bag. It looks nice from the front, somewhat nice on the sides, and not so great from the rear. Overall compact dimensions also do their bit to take away its muscular appeal when you look at it from a distance or in relation with a vehicle parked next to it. Mahindra have tried their bit to bring some brawn to the TUV300’s rather diminutive stature, though it would still take the Indian manufacturer some time before it could deliver a design that is aesthetically admirable on a global scale.
Engine and performance
The 1.5 liter, three cylinder diesel engine featuring a twin scroll turbocharger was assumed to be a tuned version of the Quanto’s powerplant initially. Mahindra top honchos, however, during the launch event explained that the engine on the TUV300 has been developed from the scratch with an investment of Rs 300 crore, and features a new block, along with a new age dual mass flywheel. The expectations from the new engine, thus, were high, especially knowing the smooth, tractable nature of the XUV500’s engine.
The big gains, with the new engine, are apparently not in terms power output. Mahindra asserts that the new engine is more tractable, more efficient and has a stronger mid range. The 1.5-litre engine comes mated with a 5-speed manual transmission. An AMT is also on offer, though we didn’t get to sample it during the test drive.
Let’s start off with the numbers. With peak power output of 84bhp@3750 rpm, the TUV300 is down 16bhp on power as compared to the Quanto. Torque output of 230Nm between 1500-2250 rpm is down lower by 10Nm, too, though that torque is now produced at lower revs. Fuel efficiency, at 18.49 kmpl (ARAI) is up by about 1.4 kmpl. The TUV300 also gets a Micro Hybrid and two separate ECO modes, one for the powertrain and another one for the A/C to enhance fuel efficiency.
On the move, the engine feels linear with good amounts of torque at the bottom of the barrel for great tractability. There is some shove available from as low as 1300 rpm, though the turbo starts spooling up properly only after 1500 revs, which is quite good for a turbo diesel mill.
Mahindra calling it an ‘all-new’ powerplant, we were expecting some serious improvements in terms of refinement and rev-happiness. The new engine, however, is noisier than ideal with the sound filtering clearly inside the cabin post 2000 revs. While the noise doesn’t translate into any vibes on the steering wheel or other panels, some pulsations can clearly be felt on the gear-shifter. The tractable engine which feels nice at low speeds, starts showing its limitations as you floor the pedal. The new mHawk mill isn’t too rev happy, and although redlined at 5000 rpm, the tacho needle doesn’t feel very intent to climb the curve post the 3800 rpm mark. Performance fades away close to the 4000rpm mark and the engine speed increases at a very slow pace therafter.
A very driveable unit, the new mHAWK engine lacks the surge of torque that makes diesel engines so likeable. It’s a somewhat reluctant powerplant, which could have done with a bit more refinement and eagerness to rev. During our test run, we noted 90km/h on the speedo in 5th gear with the tacho needle indicating 2200 rpm. The car reaches the 100km/h mark with relative ease, puffs a tad reaching 120 km/h, post which the acceleration isn’t too brisk.
The TUV300’s new mHawk mill likes spinning lazily between 1800-2600 mark, and shows reluctance when pushed hard. It should, however, be a great engine to use within the urbanscape for its hassle free, tractable nature, which should facilitate minimal gearshifts, though it wouldn’t quite be the best machine to pilot on those open highways.
Interior and equipment
The TUV300 features an all new interior with controls which are rather clean, uncluttered and friendly even for the first time users. The top of the line T8 variant comes with a two tone black-beige dash with a well laid out 2-DIN Audio system with A/C controls below. There is no automatic air-conditioning / climate control here, though. The lack of rear A/C vents is a bit of an omission, knowing that it’s a seven seater, though the A/C cools quickly, and efficiently.
The chrome lined instrument binnacle looks rather nice with neat, white font on black dial. Mahindra have chosen the sensible route here, and not tried to do something too funky. The central multi-function display between the analogue speedo and tacho shows distance-to-empty reading among other data in an orange-lit display. Fuel gauge and engine temperature gauge are also integrated within the multi-function-display with all the rest of the tell-tale lights taking the space above.
The hexagonal centre console features a satin silver outline, a material which is also used on the A/C vents, steering wheel, internal door handles and gear knob. The black part of the dashboard has a chequered texture, with the material feeling par with the class in terms of quality and feel. The buttons on the audio unit are decent to touch and feel robustly built.
The 2 DIN audio system on the TUV300 comes with Bluetooth, USB and Aux-in compatibility – there’s no CD playability here though.
There are two 12V power sockets between for the front seats – one of these aligned for use by the second row occupants. The power window control buttons are also located between the front seats. While there isn’t anything really wrong with having those controls there, it doesn’t appear proper, and is often associated with cost cutting. Also, some extra space for odds and ends could have been released had those controls not been there.
There is a small rubberized, dotted crevice next to the gear shifter to hold coins, or a small cellphone. Flanking the handbrake between the seats are three cupholders, arranged longitudinally and another crevice to hold a wallet. The dashboard also features a large tray-like opening which is big enough to hold a large cellphone and a wallet. There is another storage tray below the driver’s seat in case you had more items to store than those visible cubbyholes could accommodate.
Front seats get individual armrests and feel comfortable with nice bolstering and good thigh support. Driver’s seat is height adjustable, and with the steering wheel also being adjustable for rake makes finding the right driving position pretty easy. While we cannot yet comment authoritatively on the seats for their long term comfort, they did feel reasonably comfortable to us during the short test drive session, thanks to height adjustability for driver and lumbar support for both front passengers.
All door panels, including the tail gate get space for a large water bottle along with more space in the form of map pockets. The car features fabric upholstery in beige with contrasting brown patterns on spine and at the end of thigh support.
Moving on to the middle row, the seats have been contoured to accommodate three, though the width isn’t enough to allow generous shoulder room – it isn’t a squeeze either. Seats by themselves are quite comfortable, with decent thigh and back support. Transmission tunnel does compromise the leg room for the central occupant, though there isn’t any dearth of knee and leg room for the side passengers. Headroom is adequate, and the cabin feels airy and roomy for the second row occupants. Partly scooped out front seat backs augment the spacious feel and feature storage pockets. Unlike the front, the power window buttons are situated in their natural place, the door panels, for the second row. The armrests in the doors for the middle row occupants are wrapped in brown fabric and should enhance the comfort for the passengers.
Mahindra have provided for a 5+2 layout for the Quanto, which means that the area behind the second row doesn’t feature a row of seats. Foldable jump seats allow for accommodation of two passengers, though they aren’t very comfortable and meant only for short to medium distances. Taller passengers will find their knees fouling with those occupying the opposing seats.
Folded, the jump seats reveal a boot space of 384 litres, which can be expanded to 720 litres upon folding the non-split second row seats. It’s notable that the folding facility for the second row seats is available only for the top of the line T8 variant.
In terms of equipment, the range topping T8 variant comes loaded with goodies such as reverse parking sensors, static bending headlamps, driver information system, voice messaging system, powered mirrors, steering moiunted controls, rear defogger, lumbar support for front seats, follow me home headlamps, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, immobilizer, auto door lock while driving and anti theft warning.
The TUV300 interior is well made, and shows the amount of effort that the Mahindra team has put in to make it as functional and contemporary as possible. Mahindra, however, could have included a few things such as a reverse parking camera, touchscreen controls, Auto A/C, rear A/C vents and split folding rear seats to add some more appeal to the package. The fit and finish is par with class, and while we have seen softer materials and on rivals cars, there really isn’t anything to grumble about.
Here we have the details of the car represented through images and captions
The 2 DIN audio unit looks neat, is built well and does most things right. It doesn’t feature a touchscreen though, nor does it play CDs
The decidedly cool front grille of the TUV 300 has taken more than just some inspiration from Jeep
Gearshifts aren’t too smooth, with a bit of notchiness to be felt. The shifter stick, with that silver satin applique looks neat, though.
Remote locking function is integrated in the key
Driver side seat is height adjustable
Glovebox isn’t too large
Footboard to enable easy access to the rear jump seats
And on the sides
No automatic air conditioning / climate control here
Can you spot the exhaust?
For a full list of variant-wise features of the TUV300, please have a look at the chart below.
Ride and handling
We drove the TUV300 for more than a few laps around Mahindra’s Chakan test track. While a drive in such an environment cannot simulate the real world driving conditions, the banked, curved ends of the track, a skid pad and a few rather prominent rumble strips allowed us to judge the ride and handling of the new machine to a fair degree.
To start with, the steering wheel feels a tad heavier than what you would expect from a compact SUV. The feel on the palms from that rubberized surface, though not scratchy by any means, isn’t too soft and pleasant either. The steering, that appears a tad heavy at low speeds feels better as you gather momentum, though there isn’t any feel or precision to it at any speed.
Around the bends, the body roll, thanks to TUV300’s body on frame setup is quite pronounced. The double wishbone front and rigid axle, non-independent multi-link rear setup feels nice and planted on the straights but doesn’t inspire enough confidence around bends. The car, even with its enhanced track feels rather top heavy and doesn’t encourage enthusiastic manoeuvres around corners. The ladder frame chassis doesn’t quite match up with the advantages of modern monocoques in terms of dynamic ability, though Mahindra asserts it has its own benefits when you go off the road. We’d somewhat agree, though larger and larger buyers in this class of vehicles these days prefer sorted dynamics to out-and-out off road capability.
The high profile tyres cladding the 15 inch wheels offer good primary suspension, and should be able to absorb undulations at moderate speeds effectively. Absorption of sharper surfaces, however, is met with a more abrupt response, even at slower speeds – the firm suspension could probably do with bit more progressive damping. There suspension feels tauter than ideal, which translates into the cabin getting the jitters every time you pass more than a moderate bump.
In all, the TUV300 doesn’t present itself as a tool for the corner carving enthusiast – the Ecosport is way more sorted in that department. The TUV300, however, is more of a rugged workhorse which should be able to take the atrocities thrown at it by non-existing road without letting its underpinnings get out of shape even after years of use and abuse. In that sense, the TUV300 should also appeal massively to the buyers in tier 2 , tier 3 cities and rural areas.
Even with a deluge of affordable crossovers swamping the Indian market, the TUV300 remains the only real competition to the sub-4 meter crossover segment king, the Ford Ecosport – and no, we’re not even considering the premier Rio. With a price tag which is about Rs 1 lakh less than the Ecosport for the base variant, the TUV300 does offer substantial savings for someone looking at a product in the segment. Other big advantages it has over the EcoSport are cabin space and seating capacity. Even after being a seven-seater, which means reserving more space at the rear for jump seats, the TUV300 offers great space and comfort for both first and second row occupants. It may not boast the best road manners for its class, but if a rugged, well-priced seven seater is what you’re looking for, there’s no real alternative.
Price as tested
|Variant||Price (Ex-showroom Pune)|
|T4||Rs 6.90 lakh|
|T4+||Rs 7.25 lakh|
|T6||Rs 7.55 lakh|
|T6+||Rs 7.80 lakh|
|T6+ AMT||Rs 8.52 lakh|
|T8||Rs 8.40 lakh|
|T8+ AMT||Rs 9.12 lakh|
Mahindra TUV 300 image gallery