Test Driving The Mahindra KUV100 In SA

On a trip to India In May, I drove the diesel model. After 40 km on Mumbai’s highway, it was clear to me that the high-riding hatchback could very well raise some eyebrows in the SA passenger-car market.

My first experience of the Mahindra KUV100 back in South Africa was a ‘Sunset Orange’ diesel model. It was powered by a 1.2-litre turbodiesel engine capable of a modest 57kW/190Nm. They claim the fuel consumption is 4.4l/100km but you won’t be able to accurately tell as it doesn’t have a consumption gauge.

Specifications:
The K6+ derivatives and above offer a six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth connectivity to the Mahindra Blue Sense app. A multi-function steering wheel and a refrigerated glove compartment are also included.

Despite its low horsepower, the three-cylinder delivered as it did in Mumbai and felt lively with loads of torque between all five gears.

The gearbox really deserves all the accolades. The shifting is solid and precise but sadly the clutch pedal is too low down on the floor. It took me a while to get used to and this is perhaps something Mahindra should reconsider.

On that note, the pedal placement of the brake and clutch are too close together. If you have small feet, you might be OK or just let your toddler drive you around.

Taking to a gravel road showed an acceptable ride but the height of the 1155kg KUV100 meant the ride was rather bumpy, especially at speed. Build quality could also be improved upon as I experienced wind noise while driving on the highway.

I wouldn’t go for the petrol model even though it also has the 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine (61kW/115Nm). It feels lethargic and nothing compared to the diesel. In first, second and third gear it really struggled like the Bulls did in Super Rugby this year.

Is the KUV worth buying?:
Mahindra claims the KUV100 competes with the Toyota Etios Cross, Renault Sandero Stepway, Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Grand i10, Chery J2, Tata Bolt and the Ford Figo. It’s a tough ask as most of these cars have great commercial value, brand loyalty, better-perceived build quality and an established dealer network.

There is one area the Mahindra KUV100 outshines the rest and that is on price. It will set you back a little under R150 000 for the entry level petrol model which comes standard with aircon, electric windows, ABS and driver/passenger airbags.

I may have been somewhat reluctant of the KUV100 but at the end of the launch I had really warmed up to the diesel model. The price, equipment level and overall driving experience left a good impression. Let’s hope the automaker ages like a fine wine and not like vinegar.

In conclusion, the diesel engine and gearbox are both more than adequate but the biggest concerns are pedal placement, clutch and wind noise. It remains to be seen whether or not South Africans will be interested in the KUV100 but it’s certainly worth a mention. Even if the Mahindra KUV100 isn’t quite your cup of tea, there is more Mahindra on the way.