There’s no denying the fact that the Toyota Fortuner is the undoubted king of South Africa’s SUV market. This Japanese SUV rakes in the sales on a monthly basis and is a constant in the ten top selling passenger cars. Given that the Fortuner retails between R477 600 and R715 400, it must be commended for continuously counting amongst the best.
If the Fortuner can be proud of one thing, it should be for the fact that it paved the way for SUVs in its segment and size to be considered viable alternatives to cars and bakkies. And Mahindra with its XUV500 wants to join the conversation. At R428 499 the top-of-the-range W10 model is some R87 000 more affordable than the entry-level automatic Fortuner. Fair enough, the Mahindra does not have the same reputation as the Fortuner, but the XUV500 is also a seven-seater wanting to make its voice heard.
Against the Fortuner, Ford Everest, and Isuzu mu-X the XUV500 disappears in the background, but only because buyers don’t consider it worthy of a second look. Am I saying it’s a perfect choice, then? Nope, not at all. But it’s in its alternativeness that the SUV proves itself.
The XUV500 W10 is powered by the same engine that does duty in the rest of the range. The turbocharged 2.2-litre unit delivers a respectable 103kW and 330Nm. It might not seem like a lot of power and is it overshadowed by the 2.4-litre Fortuner (110kW/400m) and Everest’s 2.2-litre (118kW/385Nm), but on the open road it runs without fail. A six-speed automatic gearbox sends power to the front wheels only, but luckily you never have to push the pedal through the floor to get a reaction.
Part of the recipe is the fact that the torque is already available at 1 600rpm, which means that the SUV is hulled around without much hassle.
What you can expect from an SUV from this size is a steering feel that can become a bit light at times, but then you’d have to take into consideration that the XUV500 is a big vehicle and drivers don’t want to struggle with something that’s tardy to respond. The suspension, designed in collaboration with Lotus, absorbs uneven surfaces with ease and endows the XUV500 with a soft ride. The problem is that there’s a substantial amount of body roll when you tackle bends with some vigour and the SUV nosedives when you hit on the brakes hard.
However, it all does very little to deter the SUV and can you say, to a degree, that ride quality wasn’t affected too much. Concerning fuel consumption, Mahindra says that the XUV500 W10 will sip, on average, 7.4 L/100, which means that you should, theoretically, see a reach of just over 940km on a full tank of diesel.
Seven seats, you say?
With the economy pressing as much as it is, consumers are pressed to get the best value in return for every penny they spend. And although Mahindra is an affordable alternative to the more established contenders, it is in no way letting up on giving the best in terms of features, technologies, and practicality. Taking practicality into account, the XUV500 is fitted with seven seats; all covered in leather. What’s nice about it is that, unlike the Fortuner’s upright units, the seats fold flat into the boot of the SUV. This allows for a very useful luggage space; that becomes even more useful when the second row of seats are also flattened.
All occupants have a decent view of the road around them.
The interior is decked in both leather and plastic and are the latter the most prominent material used. The inside of the doors and the facia carry the most plastic, but they are mixed with soft-touch materials for that little bit of a luxury feel. The seats are covered in leather and can the front units be operated electrically. Which is nice.
The multimedia system is not the best on the market, but it has enough to offer in terms of accommodating your media devices and satellite navigation. Other features include a rear view camera with park distance control, automatic wipers, keyless access and –start, and a sunroof. All standard, by the way.
We are often solely focused on what we know that we do not want to look at alternatives. No one can argue against the Fortuner (and maybe even the Everest’s) strong overall value, but it will not hurt to get a greater idea of the market before committing to a purchase. The Mahindra XUV500 W10 is one such vehicle that’s somewhat in the background, watching the popular kids get all the attention. But in the silence, almost hidden in plain sight, sits this SUV; scoring solid marks in each of its tests.