The last couple of years one would never have given Mahindra’s products much thought. And if we’re being honest, the product offering wasn’t really of the best quality. My first acquaintance with Mahindra, mind you, was with the previous-generation KUV100 and its brakes caught fire on the N1 heading out of Cape Town.
That fiery moment was in 2016 and in the three years since the automaker has upped its game in leaps and bounds. It started in late 2017 with the introduction of the new Scorpio Pik-up: a very affordable alternative to the preferred choice of double cab bakkies. Then over the course of 2018 came a revised version of the KUV100; which brought a name extension: KUV100 Nxt.
A week before Nampo 2019 Mahindra announced that it’ll be bringing its tractors to South Africa, and that was followed by the launch of the all-new XUV300 a few weeks later. In all, Mahindra South Africa has had a busy couple of years, but with each of its vehicles it’s been upping its game. But perhaps the biggest culmination of that improved game can be seen on the newest addition to Mahindra’s range.
The XUV300 is a game changer for the automaker and the W8 model is a solid offering at the top of the range.
Diesel on top
Two turbocharged engine choices (all mated with a six-speed manual gearbox) make up the XUV300 range, comprising petrol and diesel. Both engines are available in two configurations, namely W6 and W8. The difference in price between the respective W6 and W8 models is in the region of R50 000, but we’ll get into that shortly.
The W8 we have here is slapped onto the 1.5-litre diesel engine and does the power unit produce a very respectable 86kW and 300Nm of torque. Add to it the fact that the torque is available from a lowly 1500rpm, and you can be assured of the fact that this car has no problem shooting off the line. Mahindra quotes a fuel consumption 4.8 L/100km on this model, but our test unit returned a figure around the 5.5 L/100km mark. That’s still a mighty impressive figure and one that should no doubt attract some attention.
Another bit of impressiveness about the car is that the diesel engine does not require a heavy foot to get going. The lowdown torque ensures that you can gleefully play with the gearbox and not having to worry about not being in the wrong gear. On one of the mountain passes just outside Cape Town the XUV300 proved its stripes and was it easy to almost always find the right gear with which you can exit a bend and attack the next one.
Driving the XUV300 has to be a highlight of note. The car is undoubtedly miles ahead of other Mahindra products and is it a good indication of what we could possibly expect from future Mahindra vehicles. Steering feel is nice and light, and can it be altered by toggling through a switch on the front facia. Steering options include Normal, Comfort, and Sport.
There is no real ‘sporty’ feel to the steering, except for a bit weight being added to steering inputs. My preference is either Normal and Comfort, simply because there is ample feedback in both modes. On the aforementioned pass it was a delightful experience pushing the car through one of the Cape’s most trusted proving grounds. It sat around corners, accelerated without missing a beat, and the almost instantaneous torque became addicting.
Local media were invited to drive the XUV300 in India a few months before its local introduction, and many were impressed by it. Point is, don’t be fooled by the car’s polarising design. It belies a truly solid drive.
The W8 package
The list of features fitted to this W8 model is quite extensive and is almost scary to fathom everything its equipped with. For starters, a sunroof comes standard (who fits a sunroof as standard!?), as well as keyless entry and –start. The multimedia system houses the rear view camera and satellite navigation, and on the steering wheel you’ll also find some switches to control media with.
The exterior mirrors are heated, the wipers are automatic, and inside the cabin there are seven airbags.
What I did notice is that the seats are covered in white leather that could very easily dirty if there’s a little kid in the company. If Mahindra gives consumers the option to have a different colour leather as opposed to the white, then that’ll be a top recommendation. Another blight on an otherwise good car was a rattle on the right rear door. Though everything looked in place and nothing seemed amiss, for the life of me I just couldn’t establish where that rattle came from.
Regardless, priced at R324 900 the XUV300 1.5TD W8 is well-kitted and potential buyers will no doubt be satisfied with their purchase decision.
Mahindra made huge improvements on its product offering in South Africa and is the XUV300 W8 perhaps the finest vehicle in its line-up. One of the biggest hurdle the car has to overcome is consumer perception and does it have a huge burden on its shoulders to change that. But the fact remains: the Mahindra XUV300 1.5TD W8 is an impressive car.