“Form follows function” is an industrial design principle. It means that the shape of an object should be based on its intended function. The curvy openings in the front bumper of a car or on the bonnet are not only there because they are decorative, but also because they let in massive amounts of air that engines need for cooling. Most cars have a gently sloping windscreen, not only because it looks classy, but also because it reduces air resistance. Each edge, each curve and every detail on a car is a result of some “function”. And to attract buyers, the “form” that follows “function” must be aesthetically pleasing.
In the Indian automotive world, that isn’t always the case. Case in point are cars such as Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Toyota Etios and, especially, Mahindra Quanto. Otherwise good products, these cars couldn’t lead their segments, in part because of their relatively boring exterior design.
Mahindra took the “Quanto” leap in September 2012, but since then has been struggling to sell this compact SUV. Its target customer is the one who would otherwise consider buying either Ford EcoSport or the newly-launched Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza. So as not to lose such buyers, Mahindra has now rechristened the Quanto. It’s called the NuvoSport. We drive it.
The NuvoSport not only sports a new name, but also has some fresh styling cues. For example, it gets an all-new front fascia that gives it an aggressive SUV-like stance. There are LED DRLs, the bumper is muscular, the small faux skid plate looks good, as do the hood scoop and the foot board. The plastic cladding on the wheel arches and doors adds to its aggressive personality. The top models get electrically-adjustable ORVMs, and lead-me-to-vehicle and follow-me-home headlamps.
However, while from the front angle it looks very different from the Quanto, from the side and the rear it retains that eccentric design.
While the cabin looks more or less similar to that of the Quanto, there are subtle and much-needed changes, such as the dual-tone black & grey interior theme, faux leather upholstery, chrome-accented instrument cluster, aluminium pedals and scuff plates, and more. Even then, the cabin doesn’t look as rich as, say, that of the Vitara Brezza. At some places, attention to detail is missing; for example, the angle of the touchscreen is such that the user has to take the eyes off the road to operate it.
However, as far as space is concerned, the NuvoSport beats the competition hands-down. It gets best-in-class width and height, 5+2 flexible seating, 60:40 foldable second row seats (the second row has a flat floor), and flexi third row seats that can fold down to enable additional recline to second row passengers. In the top models, the driver’s seat is height adjustable and gets lumbar support, and both driver and front passenger get adjustable armrests. There are enough storage spaces. The boot space is a class-leading 412 litres.
Powering the NuvoSport is the 1.5-litre mHawk diesel engine (100bhp output and 240Nm torque). It is a proven motor and works well on the NuvoSport’s size and weight.
While the Quanto was based on Mahindra’s Ingenio platform (same as the Xylo), the NuvoSport shares its underpinnings with the new-generation Scorpio. This perhaps gives it slightly better driving dynamics than the Quanto. The Comfort Suspension makes rides over even bad roads a good experience. However, because the NuvoSport is a tall vehicle, there is a considerable amount of body roll—both when you go over the speed breakers and when you take sharp turns. The gear-shift in the five-speed manual variant we drove is smooth, but at low engine speeds the gear lever vibrates a lot. The NuvoSport also comes with a five-speed AMT (automated manual transmission) gearbox and a cruise control.
The starting price of the NuvoSport is R7.42 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), which makes it more expensive than both the Vitara Brezza (R6.99 lakh) and the EcoSport (R7.28 lakh). Agreed, you get more cabin space and a better SUV-like feel, the NuvoSport doesn’t really come across as value-for-money a product as its competitors. Moreover, while design is a very subjective issue, the fact that the NuvoSport stills looks similar to the Quanto—especially when looked at from rear three-quarters—might work against it.