I am not a fan of Mahindra AMTs. Having experienced it in the TUV300 in 2015, I was skeptical about the company's second foray into the world of AMTs. This too with its most advanced sub-4m SUV, the XUV300. However, when I started driving, I quickly realised things have changed. This you will have easily guessed from the headline, isn't it? Now, let's get on with what caused the shift.
Take a deep look at the XUV300 AMT and you will not find anything different than the manual. Save for the Autoshift badge at the rear. As is the norm these days, the XUV300 doesn't even carry any engine badging anywhere. The interior too looks the same as the manual version. This means a high-quality cabin but with an automatic stick instead of the manual one. Look closely to the right side of the steering wheel and you will notice the start-stop button missing. This button in the manual shuts off the engine when the gear lever is slotted in neutral and restarts it when clutched. The result is improved fuel efficiency and thereby lesser pollutants being released into the atmosphere.
Speaking of efficiency, the XUV300 AMT delivered 12.3kmpl in the city with moderate traffic. The number went down to 11.7kmpl with a bit of dense Mumbai traffic thrown in. Out on the highway, the automatic returned 18.6kmpl. Throw in a 42-litre fuel tank and you're looking at a range of close to 600km before refuelling. Now that we have got the elephant out of the room, we can talk about the shift experience and the drive overall. Mahindra has sourced this AMT from Magneti Marelli. The earlier unit was from Ricardo. Lesson learnt, I believe. It is a 6-speed unit and has one of the best shifting actions you can expect from an AMT. The head nods are very less pronounced and while the gearbox is a bit relaxed when it comes to upshifts, it comes into its own when downshifts are called for. More often than not, one doesn't even have to lift their foot off the accelerator to ensure a smooth upshift. When the need arises, the engine is quick to rev to its 4,500rpm limiter and hold on to a particular gear. The engine is a detuned refined unit from the Marazzo and makes 116hp/300Nm. However, unlike the MPV, the XUV300's diesel motor isn't as silent and a bit more of refinement could have enhanced the overall drive experience.
The XUV300 AMT is as able a mile muncher as the manual. At around 85kmph, you are already in sixth gear. The bummer here is that the throttle response seems a bit more energetic than in the manual. I remember a similar response from the Nexon diesel AMT too. However, given that the Nexon comes with drive modes that help alter the throttle response, it is a tad easier to live with. This aside, there aren't any other flaws with the XUV300's AMT unit. Ohh, before I forget, the gear lever is something which I am yet to come to terms with. The shift pattern is a sideways affair with the gear lever staying in the middle. The three days I had the car with me, I still wasn't able to get the shifts properly without looking at the gear lever. There is also a manual override function but I let the XUV300's grade logic do all the work.
Other XUV300 virtues and negatives are present. The cabin is spacious as well as crammed with features. Except for connected car tech, the 300 has everything you will find in other vehicles in this class. I like the steering modes, dual-zone climate control with memory function, configurable instrument cluster colour as well as the seat belt reminder for all seats. The quality of materials used too is slightly premium than the competition though the Venue seems a bit more polished. Speaking of odd bits, the front parking sensors have a mind of their own and I nearly hit a kerb while parking before they came alive. There is also the omission of rear AC vents. So, for those living in hot and humid regions, the summer heat might be a bit too much for you. In the rainy weather of Mumbai, it didn't feel as hot as let's say someone who is in Rajasthan or Noida for that matter.
One odd bit I noticed is when Apple CarPlay is connected and you get a Whatsapp message, the system proposes that it can read it for you. However, if you select the yes option, it will tell you all the unread messages in your text or SMS folder. We tried connecting the system multiple times but it repeated the procedure. I don't remember the manual version doing this.
To me, all features advertised in the XUV300 work decently as they should. Moreover, these are everyday useable features. I am not much in favour of the connectivity bits that other makers have introduced as more often than not, a buyer will not even be using them. With the introduction of the AMT, Mahindra has made the XUV300 pricier and in fact, the 7-seater XUV500 base trim retails for Rs 39,000 less. While it may not be value-for-money, the XUV300 does offer a lot of goodies and a funky styling. It is currently our top pick in the premium sub-4m SUV space!
Images by Lijo Mathai and Sushil Jaiswal