Mahindra is known in India for making SUVs and right now the company is on a product offensive, which is turning out to be surprisingly impressive. The Marazzo MPV was a revelation in its swegment and came across as possibly the best indigenous vehicle of the year. This time it's the XUV300, a sub-compact SUV developed to rival the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Ford EcoSport and Tata Nexon. This segment has been growing at an impressive rate and naturally more carmakers are trying to get a slice of this growing pie. Now while the XUV300 has been in the news for quite some time resulting in a lot of awareness for it the road to success isn't going to be easy. Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza has ruled this segment ever since its launch and is still going strong after an update in 2018. So how does the Mahindra XUV300 stack up against the competition and where does it excel and falter? We found this and a lot more recently during the first drive of the Mahindra XUV300.
New Mahindra XUV300 Design
Now before diving into the details of the design of the Mahindra XUV300 let's get one important fact out of the way. The XUV300 is based on Ssangyong's X100 platform, which underpins the Tivoli. However, Mahindra engineers have modified this platform to ensure the XUV300's sub-four metre length. With inputs from Pininfarina designers, the design too has been given a makeover. So, how does it look in flesh? Well, quite impressive I'd say and it is also a striking vehicle to look at, especially from the front.
Dominating the front is a myriad of sharp lines and edges right from the headlamp to the bumper. The headlamps are sleek yet simple in terms of design and come with projector units. What adds the striking effect is the LED DRL that runs vertically down from the headlamp to the fog lamp and gives it the appearance of a single unit. In fact, it does look similar to the grapple axes used by Lara Croft in Tomb Raider series. The sleek grille is chrome studded and looks premium as the designers haven't gone overboard with chrome on the XUV300. The lower part of the bumper along with strong lines and an aluminium-finish skid plate give the car an upmarket and impressive look.
The side profile bears a similarly sharp and dynamic approach to design, which is evident in the dual-tone roof. This gives the XUV300 a sporty appeal and since a floating roof effect is the trend these days, the vehicle is in sync with market demands. The 17-inch diamond cut alloy wheels with 215 section rubber complements the kinetic design of the XUV300. The wheel arches again are evident but they are subtle and that is one of the highlights for me in the XUV300's design. Unlike the XUV500 or some earlier Mahindra products, the designers haven't gone overboard with anything on the XUV300 and hence the vehicle manages to look premium among global products also within the same segment. LED tail lamps along with strong lines on the tailgate and bumper wrap up the design while being in sync with the rest of the vehicle.
The Mahindra XUV300 is also the longest and widest vehicle in its segment and sports the longest wheelbase as well. This dimensional superiority results in multiple benefits for users in terms of driving and the in-cabin experience, which have been discussed below.
New Mahindra XUV300 Interior
Step inside the Mahindra XUV300 and the first thing that many will be surprised with is the fact that this is a Mahindra. The cabin not only looks premium and spacious but is packed with features to the brim. In fact, the Mahindra XUV300 is presently the most feature-packed vehicle in its segment!
The infotainment system consists of a seven-inch colour touchscreen that provides access to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, in-built navigation, Bluetooth, USB, Aux-In, internet dongle support, i-pod audio and FM connectivity. Mahindra's Blue sense app is an exclusive feature and allows users to access climate control, audio controls, location services and emergency assist through their smartphone. The car also offers first-in-segment smart watch connectivity, which will allow you to control things such as the audio system and calls through your smartwatch. The touchscreen offers a simple and clean interface that is easy to use. The only thing I believe could have been better is the touch response, which at times showed some lag.
The instrument cluster also bears a simple yet sophisticated design and offers easy readouts from analogue speedo and tachometers along with a central digital display for other vehicle information such as distance to empty, average fuel efficiency, odometer, tripmeters, temperature and more. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather and feels chunky and confidence-inspiring. Steering mounted control on the Mahindra XUV300 include cruise control and audio and telephony buttons. One more segment-first feature in the car is the Smart Steering System. This allows the driver to choose from three modes – Comfort, Normal and Sports. The steering weight and response are electronically altered for the steering depending on the mode selected. During our test, the modes did provide a perceivable difference in the steering weight but the feedback remained largely unchanged. There's also a dual-zone climate control, which again is a segment-first feature and there are still many to talk about! The downer here is that there's no rear AC vent in the XUV300, which is a bit of a surprise for this segment. The AC, however, works well and we faced no problems on a warm day in Goa.
Other things that turned out to be impressive were the material and build quality, both of which enhance the premium appeal of the cabin. Storage space is ample throughout the cabin including a centre console box, front storage tray, open tray on the upper dashboard, bottle holders on all four doors and cup holders in rear armrest. Having the longest wheelbase and widest track means that occupant space is generous in the cabin. Legroom should suffice for most occupants and shoulder room too is quite nice. Headroom, however, can be a bit of a bother for occupants taller than about six feet. Boot space is not at par with the competition at 257 litres and is significantly less than that of the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and the Ford EcoSport. That said, it does offer an adjustable boot floor, which allows you to alter the vertical space by changing the position of the floorboard, similar to that in a refrigerator.
New Mahindra XUV300 Driving
The Mahindra XUV300 will be sold with a 1.2 litre turbocharged petrol engine and 1.5 litre common rail diesel unit. During the first drive, we only got to sample the diesel unit, which is force induced by a variable geometry turbocharger. The unit develops a healthy 115 hp and 300 Nm of torque between 1,500 to 2,500 rpm. Owing to the good low-end performance the XUV300 doesn't require too many gearshifts in stop-go traffic and overall drivability is good.
A highlight here is the engine refinement, which adds to the premium appeal of the XUV300. Beyond the usual diesel clatter at the time of start, the unit offers decent refinement and is acceptably silent at cruising speeds. Performance from the 1.5 litre mill is impressive and engaging, especially due to the generous torque available from as low as 1,500 rpm. Acceleration is brisk and reaching triple-digit speed is easy the engine feels fairly relaxed cruising at 120 kmph. The six-speed manual gearbox is smooth to operate and the ratios are well-matched to provide a satisfactory driving experience in most conditions. The disappointment here is that at the time of launch, the XUV300 won't be offered with an automatic transmission at all. Considering the popularity of sub-compact SUVs in urban areas and the increasing demand for automatic gearboxes in such areas, this is a big miss for the XUV300.
Ride & Handling is another area where the Mahindra XUV300 shines. Owing to the longest wheelbase and widest track, straight line stability is assuring. The ride is slightly on the stiffer side but gets better with speed and ensures that occupants remain comfortable even on long drives. The vehicle feels confident taking corners also at high speed and I never expected but the Mahindra XUV300 is a fun-to-drive sub-compact SUV!
New Mahindra XUV300 Safety
Now safety is an area that the Mahindra XUV300 aces in its segment as it sets a new benchmark here. The SUV comes with segment-first seven airbags on top variants. Base variants will come with front-dual airbags, ABS with EBD and disc brakes on all four wheels as standard. Higher variants will get ESP, Hill Start Assist and heated ORVMs. Another segment-first here is seat belt reminder beep for all four seats and the rear seat comes with ISOFIX mounts as well. The body structure also has been bolstered for better protection during impacts with 68 % of high strength steel usage.
New Mahindra XUV300 Round-Up
As a standalone product, the Mahindra XUV300 turned out to be quite an impressive product. More importantly from a competition perspective too it not only is right up there but has raised the bar in some areas including safety. This is a great positive sign for me as an Indian carmaker is offering most safety features in a segment where a global carmaker such as Ford is also present in addition to Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors. The Mahindra XUV300 is also the segment leader in terms of overall features when talking about connectivity and convenience. Add to it the fact that it is fun to drive and instantly you get a great balance between comfort, practicality and performance.
The launch is scheduled for 14th February so prices are not out yet but despite multiple segment features and an overall good packaging Mahindra will need to go for competitive pricing. Mahindra will need to ensure that they don't get carried away with the fact that the XUV300 is more feature-rich than the competition. Maruti Suzuki's market penetration, Ford EcoSport's premium and driver-friendly image along with Tata Nexon's value offering will present a tough challenge. The ideal pricing according to us would be between Rs 7.5 to 11.75 lakh to give the XUV300 the kind of start it deserves.
|Mahindra XUV300 Prices||Petrol||Diesel|
|W4||Rs 7.90 lakh||Rs 8.49 lakh|
|W6||Rs 8.75 lakh||Rs9.30 lakh|
|W8||Rs 10.25 lakh||Rs 10.80 lakh|
|W8(O)||Rs 11.44 lakh||Rs 11.99 lakh|