The Mahindra & Mahindra pavilion at the recent Auto Expo had a treat for car aficionados. While the star, clearly, was the coupe-styled XUV Aero concept, the cute little KUV100 also pulled in massive crowds, particularly Mahindra fans and prospective buyers.
Launched last month, the chic, hatchback-like SUV—which primarily competes with Maruti Suzuki Swift and Hyundai Grand i10—is available in both petrol and diesel engine options. Importantly, the KUV100 marks Mahindra’s entry into the petrol engine space. We drive it.
The KUV100 is built on an all-new monocoque platform—a vehicle structure in which the chassis is integral with the body—and is designed in-house with contemporary urban crossover cues. The exterior is sculpted with sharp lines, prominent hood, high beltline, aggressive front fascia and slightly squarish wheel arches. There is a lot of style quotient too—wraparound sunglass-like headlamps, daytime running lights, chrome-accented fog lamps, spider-design alloy wheels and double-barrel tail-lamps. While all of these add up to give it an SUV stance, the car does look slightly quirky from some angles. Even though any good design is subjective and is in the eye of the beholder, it takes some time to get used to KUV100’s looks.
It also takes some time to figure out if it is a petrol or diesel. When we took it to a filling station, the attendant, noticing the Mahindra logo, directed us to the diesel dispenser. When we said petrol, he questioned us. Finally, we had to open the fuel tank lid—there is a ‘petrol only’ sign on the cap—to assure him!
The plastic quality is one of the best in a Mahindra vehicle. Yet the cabin doesn’t look ‘rich’ and is clearly not in the league of the Grand i10’s. While there is ample seating space, the boot space isn’t the best in class. The cabin, though, is loaded with features. Mention must be made of the flexi six-seating capacity—there is a large armrest between the front two seats that can be converted into a seat and vice-versa. Now, while we strongly suggest that three people shouldn’t sit in the front row, the flexi seating serves a practical purpose. In case you park the KUV100 too close to, say, a wall or another car on the driver’s side, you can simply slide on to the front passenger’s seat to find your way out.
With its strong diesel engine DNA, petrol engines was an uncharted territory for the company. In fact, it took executive director Pawan Goenka six months to decide whether to buy a petrol engine from outside or make one in-house. The engineering team at Mahindra were confident they could build a good petrol engine and convinced Goenka, who backed the team. The result is the mFALCON G80—the 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, all-aluminium engine, for which the company has got 11 patents already.
Going forward, Mahindra will have a range of petrol engines, from 1-litre onwards. SsangYong Motor, the company’s Korean arm, is also working on petrol engines 2-litres and above which will likely be fitted in its bigger SUVs, the XUV500 and Scorpio.
The mFALCON G80 petrol gets Dual Variable Valve Timing technology and has a good low-end torque. It develops a maximum power of 82bhp, torque of 115Nm, and has a claimed fuel-efficiency is 18.15kpl. But this petrol engine, because it is a three-cylinder unit, is noisier than both Swift’s and Grand i10’s. At higher speeds, it is more likely that occupants will shout, not converse. The engine is rev-happy and has a good throttle response, but at speeds above 120kph it starts to gradually lose steam. The KUV100 petrol best performs in the 80-120kph range and can happily munch miles all day long.
Driving within city limits is surprisingly good. You sit higher than hatchback drivers and handling is nimble. The gear lever, mounted on the centre console, is easy to reach and shifts smoothly.
The body is well designed, the cabin is feature rich, and the engine—though noisy and not the most frugal in its class—performs well. From R4.45 lakh for the entry-level K2 trim to R5.99 lakh for the top-end K8 trim, the KUV100 petrol is as value-for-money as it can get. There are a number of gripes though, but most are easy to live with. At the end of the day, the KUV100 is the first true ‘car’ from Mahindra and, for the price, a decent buy.
At the Auto Expo, Mahindra also showcased the KUV100 Xplorer edition (right)—an accessorised version of the mini SUV. While there are no mechanical changes, it gets new bumpers, body cladding, different roof rails and split brake light on the spoiler, giving it a sportier look. However, the company didn’t announce when it will be launched.
mFALCON G80 petrol
Dual Variable Valve Timing for better fuel efficiency
Good low-end torque for quick acceleration
Maximum power: 61kW (82bhp)@5500rpm
Maximum torque: 115Nm@3500-3600rpm
Claimed fuel-efficiency: 18.15kpl
From Rs 4.45 lakh for K2 trim to Rs 5.99 lakh for K8 trim
(Prices are ex-showroom, Delhi)