At a starting price of Rs 8.48 lakh (ex-showroom), the Mahindra Bolero Neo is a relatively ‘affordable’ SUV, but is it ‘aspirational’?
Like the City, the Swift and the Safari, the Bolero is one of the most powerful brand names in the Indian passenger vehicle segment. Before Hyundai’s Creta dethroned it, Mahindra’s Bolero was India’s largest selling SUV for years. Mahindra has now launched a slightly smaller Bolero, called the Bolero Neo, to replace the TUV300 (the tough looking Mahindra SUV that couldn’t find many takers, especially in urban India). It’s much more than mere rebranding of the TUV300. We drive it near Gurgaon.
What is the Bolero Neo?
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The design is a blend of both the Bolero and the TUV300. It looks like it’s built to last, comes with the 100bhp mHawk diesel engine (260Nm torque), has a body-on-frame construction, is rear-wheel drive with multi-terrain technology (MTT), and has seven seats (2+3+2).
How good is the cabin?
The quality is better than what you get in the Bolero and what was offered in the TUV300. The top-end variant of the Bolero Neo that I drove has a seven-inch touchscreen, voice commands, engine start-stop micro hybrid technology, cruise control, static bending headlamps, DRLs, tilt steering, and so on. The cabin space, especially in the front two rows, is good. But the two jump seats in the third row are neither safe for occupants (as compared to front-facing seats), nor desirable in a vehicle targeted at modern Indian families.
Also, while the plastic quality is decent, it’s not in the same league as you find in sub-4 metre SUVs (Mahindra’s own XUV300 has a far better cabin quality).
How does it ride?
The engine feels powerful, but the vehicle feels heavy (at 2,215 kg gross weight, it is heavy). The ride quality is bouncy, possibly because of its ladder-on-frame construction (modern Indians have perhaps gotten used to monocoque crossover SUVs—a vehicle structure in which the chassis is integral with the body, which leads to a more refined ride quality). NVH levels are so-so (not in the same league as the XUV300 diesel). While the Bolero Neo gets rear-parking sensors, it doesn’t have the rear-parking camera (even the XUV300 has it)—a device aspirational Indians may appreciate.
However, off the road, the Bolero Neo is lovely to drive. It’s not a 4×4, and yet behaves like one. The rear wheels have solid traction and manoeuvres such as riding through shallow river beds shouldn’t pose much of a challenge. But, again, the Bolero Neo is targeted at aspirational urban Indians and how many such buyers go off the road?
Is it worth the price?
There are three variants—N4 (Rs 8.48 lakh), N8 (Rs 9.48 lakh), N10 (Rs 9.99 lakh), and the N10(O) will be launched soon (with MTT). These prices make it a relatively affordable SUV, especially considering the rupees per cubic feet of space you are getting, but the question is, is the Bolero Neo aspirational? Over the next few months urban Indians will answer that.