Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Mahindra Scorpio 2023 review - off-road test

I know, I know – Mahindra isn't at the top of your new car list. Hell, you might not have even heard of it.

The Indian brand, while a giant in its home market, is better known for farming equipment than for vehicles in Australia, despite selling products like the Pikup in our market for a number of years now.

But the brand says this is the model that will change all that in Australia, with its new generation of products intended to unlock an entirely new audience, and which will arrive alongside a dealership expansion that will finally see Mahindra develop a footprint in our biggest cities.

The Scorpio is an all-new, diesel-powered, six-seat large SUV that the brand says is good on the road, and even better off it, thanks to its ute-like chassis and proper 4WD kit.

So, is this a cut-price answer to diesel-powered 4WDs from Toyota and Ford, which have only been getting more and more expensive?  And will it really put Mahindra on the map here?

Let’s go find out, shall we? 

Price and features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

In the large diesel-powered 4WD space, the Scorpio is a bargain, even if it is more medium SUV-sized in real terms, only qualifying for the next size up on something of a technicality based on its height, rather than its length.

It arrives in two trim levels, both riding on an all-new platform and featuring a 2.2-litre diesel (129kW and 400Nm) and six-speed Aisin automatic transmission.

The Scorpio range is made up of two variants, the Z8 and Z8 L. The Scorpio range is made up of two variants, the Z8 and Z8 L.

The range opens with the Scorpio Z8, which is $41,990 drive-away until June 30 - significantly undercutting its competitors in the diesel 4WD category.

It arrives with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED front lighting – including the DRLs, fog lights and sequential indicators – a sunroof and skid plates.

Inside is an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Inside is an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There’s a coffee-coloured synthetic leather theme – the only interior treatment available – along with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a second, smaller screen in the driver’s binnacle, USB-A and USB-C charging in the first and second rows, and dual-zone climate control.

Stepping up to the top-spec Scorpio Z8L ($44,990 drive-away until June 30) adds a 12-speaker Sony stereo, wireless device charging, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-way powered driver’s seat and a bigger 7.0-inch colour display in the driver’s binnacle.

The top-spec Scorpio Z8L features a wireless charging pad. The top-spec Scorpio Z8L features a wireless charging pad.

Both models get a 2.5-tonne braked towing capacity and arrive with a heap of proper off-road kit including shift-on-the-fly 4WD with high and low range, a mechanical locking differential, and the brand’s '4XPLOR' terrain management system with 'Snow', 'Mud', 'Sand' and 'Normal' modes.

But while well-equipped in most areas, both Scorpio models are short on active safety kit. We'll come back to that in a moment.

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design?

Mahindra makes a big point about the Scorpio being designed in part by famed Italian studio Pininfarina, but don't expect in-your-face supercar vibes here.

Instead, the Mahindra is welcomingly subtle in its exterior design, with only the plastic cladding that that runs the length of the body hinting at its adventure capabilities.

The Scorpio is looks small for a large SUV. The Scorpio is looks small for a large SUV.

It's a pretty handsome looking SUV, and one that mimics the big and boxy style of its rivals, like the Prado or the Pajero Sport.

The lighting is almost all LED, save for the brake lights at the rear, it rides on 18-inch alloys, and the front end is largely understated, too, though it does debut the brand's new 'Twin Peaks' logo that will adorn this new generation of vehicles.

The Scorpio is a pretty handsome SUV. The Scorpio is a pretty handsome SUV.

It does look small for a large SUV, though, right? Which becomes a bit more apparent in the back row. But more on that under Practicality.

There’s only one interior option, a mocha-coloured synthetic leather set-up, but it all feels pretty nice under the touch (save some hard and scratchy plastics in the door panels), and while the tech is a little basic in its operation, it’s definitely passable, especially when you have your phone hooked up. 

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside?

First, let's start with a little math. The Scorpio qualifies for large SUV status because of its cubic size, or by adding its height, width and length together.

It's something of a technicality, then, because the Scorpio is among the shortest vehicles in that class, but it's also among the tallest, which means the numbers still add up.

The Scorpio measures 4662mm in length, 1917mm in width and 1857mm in height, and it rides on a 2750mm wheelbase. That's a fair bit shorter than a Prado (4995mm) for example, or a Pajero Sport (4825mm). In fact, it's closer to a Subaru Forester (4640mm).

Inside, the Scorpio is strict six-seater (for now) with captain's chairs in the second row, and two more seats in the third. 

The captain's chairs are comfy and spacious. The captain's chairs are comfy and spacious.

It’s location, location, location in the Scorpio. The space in the first two rows is ample, and then some. And I for one am a fan of the six-seat arrangement. 

Sure, you can carry more people with seven seats. But when you’ve got your two kids riding behind you, don’t you want them as far away from each other as possible?

Even for adults the captain's chairs are comfy and spacious, and there’s no awkward knee or shoulder rubbing with someone sitting in the middle.

The third row, though, is tight and sparse. This is a child-zone only, and even the stepped-up roof can’t create enough space back there for adults to be truly comfy. 

I'm 175cm and my knees were in constant contact with the seat in front, and my head with the roof, ensuring it's not somewhere I'd want to spend too much time. 

The Scorpio is strictly a six-seater. The Scorpio is strictly a six-seater.

Open the side-hinged tailgate to access the boot, and you'll find a virtual non-existent space with the third row of seats in place. But you can either fold most rear seats down, or tumble them completely forward, to maximise the floor to ceiling room.

With the third row tumbled, Mahindra says you'll find 756L of space packed to the bottom of the windows, or 686L with the second and third row folded flat (they don't fold completely away). 

Mahindra doesn't have a number for boot space with all seats in place, but we'd estimate around 100 litres, or enough for a small travel bag.

Towing is listed at 2.5 tonnes (braked), while ground clearance is 227mm.

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its engine and transmission?

There's only the one option here, with both Scorpio models getting an all-alloy 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, making 129kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm at 1750rpm.

It channels that power through a good six-speed Aisin-sourced automatic, and then sends it on to the rear wheels. 4WD is a part-time affair, and you can shift between 2WD and 4WD high-range on the fly.

You'll need to come to a stop and engage neutral to swap into 4WD low, and a proper locking rear diff and some more high-tech terrain modes means the Mahindra is solid off road, too. 

Efficiency – What is its fuel consumption? What is its driving range?

Mahindra says you should see 7.2L/100km on the combined cycle, with emissions pegged at 190g/km of C02. Adblue is required here, though, but you should be able to cover around 15,000km once the 20-litre tank is filled.

The Scorpio is fitted with a 57-litre fuel tank, which should deliver a driving range of around 800km.

Driving – What's it like to drive?

I think you'll be surprised by the Scorpio, especially if you've driven earlier Mahindra product.

While vehicles like the Pikup are massively agricultural, the Scorpio really isn't, with refinement, road noise, ride and comfort (in the first two rows, at least) about on par with most of its competition, and probably better than some of them.

The Scorpio could use a little more grunt. The Scorpio could use a little more grunt.

This is an off-road focused SUV, so dynamic handling isn't going to be its strongest suit, but Mahindra has done a solid job of ironing out body roll, and the long-travel suspension does a good job of absorbing road bumps, too.

Road noise is kept fairly quiet, too (not so much the diesel engine, though) and the steering, which is super light and pretty vague at slow speeds, firms up nicely at speed.

We were surprised at how capable and refined the Scorpio feels. We were surprised at how capable and refined the Scorpio feels.

There are some quirks, though. For one, when you take your foot of the accelerator then ease it back on again – as when you're trying to maintain a constant speed on a highway – the lightest touch of the go pedal elicits a kind of shudder/thump that you feel though your foot. I'm sure you get used to it, but it's noticeable your first time out.

The reversing camera is absolutely abysmal, and the steering is so light at slow speeds it feels like there's suddenly a ton of slack on-centre, which doesn't inspire confidence, either. 

The Scorpio handled some pretty challenging inclines with ease. The Scorpio handled some pretty challenging inclines with ease.

I'd also like to see it with just a bit more grunt. The 400Nm sounds okay on paper, but while it never feels woefully underpowered, the Scorpio would be a better, more responsive drive with just a bit more power under foot. 

But perhaps the most impressive thing about the Scorpio is how it transitions from tarmac to off-highway terrain, with seemingly little in the way of compromise. 

This is an off-road focused SUV, so dynamic handling isn't going to be its strongest suit. This is an off-road focused SUV, so dynamic handling isn't going to be its strongest suit.

It's not going to be the most capable 4WD in the market - it's low body height will hinder the really hard stuff - but we threw stock-standard Scorpios at some pretty challenging inclines, deep off-centre ruts and grass, and the on-board 4WD kit handled it all with ease.

Honestly, we were surprised at how capable and refined the Scorpio feels. And I suspect you will be, too. 

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating?

Usually we might rattle off a long list of active safety kit in this section, but not this time. Because the Scorpio doesn’t have any. 

The brand reckons things like AEB and Lane Keep Assist will come — and it will have to be before 2025 to tie in with Australia’s regulations — for now you’ll make do with six airbags, including curtains that don’t quite cover the third row of seats, parking sensors and cameras and the usual traction aids.

That's really not great in 2023, with the Scorpio to be among the only vehicles currently on sale in Australia without AEB.

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs?

Honestly, this feels like a big step forward for Mahindra. And they make no bones about this being their chance to strike. While most car companies are facing massive delays on new cars, Mahindra says it has secured more than enough stock for its customers to order today, and drive away tomorrow.

So if you’re in a months or years long queue for your new 4WD. Mahindra has one ready for you. And you might find it surprising.


Based on new car retail price


Daily driver score


Adventure score


adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

Price Guide


Based on new car retail price

Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.