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Mahindra XUV500 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
6.5
Mahindra hits the target in terms of price, but does it deliver on design and build quality? A new petrol-powered XUV500 aims to lift the brand further up the crowded seven-seat SUV ladder.

Just in case attacking Australia's crowded SUV market with a virtually unheard of Indian brand wasn't a high enough hurdle to leap over, Mahindra had made its task even harder - think a Bollywood version of Mission Impossible - by launching its XUV500 SUV here with a diesel engine (which nobody wanted) and a manual gearbox (which few could even remember how to use). 

Fortunately, it fixed one of those issues late in 2016, finally adding an automatic transmission to the line-up. And now, at long last, it's fixed the other.

This, then, is the petrol-powered XUV500 SUV. And, on paper at least, it's the most sense-making Mahindra to date. 

For one, it's a ferociously cheap way into a new seven-seat SUV. For another, it's pretty well equipped, even from the base level. There's a long warranty, an equally long roadside assistance offering, and there's capped-price servicing, too. 

So, should the mainstream SUV players be looking over their shoulders?

Spoiler alert: no.

Mahindra XUV500 2018: (FWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.7L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$21,010

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   9/10

Make no mistake, this Mahindra kills the competition on price. The entry-level W6 version will cost you a lean $25,990, while the fruited-up W8 version will set you back $29,990. You can even have an AWD W8 for $32,990. The best part? All of those are drive-away prices.

Go for the W6, and you can expect 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth seats, air-con with vents (powered by a second compressor) in the second and third row, cornering headlights with DRLs, front and rear fog lights, cruise control, rear parking sensors and a 6.0-inch multimedia screen linked with a six-speaker stereo.

Spring for the W8, and you'll add leather seats, a reversing camera, tyre-pressure monitoring and a bigger, 7.0-inch screen with standard sat-nav.

The XUV500 W8, adds a bigger, 7.0-inch screen with sat nav. The XUV500 W8, adds a bigger, 7.0-inch screen with sat nav.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   5/10

There's no getting away from the fact the XUV500 is not the sleekest, prettiest SUV in the pack. But it's not ugly, either. More that it looks like it's doing its best with a design philosophy hatched a generation or two ago.

Its best angle by far is when viewed straight on, where the piano-black grille, dual bonnet bulges and complicated (read: a little weird) headlight clusters all add some road presence to Mahindra's only SUV.

The XUV500's best angle by far is when viewed straight on, where the piano-black grille, dual bonnet bulges and complicated headlight clusters all add some road presence.
The XUV500's best angle by far is when viewed straight on, where the piano-black grille, dual bonnet bulges and complicated headlight clusters all add some road presence.

A side-on viewing, however, is less satisfying, where a combination of strangely placed and super-sharp body creases (including one over the rear wheelarch, which adds a Harbour Bridge-style crescent to the otherwise-straight window line) and serious rear overhang give the XUV500 an inescapable awkwardness.

Inside, expect a vast collection of rock-hard (though nicely patterned) plastics, with the ambiance rescued somewhat by the clean-looking and vertical central control unit, which is home to the media screen and air-con controls. 

Ready for some hashtag real talk? There are better-looking and better-feeling seven-seat SUVs out there. But there aren't many that start at $25,990 drive-away. And I think that's Mahindra's point.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Pretty damn practical, actually, regardless of whether you want to carry people or cargo. Carrying both at the same time, however, is tricky.

But let's start with people. There is a huge amount of room in the third row of the XUV500, a space with enough head and legroom to put plenty of its competition to shame.

Thanks to second-row seat backs that fold flat, before the the entire seat lifts up and pushes forward, climbing into seats six and seven isn't too big a drama, either. 

We rarely say this about seven-seat cars, but at 175cm, I'd feel plenty comfortable back there on a longer drive. There are two air vents in the third row, too, along with bottle storage and side-seat storage for thin items.

All XUV500's are fitted with a 70-litre fuel tank. 

The space in the middle row is ample as well, and you'll find three ISOFIX attachment points, one for each of the three seats. There's also a door pocket in each rear door and storage nets on the rear of the two front seats. A pull-down divider that separates the back seat is home to two cupholders, matching the two for front seat riders. 

The only downside to all this people-lugging happiness is that, with the third row of seats in place, there is absolutely no room for luggage. Mahindra doesn't quote a litre storage figure when seven are seated (mostly because it would probably be embarrassing to write "one litre"), but trust us, you'll be lucky to squeeze a soft backpack in the boot with all seats in place.

Things improve considerably when you drop the third row of seats, though, which unlocks 702 litres of storage, and that number climbs to 1512 litres with the second and third row folded down.

With the third row of seats down there is 702-litres of storage, 1512-litres with the second folded down. With the third row of seats down there is 702-litres of storage, 1512-litres with the second folded down.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

There's a diesel engine currently available, but the clock is ticking - Mahindra expects it to be phased out within six months. But the big news here is the new petrol engine, a turbocharged 2.2-litre unit good for 103kW/320Nm. It's paired exclusively with an Aisin-developed six-speed automatic transmission, and will send it's power to the front or all four wheels.

The turbocharged 2.2-litre unit  is good for 103kW/320Nm. The turbocharged 2.2-litre unit is good for 103kW/320Nm.

Mahindra doesn't quote official performance figures, but those engine outputs hardly scream excitement, do they?

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

Local numbers are yet to be confirmed, but after an admittedly vigorous local test, the on-board computers was reading 13+ litres per 100km. All XUV500's are fitted with a 70-litre fuel tank.  

What's it like to drive?   6/10

About as old school as rocking a pair of button-up tracksuit pants with a Run-DMC cassette stuffed into your Walkman.

On a straight and unchallenging road, there's stuff to like about the petrol-powered XUV500. The engine, while gruff under heavy acceleration, doesn't feel too wheezy when you're not asking a great deal of it, and nor is the cabin overly loud at suburban speeds. It's a comfortable space for driver and passengers, too, and the gearbox performed seamlessly on our short test drive.

On a straight and unchallenging road, there's stuff to like about the petrol-powered XUV500. On a straight and unchallenging road, there's stuff to like about the petrol-powered XUV500.

But that's about where the good news ends. There's an unshakeable agricultural feel to the way this Mahindra SUV goes about its business, and nowhere is that more obvious than through the steering wheel, which has only a vague and difficult relationship with the the front tyres, making it seriously tricky to approach twisting roads with anything approaching confidence.

The steering is slow and cumbersome - light when you first begin turning the wheel, with a ton of weight appearing by surprise midway through the cornering process - and it has a tendency to fight back should the front wheels find a bump or corrugation in the road, too. 

The body lolls about when challenged, too, and the tyres are quick to give up their grip on tighter corners. All of which would give it a certain retro charm if it wasn't so very new, and I must admit I was cackling maniacally on some of the more twisting roads.

But it's simply not a car I could live with.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   6/10

Expect dual front, front-side and curtain airbags (though the latter don't extend to the third row of seats), along with rear parking sensors and ESP. Stepping up to the W8 trim adds a reversing camera with dynamic guidelines. The XUV500 was awarded a four-star (out of five) ANCAP assessment when tested in 2012.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

All XUV500s are covered by a five year/100,000km warranty (though the final two years apply only to the drivetrain), along with five years of complimentary roadside assistance.

The XUV500 is also covered by Mahindra's capped-price servicing program for the first three years of ownership, and will require servicing every six months or 10,000km.

Verdict

This petrol-powered and well-priced XUV500 W6 might mark Mahindra's most convincing effort at cracking Australia's congested SUV market, but we're still not completely convinced.

That said, it's certainly cheap, the ownership credentials stack up and it's a very comfortable way to transport seven people.

Will this Mahindra's low price and upgraded spec win your SUV vote? Tell us in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$24,990
Based on 16 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$22,990
Highest Price
$27,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(AWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $23,650 – 29,260 2018 MAHINDRA XUV500 2018 (AWD) Pricing and Specs
(FWD) 2.2L, Diesel, 6 SP MAN $21,010 – 26,620 2018 MAHINDRA XUV500 2018 (FWD) Pricing and Specs
W6 (FWD) 2.2L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $22,990 – 23,990 2018 MAHINDRA XUV500 2018 W6 (FWD) Pricing and Specs
W8 (AWD) 2.2L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $23,760 – 29,370 2018 MAHINDRA XUV500 2018 W8 (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.5
Price and features9
Design5
Practicality7
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption6
Driving6
Safety6
Ownership7
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$21,010

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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