Once you get past the predictable jibes and the plasticky smell inside, the new Mahindra XUV500 is something decent from the big |Indian manufacturer - light years ahead of the rather horrible Pik-Up ute.
At $30,000 - $33,000 for front wheel drive and all wheel drive respectively, buyers get plenty of vehicle for the money, but no bargain basement prices.
The new compact XUV (SUV) is pitted against some classy competition in the small soft roader segment and arrives fighting, loaded with goodies that add considerably to its appeal.
It's an entirely new vehicle on a new platform with a new powertrain from Mahindra itself which also happens to own Korean outfit SsangYong.
You can already see discernible cross pollination - coming from the SsangYong side into Mahindra. The engine feels just like a SsangYong to drive and bits of the interior including the door locking system are familiar. The monocoque body is about the same dimensions as a RAV4 and it's slightly larger inside allowing for a third row of seats for seven pews in total.
That's a lot of bods in a not very big vehicle but they all fit pretty well thanks in part to the upright rear roof section and tailgate. The car looks impressive on the street, certainly not as hokey as the Pik-Up.
This one is quite pukka especially from the front and sides. To their credit, Mahindra developed their own styling for XUV and it's distinctive. But the interior is outdated in style and function, looking years old - like earlier Korean and Malaysian efforts in its design, materials and function.
Despite being a throwback there's plenty of modern technology like voice control, Bluetooth and satnav among a generous list of goodies. The faux woodgrain is a tad tacky and the dash panel fit is only OK. You'll need spectacles to see the tiny writing on the controls that dot the cabin capped by a set of retro looking but high-tech dials sticking up in front of the wheel.
Mahindra has put attractive two-tone leather upholstery into the vehicle along with climate control, tyre pressure monitor, auto headlights and wipers and a reasonable audio system. Some touch screen functions are provided.
The engine is an in-house effort as is the six speed manual-only transmission. XUV is sold in two variants - front wheel drive and all wheel drive and only one high spec' W8 level. The diesel is a 2.2-litre with variable geometry turbo and is good for 103kW/330Nm output - no complaints there. Fuel economy is a respectable 6.7-litres/100km from the 1785kg all wheel drive model and on demand system.
Safety rates four stars from ANCAP thanks in part to six airbags, stability control and roll-over mitigation system.
It's an interesting thing to drive, good in parts like the curate's egg. There's a daft engine stop/start system that can be easily tricked into stopping and then not starting again without a full shut down. But the engine itself has plenty of pull from low in the revs aided by pretty good gearing from the rubbery shifting manual box.
Our test vehicle had an annoying drivetrain rumble from 80-110kmh. The Mahindra is a reasonable thing to drive, bit coarse, bit old school actually. But it is practical, has an excellent turning circle and easy to fold flat seats. We reckon 1000km range would be achievable.