Mahindra XUV500 VS Ford EcoSport
- Cheap way into seven seats
- Petrol/auto combination a winner
- Hugely spacious third row
- Underwhelming safety
- Steering that requires plenty of guesswork
- Cheap-feeling interior
- Great media system
- Bigger interior than most
- Strong value
- No AEB, even as an option
- Poorly designed tailgate
- Base model hard to like
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.
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.
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
One of the original entrants in the now-booming small SUV segment has never attracted the attention it probably should have. I’m talking about the Ford EcoSport.
The smallest SUV from the blue oval brand is built in India, and perhaps that’s part of the reason it hasn’t been that well received. I went on the international launch of the EcoSport way back in mid 2013, and some of the fit and finish left a lot to be desired.
That didn’t change when the car launched in Australia, and while the pricing it launched with was attractive, there were other elements that perhaps weren’t… like the tailgate-mounted spare wheel.
That spare wheel remains a feature for the time being (a further model change for the MY18.5 version will see the deletion of it in favour of a repair kit, and thus no spare) - but there have been some other styling changes for the Ford EcoSport 2018 range, and perhaps even more importantly, new drivetrains and big interior revisions.
It is undoubtedly an improvement, but just how much has it improved? Read on to find out.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
If you’re going to buy a Ford EcoSport, it seems to me that the best one you can get is the Titanium - and that’s mainly because of Ford’s aggressive pricing strategy. The equipment on offer is compelling, especially looking at what else you get in competitor compact SUVs at that price point.
Again, I’m disappointed by the lack of AEB - but if that’s not a deal-breaker for you, the EcoSport may well prove a surprisingly adept option as a small high-rider. Just watch that tailgate in tight parking spots…
Would you prefer a spare wheel on the tailgate, or none at all? Let us know in the comments section below.
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.
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.
According to Ford, the new look “fits in the contemporary Ford SUV showroom”, and its design certainly looks more fitting when parked alongside the next-size-up Escape. It has a new bonnet, new headlights (halogen on the entry grades and HID on the flagship), a new grille shape with different colour trims based on variant (entry - grey, mid-spec - gloss black and top-spec - chrome) a revised front bumper and revised rear-end styling, too. There's a dinky little rear spoiler, but no body kit or side steps.
While the spare wheel will be removed from the tailgate in the coming months, the one fitted to this version has been redesigned. And if you’re worried about hitting that cover when reversing, the reversing camera should alleviate your concerns, and the rear parking sensors are tuned with it in mind.
Just keep in mind that if you park on the street and someone parks close to the back of you, you may struggle to open the boot - along with swinging open the wrong direction (the opening side should be closest to the kerb, but it’s on the traffic side!), the rearmost door is quite big.
Still, the interior has seen perhaps the most important changes, both in terms of aesthetics and usability. Its interior dimensions are impressive, as you'll see in the interior images below.
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.
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.
There is no denying the Ford EcoSport is one of the most practical small SUVs you can buy. After all, it can fit a washing machine in the boot - that was one of the big selling points for Indian buyers, apparently - so storage space, size, luggage capacity and dimensions are all important.
The boot space is even more practical now, with a variable shelf system offering the option of a deeper cargo hold, a small hidden area in the mid-range position, and a flat (but sloping?) cargo area with the back seats folded - you do that by lifting up the rear seat bases, then lowering the backrests down. In that configuration there is 1178 litres of cargo capacity (SAE - the more generous of the formulae to measure space) to the roof, while seats up the figure stands at 743L (SAE). If that's not enough, you get roof rails on the top two models, so you can add a roof rack if you need to.
The storage has been improved for occupants, too, with a new centre console bin between the front seats, while rear-seat occupants get a fold-down centre armrest in the mid- and top-spec models. In those versions there are two cupholders in the back as well as two up front, while all four doors feature bottle holders. The front passenger seat lacks height adjustment, and taller occupants may feel like they’re looming large in that position.
Space is good for the class, especially for rear legroom and headroom. If you try and fit three across the back it’ll be tight, but for those younger buyers with children there are dual ISOFIX child-seat anchor points, and three top-tether hooks.
The centre console area has been reworked with a new storage area in front of the gear selector that is almost deep enough for a smartphone to sit, but it’ll inevitably fall over. There are two USB ports in all EcoSports, and they’re illuminated, which is a bonus, but the air conditioner controls are cheap feeling.
Above that area is a new media screen - a 6.5-inch version in the base model Ambiente, and an 8.0-inch infotainment unit in the Trend and Titanium. It’s touch-capacitive, and the Sync 3 media interface is simple to use, and no matter which model you go for, there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring tech.
Price and features
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.
The Ford EcoSport has one of the most compact model ranges in the segment, with three variants that aren’t priced too far from one another. In fact, from the bottom of the range to the top, there’s only a $6200 gap.
However, it is a simple line-up, which means there’s not as much choice for buyers. All three versions are petrol powered, automatic, and front-wheel drive - which is exactly what the vast majority of customers in the small SUV segment demand. But in order to compare the models in the range, keep reading for our model comparison.
How much is the cost of Ford EcoSport? At the bottom of the price list is the entry-grade Ambiente is $22,790 plus on-road costs (rrp), which is good vs most of its rivals. It kicks off proceedings with a 6.5-inch touchscreen media system running Ford’s 'Sync 3' media console, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth connectivity with phone and audio streaming, two USB ports, CD player DAB radio, voice control, central locking, cruise control, a sound system with six speakers (no subwoofer, no DVD player) and cloth seat trim.
It rides on ugly 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers (rip them off and roll on steelies - own it!) and has silver exterior trim elements that delineate it as a base car. All members of the EcoSport range now include a 4.2-inch digital driver information screen between the dials, which includes a digital speedo, and the Ambiente is fitted with a reversing camera and rear parking sensors as standard.
The mid-range model in the EcoSport line-up is the Trend, which sits midway up the price range at $24,490.
The Trend adds black roof-rails, black exterior trim elements, 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-lined steering wheel, and it moves the media game along with an 8.0-inch touch screen with Sync 3, inbuilt sat nav / GPS with free map updates for the navigation system for life, and a seven-speaker sound system.
The Titanium is $28,990, which is relatively affordable considering some other competitors are well into the low-to-mid $30k zone with their front-drive petrol high-riders.
It comes with all the stuff the Trend has but adds keyless entry / smart key, push button start, climate control air-conditioning, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power sunroof, leather seats, HID projector headlights and LED daytime running lights (not LED headlight), bigger 17-inch alloys, powered side mirrors with puddle lamps, and silver roof rails.
And it takes the safety game a step further as well, with blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, not to mention front parking sensors.
But, and it’s a big but, the Ford lacks some of the great safety technology features you’ll find in some its competitors. See the safety section below for more on that.
If you're in the market for a used EcoSport, you might be happy with the second hand price that most early versions fetch - they are quite affordable. And while the number of Ford EcoSport colours isn't as extensive as it once was, you can still get black, white, blue, silver, grey, and a new brown hue. There is no red, nor is there that eye-catching yellow anymore. There is no 'black pack' yet, but Ford did have a Shadow edition back in 2016, so it could happen.
While avoiding cows may be an everyday consideration in India, there are no special features like a bull bar, nor a nudge bar. You can't get a snorkel for it (you wouldn't need one!), but there is a tyre change tool kit in the boot. You can get accessories like floor mats and a boot scuff guard.
Engine & trans
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.
Mahindra doesn't quote official performance figures, but those engine outputs hardly scream excitement, do they?
It's a tale of the specifications here.
There is more than one engine to choose from (and for this reviewer, the engine you choose will determine the rating the car scores, too), but there is no diesel available (so you'll have to reserve that good old 'petrol vs diesel' debate for the Escape - still you get a fuel tank capacity of 52 litres, a good size so you'll be able to do plenty of distance). And the EcoSport isn't available in Australia with 4x4 / AWD / or rear wheel drive - every EcoSport is 4x2, or front wheel drive.
The entry-grade Ambiente model is powered by a new three-cylinder non-turbocharged 1.5-litre motor, and is mated with a six-speed conventional automatic transmission. The horsepower outputs for the Ambiente are pretty good, with 90kW of power and 150Nm of torque.
The existing Ambiente had a 1.5-litre non-turbo engine with a five-speed manual transmission or one of Ford’s now-infamous six-speed dual-clutch auto transmissions. But manual vs automatic demand, and the apparent automatic transmission problems with the dual-clutch auto, saw the switch to a conventional torque-converter auto.
Engine size for the Trend and Titanium models drops to a 1.0-litre three-cylinder with a turbocharger, which has a touch more punch to it despite its smaller capacity. The outputs are 92kW and 170Nm, which is easily enough to push the little high-rider along with ease.
Previously, buyers of the higher-spec models had the choice of a 1.5-litre non-turbo four-cylinder which had 10kW and 30Nm less, and was teamed to a six-speed dual-clutch auto, or the 1.0-litre turbo with a five-speed manual gearbox… which no-one bought.
Now, though, the 1.0-litre 'EcoBoost' engine is available with a conventional six-speed auto, and in the Titanium you get paddle-shifters, too. There haven't been any major reports of engine issues with the tiny EcoBoost engine, which runs a timing belt - not a chain - presumably to save weight. The gross vehicle weight for the EcoSport is between 1705kg (Ambiente) and 1755kg (Trend and Titanium), with kerb weight pegged at 1319kg (Ambiente) and 1368kg (Trend and Titanium).
This ain’t no tow truck: it's towinc capacity is 750kg for an un-braked trailer, or 900kg for a braked trailer.
Claimed fuel consumption for the Ambiente model is rated at a pretty thirsty 6.9 litres per 100km, while the Trend and Titanium are said to use a touch less: 6.7L/100km. For those who prefer the measurement of fuel consumption km/L, the Ambiente will do 14.5km/L and the Trend/Titanium models will be capacble of 14.9km/L. Not quite diesel fuel economy, but enough to ensure pretty good mileage per tank.
The readout on the Trend I drove displayed 7.6L/100km after a mix of urban and highway driving, while the Ambiente showed 8.2L/100km in some horrific Melbourne traffic.
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.
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.
Ford has a knack when it comes to making its SUVs drive like smaller cars than they actually are - and the steering is the key.
In the EcoSport that’s definitely the case. Sure, it is actually small, but it feels decidedly more nimble than some of its rivals, with great steering feel, weighting and response that allows the driver plenty of confidence, whether piloting it along a highway or parking it kerbside.
The front and rear suspension is well sorted, if a little firm over sharp bumps - but it sits well on the road, and is easily comfortable enough to deal with tram tracks, potholes and cracked pavement.
The obvious star engine is the turbocharged 1.0-litre, which is rewardingly punchy and nicely refined while retaining the trademark three-cylinder rumble. The six-speed auto is inherently eager to go for the highest gear it can to save fuel, and that means it will hunt a bit when you’re on and off the throttle. That might make your 0 100 acceleration timing a bit difficult, but it gathers speed decently.
Thankfully, though, the throttle is easy to modulate - which isn’t the case in the 1.5-litre. There’s a little too much travel at the top of the pedal to make for smooth take-offs, and when you get moving the engine has a tendency to allow the throttle to hang before it changes gears.
In both models the brake pedal took some getting used to, again with a dull spot at the top of the pedal then big grabbiness mid-way. It stopped reasonably well though, especially considering it still uses drum brakes at the back.
In case we didn't make it clear, there will be no off road review for the EcoSport. It may have good potential capability and performance if you look at the numbers: 209 (ground clearance mm); 10.7 (turning circle radius in metres, kerb to kerb); 24.7 (approach angle degrees); 29.0 (departure angle degrees) - but there is no wading depth figure, and hey, it's front-wheel drive!
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.
It may seem harsh to give the Ford EcoSport a 7/10 for a safety rating, especially considering it has features such as a reverse camera, park assist with rear parking sensors, stability control with hill descent control and hill start assist, ESP, and it retains a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating from 2013. Where is the Ford EcoSport built? You can leave your preconceptions at the door, because it's made in India.
But the fact of the matter is that the EcoSport doesn’t have the latest advanced safety tech - there is no auto emergency braking (AEB) and “there won’t for in the foreseeable future”, either, according to the company. You can put a line through things like lane keeping assist and forward collision warning, too.
But the EcoSport hits back in other ways. It has a system where it can call the emergency services using a connected phone in the event of an accident. And it has a dual key system that allows worried (interfering?) parents to adjust key parameters of the car, including how fast it can go and how loud the music can go. And if you need to fit a baby seat, it has ISOFIX points.
It has seven airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee).
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.
Ford backs its new cars with the bare minimum three-year/100,000km warranty plan. Well behind the best in class, and it could be enough for you to reconsider if you've read about the issues, common problems, faults, complaints and defects that could have possibly afflicted some earlier versions with the dual-clutch auto. And if you're really concerned you can lengthen the standard warranty with an extended warranty for up to six years or 200,000km: there's no doubt that having a piece of paper with that alongside your owners manual in the glovebox will increase the resale value of your EcoSport (you can transfer the extended warranty). But with the new transmissions we have no reason to expect reliability issues.
Buyers do, however, have access to a capped-price servicing plan for the life of the car, with maintenance due every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. The service cost is reasonably well considered, too - over five years/75,000km, the average cost per visit is $281. So, along with a low purchase price, a low maintenance cost gives it an edge over some competitors.
And Ford has that free loan car program, too, where you get to borrow a set of wheels when your car is in the shop.
While the waiting time for Ford EcoSport models is expected to be short, there are plenty of pre-facelift versions still in stock.