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Mahindra XUV500


Jeep Renegade

Summary

Mahindra XUV500

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.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.2L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency6.7L/100km
Seating7 seats

Jeep Renegade

Jeep's Renegade might be late to the mini-SUV party but it comes with a pretty impressive back catalogue to suggest that this is a SUV that can cash the cheques its name can write.

The top of the range Trailhawk can write even bigger cheques than the lower models, bringing with it a range of off-road tech toys to let you really get down and dirty.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mahindra XUV5006.5/10

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.


Jeep Renegade6.4/10

Rugged, dependable and good off-road are the most obvious qualities of the Trailhawk. It stands out from the rest of the mini-SUVs by being able to do the S and the U with plenty of vigour.

It's just a shame that its on-road manners can't match that of its big brother, the Cherokee. Unless you're planning on proper off-roading, the Trailhawk might not be quite what you're looking for.

How do you think the Renegade Trailhawk matches up to its small SUV rivals? Tell us in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk pricing and spec info.

 

Design

Mahindra XUV5005/10

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.

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.


Jeep Renegade7/10

In what is absolutely not a coincidence, the Renegade immediately conjures up the Wrangler. Upright grille from the Willys Jeep (references abound here), round headlights, squared off wheel arches to mimic the Wrangler's guards, short overhangs and big rear view mirrors.

The 17-inch wheels look completely lost in the wheelarches which are even more cavernous owing to the Trailhawk's 50mm of extra ride height. The wheels are also a bit cheap looking but will probably survive the belting the car is intended to take.

Less rugged is the interior, despite a fairly self-conscious effort to make it look and feel chunky. The front seats are flat and unsupportive with the rears just as lacklustre making sure everyone is sliding around together. Luckily, front passengers get a dash-mounted grab handle.

It seems quite well put together, however, but with carpets and easily-marked plastics, you'll hope your passengers don't bring the mud in with them too often. And the "Since 1941" stamped into the steering wheel can go.

The dashboard is reasonably clear and has plenty of information to share via the screen between the dials but whoever thought marking the redline with a water splash graphic in bright orange should probably rethink their design decisions.

Storage is limited to two cupholders up front, door pockets in each door and nets on the front seat backs.

Practicality

Mahindra XUV5007/10

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.

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.


Price and features

Mahindra XUV5009/10

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.


Jeep Renegade6/10

The Renegade range starts at $28,000 for the 1.6-litre Renegade Sport manual front-wheel drive, climbing between $2000 and $3000 through the Sport Auto, Longitude Auto, Limited Auto with a final jump of $4000 to the 2.4-litre auto-only Trailhawk.

Standard is a nine-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and USB, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, cruise control, electric front seats with heating, satellite navigation, automatic bi-xenon headlights, auto wipers, leather trim, roof rails, front and middle bash plates, full size spare, heated leather steering wheel, privacy glass, trailer sway control and tyre pressure monitoring. 

The lairy Omaha orange is $500, part of an eleven colour palette with only two no-cost paint options (black and white).

You can add lane departure warning, auto-parking and a black painted roof for $500 each, a removable and retractable roof called My Sky Roof for $2200 or a more conventional electric sunroof for $1900.

The Beats-branded nine-speaker stereo is run via Fiat-Chryser's UConnect system, accessible through the 6.5-inch touchscreen. While it improves with every attempt, it's still quite clunky and when the sat-nav is added, becomes a bit of a mess.

Thankfully, not every function has been crammed into the touchscreen interface, so you'll spend more time with your hands on the wheel rather than working out which bit of the screen has the climate control.

Engine & trans

Mahindra XUV5006/10

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.

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


Jeep Renegade6/10

The Trailhawk is powered by Fiat's 2.4-litre four naturally-aspirated four-cylinder producing 129 kW and 230 Nm. Jeep reckons you'll get 7.5L/100km on the combined cycle. Our mostly city driving with a longish motorway run produced an 11.0L/100km average over a week.

The transmission is a nine-speed ZF automatic driving all four wheels.

The Trailhawk also has Jeep's five mode Selec-Terrain system which should cover pretty much every eventuality – Auto, Sport, Mud, Sand and, just for the Trailhawk, Rock. The Trailhawk is rated to tow 400kg unbraked and 907kg braked.

Fuel consumption

Mahindra XUV5006/10

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.  


Driving

Mahindra XUV5006/10

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.

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.


Jeep Renegade6/10

The Trailhawk name suggest that things are going to get muddy – compared to the rest of the range, the range-topper rides 50mm higher and has exposed, easy-to-reach tow hooks in the fairly unlikely event you get stuck. It also has a 20:1 low-range crawl ratio and Active Drive 4x4 which means it can switch between front and all-wheel drive. It'll also wade through almost half a metre of water. It's a genuine mud-plugging proposition and will take on some much bigger machinery out in the bush.

On the road, where we spent all our time in the Renegade, it's not what you'd call particularly inspiring. There's a number of sources of noise that contribute to a less than quiet cabin and having to constantly correct your course at freeway speeds adds to the tiring nature of the Renegade.

It's much better at lower speeds, pottering around but then again, its nine-speed transmission needs a lot more work on the shift mapping because it seems to forget which gear it needs to be in when you sink the right foot. If you don't need the Trailhawk's extra off-road goodies, consider the 1.4 litre Limited or Longitude.

Safety

Mahindra XUV5006/10

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.


Jeep Renegade7/10

Seven airbags (including driver's knee bag), traction and stability controls, roll mitigation, blind spot monitoring, ABS and brake assist.

The Renegade does not yet have an ANCAP star rating although it scored five EuroNCAP stars in 2014.

Ownership

Mahindra XUV5007/10

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.