Mahindra XUV500 VS Renault Captur
- 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
- Better looking
- Good engine
- Roomy cabin
- No rear cross-traffic alert on base model
- Hesitant transmission
- Top-spec still has options
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|
Renault, like its French rival Peugeot, didn't quite nail the first attempt at a compact SUV. The first Captur was a Clio with some ride height and a new body and didn't quite make the cut for Australian buyers. Partly because the original engine was borderline anaemic but secondly, it was really small.
When you're French, you have more work to do in the Australian market. I don't make the rules, which is a shame for a number of reasons but my colleagues seem to think it's better this way.
Anyway, I didn't mind the old Captur but was well aware of its shortcomings. This new one - on paper at least - looks far more promising.
More market-appropriate pricing, more space, a better interior and lots more tech, the second-generation Captur even rolls on a whole new platform, promising more space and better dynamics.
|Engine Type||1.3L turbo|
|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.
The second-generation Captur's arrival coincides with the brand's transfer to a new distributor and a fiercely competitive market still bruised and battered from a shocking 2020.
It certainly looks the part and is also priced the part. Without a doubt, the mid-spec Zen is the one to go for unless you want the extra electro-trickery available on the Intens, which is quite a lot more expensive.
Setting aside my fondness for French cars, this one looks and feels more competitive in the compact SUV market. If you cover a lot of ground every year - or want the option to do so - you should really take a second look at the servicing structure, too, because in the Captur 30,000km in a year means a single service rather than three in turbo-engined rivals. That might be a bit niche, but even over the life of a car where you average 15,000km per year, it will make a difference.
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.
I had to twice check this was the new Captur, but really, it's just the profile that is most like the older car. The new one is a bit bolder and less jacked-up Clio.
The Life and Zen look pretty much the same apart from the Zen's (optional) two-tone paint jobs but the Intens looks pretty classy with its bigger wheels and additional materials changes.
The new interior is a vast improvement over the old one. The plastics are way nicer and they have to be because hardly anyone has plastics as bad as that old car anymore.
The new one has more comfortable seats, too, and I really like the revised dash. It feels much more modern, is better-designed and the little paddle for the audio controls has finally been updated and is way easier to use. It also clears the steering wheel of buttons, which I quite like.
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.
You get a massive boot to start with - bigger even than the fabled 408 litres of the Honda HR-V. Renault starts you with 422 litres and then adds underfloor storage. When you push the seats forward and include the hidey-hole under the false floor, you end up with 536 litres.
Of course, that sliding will affect rear legroom. When the rear seats are all the way back, this is a lot more comfortable than the old car, with more head and knee room, although it's no match for the Seltos or HR-V in that respect. Not far off, though.
Fold the 60/40 split rear seats down and you have 1275 litres, a not-quite-flat floor and 1.57m long floor space, 11cm more than before.
The French approach to cupholders continues. There are just two in this car, but they are at least useful rather than the frustratingly small ones in the out-going model.
Rear seat passengers don't get cupholders or an armrest, but there are bottle holders in all four doors and - joy of joys - air vents in the back. Bit weird to have no armrest even in the top-spec Intens, though.
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 three-tier range starts at $28,190, before on-road costs, for the Captur Life and comes with 17-inch wheels, a cloth interior, auto headlights, air-conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the 7.0-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen, full LED headlights (that’s a nice touch), front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and a space saver spare.
Irritatingly, if you want the extra safety that's standard on the Zen and Intens, you have to spend another $1000 on the 'Peace of Mind' package, which also adds electric folding mirrors and takes you to $29,190, $1600 short of the Zen which has all this and more.
So think carefully about a Life with a package. I would put a modest sum of money on the idea that few people will buy the Life.
Step up to the Zen and for $30,790 you get the extra safety gear, walk-away auto-locking, a heated leather steering wheel, auto wipers, two-tone paint option, climate control, keyless entry and start (with the Renault key card) and wireless phone charging.
Then there's a big jump to the Intens, a whole five grand to $35,790. You get 18-inch wheels, a bigger 9.3-inch touchscreen in portrait mode, sat nav, BOSE sound system, 7.0-inch digital dashboard display, LED interior lighting, 360-degree cameras and leather seats.
The 'Easy Life' package is available on the Intens and adds auto parking, side parking sensors, auto high beam, a bigger 10.25-inch digital dash and frameless rear vision mirror for $2000.
And you can get the 'Orange Signature' package for no bucks. Which adds orange stuff to the interior and deletes the leather, which isn't necessarily a terrible thing. Not because the leather is bad, I just prefer cloth.
The new Renault touchscreens are good and include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but I can only speak for the bigger 9.3-inch system which is similar to the Megane's.
You get digital radio on top of AM/FM radio and six speakers (Life, Zen) or nine speakers (Intens).
These prices are more competitive than the older car. That seems fair because there's a lot more in it and prices are inexorably creeping northwards at the other brands.
Missing out of the range is the plug-in hybrid version, which is sad for a couple of reasons.
The first is that first-mover advantage could work in Renault's favour and secondly, its French rival Peugeot is pricing its new 2008 way higher than the Captur, so a PHEV could almost be cheaper - one imagines - than a top-spec, petrol-only 2008.
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?
All Capturs run the same 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine delivering a mildly impressive 113kW at 5500rpm and 270Nm at 1800rpm, which should make for some reasonable speed.
Both numbers are slightly higher than the original Captur, with power up by 3.0kW and torque by 20Nm.
Weighing in at a maximum of 1381kg, this enthusiastic engine will push the Captur from 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds, over half a second quicker than before and a touch quicker than most of its rivals.
Renault says the Captur's 1.3-litre engine will drink premium unleaded (important point, that) at the rate of 6.6L/100km.
That's a more sensible baseline figure than the previous car's sub-6.0 official combined cycle figure and after some web sleuthing appears to be the more accurate WLTP testing number.
As we had the car for a brief time, the 7.5L/100km is probably not representative of real-world fuel use, but it's a good guide nonetheless.
From the 48-litre tank, you should get 600 to 700km between fills. As you might expect, being a European car, it does want premium unleaded.
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.
Straight up, I will remind you of my fondness for French cars and the way they go about their business. Renault has been on strong form for some time now in the ride and handling department, even on tiny cars with rear torsion beam suspension.
Where the previous Captur was let down was a common French failing - weak engines that work fine in the European market but don't go down so well in Australia.
Even though I quite liked the old Captur, I got why nobody bought it (relatively speaking). This new one feels good from the second you park your bum in the driver's seat, with good, comfortable support, great vision forward (less so back, but that was the same in the old one) and the steering wheel even has a subtle flattened edge at the top if you have to set the wheel high.
The 1.3-litre turbo is a bit grumbly and gristly on start-up and never really loses a slightly odd, reedy harmonic coming through the firewall, but it's a strong performer for its size and works (mostly) well with the seven-speed dual-clutch.
Renault's old six-speeder was quite good and the seven works just fine except for a slight hesitation from step-off and is sometimes reluctant to kick down.
I blame fuel-saving rather than ham-fisted calibration, because when you punch the weird flower button and switch to Sport mode, the Captur comes good.
With a more aggressive transmission and a slightly livelier throttle, the Captur is much happier in this mode and so was I. The steering is light and direct and there's no real pretence in the suspension for off-road use which is fine by me because it means it's great fun on the road.
It kind of feels like a GT-Line version rather than out of the box standard tune. I don't know if there's a softer version available, but if there is, I'm glad Renault Australia chose this one.
And despite being fun to drive, the ride is almost uniformly excellent. Like any car with torsion beams, it's unsettled by big potholes or those horrible rubber speed bumps, but so is an air-suspended German car.
It's also fairly quiet except when you've got your foot to the floor and even then it's barely an inconvenience rather than a genuine problem.
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.
You get six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (up to 170km/h) with pedestrian and cyclist detection (10-80km/h), a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, forward collision warning, lane departure warning and lane keep assist.
If you want blind spot monitoring and reverse cross-traffic alert on the entry-level, you have to step up to the Zen or pay $1000 for the Peace of Mind package.
Given the marginal rear visibility and the ordinary resolution on the reversing camera, the omission of RCTA is annoying. I know Kia and various other rivals offer the safety as extra, but this is an important feature.
Euro NCAP awarded the Captur a maximum five stars and ANCAP is offering the same rating.
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.
Renault sends you home with a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty and a year of roadside assist. Every time you return to a Renault dealer for service, you get a further year, to a maximum of five.
The capped-price servicing runs for five years/150,000km. That suggests you can cover up to a massive 30,000km per year and only have to service it once, which is exactly what Renault reckons you can do. So yeah - service intervals are genuinely set at 12 months/30,000km.
The first three and then fifth services each cost $399, while the fourth is almost double at $789, which is a solid jump.
So, over the five years you'll be paying a total of $2385 for an average of $596 per year. If you do a ton of kilometres, that will really work for you because most turbo-engined cars in this segment have much shorter service intervals, around 10,000km or 15,000km if you're lucky.