Just like Bebo

It is now the Motto

Of many, to aspire for size Zero

Specially those living in a Metro

Managing from a tiny Grotto

It has been quite like Lotto

To get themselves a compact Auto

In which to carry the family and the Bro’

But they needn’t worry any mo’

For here is the Quanto!

There has been quite a lot of speculation about Mahindra’s mini-Xylo for months now. Much before the Quanto was launched, there were already sketches and renderings of the proposed mini-Xylo in many publications and forums.

And they would all have been quite accurate with their diagrammatic representation of this new vehicle, at least from the front. For buyers, there was enough good news to look forward to, with the possibility of getting themselves a smaller, easier to manoeuvre and lower-priced variant of the Xylo. For Mahindra, with more competition entering the fray in the compact sports utility vehicles market, the need for a vehicle in the segment to take on the newbies was certainly there.

So, the Quanto, comes just a shade delayed, but is still loaded with promise.

Design

To look at, from the front, the Quanto is almost a clone of the Xylo, with some small cosmetic changes such as the more defined bonnet lines and the new panel above the grille. Some changes that were effected in the Xylo a while ago means that the Quanto can now retain some more of the Xylo’s earlier features which include the headlamp combination.

Trace your eyes along the sides of the Quanto and the vehicle is again quite the clone of the Xylo, carrying forward the exact same lines. Other similarities are the A&B pillars, the wheel arch design, and even the same 15-inch alloy rims in the top-end variant. But the rear is different and frankly that is where the real story of the Quanto lies.

Mahindra engineers have quite literally chopped off about a foot or so of the rear of the Xylo to get a sub-4-metre Quanto. That size paired with a sub-1.5-litre diesel engine automatically qualifies the vehicle for lower excise duty benefits. It offers customers the flexibility of buying a lower-priced and more compact utility vehicle. However, Mahindra has, of course, decided to make the Quanto seem like a crossover now.

If the Xylo looked like an aggressive multi-purpose vehicle with some of Mahindra’s design flair seen in the Scorpio carried forward, the Quanto has been designed to look like a cross between that MPV and a SUV. Or at least it now also sports some of the features that we have come to associate with a SUV.

Tall set tail-lamps at the rear, which are a completely new design, are right at the top of the C pillar. A new spare wheel mounted outside and on the tail gate is meant to capture the attention of buyers who essentially know that they are buying a UV, but want the frills of a sports utility.

But, if you thought that Mahindra engineers have decided to keep the Quanto’s new found SUV genes pure, you would be wrong there too. And that’s because, inside, the new Quanto continues to be a seven-seater. Two foldable jump seats at the rear will still attempt to offer cramped accommodation for passengers. Open the slightly heavy, side-hinged tail gate and the jump seats can be accessed, but can only accommodate two children or petite adults.

The tail-gate, I am guessing, has been strengthened to handle the additional weight of the spare wheel. The rear luggage loading height is low and perfect, but to step into and take the jump seats access will need the assistance of the step that has been added. The jump seats are not offered with seat belts and with them in use, there is effectively no space for luggage. With the seats folded, there is enough room for two suitcases. But, use of the jump seats is certainly not advisable on the highway. Ventilation for the jump seats will have to come from the tiltable, small rectangular quarter glasses that take the place of the larger glass in the bigger sibling Xylo.

In terms of overall design, the Quanto seems like an abruptly ending Xylo (more because the latter came first). But, over a few days the design grows on you, but it will always be clear that there more a practical reason for the design than one that is emotional – head over heart, than the other way around.

Interior

Step inside the Quanto and it will immediately remind you of the Xylo again. While it is a bit disappointing that the dashboard design and some of the other parts have been cloned, the amount of space in the first and second rows that is also a match with the Xylo is quite likeable. That has been achieved because the Quanto and the Xylo share the same 2,760mm wheelbase and other dimensions remain the same too. What is lost in the transition to the Quanto is only space on the third row, but the main cabin area remains unchanged in terms of legroom and shoulder room.

My observations about the cabin would be that the driving position is nice and tall, very similar to the Xylo. Reversing the Quanto is surely easier than doing the same in the Xylo. There are also reversing sensors that come to the rescue. The Quanto cabin’s fit and finish quality is a bit inferior to that of the Xylo. Dashboard plastic quality is still not good enough to prevent windscreen glare.

I felt that the seat squabs are a bit too soft and can get a bit uncomfortable over long drives. But there was enough support overall from the seat. The softness may be due to the choice of upholstery fabric. The music system offered in the top-end C8 variant can be bettered by after-market options. But there are a list of features in the Quanto C8 that are offered to put you at ease, including twin airbags and

The steering wheel is bit too chunky to hold, though it didn’t interfere with my driving. The seat height adjustment lever in my test mule did not do its job. And the over-sized door mirrors are highly prone to nicks and scratches. During my test drive pedestrians and bikers would casually knock on it with their shoulders and rear view mirrors and apologise without any real sense of remorse.

Performance and handling

The Quanto’s newest part is its engine, though it does borrow its architecture from Mahindra’s existing 2.2-litre mHawk engine. This new mCR100, 1,493 cc common rail diesel engine is actually a smaller three-cylinder version.

To compensate for the inherently lower power and torque capabilities of the three-cylinder motor, Mahindra engineers have added a twin-scroll turbocharger and intercooler combination that enables the engine to put out 100 bhp of peak power and a peak torque of 240Nm. The engine is surprisingly less noisy for a three-cylinder. In fact, while the characteristic diesel clatter is audible outside the vehicle, it is considerably quiet inside the cabin during idling, though it does raise the decibel levels during hard revving acceleration. Talking a bit more about refinement, it was also interesting to note that the engine is not too ‘vibey’. There was a bit of transmission vibration that got through, but overall Mahindra has done a good NVH job in the Quanto.

But the 3-cylinder engine despite the performance boost doesn’t exactly make the Quanto a thundering performer on the road. For one, the 1.6 ton weight of the vehicle is a bit much. The other reason why the Quanto feels a bit sluggish to start off and getting cruising is the inherent amounts of torque and power available across the rev-band is loaded in favour of the narrow mid range of 2,000 to 3,500 rpm. Below 1,800 rpm there is considerable sluggishness as the Quanto’s engine and turbo spool up. Peak torque is delivered by the time the engine hits 3,750 rpm and then there isn’t much of in terms of top-end performance that is available.

So, if you keep the engine warmed up and going in the mid-range there is enough juice to extract from this mill. The clutch action is light and easy, meant for city drivers looking for comfort. The gear ratios are also set to please slow speed driving, though at highway speeds too shifting quickly and staying in third and fourth can keep you going. Gear shift quality could have been better.

The suspension of the Quanto has been essentially carried forward from the Xylo. In terms of driving dynamics, the Quanto’s ride will be best appreciated in smooth tarmac. However, on bad roads and winding roads, the ride can get quite unsettling. The suspension is too soft and bad roads lead to a lot of juddering in the cabin and winding, undulating roads also lead to a lot of body roll setting in. The Quanto feels like it is top heavy and high speed cornering is does not inspire confidence. But, it is quite sure footed and quick on the straights going easily up to 145 kmph.

Bottomline

The Quanto has been priced very aggressively ranging from Rs 6 lakh to Rs 7.5 lakh between the four variants C2 to C8.

All too suddenly, compact SUVs are the rage in the market. For buyers who want the street presence of a SUV, combined with the lure of a diesel motor and the promise of reliability and low cost ownership, the Quanto must be very interesting despite the fact that it is not a true-blue Sport utility.

The fact that it is practical and buyer focused will be what lures them.

muralidhar.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 16, 2012)
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