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Mahindra XUV 300 review

S Muralidhar | Updated on February 06, 2019 Published on February 06, 2019

New sub-four-metre sibling of the XUV 500 is an eye-opener. Delivers impactful design and breaks new ground for the brand with refined build and performance

Mahindra’s sports utility vehicles have been making big strides in quality, refinement and performance starting from the Scorpio. Some of the others that followed have bettered and pushed up the mark, but have still fallen short of global benchmarks in these parameters. 

Take, for example, the XUV 500 I was being chauffeured in from Goa Airport to the hotel where I was due to test drive the smaller sibling (by nomenclature) the XUV 300. The former has an aggressive front design, big muscled, upright SUV stance and a decently kitted out interior. It also offers a quiet cabin and a fairly refined, though a shade over-soft, ride. The trouble, though, is the finish quality of the XUV 500’s cabin - panels don’t join precisely to form clean lines across the dashboard and the plastic quality is just above the mass-market segment. Similarly, the shut lines are tight for the exterior panels, but where metal meets plastic the finish is inconsistent. 

Mahindra has outsourced some of the refinement work in the past to outfits like Lotus, but now it has access to in-house expertise from SsangYong. In fact, it has had access to the Korean company’s vehicles themselves, even though as the previous generation Rexton proved, the SsangYong brand doesn’t quite enjoy much of a recall in India. After badging the Rexton, as the Alturas G4, Mahindra is now all set to bring the Tivoli to our shores bearing the XUV 300 badge. 

Design

It is tempting to dismiss the new sub-four-metre SUV as a clone of the Tivoli, but the fact is there has been considerable work done on the XUV 300. Walking up to the parking lot and meeting the XUV 300 for the first time, makes it seem like the most obvious job was to chop it to size. The Tivoli is about 4.2 metres in length and the mandate for the engineering team in Mahindra was to get it to under four metres. So, while the wheelbase remains the same, the XUV 300’s front and rear fenders are flatter, tighter members compared to the Tivoli. Some of the body side panels and the tail-gate also had to be significantly altered and designed to fit the reduced length of the body, and to reflect the Mahindra lineage, according to company officials. Of course, the more upright bonnet slab and the grille are entirely new and also are meant to deliver the brand’s evolving design language.

 

 

 

The black and chrome broken-line style grille and the unique rectangular headlamps that seem to drip down the sides leading into the fog lamps give the XUV 300 a very different front design. LED daytime running light tubes that frame the top of the headlamps run down the sides giving it a nice night time signature. The front fender features what looks like a huge airdam with horizontal chrome bands that enhance the perception of the XUV 300’s width. Compared to the Tivoli, the Mahindra SUV gets bigger, squared-off wheel arches with a dimple-style crease running above the black cladding to make it even more pronounced. The vehicle itself is sprung taller and gets bigger rims too, making it look more masculine compared to its Korean counterpart.

 

The angle from which the XUV 300 is the weakest is the side profile. Not that we aren’t already used to seeing abrupt rear-ends from Mahindra, but I felt that it could’ve been more proportionate for this one. But, the pressures of keeping it under four metres has meant that the tail-gate is less curved and shuts flush with a flatter rear fender with literally no overhang. But, with blacked out A, B and C pillars, and a contrast white roof with a rear spoiler, the floating roof effect is captured very well. The unnamed top-trim XUV 300 I was testing also sported a sunroof with the Ssangyong sticker still on one corner. It doesn’t look awkward when viewed straight-on from the rear, and the large, nearly oval tail-lamps which sit on the edge of the XUV 300’s haunches give it more character than the rather hatchback style rear of the Tivoli. LEDs signature brake lights and the dual tone rear fender add to the SUV flavour; as do the faux underbody protectors at the front and the rear. 

Cabin

For ‘Mahindra sceptics’, the most pleasant surprise awaits in the cabin. The perceived quality of the XUV 300’s cabin is way above any of the other Mahindra vehicles that we have seen in the past, except may be the Alturas G4. There are a lot of near direct lifts from the Tivoli in the XUV 300, like the steering wheel, the centre stack with its array of controls for the dual-zone climate control and seat-belt warnings and the infotainment screen. The rest of the dashboard and centre console are a mix of original and borrowed bits. Fit and finish is excellent and the quality of plastic used is good, though not good enough to avoid windscreen glare. Also the choice of dark grey and creamy white colour theme for the cabin (in the top-trim) doesn’t help when the sun is beating down.

 

 

 

The white leatherette seats, touch and feel quality of the control switches like the power windows and the overall dashboard layout make the XUV 300’s cabin feel like it is from a segment above. The leather-wrapped steering is great to hold and the controls mounted on are easy and intuitive to use. The 7-inch infotainment screen offers connectivity options like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

 

The XUV 300 also gets a lot of equipment that we generally don’t get in the sub-four-metre SUV segment - stuff like auto headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, heated and power folding door mirrors, height adjustable seat belts and a sunroof. Some safety features like ABS with EBD and corner braking control are standard fitment, which also means that disc brakes on all four wheels are standard. Some interesting combination of storage spaces for bottles and knick-knacks have been added. There is a lot of shoulder, head and leg room in the cabin for both front and rear bench occupants.

 

 

The boot space also seems lesser than the competition’s. Though, Mahindra officials didn’t confirm the exact rated volume, it looked to be sub-300litres. Trim variant strategy, as also a number of other elements in the spec data are also yet to be confirmed. My test mule wore the ‘W8’ badge indicating that it will be top-trim, with 7 airbags which too I think will be optional additions. 

Performance

The XUV 300 will be offered with one petrol and a diesel powertrain option. I was only offered the 1.5-litre Diesel engine with a 6-speed manual gearbox. At the drive, Mahindra officials evaded questions regarding the possibility of an automatic transmission. For now, at launch, the XUV 300 will have only manual trannies. The petrol engine is a 1.2-litre turbocharged unit that produces 110hp at 5,000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 2,000-3,500rpm. Featuring tech like variable valve timing and an exhaust manifold integrated with the cylinder head, make the petrol powertrain sound interesting, but unfortunately couldn’t be experienced.

 

The 1.5-litre diesel powertrain generates 115bhp at 3,750rpm and a segment-leading 300Nm of torque between 1,500 to 2,500rpm. There is some turbolag from the idling 800rpm to about 1,400rpm, once the turbo kicks in, the surge in power makes the XUV 300 feel quick and eager, though much of it is loaded in the mid-range. It doesn’t feel like a hulking, heavy SUV, but more like a nimble-footed large hatch. Creditable to note that the gearbox is also a clean shifting unit with fairly tall gears. I felt that the gear stick could have been a tad shorter to help with a better hold and shorter throw. The top-trim diesel powertrain variant I was driving also featured a start-stop micro-hybrid system and a few other features like hill-hold control, which I’m not sure would be offered in the lower trim variants. Overall, the diesel powertrain feels refined, linear in its power delivery and quick. No four-wheel drive option for the moment, though the Tivoli is offered with one in markets like the UK. Mileage numbers are yet to be confirmed, but I got over 12.5kmpl after a mix of aggressive highway and city driving in Goa.

Bottom Line

The XUV300’s ride quality is impressive for a Mahindra. After being used to over-soft setups (including the Alturas G4), it is gratifying to see that this one has a fairly firm suspension set up. There is still body roll and a pliant bias at the rear. But, the stiffer set up also helps in improving the handling without much of the usual rear stepping out problem that we’ve seen in the other Mahindra SUVs. Credit must also go to the steering set up which interestingly is being offered with three modes - Comfort, Normal and Sport. The electronic power steering actually stiffens up in Sport mode, even at slower speeds, making it feel more precise and even with a bit of centre weight. 

Overall, the XUV 300 is quite a surprise package bearing the Mahindra badge. If priced right within the Rs 8 lakh to Rs 12 lakh range, the XUV 300 has the potential to shake up the competition in the segment.

 

Published on February 06, 2019

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