Flagship Mahindra a serious contender

Mahindra has come a long way in South Africa. Remember those rugged Jeep-based contraptions they first launched? Thought you didn’t!

Anyway, the brand has since become quite trusted in SA thanks to a reputation built on selling inexpensive, rugged and basic workhorses. All you need do is travel into the country to appreciate that one – there are dime a dozen labouring hard on farms – and farmers don’t just buy bakkies – the machines need a reputation; credibility, so there must be something in how many Mahindras find themselves on the farms…

But Mahindra is also moving rapidly forward as a car brand (it’s a monster multinational conglomerate with fingers in as many pies as you can imagine) and its products now cover a broader base than just batter proof farm bakkies and in recent years there has been a trickle of new Mahindras teasing buyers in a growing number of motoring niches with ever more compelling and sophisticated product that also still crosses those typical company boxes of rugged, reliable and surprisingly inexpensive motoring.

Not least among those, the again recently uprated Mahindra 2.2CRDe XUV500 has the same excellent engine as its pioneering predecessor, but it is now even more refined in the looks department and it’s under the bonnet where its biggest advantage sits. Powered by the quite energetic 2.2-litre four-cylinder mHawk 140 turbodiesel packed with a variable geometry turbocharger to deliver 103kW at 3750rpm and an impressive 330Nm at just 1600rpm and sustained all the way to 2800rpm, XUV benefits positive throttle responses, great in-gear tractability and good lugging power.

On the road it cruises smoothly even turning heads with its latest upgrades that should lead to more new-look high value XUV500’s on the road – the latter no doubt also a result of its ridiculously low list price, while road feel and response are impressive thanks to via the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering.  

Energetic cornering is a pleasure too, a result of the all-independent front MacPherson strut suspension combined with a multilink rear set-up - the latter tuned by sports car maker Lotus for optimum results.  The latest changes to suspension damping turned the XUV into a more than competitive rival and well proven on gravel roads with challenging surfaces.

Of course, there are compromises when a car costs half of what some similarly targeted rivals to – fit and finish is noticeably down on those cars, it’s a bit too plasticky in there and I am not sure if all those trinkets will last in a tough environment. But the offset is nowhere near what you’d expect at the price difference – especially in this fully-stacked W10 version. These latest updates, improvements, styling enhancements and cabin upgrades certainly add even a little more lustre and appeal to the XUV500 brand.

XUV’s main attraction remains without doubt its bargain selling price – it is after all a full-sized diesel SUV for half the price you’d expect.  It’s also big, well built with oodles of room and carlike handling making Mahindra’s 2.2CRDe XUV500 a pretty decent effort and a fair alternative to a middle of the road new double cab bakkie and that has to be a win… - Michele Lupini

Images – Marcella Lupini

ROAD TEST:    Mahindra XUV500 2.2CRDe W10
Engine:          103kW 375Nm 2196cc turbo petrol I4
Drive: 6-speed automatic FWD
0-60km/h: 4.93 sec
0-100km/h: 11.48 sec   
0-160km/h: 30.33 sec
400m: 19.1 sec @ 124km/h
80-120km/h:          8.74 sec       
120-160km/h: 16.66 sec
VMax: 180km/h 
Fuel: 7.4 l/100km
CO2: 196g/km
Warranty/Service 3y 100Kkm/5 service 90Kkm
RATED:                    77%