Mahindra KUV100 review, test drive
The KUV100 (pronounced ‘one double oh’) is the latest addition to SUV maker, Mahindra & Mahindra’s (M&M) burgeoning model line-up. M&M may market the KUV100 as a compact SUV but in reality think of the model as the Indian manufacturer’s first indigenously developed ‘car’. The KUV100’s 3.6 metre length, front-wheel-drive setup and monocoque construction broadly puts it in the same category as hatchbacks such as the Maruti Celerio, Maruti Swift, Hyundai Grand i10 and the Tata Bolt.
A rival to conventional hatchbacks it may be, but there’s nothing conventional about the way the KUV100 looks. Like the template-busting Renault Kwid that was launched last year, the KUV100 too relies on SUV-like cues to distinguish itself from the crowd. The final product gets your attention, though not necessarily for the right reasons. There’s a mishmash of styling elements, the proportions are awkward and there’s a general lack of cohesiveness to the design; the SUV-like front and the hatchback tail could very well belong to different cars.
View the KUV head on and it will certainly catch your eye. The front is similar to what we’ve seen on newer SsangYong concepts (remember Mahindra owns the Korean SUV maker), but there’s a hint of Range Rover Evoque to the pinched grille and the acutely swept back headlights which extend almost all the way to the A-pillar. There’s beefy cladding on the lower portion of the bumper and a scuff plate at the bottom to announce the KUV100’s SUV credentials.
However, it’s in the side profile that the KUV looks comically disproportionate. Also, there are too many design elements like the pronounced crease extending from the headlights to the front doors, and another one originating at the rear door that rises to the tail. The oversized wheel arches dwarf the 14-inch wheels which are small even by hatchback standards. Look closely and you’ll notice the rear door handles sit aft of the rear window (à la the Chevrolet Beat) rather than on the doors. But this is a case of form following function as we’ll soon find out. From the rear, the KUV gives the impression of being a tall hatchback with crossover detailing in its blackened bumper base. The protruding tail-lamps, again, look distinctive. Just wish the good folk at Pininfarina (recently acquired by Mahindra) could have been involved when the KUV was in its
design stages. What is it like to drive?
The KUV100 is also the launch vehicle for Mahindra’s new mFalcon line of petrol and diesel engines so there’s lots to talk about. Let's focus on the petrol engine first. Christened mFalcon G80, it’s an all-aluminium three-cylinder, 1.2-litre unit that uses variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust. The engine produces 81.8bhp at 5,500rpm and 11.7kgm from 3,500-3,600rpm which is on the higher side for this class of vehicle.
Driving the KUV around Mahindra’s test track at its Chakan plant, the initial feeling is that the petrol engine is good but not great. While the engine responds well to throttle inputs and driveability is fine, it offers little to excite. Power delivery is flat and the build up of revs isn’t particularly urgent either. It’s only post 4,500rpm or so that the engine gets a fresh wind and revs with more vigour. However, it’s unlikely KUV users will really stretch it so much. The engine also sounds thrummy when revved hard though overall refinement levels are quite good. The engine comes mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and we’re glad to report the location of the gearshift, placed on the centre console, falls nicely to hand the shift action has a short throw and is remarkably crisp. In fact, the gearbox is one of the best bits of the KUV100.The clutch is light too but could be smoother to engage.
Mahindra’s past experience with diesel engines seems to have helped when developing the new D75 diesel engine that comes across as the more rounded of the mFalcon motors. Like the petrol, the diesel engine is also a three-cylinder, 1.2-litre unit though this one uses a cast iron block and aluminium head. This turbocharged engine makes 76.4bhp at 3,750rpm and a strong 19.37kgm between 1,750-2,250rpm. Also worth highlighting is that the D75 motor offers two drive modes – Power which is the stock mode and Economy – and adjusts fuelling accordingly.
The D75 motor doesn’t feel very enthusiastic from the get-go but like most small-capacity diesel engines, comes into its own once the turbo has spooled up. Here, that happens at about 1,900rpm. Post that mark, you can feel the greater pulling power at your disposal, but there’s no spike in power delivery as such. The engine doesn’t rev all that quick either so in a sense, this engine is down on the excitement quotient too. But it does offer a linear and friendly build of power that many will like. Refinement levels are also good as small-capacity diesels go. Gearshifts are nice too but once again the clutch could do with a more progressive action.
Mahindra claims a fuel economy of 25.3kpl for the diesel KUV100 when driven in Eco mode. As you switch from Power to Eco, you can feel performance take a serious hit. Not only do responses get duller, the engine also doesn’t rev beyond 3,600rpm in the mode. As you’d have guessed, Eco is not the mode for anyone in a hurry. Source:Mahindra KUV100 Review | Cars First Drive | Budget SUVs | Autocar India