Mahindra and Mahindra, a very well reputed Indian Automotive Brand is synonymous to building Tough and Rugged SUVs at large. But with the growing demand for a well rounded and affordable hatchback in the Indian market or in terms of Mahindra, a well groomed Mini SUV, M&M has launched its all new and highly ambitious vehicle KUV-1OO. Keeping in with the trend of names, Mahindra has continued with the “OO” Double-Ooh strategy even this time. KUV in its testing phase was coded as the S-101. The aim of launching this KUV-1OO is to capture the attention of the young buyers at large. The tagline of KUV-1OO itself states it as a “Young SUV”. For the 1st time, Mahindra has entered the Compact Hatch segment and with an all new Petrol and Diesel Engine to boast of. The KUV-1OO has been developed on a all new monocoque platform. In India, there is a varied buyer base and it is a growing market with tremendous demand for a good and VFM vehicles. Mahindra too has grabbed the opportunity with both hands and has offered to us the KUV-1OO.
There are many plus and minus points of the KUV-1OO which shall be listed and elaborated in due course of the review but first thing first, Mahindra has come up with a Kreatively Unique Vehicle for sure. Being the 1st offering in the premium hatchback segment it will be interesting to see whether the KUV-1OO can make the cut or it faces a fierce competition with the veterans of the segment.
Personally for the 1st time when I saw the KUV-1OO, I was unable actually to label it as a Hatchback or Cross Hatchback or Compact SUV or what to call it? So finally I decided to refer it as a premium hatchback. Of the contenders in this segment, KUV-1OO is a unique offering in the first place. With a design boasting of multiple personalities in one, KUV-1OO is like one of those offering, which one may love or hate but can’t ignore.
Now lets see what this KUV-1OO baby SUV or Premium Hatch has to offer. Will it survive the cut throat competitions or is it just a mixture of many cars into one? Will it please me or will I be left asking for more? Will it drive me to the ultimate level of excitement? There were many more questions like these when I drove it today. So, Lets see, If I am able to get the answers!!
Mahindra, from the time it has included Pininfarina in its design department, the designs have become quite relating. For the first time we got to see the Pininfarina design language on the TUV-3OO and mind you, externally the TUV-3OO did look quite impressive. About the KUV-1OO, well, external looks are subjective and everyone has their own views about it. For me personally, the front end of the KUV-1OO is aggressive but not quite convincing. I mean, it is bit difficult to accept an amalgamation of an SUV Style in a Hatchback. The front end is relating to the compact SUV’s which we see on our roads but it looks a bit misleading. On the day of the launch when I had interacted with their executive, he termed the styling to be akin to an SUV but if this is being termed as an SUV or Mini SUV then what is Xylo? What should we call TUV, Scorpio?
The design language of the front did not honestly appeal to me as a person because it is utterly confusing. By adding the cladding all around, the hatchback can’t be termed as a Mini-SUV. However, keeping faith in Mahindra, If this is a mini-SUV then Etios Cross and Polo Cross should also be termed as Mini SUV. However, the front end would press you for accepting that yes M&M has capably designed a miniature SUV. However, front end does look really desperate to me but as we are in the Indian market, the thought process at large will certainly be influenced by the masculine character of the front looks. Quirky probably is the best word to describe the front profile of the KUV-1OO. I had a detailed look at the KUV-1OO during its unveiling and honestly whether on the roads or inside the showroom, the design certainly did not grow on me. For me as person, the car design should be such that it can relate to the segment it is going to cater. KUV-1OO’s design has confused me as to which segment actually is it aiming for and for this question, I do not go by what Mahindra is quoting i.e Mini SUV or Young SUV.
Coming to the side profile: The car looks too small. I mean even if we take into account the hatchbacks in present, the KUV-1OO is apparently shorter. It seems while designing it was virtually squeezed from front and back. The side profile has tall boyish look which is apparent in designs of Wagon R and RITZ. Mahindra has not been able to utilize this design language to the max and the only thing that is a saving grace in this entire design is the height of the vehicle which is quite decent enough. In general, the hatchbacks are shorter versions of sedans with similar seating but KUV-1OO did not have any predecessor or lineage of being crafted from a sedan. So, the design of the side profile is in all good faith, just average. On close observation, the side profile has some more flaws i.e the front and rear wheel arcs are not same in design and the door cladding is not symmetrically finished. I mean, take a look on the design of Kwid for example, the side profile of the KWID looks better finished than the KUV-1OO and is more symmetrical even though KWID also shows SUV-ish design language.
Coming to the Rear Profile, Finally, a sigh of relief! The rear profile is the only external criteria which one can say is neatly and thoughtfully designed. The rear profile has been designed more like a hatchback and has well rounded appeal. The rare profile shall instill your faith that yes KUV-1OO is indeed a hatchback. The rare profile is neat with clean lines and subtle cues.
Summarizing my views on the external designs of the KUV-1OO, Even if it is a sub-4 meter hatchback, still Mahindra could have come out with a more acceptable design. However, In India, any design shall sell till the time it consumes least amount of fuel.
The Front SUV themed bumper with slanted rectangular vents in the air dam and the cladding provide KUV-1OO the musculine character up-front. The front bumper has an integrated skid plate in Grey color for added rugged styling along with the underbody flap for avoiding stones, pebbles and drag.
The front grill in the KUV-1OO (K8) comes with chrome inserts. It is a welcome change from the staple Walrus tooth grills which Mahindra provided in the Scorpio or the Cheetah Whiskers of the XUV-5OO. The grill looks slim and apt and at the same time gives a aggressive look to the front design. The grill is not body colored and it comes as Chrome on Black plastic.
The ribbed roof gives a neat and decent look in the first glance and further adds oomph to Mahindra's love of calling KUV-1OO as a mini SUV. The roof rails are integrated in the roof and highlight the body language and the tall-boy looks of the KUV-1OO
The ribbed ORVM of the KUV-1OO adds to the SUV-ish profile and certainly looks attractive. Missing out on the integrated side marker though is a different story. The ribbed look of ORVMs shall make you feel that they are strong enough to deal with an impact.
The rear bumper cladding provides the KUV-1OO the much needed tough look and houses the rear fog lamp units and the number plate. The exhaust also is neatly tucked under the bumper. For me, the main advantage of this 2-tone rear bumper is that, the Black portion shall provide some protection to the paint if the car is bumped or nudged from behind.
The rear Windscreen is tad smaller and the visibility with 3 pax in rear would be an issue. Talking of the spoiler, the integrated rear spoiler adds a sporty feel to KUV-1OO.
The rear door handle shall remind you of Chevy Beat. It is quite similar to that and it is also a small attempt probably by Mahindra to project KUV-1OO as a stylish 3 door car.
The rear profile of the KUV-1OO does stand out from the overall design of the car and it is beautiful and likable sight for the eyes but personally I won't say the same for the other quarters of this car.
From the External looks, the interiors are a different ball game all together. The interiors of the KUV-1OO are much better finished and designed. The cabin looks spacious from inside and this feature makes the KUV-1OO score over many of the present line-up of hatchbacks. The dashboard is quite unique in design and the gear lever too is positioned in a unique way. Those who are accustomed to the conventional placement of the dashboard controls will be slightly disappointed with the KUV. Mahindra has neatly combined the Piano Black and Beige toned upholstery. The dashboard has a textured finish and the matte finished door latches add to the opulence of the cabin of KUV-1OO
The Center Console of KUV-1OO
The center console in the K8 model of KUV has silver accents along with the Black base and a KUV badge. The AC controls are not conventionally placed in horizontal manner rather they are placed in vertical manner which at times might confuse the users. The AC knobs come with the chrome surrounds. Apart from the knobs, the heater, circulation and defogger switches are placed in vertical manner as well. Moving on, the center console further houses a small 3.5-inch display that displays Radio, Songs, Phone info et al. The volume can be controlled by a small knob provided next to the screen. After the screen, there is a USB port integrated in the center console to enable you listen to your pen-drive music as well. Then there is a small mic provision too and also the console is equipped with the Blue Sense App feature. The biggest talking point ever since the launch of KUV has been the Gear Lever or the Joy-stick shape gear lever. This has been placed quite unconventionally and is integrated in the center console. As much as it looked bit funny, the performance of the same was flawless. However, once the front armrest was upright, the ergonomic flaw became quite apparent. One more thing, the length of the gear lever is not more than 2 fingers.
The Instrument Cluster
The IC Unit is neatly designed without anything being over-done. The IC unit consists of 2 dials neatly spaced out i.e RPM and Speedometer dials. In between both the dials is the MID unit which displays multiple info including the fuel and temperature details. The MID also has an integrated gear shift indicator as well and the readability is very decent.
Continuing with the interiors, the KUV-1OO comes with 2 seating options, i.e 2+3 and 3+3. So far we have largely seen a 5 seater or a 7 seater. The 6 seater concept was used in early 90's in the Ambassador and Fiats. Re-living the 6 seater concept in the modern avatar was interesting. Today I sat in both 5 seater and 6 seater. Petrol one was 5 seater and Diesel one was a 6 Seater. Talking of the front seats, the driver seat of my TD car was height adjustable so it gave a good driving position however the legroom was bit compromised for a tall person. We were 2 people today so in the 6 seater, I can say, If I sit then along with a front passenger, only a kid may sit because my built is bit on heavier side and I need proper space. The under thigh support was decent both on driver's seat and passenger's seat. The Fabric used in the seats is easy to maintain and the stains won't appear pronounced. However, if the front armrest is in use, then only 2 passengers can sit as the front armrest is quite big and wide with cup holders.
Coming to the rear seats, the seats were comfortable as well with good under thigh support. I made the Mr. Tapesh sit at the back to check the knee room and it was good enough for a medium built person. When I myself sat, there was nothing really to complain about in terms of legroom and shoulder room. The headroom was also good enough for 6Ft person like me. But if the rear armrest is opened, then 3 person can't be seated in the rear. The length of the rear armrest is not too long and it does not look protruding in a bad way. The rear armrest also houses holders for the ease of passengers. Moving on, for extending the boot space, as usual, the KUV-1OO has folding rear seats without 60:40 option.
Engine and Transmission Performance of the KUV-1OO G80 and D75
Mahindra has powered it’s Mini-SUV the KUV100 with two all-new engines denoted as the M-Falcon series. The two engines of the KUV are 1.2 L D75 Diesel and 1.2 L G80 Petrol. The badging of the engines has been done on the front left side of the car as stated earlier. Both the new engines are BS4 compliant and mated to 5 speed Manual Box. No AMT/AT has been provided at present.
The Diesel D-75 version of the KUV1OO gets power from the newly developed 1.2-litre, turbo-charged engine that has a cast iron block and aluminum head. The D-75 engine is capable of churning out 77 bhp at 3,750rpm and a power-packed 190 Nm torque in the range of 1,750-2,250rpm.
As this review includes the drive of both petrol and diesel KUV so first I’ll speak of the Diesel unit i.e D75. To me the diesel unit felt quite peppy and refined and the idle NVH was well tuned as well. The low end torque is indeed quite impressive in the D75 unit as it pulled effortlessly from 0-60 in 3rd gear. There was no distortion in the NVH as well. It is a impressive performer for me and with the turbo kicking in around 1800 mark, It was a pocket rocket of sorts indeed. I would say, this particular diesel engine is quite apt for CITY commute surely. Talking about the driving abilities on empty roads, since it was morning time with chill in the air and fog, the traffic was low so I could manage a speed of 80 Km/h in 4th gear with the Rpm being around 3K Mark. However, once I tried the 5 gear with Rpm around 4200 mark just to note the NVH, I felt a slight sluggish behavior in the D75 mill.
The new D75 mill comes with two drive modes i.e Power and Economy. I drove in both and mind you, the ECO mode as usual is FE oriented so it curbs the power and acceleration and it becomes a lack-luster affair. The FE for the record is 25.32 km/L but in real traffic conditions one can expect 17-18 km/L. The clutch of the diesel KUV to me appeared pretty light however I had to keep on adjusting to it.
About the Transmission, the KUV gets 5 speed Manual Box which is a smooth performer however, the length of the gear lever as well as the ergonomic placement could have been better.
Moving on the G80 mFalcon Petrol unit, the petrol engine of the KUV is all-new too with 1.2 L Capacity and is capable of producing a decent 82 bhp power at 5,500rpm and 115 Nm torque at 3,500-3,600rpm with all 3 cylinders firing in full force. However, comparatively, the petrol G80 did not perform as nicely as the D75 did. D75 is certainly far peppier than the G80 unit in KUV. Having driven both the cars back to back, I can certainly come to this inference. In the City roads, the petrol performed just as average unit and the acceleration had to be provided quite often. This engine in my view needs lot of re-work. Though I never drive at high speeds but beyond 80 km/l some effort has to be made to keep it firing in a decent way as the sluggishness becomes apparent. But in terms of NVH and smoothness, I really can’t complain about the G80 Petrol KUV. About the FE of the G80 if I may speak, then, Mahindra claims an FE of 18.15 km/L but in real world one can expect 12-13 km/L
To sum up my views on the D75 & G80, I would say, Diesel stands above Petrol. We were just 2 people in the G80 and it drove with much effort whereas D75 was certainly much effortless to drive. Considering it’s size as a car and the engine capacity, I can bet that the petrol one will get exhausted sooner if the car occupied with 5-6 pax. Apart from that, the overall refinement levels are decent thanks to the under hood cladding and proper insulation provided at strategic points in the KUV which don’t let the external noise filter inside the cabin.
Mahindra KUV has the conventional McPheron setup for the front and the semi-independent twist beam setup for the rear. So, speaking on the ride manners of this baby SUV from Mahindra, I would say, the ride is pleasant and the suspension is fine enough but if you brake, then you’ll feel the body roll and bumps. In normal driving it won’t disappoint you but it is not as well groomed as it should be for high speed breaking. And for me, the high speed is 80-90 km/h and in that range too I could feel the abrupt behavior of the KUV. Also, at 60-70 km/h if you cross a breaker, It will not be smooth as I could feel the same as well. Well those who have experience of driving in triple digits please be cautious of this when you drive the KUV.
Moving on the steering, it is a power steering needless to say but has disappointed me. The response was indeed really bad. I mean at 80-90 km/h I was shocked at the lightness of it. I mean what are we going to get in 7.5 Lacs? If this is what we’ll be offered then better stay away. If someone takes it on a highway, please carry a god’s pic in your pocket along!!
About the brakes, Front has discs and rare has drums. KUV-1OO as stated is a average performer in terms of hard braking but the ABS pretty much makes up for the same. In terms of halting from high speeds, I would say atleast in my drive, I did not have any complains about the brakes as they responded quite well and accurately. At least in double digits speed the performance of brakes was much satisfying.
Tyres: My test car had MRF tyre(s) with alloys, the spec used in KUV 1OO is 185/65/R14. With the looks of the car, the wheels do not really complement it and look every bit smaller. The grip of the tyres was decent and the road noise was not much. Still, I would say, a 15” wheel would have been an apt choice.
The headlamp assembly is extended up to the front fender on both sides and houses the side indicator as well. The headlamps of the KUV are having Halogen Bulb and DRL* (Variant Specific) that help in improving visibility in night and over-cast weather like today. The beam throw of the halogen set up is decent enough as I have tested it today.
Coming to the tail lamps, they are clear lenses dual barrel lamps and add a sporty look to the rare profile of the car. Moving to the rear fog lamps, a much needed feature for added visibility. It also has a reflective stripe included. Talking of the fog-lamps* (Variant Specific), KUV gets halogen setup clear lenses fog lamps with chrome surrounds. About the internal cabin light if I may say, KUV K8 gets LED cabin light which is White in color and it illuminates the cabin much brighter than a normal yellow bulb.
Front and Rear Wipers: The K8 model of KUV comes with the rear wipe and wash feature. I am not at all impressed with the quality of wipers in the KUV neither I like the fact that Mahindra has provided just one washer in the center of the hood in front.
Here are some more shots of the interiors of KUV-1OO covering features like; ORVM viewing space, viewing space of door glass, Plastic Quality on Wiper and Indicator levers, usage of chrome bits on center console, the AC controls, the storage spaces, rear visibility and small but significant features like the AC Vents, Driver Seat height adjustment, Piano black finish and textured Dashboard, dashboard vents and tweeter setup, the roof mounted inner grips and the cooled glove box in K8.