First Drive: 2017 Mahindra TUV300

First Drive: 2017 Mahindra TUV300
 

Mahindra SA has expanded its local offering with the introduction of the TUV300, aimed at the compact crossover market dominated by the likes of the Ford Ecosport. It now slots in above the KUV100 and the new Scorpio SUV, which were launched last year.

Mahindra SA CEO Sanjoy Gupta says there is evident growth in the C and D segments of the SUV market, a space in which the TUV300 will play, although it is priced more in the realm of the B-segment players. Value for money is certainly something the company has been determined to offer since its inception here in 2004.

From a styling perspective, the model seems to have borrowed some cues from a 1990s Jeep Grand Cherokee, particularly at the front — although, according to a company spokesperson, the overall design was inspired by the solidity and tough architecture of a battle tank.

TUV300

Although it still has some hard plastics, the TUV300’s interior is the company’s best yet with perceived quality a marked improvement. Panel gaps in particular have been given due attention and the layout is pretty good, with everything easily accessible.

The TUV has up to seven seats, the rearmost being of the side-facing, folding variety that are really meant for small children rather than adults. The boot space measures 394l expandable to 720l).

Motivation comes in the form of a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder turbodiesel engine putting out 73kW at 3,750r/min and 240Nm at 1600rpm coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox. It may not be the most refined unit, but it feels robust and got the job done during our launch drive.

You do have to keep the engine in the sweet, yet narrow, spot between 1600rpm and 2800rpm, which requires rowing of the transmission.

Performance is anything but zippy, but it manages to get up to the national speed limit, although overtaking needs to be a calculated manoeuvre.

Claimed fuel consumption is pegged at 5.4l/100km and I believe this will be one of the model’s best fortés.

Thanks to the body-on-frame architecture, the overall ride quality is steady if somewhat bouncy over undulations, but it never felt flimsy or overly top-heavy.

On gravel roads, though, the vehicle shines as it soaks up everything in its stride. Another positive note is that it has a fairly quiet cabin and no sign of rattles and squeaks. Once again, I feel overall refinement was given considerable attention.

TUV300

Standard items include air conditioning, electric windows, a multifunction steering wheel, audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, rear park assist, engine stop/start and an onboard computer. It also comes with 15-inch alloy wheels including a full-sized spare wheel mounted on the boot door.

Safety items include dual airbags, ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, front and rear crumple zones, side intrusion beams and a collapsible steering wheel, all of which are the basic essentials.

Of course, the model does play in a rather hotly contested segment in which South African buyers usually migrate towards more established brands, but the TUV300 is anything but a bad proposition in the grand scheme of things.

It will, however, have to prove its mettle and the company would do well to expand the range with an automatic option and a petrol derivative for those who might still be averse to diesel models.

However, in my experience the company seems more au fait with building diesel engines than petrol, but diversity is key in this segment.

Priced at R229 995, which includes a three-year/90 000km service plan and a three-year/100,000km warranty, the model is good value. Although it faces strong opposition, the TUV300 is easily one of the company’s better accomplished products with considerably improved quality and refinement, but it will have to prove itself among the more established offerings. – Lerato Matebese