Mahindra has made a name for itself in the local market thanks to a product line-up that comprises SUVs, large crossovers and bakkies, but now the Indian brand is targeting a young target market with a small crossover: the KUV100. Let's take a closer look.
The KUV100 falls into a segment that has become very popular in a short space of time, but could it prove a "game changer” for Mahindra and indeed the value-positioned compact crossover segment into which it has been introduced?
Aesthetically-speaking, the newcomer makes a good first impression. Mahindras aren't the most attractively styled vehicles in the market, but the KUV100 boasts a modern design with fewer, let's say "divisive", features than those of its siblings, especially the striking XUV500... This one seems to have received the good genes in the family, thank goodness.
The quality of the Mahindra's interior is of an adequate standard for an entry-level car, but swathes of hard plastic surfaces dominate the cabin. Ergonomics are good too – the driving position is high and upright, plus major controls and switchgear are within easy reach, even though the “pull and twist” handbrake lever feels decidedly old-school.
The Mahindra certainly looks every bit a crossover (a small family vehicle that's styled like an SUV), but its luggage capacity is relatively snug, even though the one-piece rear seatback can be folded forward for more utility space. As for everyday practicality, the light-coloured seat and door trims will require extra care to keep them free of soil- and scuff marks...
Does it have a personality?
The range comprises entry-level K4+, middle ground K6+ and top-of-the-range K8 derivatives and, unsurprisingly, Mahindra provided us with dolled-up K8 turbodiesel and petrol versions to drive on the evaluation route. A peak power output of 61 kW (for the petrol motor) does not sound like much, but considering that the vehicle only weighs around 1 100 kg, the engine produces just enough power for its driver to potter along at comfortable speeds in urban driving conditions and the gearbox's shift action is slick and reasonably direct.
What's more, from behind the wheel, the KUV100 feels planted and wieldy despite its low kerb weight. This was emphasised over a stretch of gravel road, a terrain that proved that the KUV100’s ground clearance of 170 mm does make a difference.
The 57 kW turbodiesel may be down on power, but offers more torque (190 Nm versus the 115 Nm in the petrol). This makes the former a much more enjoyable car to drive compared to the petrol, because of better overtaking ability. Another benefit of the turbodiesel is a claimed average fuel economy figure of 4.4 L/100 km compared to the petrol version's 5.9 L/100 km.
As a value proposition, the KUV100 comes decently packaged. ABS with EBD, traction control and dual airbags are standard throughout the range. The K6+ and K8 feature a Power Eco-Mode for efficiency and the K8 even has stop/start functionality. Entertainment features such as Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary inputs are all standard, which will be a boon to the KUV100's younger target audience.
The KUV100's biggest challenge is the extremely competitive market in South Africa, which is largely influenced by brand bias. Mahindra has targeted a youthful clientele, but the firm has never been positioned as a cool, fun and retro brand on local soil. South Africans think "brand" first and "price" second and even though the Mahindra KUV100 starts off at a very reasonable R149 995, there are other options from popular brands that have been playing in this space for longer. Having said that, the KUV100 is an honest car that offers a good level of standard features. Mahindra is a growing brand in South Africa... perhaps a car like this will help more people to warm up the Indian marque's passenger vehicle line-up.
Mahindra KUV100 prices in South Africa
1.2 K4+ Petrol R149 995
1.2 K6+ Petrol R169 995
1.2 K6+ Turbodiesel R187 995
1.2 K8 Petrol R179 995
1.2 K8 Turbodiesel R197 995
Pricing includes a 3-year/100 000 km warranty on all models, and a 3-year/50 000 km service plan on the K6+ and K8 derivatives (optional for K4+).