Authenticity of the TUV300 is what will attract consumers and make them love the product, said Anand Mahindra at the vehicle's launch in the company's Chakan plant. Highlighting the TUV300 as a proper SUV and not a poser, the company launched the vehicle at a starting price of Rs 6.9 lakh. We got a chance to drive the car briefly at the company's test track and here's what we think of Mahindra's foray into the compact SUV segment.
The TUV300 quite frankly came across as a polarising design when we saw it on paper. In the flesh though, it looks a lot better though. The design isn't beautiful but going by the company's positioning of the product it was never designed to be pretty and sophisticated anyway. The TUV300 is based on an all-new platform and isn't based on the Quanto platform as was the buzzword. The pronounced grille with five vertical chrome-surrounded slats and aggressively designed bumpers gives the TUV300 an imposing look at the front.
There isn't anything dramatic about the side and it looks like a typical Mahindra vehicle, something that is perfectly fine. The rear benefits from the door-mounted spare wheel with a smart-looking cover. This cover also adds to the visual length of the vehicle making it feel larger than most compact SUVs.
On the inside, the TUV300 is a surprising departure from the typical Mahindra cockpits we're used to seeing. The centre console with its black perforated background and chrome & metal accents looks premium and looks well-built too. The dual-tone black & beige combination works well at breaking the monotony of single shade and material, giving the cabin an airy feel. Bits such as door levers, handles and some lower dashboard areas still leave room for material improvement.
Space, despite the confinement of 4,000 mm length, is impressive and Mahindra engineers have done a great job at extracting maximum space. Front seats are adequate in offering all-round support and even with a 172 cm tall person driving with the front seat rolled back to his convenience, there was enough space for a person of similar height to sit comfortably. Head room and shoulder room is excellent and a wider seat than its competition means that three people can sit in acceptable comfort in the second-row. Last row comprises of two jump seats, both of which are there to give the vehicle an official tag of seven-seater and at best can only serve as emergency-purpose seats for kids.
Equipment level is also impressive the infotainment system is a 2-DIN unit with Bluetooth, USB, AUX connectivity and steering-wheel mounted controls. Overall, the interior left us impressed and we're convinced that this is the best-looking cabin we've seen in any Mahindra vehicle yet.
Engine & Gearbox
The TUV is powered by a mHawk80 1.5 l diesel engine with two-stage turbocharger, developing a modest 84 hp and 230 Nm of torque. While the numbers seem adequate for a compact SUV, the TUV300 is left struggling to gather momentum once past about 3,500 rpm. In order to get it moving, like one would want on a highway while overtaking, you would need to push the vehicle, which sends in a fair amount of sound into the cabin. NVH at low-speed is fine but at high-rpm the NVH is obtrusive and demands some improvement. The key problem to the performance aspect is actually not the engine but the heavy gross-weight of 2,225 kg. We feel at least 100 hp is essential for the TUV300 to make it a decent performer in terms of acceleration and speed. Fuel-efficiency stands at 18.49 km/l as per ARAI-certification, which is impressive but we'll be able to tell the real-world figures once we carry out a detailed road-test.
The good thing about this engine is its drivability, which is actually excellent. The two-stage turbocharging eliminates almost all of the perceivable lag and one doesn't need to fiddle around with the gears much with changing speeds. The gearbox itself offers decent shift quality and feel but is a notch below some of its competitors. There's an indigenously developed AMT (automated manual transmission) on offer as well but we didn't get a chance to drive it at the launch day.
Handling & Ride Quality
The TUV300 amid a crowd of monocoque-chassis based compact SUVs is based on the conventional ladder-frame chassis. Benefits of this include higher strength, better ability to handle bad roads and of course the ability to keep cost low. Suspension setup includes a double wishbone front suspension and rigid-axle multi-link unit at the back. Mahindra calls it 'Cushion Suspension Technology' but due to the confines of a smooth track, we weren't able to put this claim to test. On the track though the ride quality felt supple and should be able to handle bad roads well. Straight-line stability is impressive and at the end of the straight too, the handling was acceptable.
Naturally, the ladder-frame chassis and a soft-suspension setup are fundamental foes of vehicle handling. The TUV300 though does a good job of minimising their perceivable scale. The TUV300 holds its line well with some body-roll but not enough to be termed harrowing. The steering is quite good and offers decent feedback but the brake-pedal feel unfortunately is a polar opposite. The brakes provide good anchorage but not even a hint of feedback from the pedal. A change of brake pads could improve this but given the positioning of the vehicle, we do not expect consumers to start tinkering with their vehicle just out of the showroom.
The TUV300 may not be a supremely impressive effort by Mahindra at entering the compact SUV segment but it surely is an intelligent one. The TUV300 is a mix of some great hits but isn't free of noticeable grey areas. Where Mahindra has shown wisdom is in the fact that they've masked the gravity of the grey areas by some towering positives. These include a more rugged structure resulting in better performance on off-road, option of choosing an AMT for convenience, significantly more space than competition, good equipment level and impressive safety in form of airbags and ABS being standard. The last quality actually calls in for a cheer to Mahindra since it is offering safety as standard equipment and not optional just to meet the archaic safety norms of our country and bringing the sticker price lower.
The engine and brakes are the areas where we feel Mahindra has room for improvement. Dr Pawan Goenka said at the launch that Mahindra is a consumer-listening company so we're hoping the shortcomings will be improved soon.
The final piece in the puzzle is the price and Mahindra has done a brilliant job with it. At a starting price of Rs 6.9 lakh, ex-showroom, Pune, the TUV300 undercuts its key competitors by a huge margin. The shortcomings of the TUV300 might not make it a hot favourite in large urban markets but its strengths could play a great role in semi-urban markets. In such areas, the brand recall for Mahindra is strong and such places will play a large role in determining the success of the TUV300. We'll bring a more detailed review of the TUV300 once we drive the vehicle in real-world conditions.
Text: Arpit Mahendra