Mahindra KUV100 Test Drive Review
2016 Mahindra KUV100 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Mahindra KUV100 Review

Car Tested: Mahindra KUV100; Road Test No. 649

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 5.24 – 8.21 lakhs

The Mahindra KUV100 offers a lot of features and a youthful appeal at a very good price

Mahindra really loves experimenting and the automaker has constantly strived to launch products in new categories unlike certain other companies who always play it safe. The Indian automaker, largely known for its SUVs has come up with an all-new product which they claim to be a young SUV. Whether it is really a compact SUV or not, we’ll see it later in the review. We went to Mahindra’s plant in Chakan to check out the KUV100 and have been driving it since the launch to judge the new entry-level car from the Indian automaker.

Motor Quest: Mahindra has been selling SUVs in India since a very long time and almost all of these SUVs have been hits in the market. The company, however, hasn’t had a good innings when it comes to regular cars, case in point being the Verito and Verito Vibe. The KUV100 has been under test for a long time and was referred to as the S101.

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The front looks smart while the side profile is a bit quirky

Exteriors – The Mahindra KUV100 has a very smart fascia and it looks handsome without doubt. The front of the vehicle has a very aggressive stance and it creates a lasting impression with ease. The headlights are sleek and sharp, they get daytime running lights and do remind us of the Range Rover Evoque somehow, they get heavy detailing with the badging on the side. The side profile is the big design eyesore with heavy creases and the short length of the car is easily noticeable here. In fact, the KUV’s length is so less that Mahindra did not mention the length of the car even once in its 1 hour plus launch presentation (the height and width were highlighted repeatedly though). The rear is somewhat similar to other hatchbacks and there is nothing that is too extraordinary here. The rear door handle is integrated in the C-pillar just like the Chevrolet Beat. The B and C pillars are quite thick too.

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The rear has a very neutral design which aims to offend none

The KUV looks ridiculous from certain angles, there is no design symphony

The quality of the paint is also decent but not excellent. The 14-inch wheels look puny on something that is called an SUV. As much as Mahindra loves to call the KUV100 an SUV, albeit a young one, we really disagree with the automaker here because the vehicle is nothing but a tall hatchback. It does have an SUV-ish stance due to the height as well as the bulged wheel arches but otherwise it is just a regular hatchback. The KUV100 is offered with a choice of 7 colours and it does manage to look youthful from certain angles but when you view the car at one glance, you realise there is absolutely no design symphony with the front and rear seemingly belonging to two different cars.

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The dashboard has a neat layout with controls falling in easy reach

Interiors – Moving to the interiors, the Mahindra KUV100 has a smart looking cabin with nice use of colours and nothing seems overdone on the dashboard which uses beige and piano black to good effect. The fit and finish is also excellent by Mahindra standards and there is not much to complain here. The instrument cluster is simple to read and offers basic information such as gear indicator, trip meter and odometer. There is a distance-to-empty feature available too but it is difficult to find unlike other hatchbacks as it’s in the infotainment system. The steering comes with audio and phone controls and a regular audio system with Bluetooth, USB, AUX-IN connectivity and Blue Sense app compatibility is also offered, audio quality being average with the small screen being out of place in this touch-screen dominated world. The button to turn on and off the audio system is difficult to use as it also offers four other functions, thereby requiring a careful press. Mahindra also offers mood lighting on the top variants of the hatchback and puddle lights on all the 4 doors which do help at night.

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At the front, three people can sit due to the seating

Fit and finish is good but space is quite lacking with the rear seat lacking room

The steering wheel feels nice to hold and the front seats offer good levels of comfort. A height adjustment feature is also offered. The travel range of the seats is pretty good. The KUV100 is offered with a 5-seater as well as a 6-seater layout. The 5-seater model comes with adjustable headrests at the front while the 6-seater gets fixed headrests. The rear seats on both the models get three adjustable headrests which is a good thing. On the 6-seater model, it is possible to fold away the front middle seat and use it as a large armrest which is the best use of the extra seat as safety of a third person at the front is questionable with the lap seatbelt (on the 5-seater model, there are a ton of cubbyholes in the centre). The rear seat also comes with an armrest with two cupholders. Even at the front, the number of cubbyholes and storage bins is pretty good (sunglass holder, toll receipt holder below the right AC vent and a lot more). There is a storage bin on the rear floor (in the middle) while the co-passenger seat (only on the 6-seater version) opens up for storage, it has a tray in it too. The gear lever is mounted on the dashboard while the vehicle gets a pull-type handbrake, similar to the Datsun GO. The AC (the controls are vertically stacked) is an absolute chiller and Mahindra has provided two power outlets, one at the front and one in the boot which is also accessible from the rear seat.

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The rear seat feels claustrophobic, legroom is at a premium

Outward visibility from the driver’s seat is good while viewing ahead, while sidewards visibility isn’t the best due to the thick B-pillar. Even the small rear windshield and thick C-pillars cause a bit of a visibility concern at the rear. The rear seats have good kneeroom (thanks to the scooped out rear seatback which also get magazine pockets) but average legroom (the floor might be flat but at the bottom of the front seats, there is a raised floor area) which is much lesser than the Hyundai Grand i10 and even lesser than the Maruti Swift, its two chief rivals. The black cladding which houses the outside rear door knob makes things claustrophobic at the rear which is amplified on the 6-seater model as forward visibility is further reduced by the extra front seat. The headroom isn’t adequate for tall passengers and space for the shoulders is just about decent. The seat belts aren’t height adjustable and are placed low, causing another issue for tall occupants. The boot of the KUV100 is decent but will hardly fit in a weekend’s luggage for 2-3 people (the rear seats fold flat though). The ORVMs are also very small and offer a limited view of what’s behind.

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The petrol motor has to be revved but acceleration isn’t quick

Performance – The Mahindra KUV100 comes with the newly-developed mFalcon range of engines. The petrol engine is a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder G80 unit churning out 82 HP of power at 5500 RPM and 114 Nm of torque from 3500-3600 RPM. The motor is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission and it reaches 100 km/hr in third gear. The engine needs to be revved but does go freely to its 6000 RPM redline. After 4500 RPM, it has a tendency to get vocal though. The mid-range isn’t satisfactory and in-gear acceleration isn’t much to talk about either, one needing to downshift to get going. On the whole, it is a refined engine and the KUV100 cruises at 100 km/hr in 5th gear at 3200 RPM. While the vehicle is standing still, the engine doesn’t rev above 4000 RPM. The car maxes out at 150 km/hr when the speed warning buzzes, a feature also present on the XUV500.

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The diesel has linear performance, ECO mode makes the car slower

The hybrid tech is nifty while the ECO mode robs off the power for efficiency

The diesel engine is also a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder D75 unit belting out 77 HP of power at 3750 RPM and 190 Nm of torque between 1750-2250 RPM. The oil-burner also gets a 5-speed manual transmission. The D75 unit does 100 km/hr in 4th gear and power is delivered in a very linear manner. It redlines at 4750 RPM and touches 100 km/hr in 5th gear at 2750 RPM. The turbo lag is very well-contained and this motor feels much better to drive than the petrol unit which feels underpowered on the highway. Still, one needs to keep the throttle floored to get the vehicle going quick. Vibrations are felt on the console but not much on the pedals in the diesel model while on the petrol, there is some harshness felt at multiple places when nearing the redline.

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The KUV100 gets MicroHybrid tech and an ECO mode

There is also a lot of wind noise creeping inside the car post 100 km/hr, coming from near the A-pillar. The 5-speed gearbox is very smooth and the clutch is also extremely light on both the petrol and diesel models, thus allowing the driver to have a stress-free driving experience. The claimed fuel efficiency for the petrol engine is 18.15 km/l while the diesel engine extracts 25.32 km/l. Mahindra will offer an AMT unit with the KUV100 later this year. There is a MicroHybrid technology on offer just like the Scorpio and XUV500 while Mahindra also offers Power and ECO modes on the diesel, which boosts fuel efficiency by restricting fuel supply and thereby keeping max RPM to around 3500 RPM. The default mode is Power and it is best to drive the KUV in that mode as the 3-pot oil burner needs to be worked to get going quickly. Both the petrol and diesel engines are average at best, they are very refined for three-cylinder motors but lack excitement and aren’t urgent either.

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Handling isn’t fun, there is lots of body roll

Driving Dynamics – The Mahindra KUV100 comes with a very light steering which makes it easy to drive this vehicle in city limits but on the highways, the KUV100 just doesn’t feel stable because the steering fails to weigh up properly. There is also a lot of body roll due to the height of the vehicle and high-speed cornering is something you wouldn’t want to do on a KUV100. The 14-inch MRF ZVTS tyres offer ordinary levels of grip and the steering and wheel feel disconnected when you up the pace around a pair of twisties.

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Ride quality is good but with a tendency to bounce at the rear

The car has lots of body roll, ride is bouncy too while steering has little feel

The ride is good on smooth tarmac surfaces but tends to get bouncy on patchy road types, more so at the rear, which seems like a common Mahindra trait, seen on the Scorpio as well as the flagship XUV. The vehicle gets disc brakes up front while the rear gets drum brakes. The brakes have a good bite and they do a very good job of stopping the vehicle in time but stand hard on the pedal and there is some twitching. The hazard lights start blinking on heavy braking to alert other cars around. Even though Mahindra calls the KUV an SUV, its ground clearance is just 170 mm which is as much as other hatchbacks.

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ABS standard across the range, dual airbags also offered

Safety and After Sales Service – Mahindra is offering ABS as standard across every variant of the KUV100 while dual front airbags are also offered as optional on every variant except the top K8 variant where they are standard. The hatchback also comes with a 2-year, 1 lakh kms standard warranty which can be optionally extended to 5 years. Mahindra has a good after-sales network across the country while the service quality levels are neutral. While some dealers offer exceptional levels of service, there are some where the quality of work done is below par too.

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The Mahindra KUV100’s attractive price will make it sell well

Verdict – Mahindra has a good product on their hands with the KUV100, when one considers the attractive price. It offers a lot and the looks are sure to attract eye-balls but only in tier-2 and tier-3 markets. But, the vehicle competes with some really established rivals like the Maruti Swift and Hyundai Grand i10 and both of these are selling well over 10,000 units a month and they also offer a better driving experience, more space and more visual appeal. The KUV100 makes for a good buy if you want a compact hatchback that looks imposing and you are at a budget but if it is a proper compact SUV that you’re looking for, then the TUV300 or the Ford EcoSport would make for a better bet.

Mahindra wants to target the younger generation of the country with this vehicle and it is clearly evident from the styling of the car. The design is a bit over the top, like has always been the case with Mahindra cars but the interiors look good and come with some nifty features. It is not an SUV at all but does excel in hatchback terms and the splendid pricing is the real cherry on the cake. But don’t be fooled, this isn’t going to draw the urban crowd and like most other Mahindra vehicles, this will mostly sell well in the rural market.

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The KUV100 is in no way an SUV even though Mahindra calls it one

What’s Cool

* Quirky looks will attract people in smaller markets of India (read non-urban)
* Refined petrol and diesel engines defy the 3-cylinder hardware
* Gearbox is smooth and clutch, steering are light making it easy to drive in the city
* Pricing although introductory, is excellent for what the car offers
* Gets some unique features like DRLs, 6-seater configuration and Micro Hybrid engine start-stop

What’s Not So Cool

* Non-cohesive design, seems like different teams have worked on different angles
* Rear seat experience is poor with low visibility, lack of legroom and headroom
* Lots of wind noise at the a-pillar at speeds of over 100 km/hr, isn’t very stable either
* Ride and handling balance leaves a lot to be desired, even though this is a monocoque platform
* Misses out on features offered by rivals like keyless go, push button start, electromagnetic tail gate opener

Alternatives: Maruti Swift, Hyundai Grand i10, Tata Bolt

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Mahindra states that the KUV is a Kool Utility Vehicle, is it?

Mahindra KUV100 Specifications

* Engine: 1198cc, MPFI with Dual VVT (Petrol), 1198cc, Turbocharged CRDe (Diesel)
* Power: 82 HP @ 5500 RPM (Petrol), 77 HP @ 3750 RPM (Diesel)
* Torque: 114 Nm @ 3500-3600 RPM (Petrol), 190 Nm @ 1750-2250 RPM (Diesel)
* Transmission: 5-speed manual
* 0-100 km/hr: 13.96 seconds (Petrol), 14.61 seconds (Diesel)
* Fuel Consumption: 12-14 km/l (Petrol), 18-20 km/l (Diesel)
* Fuel Type: Petrol, Diesel
* Suspension: Independent McPherson Strut (Front), Semi-independent torsion beam (Rear)
* Tyres: 185/65/R14
* Brakes: Disc (Front), Drum (Rear), ABS
* Safety: ABS, EBD, Dual front airbags

Mahindra KUV100 Dimensions

* Overall length x width x height: 3675 mm X 1705 mm X 1635 mm
* Wheelbase: 2385 mm
* Ground clearance: 170 mm
* Turning radius: 5.05-metres
* Boot Volume: 243-litres, (473-litres with rear seats down)
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 35-litres
* Kerb Weight: 1580 kgs