Mahindra launched the KUV100 exactly a year ago in India; the auto manufacturer pitched it as a small SUV and their entry level offering for the Indian market. Basically this is actually a beefed up hatchback and gets both petrol and diesel engine under the hood. Although the KUV100 made a fiery start in terms of sales when it was launched initially but slowly the sales number declined and in the month of December 2016 only 1953 units of the vehicle was sold which is actually its lowest numbers since its launch.
Like you all know that the Mahindra KUV100 is definitely not a compact SUV and is also priced lower than most of the other compact SUV offerings. This car now competes directly in the B+ segment hatchbacks and locks horns directly with the recently introduced Maruti Suzuki Ignis which too is actually a beefed up Cross hatchback.
EXTERIOR AND LOOKS
The KUV100 might be marketed as an SUV, but it is essentially a pumped up hatchback; one that will compete against the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Swift, the Hyundai Grand i10 and the newly launched Ford Figo. So, it has a monocoque chassis, a transverse mounted engine and front wheel drive. But, because it must be referenced as an SUV, the KUV100 naturally has high ground clearance too; 170mm of it. It isn’t very large though. At 3675mm in length, it is the shortest in its class. And its 2385mm wheelbase is the least as well. But the KUV100 stands tall at 1655mm (with roof rails) making it the tallest.
As far as styling goes, the front of this pumped-up hatchback has a sleek front grille, a buff bumper, and large pulled back headlamps with LEDs KUV100 embossing. The side profile looks aggressive thanks to the shallow greenhouse area. It also has its rear door handles integrated into the rear window panel aka Chevrolet Beat. The rear meanwhile is less aggressive, looks palatable and decently modern. The KUV100 is available in seven colours, Pearl White, Aquamarine, Dazzling Silver, Flamboyant Red, Fiery Orange, Designer Grey and Midnight Black.
INTERIOR AND SPACE
If you don’t already know, your friendly salesperson will go to great lengths to point out that the KUV cabin’s USP is the advantage of six seats, just like on the Datsun Go. This has been made possible by positioning the gear lever and handbrake lever on the centre console, freeing up floor space for the additional seat up front. But what distinguishes the car from the Datsun Go is that the KUV is certified as a six-seater. Though three adults can squeeze in up front, the middle passenger legroom is limited, making it more suitable for a child. Question is, would you want your most precious cargo seated within striking distance of the centre console and gear lever? Also, folding down the middle seat backrest turns it into a large armrest and that is the best way to use (or rather, not use) the sixth perch. However, the flat bench type front seat doesn’t offer the kind of back or side support the standard version’s shapelier individual chairs do.
High-set seats and flat floors, front and back, mean getting in and out of the KUV’s cabin is easy. What’s also a relief is that unlike the exteriors, the KUV’s cabin is smart and restrained in design. The ‘bowed’ dashboard that rises towards the middle is the centrepiece and comes finished in nice, textured plastics on the top, though quality lower down is not great. Boring monochrome display for the audio player apart, we didn’t have much else to complain about with the well laid-out centre console. Drivers will also like the three-spoke steering wheel that’s good to hold, though the inconvenient pull-type handbrake is unlikely to find many fans. On our test car, the handbrake lever malfunctioned, making hill starts quite tricky.
Those seated on the KUV’s rear seat will be surprised by the space and comfort on offer. There’s generous leg, head and shoulder room, the backrest position is just right and there’s even a foldable centre armrest. And all three rear passengers get adjustable headrests, which enhances their overall comfort levels. The spoiler though is the blanked-out space after the rear windows (there to accommodate the exterior door handle) that cuts outside visibility. Form unfortunately followed function here. .
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
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.
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.
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.
RIDE AND HANDLING
The levelled surface of the test track was barely any gauge for the KUV100’s ride, but expect it to be comfortable given the soft suspension setup. The KUV100 sits on an all-new platform developed from a clean sheet of paper using a monocoque chassis that offers a car like feel, and those used to driving hatchbacks will feel at home. There’s a fair bit of body roll around corners though thanks to the soft suspension and higher centre of gravity, which takes away some confidence when cornering at speeds. The soft suspension also made for some bit of weaving under hard braking but things were pretty much in control at all times, and KUV100 even felt stable being pushed around the banked corners of the track. Brakes have a progressive feel, though some more bite would be welcome.
BRAKING AND SAFETY
Braking system is formed by the ventilated disc brakes in the front and drum brakes in the rear. Other vital braking features inset to support the brakes affixed in front and back comprise of anti-lock-braking system along with electronic brake force distribution, which is standard across all variants.
Standard safety features on board are automatic door lock, central door locking, and door open indicator. Other safety features available on the SUV are child safety locks on rear doors, anti-slip clips for driver side door mats, ISOFIX child seat mount on rear seat, engine immobiliser, anti-theft security alarm, and dual airbags are available is available on all the plus variants along with the range topping variant.
Now we come to the hardest part of any review – the tester’s final impressions of the Mahindra KUV100.
The Mahindra KUV100 is a one-of-a-kind hatchback that aspires to be an SUV. If you’re looking to turn heads (in the quirky manner), the KUV100’s design is apt as it incites curiosity and attention. The seat comfort could’ve been better, while rear visibility and boot volume aren’t satisfactory.
However what we have here is one of the most refined Mahindras ever built. It’s got an impressive diesel engine, slick gearbox, well-trimmed and spacious interior, and a commanding view over its rivals. The cherry on the top is its competitive pricing, which is slightly lower than the competition.