If you are like me, you would have noticed an influx of peculiar-looking bakkies and 4x4s with a badge that isn’t exactly considered to be household over the last few years. And if you look closely, a few of these rather different vehicles have their company’s name imprinted on the tailgate, leaving many people wondering just what Mahindra is offering to the South African motor industry.
From what started out as a steel trading company in 1945, Mahindra went on the claim the license to manufacture the UK-designed Willys Jeep. After an extensive period of manufacturing everything from tractors and farming equipment to 4x4s, Mahindra pulled up their socks and decided it was time to build a vehicle of their own. This decision introduced the world to the Mahindra Scorpio in 2002. A Jeep-inspired 4x4 with pure Indian heritage. Mahindra SA was established in 1994, allowing South Africa to experience this new rugged style of vehicle on a smaller scale. Since then, Mahindra has continued to grow, becoming South Africa’s ‘fastest-growing passenger vehicle and bakkie brand’.
Enough about the brand and time to introduce the vehicle at hand. The Mahindra XUV300. A medium-sized five-seater SUV designed with comfort and safety in mind. In fact, after being tried and tested for both the Indian and African roads, the XUV300 claims to be one of the safest cars in Africa with a five-star adult safety rating and a four-star child safety rating.
Launched in 2019, the XUV is a new player in the affordable SUV game and has a lot to prove. I also feel like I must mention this cheeky car's name is pronounced XUV 3 double o, just in case you didn’t know…
The interior of this car is where functionality is a big characteristic. A 9” infotainment screen, 2” bigger than the previous iteration’s, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That’s quite impressive but it also takes into consideration the basic creature comforts motorists appreciate like a choice of stylish cloth or black leatherette seats. In true Mahindra fashion, the interior is hard-wearing with considerable use of plastic and the infotainment screen won’t be winning any awards in the near future. Then again, that is to be expected with an entry-level SUV of any nature. It has a 259-litre boot and a spacious backseat meaning that there is not all that much to complain about.
Driving this car is not terribly exciting, I’m afraid. Power comes with a choice of either a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo engine laying down 81 kW and 200 Nm torque, or a 1.5-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine pushing 86 with 300 Nm torque. The XUV 300 has a light steering assembly and comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. The clutch feel is light but doesn’t feel fully dialled-in since the car tends to jolt on occasion when releasing the clutch. It is, however, a tiny issue in an otherwise decent driving car.
The base model XUV300 is the W4 that comes with electronic stability control, ABS, two front airbags, speed-sensitive door locks and a collapsible steering column with pricing starting at R234,999. Further options include the W4 SE, W6 petrol, W6 diesel, W8 petrol, and the top-of-the-line W8 diesel. The W8 models add several extras including 17” alloy wheels, hill-start assist, automatic headlights, front and rear fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, an anti-theft alarm, daytime LED lights, keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, and many more extra options. All this is priced at an affordable R336,999.
Overall, this affordable SUV boasts impressive spec for the price tag and helps to push the rapidly-growing Mahindra brand to build ever-improving cars. Having to compete with tried and tested brands like Ford’s EcoSport, I would say that the XUV300 does trail behind in comfort and build quality. On the flip side, though, the price point levels the playing field since it’s nearly R100K less than its rivals.
With that said, it does have an impressive variety of options that are available and don’t forget its impressive safety standards. The Mahindra XUV300 is a sufficiently affordable gateway into the crossover segment and while it lacks overall excitement, it isn’t lacking functionality.