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Mahindra's 'flawed' KUV100 has an endearing quality

2016-12-24 06:01

VALUE FOR MONEY, BUT FLAWED: Wheels24's Sean Parker spent a week with the Mahindra KUV100 'SUV'. Image: Supplied

Sean Parker

Cape Town - Earlier this year I called my test drive in the Mahindra KUV 100 awkward. And it was, it might also have to do with the fact that I drove it on the Reef, because it felt like the engine's 57kW was being sucked through a straw. 

And now, as 2016 reaches its end I find myself behind the steering wheel of the world's largest tractor maker's smallest car in South Africa. 

Narrow torque band

The diminutive high-riding hatchback is powered by a 1.2-litre diesel engine which sounds like a tractor most of the time. 

The 190Nm hauls the 1155kg hatch sufficiently when the engine was in the narrow torque band and I found myself rowing through the five gears quite a bit. It's prerequisite in summer to have the aircon on full blast, and in this department I must commend the Indian automaker on a sterling aircon unit. 

The steering is never going to win awards, and it does feel top heavy because of its elevated height, but it doesn't feel dangerous. It copes well on bumpy roads and offers a comfortable ride. 

Inside, the seats are comfortable and can be lowered considerably. However the one blight is the narrow seat back section, it lacks bolstering and tarnishes the driving experience. 

The gear lever's positioning (on the dashboard) means there's acres of space below. The sound system is easy to figure out, I just connected my phone via the USB port and streamed music via Youtube, easy peasy.  

The fascia is largely uncluttered with three big knobs for the aircon and the remaining ones for the sound system. 

The boot can only be opened via a lever on the floor, which is a bit of a hassle and hopelessly unpractical. Ample headroom is available because of the high roof-line and the cabin feels roomier than it looks from the outside. 

Price: R197 995

Verdict: Going up against the barrage of rivals such as the Toyota Etios Cross, Renault Sandero Stepway, Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Grand i10, Chery J2, Tata Bolt and the Ford Figo, the KUV faces an uphill battle. 

But when you look at the KUV in isolation, its purpose comes to the fore. Yes, it has flaws, but they're aspects you could live with and get accustomed to. It also has strong points: its manual gearbox, air-conditioning unit and keen pricing. It's certainly not a car you should lift your nose up to. 

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