NEW FACE: Mahindra says its refreshed XUV500 has a cheetah inspired face. Image: Mahindra
Cape Town - My first experience driving the XUV500 was along a Mumbai highway in the heart of summer while maniac truck drivers zoomed past.
It was my first time driving in the Asian country. On that occasion, I was driving an automatic variant. This time however I wouldn't be dealing with hooting taxis (at least not as many) and a myriad of motorcyclists.
The XUV500 was given a refresh in October 2015 and we had the W8-spec, fitted with a six-speed manual transmission and all-wheel drive, for a couple of days.
What's an XUV500? It's a 4.5m long, full-size SUV with seating for seven (three rows) and is powered by a 2.2-litre diesel engine capable of 103kW/330Nm.
Mahindra's aim, from what I can tell, is to build practical, affordable vehicles. Which brings me to the price of the W8 model - it retails for R374 900.
Its pricing is more aggressive than a honey badger when compared against rivals from Hyundai, Ford, Volkswagen and Nissan. And only one of those four mentioned has a seven-seat variant.
Worth your hard-earned Rand?
As mentioned before, I experienced the top-of-the-range W8 version. It has a long list of standard features including auto wipers, auto headlights, leather seats, cruise control and satnav that can be accessed via a 7" touchscreen featuring a reversing camera.
There's even a refrigerated centre-console, handy for cool drink storage in summer.
Gallery: Mahindra XUV500
On the safety front, a myriad of airbags are available including front, side and curtain. It's also fitted with hill-descent control and hill-hold to mitigate any awkward incidents along inclines and intersections.
The XUV500 is definitely aimed at a buyer for whom road trips are a regular occurrence. This explains its roof rails, mobile charging points for all three rows and a steering wheel that can be telescopically adjusted and tilted for ease of use.
What's it like to drive?
The XUV500's engine punches above its weight and its manages to feel as if you're sweeping around town in a much smaller car. This particular model weighs 2510kg.
The ride is comfortable and one thing that must be noted is the car's independent suspension; McPherson in the front and multi-link at the rear.
The XUV500 goes along way to eliminate preconceptions of Indian cars "feeling cheap".
While the materials don't come close to those used by rivals overall, at least in terms of featured, the XUV500 is a par with its competition.
Issues? The lack of a huge dealer network is an issue (especially when traversing into difference provinces).
Just 36 units were flogged in September, which shows the model still hasn't broken into the public's consciousness.
Mahindra's performed a good job with its refreshed SUV should be commended. Will South African buyers dismiss my positive words and head straight to a Hyundai, Volkswagen or Ford dealership? If sales are any indication, probably yes. For the few that are looking for A LOT of car for a reasonable amount of money? The XUV500 is worth considering.
The XUV is available with a five-year or 100 000km service plan as standard.