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We drive Mahindra's KUV100 in SA

2016-06-06 12:11

VALUE FOR MONEY, BUT FLAWED: Wheels24's Sean Parker says South Africans are unlikely to opt for the Mahindra KUV100 over more established rivals. Image: Supplied

Sean Parker

Johannesburg - 12 years old is an awkward age for most South Africans; you're on the verge of high school, pimply due to puberty, having strange thoughts about the opposite sex...

It's what the millennial generation would call 'awks'. 

Looking to change its fortunes in SA

That word sums up my recent test drive in Mahindra's new compact crossover, the KUV100, recently launched in South Africa.

The Indian automaker entered the South African vehicle market in 2004, which makes it 12-years-old. 

In just over a decade in SA, Mahindra hasn't accomplished much (at least in terms of passenger car sales) but with its new KUV100 and three more models headed for our shores, it hopes to change its fortunes in Mzansi.

Gallery: Mahindra KUV100

What's it like to drive?

I had driven the diesel variant on a recent trip to India in May 2016. After a 40km stint on Mumbai's expressway, I felt that the high-riding hatchback would ruffle a few feathers in the SA passenger-car market. 

Read: How the KUV100 stacks up against its rivals

I hopped into a 'Sunset Orange' diesel derivative, powered by a 1.2-litre turbodiesel engine capable of 57kW/190Nm, for my first taste of the KUV100 in SA. The automaker claims 4.4l/100km, but you won't be able to tell because of a lack of a fuel consumption gauge.

GENEROUS SPECIFICATION: The K6+ derivatives and above offer a six-speaker sound system (with Bluetooth connectivity to the Mahindra Blue Sense app), multi-function steering wheel and a refrigerated glove compartment. Image: Mahindra

The three-cylinder mill delivered as it did in Mumbai. Despite its low kW, it felt sprightly and the oodles of torque were spread evenly between all five gears like butter on a warm croissant.

Read: KUV100 specifications

The gearbox deserves particular praise; shifts are solid and precise, although the clutch pedal is bizarrely placed too low down on the floor, which took some getting used to (perhaps something to work on Mahindra?). 

On the subject of pedal placement, another blight is how close the brake pedal is to the clutch. Like Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and an Al Jazeera studio, some things shouldn't be in close proximity.  

Read: Mahindra's four-model assault for SA

A combination of highway and a gravel road section illustrated a mostly compliant ride but the tall stance of the 1155kg KUV100 translates to a wallowy ride especially at speed.

Build quality could also use some improvement as I encountered some wind noise on the highway section.

I'd steer clear of the petrol model, it too sports a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine (61kW/115Nm) but unlike the diesel unit it feels lethargic. In first, second and third gear it struggled like Andy Murray against Novak Djokovic.

Should you give it a chance?

Mahindra is comparing the KUV100 to the following rivals - Toyota Etios Cross, Renault Sandero Stepway, Suzuki Swift, Hyundai Grand i10, Chery J2,Tata Bolt and the Ford Figo.

Most of those cars have huge brand equity, perceived better build quality and an established dealer network.

Read: How the KUV100 stacks up against its rivals

The one area the Mahindra truly shines is its price - it'll set you back a smidgen under R150 000 for the entry level petrol derivative which has aircon, electric windows, ABS and driver/passenger airbags as standard.

The drive might have started out a bit 'awks', but at the end of the launch I had warmed to the diesel model in K6+ spec. Its price, equipment level and overall drive left a good impression. Let's hope the automaker's teenage years are a lot better than mine.

Overall, the diesel engine and gearbox are adequate but the glaring packaging mistakes (read: pedal placement, clutch and wind noise) are a concern. Whether Rand-conscious South Africans will be interested in the KUV100 remains to be seen. Even if you're not sold on the KUV100, there are more Mahindras on the way.

Prices

1.2 K4+ Petrol - R 149 995
1.2 K6+ Petrol - R 169 995
1.2 K6+ TDiesel - R 187 995
1.2 K8 Petrol - R 179 995
1.2 K8 TDiesel -R 197 995

*Three-year or 100 000 km warranty on all models, and a three-year or 50 000 km service plan on the K6+ and K8 derivatives (optional for K4+).

A photo posted by Wheels24 (@wheels24_sa) on





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