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Date: 10 Jun 2019 Author Type: Public Review
Author: Julian Lurie edited by Liam Mothilall
Source: Julian Lurie
Mahindra is certainly making inroads into the South African automobile market and after having the privilege of driving the latest XUV300, I can honestly say that it is really a nice car, draws a lot of attention, and is about to enter the next phase of its evolution. Built on the group's global X100 platform, the XUV300 (pronounced XUV three double O) carries its larger sibling's cheetah-inspired design language into a new generation of vehicles. At the same time, it introduces a new range of engines and a nearly unmatched level of specification to the local compact SUV segment, and it comes with both the latest petrol and diesel drivetrains and the choice of a W6 or W8 trim level.

"The new XUV300 was launched in India in February 2019, and South Africa is the first international market outside of India to get the new XUV300. Mr Rajesh Gupta, CEO of Mahindra South Africa says that the compact SUV market in South Africa represents more than 25 000 units sales every year and Mahindra has already generated over 26 000 bookings which is roughly equal to the total size of the compact SUV market in South Africa.

The new XUV300 is very attractive for a compact SUV. Viewed from the outside, most prominent are the dual LED-strip daytime running lights (DRLs), the aggressive grille, wide LED taillights and diamond cut 17” alloy wheels. The cheetah styling cues are further visible in the XUV300's squat stance, which is accentuated its 2.6-meter wheelbase, in a body that is just short of 4 meters. This stance is further enhanced by wide and bold wheel arches and large wheels on the furthest corners of the vehicle. Mahindra's design team also added a floating roof (colour coded roof on darkened side pillars), as well as side cladding and a wide rear-quarter hip line that flows into unique LED taillights, a roof-mounted spoiler and high-mounted stop lamp.

Like all Mahindra SUVs, the new XUV300 has elements of the group's signature design language that includes full volumes, sculpted sections and muscled surfaces. It also has the distinctive Mahindra billet grille with chrome highlights on the highest specification level. On the W8 model, the design is accentuated by LED indicators in the heated and folding side mirrors, dual tone roof rails, 17" wheels and silver front and rear skid plates.

A brand-new model range deserves brand new engines and Mahindra has launched two new engines with the XUV300, offering buyers the choice of either a turbo-petrol or turbo-diesel engine. The first is a new three-cylinder 1.2 litre turbo-petrol engine, which delivers 81 KW at 5 000 r/min and a healthy 200 NM of torque between 2 000 r/min and 3 500 r/min. The second engine option is a brand-new four-cylinder 1.5 litre turbo-diesel engine that delivers 85.8 KW at 3 750 r/min and 300 NM in a flat band between 1 500 r/min and 2 500 r/min. All versions of the XUV300 are equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, which transfers power from the engine to the front driving wheels. Gupta says that both the 1.2 litre petrol and 1.5 litre turbo-diesel engines have been subjected to extensive stress-testing at Gerotek in Gauteng, and they are confident that they will not only offer exceptional durability, but also deliver the type of acceleration and high-speed cruising power that South African drivers enjoy.

Moving to the interior, the new XUV300, Mahindra's designers have crafted the vehicle controls around the driver and have added a thick-rimmed steering wheel with steering controls, a large tachometer and speedometer, and a 17.78cm full colour connected infotainment system on all models. The infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration on the W8 and has in-built turn-by-turn navigation with regional maps as standard across the range. The system also allows the driver to preset many of the vehicle functions, including the background display and, on the W8, the colour of the LED backlit instrument panel. The XUV300's infotainment system also features Mahindra's Bluesense app. This app tracks the driver's driving patterns and scores them on a set of environmentally friendly metrics. The driver can access this information and information on past trips from their phone's connected Bluesense app or smart watch. In addition to the infotainment system, all Mahindra XUV300 models are equipped with the new Smart Steering system. Controlled with a button below the infotainment system, the Smart Steering system allows the driver to change the steering feel between Comfort mode, which allows you to negotiate urban traffic with ease, a Normal everyday mode and Sport, with the latter offering a weightier and more responsive steering feel for a more thrilling drive experience.

The new XUV300 is available with two trim levels, both of which offer a high level of standard equipment and safety features, including the 17.78cm infotainment system, with an auxiliary port and USB connectivity. The W6 trim level is the most affordable entry into the XUV300 range and comes standard with air conditioning, electric windows, power steering with Smart Steering, premium black fabric trim, electrically adjustable side mirrors and central locking. The Mahindra XUV W8 specification level comes standard with a long list of convenience and luxury equipment which includes; a second USB charging point, an additional information screen between the colour-customizable LED-lit instrument cluster and electric windows with express up and down function with anti-pinch technology. There is a glass tilt-and-slide sunroof, also with anti-pinch technology, cruise control and an integrated voice command system with steering-mounted controls. In the XUV300 W8, Mahindra has replaced the fabric seats with its luxurious leatherette upholstery.

Mahindra has also added additional driving aids, including its Tyretronics tyre pressure warning system, front and rear parking sensors, a reverse parking camera with parking assistance and automatic rain-sensing wipers. Other features that come standard on the W8 specification level include; dual-zone climate control with three preset memory settings, keyless access with a start-stop button and automatic headlights. With its long wheelbase and width of 1.821 m, the XUV300 offers exceptional interior space for the driver and passengers, with ample head and shoulder room for adult occupants, including three adult passengers in the second row. The interior space is further improved by a near-flat floor in the rear with sculpted front seatbacks for additional rear leg room. In front, the driver has the benefit of a six-way adjustable seat and a height-adjustable steering wheel. In the rear, the luggage compartment can be extended both vertically, with the option of three height settings for the luggage floor and horizontally by folding the rear seats forward in a 60:40 configuration.

The Mahindra XUV300 offers category-best safety and security features. The W6 specification level is equipped with ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cornering braking control and discs on all four wheels. It also has impact-sensing door locks and a high-mounted stop lamp in the rear spoiler. An emergency braking signaling system is fitted to all models, as are ISOFIX child anchors on the rear seats. The W8 specification level adds 5 more airbags; side, curtain and a driver knee airbag to the list totaling to a class-leading 7 airbags, while also adding electronic stability (ESP) with rollover mitigation. The XUV300 W8 also adds warning lights on the front doors, hill-hold assistance, an anti-theft alarm system and seatbelt reminders on all seats.

At the local launch, we had the opportunity to drive the top of the range Mahindra W8 6-speed turbo-diesel version. Getting into the XUV300 is easy, and despite it being a little higher than a car, it was easy to get in and out. Inside, the cabin is well finished, more luxurious than one would have expected, and there’s a comfortable air of quality throughout the cabin, with new materials to the dashboard and door trims, as well as to the center fascia. The front bucket seats are well bolstered and comfortable and there’s still plenty of room in the second row, even behind longer-legged front-seat passengers. The rear bench will easily accommodate three adults in comfort and the boot is fairly spacious and should be able to pack plenty luggage when going on the annual holiday. The multi-function 3-spoke steering wheel is adjustable for height and all instruments are decently positioned. The manual gearlever has a higher quality look and feel, as well as improving comfort when actuating shifts.

The launch was based in Umhlanga and for the ride and drive, paired with a colleague, we did our test drive from Umhlanga to Ballito on the M4, a stop in Ballito and back on the old road with a few direction changes to experience some of the very poor road surfaces. On the freeway, the turbo-diesel engine cruises effortlessly at the legal limit, and with much torque available right from low revs, long inclines hardly hamper its progress. There is also virtually no lag while throttle response is immediate as well, while the six-speed manual gearbox, is smooth, precise and well weighted. On the road, the Mahindra XUV300 6-speed manual is pleasant and easy vehicle to drive, straight-line stability is also really good. The steering is well-weighted, body lean is well controlled, and the SUV is really entertaining to drive on the twisty stuff. On the freeway, the XUV300 will cruise nicely at the 120 km/h limit with the motor spinning at just under 3 000 RPM, while tyre and wind noise are kept to a minimum, even on the highway, which helps to give the XUV300 SUV an inviting and somewhat upmarket ambience on the move. Engine noise is also well suppressed, and it’s quiet even when idling. Thanks to its well-tuned suspension, the XUV handles imperfections like potholes and rough tar very well, and the car’s good turning circle makes it easy to maneuver in restricted areas. At fairly high speeds in the bends, there is very little body roll, and the light but direct steering makes the XUV easy to handle, and even at a speed it is well-balanced and re-acts well to driver input.

While the XUV300 has redefined Mahindra's SUV range, its pricing reflects its proven practice of offering great value for money. All versions of the XUV300 will be offered with an impressive 5 year / 150 000 km warranty and a standard 5 year / 90 000 km service plan and 24/7 standard Roadside Assistance. Mahindra states that to enhance the value offering and to ensure complete peace of mind to our customers, XUV300 will come with optional Maintenance Plan for period of 5 years / 90 000 km.

The Mahindra XUV300 comes with attractive retail finance offers to the customer. The instalments for the W6 Petrol variant priced at R 249 999 starts at a monthly cost of R 3 399 (incl. VAT) when financed through Mahindra Finance (in association with WesBank). The monthly instalment is calculated for a 72-month term, with a 10% deposit (R25 000) and 28.4% balloon payment (R71 000) and the initiation fee of R1 208, but excludes the monthly admin fee of R69. The total cost of finance including the monthly admin fee and balloon payment is R317 207.

The introductory retail pricing for the model range is:
  • XUV300 W6 1.2 Petrol: R 249 999 (Incl. VAT)
  • XUV300 W6 1.5 Diesel: R 274 999 (Incl. VAT)
  • XUV300 W8 1.2 Petrol: R 304 999 (Incl. VAT)
  • XUV300 W8 1.5 Diesel: R 324 999 (Incl. VAT)
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