Mahindra KUV 100 first drive, the young SUV from the utility major.
To understand the needs, dreams and aspirations of an Indian consumer, you need to be born Indian. This is exactly what Mahindra has proved with its 68 year legacy in India. The Indian automotive giant’s latest offering – The KUV 100 (pronounced KUV One double Oh) which Mahindra prefers calling a compact SUV, is an intelligent attempt to woo the young generation to the Mahindra family. Developed indigenously with an investment of Rs .1200 Crores, on a brand new monocoque platform and powered by the all new mFalcon Petrol and Diesel engines, the KUV 100 is a milestone launch for Mahindra. Looks wise it’s an SUV, size wise it’s a Hatch while cabin gives you a feeling of being inside a premium crossover.
We got a brief opportunity to check and test drive the stylish KUV 100 on Mahindra’s test track at Chakan and we were amazed on seeing how M&M packed so many features and options in a vehicle of this size. Not only does the KUV 100 surprise you with its styling, it charms you with a roomy cabin along with flexible seating and storage options which no other vehicle offers, at least in India. Beware – Mahindra has decided to spoil you with multiple choices.
Undoubtedly, the KUV 100 looks fresh, quirky and stylish. The smart front has a familiar Mahindra family look but from a distance it resembles a baby Evoque. The fascia is dominated by unique sunglasses styled headlamps and swish daytime running lamps. Dual tone bumpers and wraparound cladding with matte black finish give it a rugged feel. Its 170mm ground clearance is at par with most others hatchbacks but higher approach and departure angles give it a distinct edge over others.
When viewed from the sides, the spider-design alloy wheels look most appealing. The car looks muscular and sculpted with sharp lines flowing into the doors from both ends of the car. The rear door handles have been accommodated in the quarter glass area. On the flip side, the sharp lines will remind you of the Hyundai Eon while the vertical rear door handles and squared wheel arches will remind you of the Chevy Beat and Renault Kwid respectively.
But as you walk to the rear, the KUV 100 again regains its freshness with neatly laid out double barrel tail lamps with 3D effect which look amazing when lit, a sporty roof spoiler and dual fog lamps placed lower into the rear bumper. All-in-all the KUV scores very high on style quotient and whenever a KUV 100 zips by, people are sure to turn around to give it a second look.
Now this is where Mahindra literally kicks out the competition. No one can beat what KUV 100 offers in terms of seating options and multiple storage spaces without compromising on comfort, styling and safety. The moment you step inside, the cabin appears neat and roomy. Dual tone interiors with glossy piano black inserts on dashboard and door trims look premium. The KUV’s contemporary floating centre console with an integrated gear lever liberates a lot of space in the front. The layout and design of the dashboard is attractive with a textured finish on the top, diamond shaped AC vents and a twin pod instrument cluster. The foot-wells in the front are deep and wide whereas the leg room in the second room is generous too. The headroom in both rows is adequate and since the doors open wide, ingress and egress in this tall car is a breeze.
But the icing on the cake is the seating and storage options that it offers and Indian families are will love the KUV 100 for this. The KUV 100 lets you change the seating configuration as per your convenience with its first-in-class flexi-6 seater option. While 3 passengers can comfortably sit in the back seat, the KUV comes with an optional bench seat in the front to seat a third person between the driver and front passenger. And in absence of the 6th passenger, you can just flip down the backrest of the middle passenger to use it as a large armrest and drive like a boss.
Mahindra has provided 3 adjustable head-rests in the rear seat along with a flat floor board. This ensures that 3 passengers can sit comfortably without jostling for space. Another segment-first includes introduction of puddle-lights on all four doors which are really useful while stepping out of the car in poorly lit areas.
When it comes to storage, KUV 100 offers a 243 litre boot along with unique under-seat storage in the front passenger seat & under-floor storage in the second row. These unique storage spaces help you to store everyday essentials, umbrellas, jackets, footwear etc. on long distance trips.
Other goodies include mood lighting in door handles, sunglass holder on the roof, tilt adjustable steering wheel, height adjustable driver’s seat, gear indicator, illuminated key ring, 12V power outlets in both rows, centre arm-rest with integrated cup-holders in the rear seat, ISOFIX mounts for child seat, one litre bottle holders in all doors, cooled glove box to keep water and cold drinks in a pleasantly cold state and a separate driver-side storage box which comes handy to store fuel bills, toll receipts and coins.
As mentioned earlier, Mahindra is offering the KUV 100 in 5 seater and 6 seater options. Those who do not want a provision for the 6th passenger can conveniently opt for the conventional 5 seater variant. Seating comfort, seat fabric & cushioning, lower-back support and back-rest angle in both the variants are creditable.
Overall, the KUV 100’s cabin is a comfortable place except for the opaque quarter area on rear windows where vertical handles of the rear doors have been placed and the fidgety door locks inside the cabin.
Engine & Drive:
Since we drove the diesel variant on Mahindra’s butter smooth test track we could not judge the performance of the KUV 100 on steep inclines, patchy roads and read-world traffic conditions.
We tested the top-end K8 diesel variant which is 1198cc, 77bhp, turbocharged, CRDI engine of the new mFALCON series. A gentle tap on the accelerator and the KUV 100 was ready to charge forward. The pick-up is smooth, engine is peppy and the turbo kicks in gently between 1800 to 1900 rpm. We touched 130kmph and the KUV 100 seemed incredibly planted and relaxed at that speed.
However, we did notice some wind noise at high speeds and though there is a fair bit of under-steer and body roll in this tall vehicle, it is well contained. Another point worth noting is the spread of torque in low and mid range which will make city driving a comfortable proposition. Mahindra has also provided a Sport & Eco switch for the driver. Driving in Sports mode will offer better acceleration while driving in Eco mode will fetch you better mileage.
The placement of gear lever in the centre console was to our liking. The gear throws were short and precise and Mahindra has rightly tagged it as a joystick-like experience. The air-conditioning felt efficient but since the KUV 100 does not have second row AC vents, it was difficult to judge the overall cooling effect during the test drive.
Braking too was good but as with engine and air-conditioning performance, we reserve our judgement for a comprehensive test review sometime later. Again, since it was daytime, we could not test the headlights but we found the horn to be a meek single-tone unit which many owners will consider replacing.
Safety & Technology:
Mahindra has taken a step forward by making ABS & EBD standard across all variants. Similarly, while Dual Airbags are provided in the top-end, it is available as an option even in the base variant. The KUV 100 is ready ahead of time to meet the upcoming 2017 safety regulations. This manifests Mahindra’s focus on safety even on a vehicle of this size.
On the technology front, the KUV comes with first in class Micro-hybrid technology (Engine Start Stop), Infotainment with Driver Information System, TFT display, Bluesense TM App compatibility, Bluetooth Audio & hands-free calling, Remote key-less entry, Follow-me-home/Lead-me-to-vehicle headlamps, etc.
Variants & Colour options:
The KUV 100 is available in 7 variants: K2(Base Variant), K2+, K4, K4+, K6, K6+ & K8(Fully loaded) in both Petrol & Diesel with 5 & 6 seater options. The 7 colours to choose from are Fiery Orange, Flamboyant Red, Aquamarine, Pearl White, Dazzling Silver, Designer Grey and Midnight Black.
Fuel efficiency: The company claims that the Petrol variant will return 18.15 km/l whereas the Diesel variant will return 25.32 km/l.
Warranty: Mahindra is currently offering an attractive 2 year/unlimited mileage warranty on the KUV 100
Verdict: We conclude that Mahindra has put in a serious effort in carving a niche for itself across all segments, the latest being the KUV 100 which is high on performance, safety and technology and capable of competing in 3 segments – premium Hatchbacks, compact SUVs and hatch-based Crossovers. This means it will give a tough call to Hyundai’s i20 Active, Maruti’s Swift, Ford’s Ecosport, Honda’s Jazz, Fiat’s Avventura and Toyota’s Etios Cross.
In short, the KUV 100 will drive the volumes for Mahindra in 2016. So, if you are in the market searching for a spacious Hatch or a compact SUV or compact Crossover, do step into a Mahindra showroom to take a test drive of the KUV 100 before you take a call.