Mahindra XUV300 is an eye-catching design with its chunky styling, LED daytime running lights and diamond-cut alloy wheels. Picture: SUPPLIED
Mahindra XUV300 is an eye-catching design with its chunky styling, LED daytime running lights and diamond-cut alloy wheels. Picture: SUPPLIED

It doesn’t roll a lot. Its wheels are perfectly proportional to its compact but deceptively wide and tall body. Its steering feel can be adjusted in three ways: normal, comfort and a firmer sport setting. It'll not scorch the tarmac.

The newly launched Mahindra XUV300 (pronounced “three-double O”) enters SA chiefly aimed at the fiercely contested compact crossover segment that’s dominated by Ford with its Ecosport and Renault with its Captur.

On its cheeky box-like aesthetics the Indian vehicle is a doppelganger to the Suzuki Vitara, another segment protagonist. It's not really being marketed as a mud-plugger of sorts though.

The two engine derivatives and four grade walks on sale are exclusively fitted with front-wheel drive underpinnings and a ground clearance of 180mm. It’ll suffice for travel on most gravel tracks. The aggressive frontal styling, roof rails and blackened wheel arch padding complete the SUV look.

The compact Mahindra is available in an 81kW and 200Nm 1,2l turbo-petrol or with an 85.8 kW and 300Nm 1.5l turbodiesel, the latter being the only derivative at its media launch out in Stellenbosch, Western Cape.

Both engines are exclusively paired with six-speed manual transmissions. The diesel’s push forward was eager enough to confidently climb up the steep roads in the area, translating to a surprisingly upbeat and refined progress on flatter surfaces. It also sipped an economical  6.4l/100km on the mostly energetic launch drive style.

The interior isn’t the best but the number of features it has is eye-popping. The XUV300 steering action can be adjusted in three settings to suit driving conditions: light, normal and firm. Picture: SUPPLIED
The interior isn’t the best but the number of features it has is eye-popping. The XUV300 steering action can be adjusted in three settings to suit driving conditions: light, normal and firm. Picture: SUPPLIED

Mahindra aims the XUV300 at 25 to 49-year-old urbanites with some attractive pricing incentives and remarkable specification. The W8 grade walk will arrive at your door with cream seats, which is a highly attractive feature but one that will boast a stubborn patina in no time. A darker option is available on the W6 spec which happened to be absent on the day.

The vehicle’s 3,995mm overall length yields a cabin that’ll accommodate four to five passengers. Taller occupants will be best served by riding shotgun and in doing so they will short-change some rear passenger legroom. Perhaps if the rear seat squabs weren’t as generously long all would be comfy. The boot too isn’t too substantial.  

The obvious selling point of the XUV300 is price and specification.

The entry-level W6 trim level features air conditioning, electric windows, power steering with Smart Steering, premium black fabric trim, electrically adjustable side mirrors and central locking. Its standard safety features include dual front airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, cornering braking control and discs on all four wheels.

The top-of-the-range W8 spec level offers dual zone climate control, an 18cm touchscreen infotainment system with satellite navigation, smartwatch and phone connectivity, Bluetooth, 2x USB connectivity, steering mounted controls, electric windows, tyre position monitor, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, passive keyless entry with start/stop button and an electric glass sunroof.

Mahindra aims the XUV300 at 25-49 year old urbanites with some attractive pricing incentives and remarkable specification. Picture: SUPPLIED
Mahindra aims the XUV300 at 25-49 year old urbanites with some attractive pricing incentives and remarkable specification. Picture: SUPPLIED

The W8’s safety and driver assistance is taken care of by no less than seven airbags, electronic stability programme (ESP) with rollover mitigation, front and rear parking sensors, a reverse camera, hill hold assist and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

First driving impressions are of a tidy compact crossover. The new platform brings in fresh refinement in comfort and handling that’s fair rather than astonishing in the segment.

Its Eurocentric looks are a welcome departure from the guppy Asiatic styling of the smaller KUV100 (One-double-O). It’s also the most advanced Mahindra thus far and it serves as a template to showcase the capability of the Indian company in building finer cars.

The only concerns relate to having no choice of colour of the seats in the W8 grade.

It doesn’t really matter that it’s unavailable in automatic flavour, as the manual transmission’s action is light enough in traffic situations.

The XUV300 is also priced competitively against both the Ford Ecosport and Renault Captur, even though build quality and interior textures are only a notch down on its rivals.


Pricing

XUV300 W6 1.2 Petrol: R249,999                   

XUV300 W6 1.5 Diesel: R274,999        

XUV300 W8 1.2 Petrol: R304,999     

XUV300 W8 1.5 Diesel: R324,999

Prices include a five-year/150,000km warranty and five-year/90,000km service plan with  24/7 standard Roadside Assistance. An optional five years/90,000km maintenance plan is available.