XUV 300 outpowers the opposition
Mahindra's crossover impresses with gutsy performance and improved build quality
Mahindra tells us the correct way to refer to its XUV 300 is the “three-double-oh” and not “three hundred”.
A fitting moniker perhaps, as one does tend to do a double take when first confronted with this latest newcomer to the ever-growing SUV ranks. The newly-launched compact crossover is a solid effort from an Indian firm that has until now forged its reputation on budget-oriented vehicles that were more about affordability than finesse.
From its workhorse-oriented origins, in recent years Mahindra has tried to make its cars cooler with crossovers like the KUV 100 and the TUV 300. Though their styling makes the grade, the KUV is compromised by dodgy build quality while the larger TUV has quite top-heavy handling.
The new “three-double-oh” seems to hit a sweet spot on the styling, build quality and driveability fronts.
It’s quite an eye catcher and conveys an “urban adventurer” look with its chunky styling and toothy chrome grille. Front and rear plastic skid plates accentuate the adventure aspect, but with only front-wheel drive the XUV 300 doesn’t pretend to be an off-roader. The 180mm ground clearance is there to provide the obligatory “command” view of the road and the ability to tackle rough gravel.
The high-profile tyres deal well with unkempt driving surfaces and help deliver a smooth, unruffled ride quality. Rough roads also reveal this to be a vehicle of apparently good solidity, with no rattles or body flexing to reveal any build quality shortcuts.
The cabin quality is pretty good too, and a step up from the Mahindra norm. The dashboard plastics are hard, not the richer-feeling soft-touch stuff, but the interior has a neat and modern vibe. The light-coloured leatherette seats may become grimy quickly, however.
There are four derivatives in the range: two 1.2 petrols and two 1.5 diesels, each available in either W6 or the higher W8 grade.
It’s the range-topping diesel W8 on test here, a very well kitted car that lays on features like a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and USB ports. Seven airbags, ABS brakes and stability control make up a commendable safety package.
One blot on its spec sheet is that the steering column is height-adjustable only, and I missed having reach-adjustment as well.
The turbo diesel engine is quirky in that, once the ignition is switched on, it takes a few seconds for the glow plugs to warm up before you can start the car. Fail to observe this short wait and the engine coughs and splutters into life with big plumes of smoke.
Apart from this agricultural start-up sequence, it’s a reasonably refined vehicle and whisks along smoothly.
Once going it’s a satisfyingly spirited car. In terms of power and torque it outmuscles all rivals in the segment, and this Mahindra nips energetically through the urban jungle and makes a competent open-road cruiser too.
The vehicle’s only available as a six-speed manual; there’s no automatic. This isn’t a problem in terms of smoothness as the gearshifts are very light, except there’s a curious hesitation when doing the clutch-throttle dance in the lower gears, which causes a lurch when shifting from first to second if you don’t get it just right.
The steering can be set to three different settings, either lightening up for urban manoueuvring, or firming up when you don’t want to feel as if you’re piloting a Playstation.
Driving this Indian crossover with the steering firmed up seems appropriate, as it’s an enjoyably nippy car in the corners. Its slightly raised ground clearance doesn’t cause any significant body roll and the car can be confidently threaded through quick curves.
The XUV 300 makes a roomy four-seater though it’s just a snip under four metres long, but that good legroom comes at the cost of a meagre boot. The rear seats have to be flipped down to offer any reasonably-sized luggage space.
In summary, this new compact crossover takes Mahindra’s quality a step forwards while the price remains competitive. It’s the best vehicle from the Indian firm we’ve yet driven and performance-wise the XUV 300 has the opposition licked with the most powerful engine in its class.
This range-topping 1.5 diesel W8 is very highly specced and sells for R324,999 which places it right in the pricing zone of rivals such as the Renault Captur and Nissan Juke, and way higher than the segment-leading Ford EcoSport.
However there’s a lesser-specced 1.5 diesel W6 model with the same engine, which still offers a decent number of comfort and safety features priced at a more affordable R274,999.
Type: Four-cylinder diesel turbo
Type: Six-speed manual
Type: Front-wheel drive
Top speed: N/A
Fuel Consumption: 6.5l/100km (as tested)
Cruise control, ABS brakes, Electronic Stability Programme, seven airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, front and rear parking sensors, reversing camera, hill-hold assist, 215/55 R17 wheels, electrically folding side mirrors, front and rear skid plates, dual zone climate control, leatherette seat upholstery, electric sunroof, electric windows, touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, smart watch connectivity, keyless entry, rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, automatic start-stop function, multifunction steering wheel
Warranty: Five years/150,000km
Service plan: Five years/90,000 km
Lease*: R6,999 per month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Mahindra XUV 300 W8 1.5 Diesel
Class-leading power, value for money, styling
No steering reach adjustment, small boot
Mahindra quality catches up with the style
****Value For Money
Ford EcoSport 1.5 TDCi Ambiente, 74kW/205Nm — R273,700
Renault Captur dCi Dynamique, 66kW/220Nm — R320,900
Nissan Juke dCi Acenta+ , 81kW/260Nm — R359,500
Opel Crossland X 1.6 TD Enjoy, 68kW/230Nm — R348,450
Peugeot 2008 1.6 HDi Allure, 68kW/230Nm — R322,900
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