With its latest product, KUV100, Mahindra clearly wants to target consumers in the hatchback segment — dominated now by Hyundai Grand i10 and Maruti Suzuki Swift. Even in the official presentation during its launch event, the KUV100 was compared to the aforementioned products on aspects of product specifications and features. Mahindra is the strongest utility vehicle player in the Indian automotive landscape and it is using that image to place a crossover in a segment that’s traditionally been hatchback territory.
There’s no other way to say this — the KUV100 is a peculiar looking thing. The proportions are over the top and it’s a polarising design: like it or loathe it, you can’t ignore it. The front seems to have taken design cues from Range Rover Evoque, and Mahindra’s own XUV500. The rear section is more akin to a hatchback with its relatively tame appearance, accentuated by 3D-effect tail lamps.
While the plastic used in the cabin is of high grade quality, the look and feel could have been much better. Some elements are irritating — the parking brake lever is mounted at the bottom of the centre console and is an archaic system. To accommodate the gear box, the middle panel on the dashboard had to be broadened; the leg rubs along the plastic surface if you intend to rest your left foot on the dead pedal, and that can get irksome. The steering wheel feels like it is angled away from the driver and the driving position is somewhat flawed.
In addition to the standard 5-seat version, the KUV100 is also offered in a 6-seater configuration — three in the front, three at the rear. The person sitting in the middle in the front row, however, will not have a great deal of space or be very comfortable. While the space overall is quite good, the seats could have been better shaped to enhance comfort. The boot is average — the loading lip is quite high and the shape of the hatch has narrowed the loading area substantially.
Mahindra has done a commendable job with the 1.2-litre common rail diesel engine. It makes 77bhp of peak power and 190Nm of rotating force, which is sufficient enough for a vehicle of this size and weight. The turning radius of about 5 metres is acceptable but the steering doesn’t score much on feedback — it feels vague (thankfully direct however) at slow city speeds, but overly light and clueless when you get going. The KUV can mooch around easily at slow speeds, and pick up momentum through the 2,500-3,500rpm range just as effortlessly.
We drove the car from Pune to Delhi and the KUV100 isn’t as exciting to drive as the Maruti Suzuki Swift, or as rounded a package as the Hyundai Grand i10. It could’ve been better thought-out and finished, but it gets people talking. It’s a brave new product and Mahindra is banking on its prowess in the SUV game to create a niche for itself in the strong hatchback space.
Mahindra KUV100 (diesel)
Engine: 1198cc, common-rail direct injection, turbocharged
Power: 77bhp @ 3,750rpm
Torque: 190Nm @ 1,750-2,250rpm
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Price: Rs 5.22-6.76 Lakh (ex-showroom Pune)