Today most of the automakers are working towards introducing developing new compact SUVs, which are just under four metres. This is one of the fastest growing segments, and today most of the automakers are working on it. However, Mahindra had different plans. The company did introduce the TUV300, which is a compact SUV but it has even got an SUV under that. This is the KUV100 and this is the smallest Mahindra passenger vehicle ever made. We lay our hands on the smallest Mahindra for a quick spin and tell you how good it is. Find best offers on Kuv100
EXTERIOR AND DESIGN ;
The KUV100 (Kool Utility Vehicle One Double Oh) is Mahindra’s newest member in the portfolioand the most compact passenger vehicle they’veever made. The hatchback footprint makes it one of the most compact crossoversaround. The vehicle’s unique styling is meant to appeal to the younger audience. The face features the signature grille that’s sleek, but misses out on the centre bucktooth. A clamshell bonnet gives the KUV a more premium look.
In a passing glance, the headlamps will remind you of the EcoSport, but look closer and you’ll notice some interesting detailing. The lamps wraparound the entire front fender, which is unique and something we’ve neverseen done before. Mahindra says that the design has been inspired from wraparound sunglasses. The extra length meant that the engineers had to split the unit in two sections. While the main section houses the headlamp and LED DRLs, the second part is actually an extension that smartly incorporates the engine badging and side indicators. The lower section of the bumper isn’t body-coloured, giving it a dual-tone appearance. The bumper houses neat fog lamps and a contrasting silver mock bash plate too. Since the grille is small and not as imposing as its siblings, there’s a large blank portion below. This areashould have housed the registration plate in our opinion. The front track is wider than a few hatchbacks and this gives the vehicle added presence.
Move to the side and it does take some time just to get used to the design. The short length and the longish front section make it look less proportionate. There’s a lot of detail on the sides too, like the character line running from the headlamp. The rear haunch is further accentuated thanks to the prominent line that runs upwards from the rear door, all the way to the taillamps. Even the mirror caps get some detailing. The side is more hatchback than SUV. The pillar mounted rear door handles are similar to the ones on the Chevrolet Beat. This gives the KUV100 an appearance of a two-door vehicle. The handle can be operated from both sides and is finished in contrasting silver so it doesn’t go unnoticed. The wheel arches are prominent and there’s cladding too (not available onthe base trim) to give it that rugged SUV look. The 14-inch wheels however, look small. Top variants get alloy wheels as standard and the design is said to be inspired by aturbine. The rear end is quite smart with the rectangular taillamp that protrudes slightly upwardssince it sits below the extended haunch line. An integrated spoiler is standard across allvariants.
INTERIOR AND CABIN ;
Moving to the interiors, the Mahindra KUV100 has a smart looking cabin with nice use of colours and nothing seems overdone on the dashboard which uses beige and piano black to good effect. The fit and finish is also excellent by Mahindra standards and there is not much to complain here. The instrument cluster is simple to read and offers basic information such as gear indicator, trip meter and odometer. There is a distance-to-empty feature available too but it is difficult to find unlike other hatchbacks as it’s in the infotainment system. The steering comes with audio and phone controls and a regular audio system with Bluetooth, USB, AUX-IN connectivity and Blue Sense app compatibility is also offered, audio quality being average with the small screen being out of place in this touch-screen dominated world. The button to turn on and off the audio system is difficult to use as it also offers four other functions, thereby requiring a careful press. Mahindra also offers mood lighting on the top variants of the hatchback and puddle lights on all the 4 doors which do help at night.
The steering wheel feels nice to hold and the front seats offer good levels of comfort. A height adjustment feature is also offered. The travel range of the seats is pretty good. The KUV100 is offered with a 5-seater as well as a 6-seater layout. The 5-seater model comes with adjustable headrests at the front while the 6-seater gets fixed headrests. The rear seats on both the models get three adjustable headrests which is a good thing. On the 6-seater model, it is possible to fold away the front middle seat and use it as a large armrest which is the best use of the extra seat as safety of a third person at the front is questionable with the lap seatbelt (on the 5-seater model, there are a ton of cubbyholes in the centre). The rear seat also comes with an armrest with two cupholders. Even at the front, the number of cubbyholes and storage bins is pretty good (sunglass holder, toll receipt holder below the right AC vent and a lot more). There is a storage bin on the rear floor (in the middle) while the co-passenger seat (only on the 6-seater version) opens up for storage, it has a tray in it too. The gear lever is mounted on the dashboard while the vehicle gets a pull-type handbrake, similar to the Datsun GO. The AC (the controls are vertically stacked) is an absolute chiller and Mahindra has provided two power outlets, one at the front and one in the boot which is also accessible from the rear seat.
Outward visibility from the driver’s seat is good while viewing ahead, while sidewards visibility isn’t the best due to the thick B-pillar. Even the small rear windshield and thick C-pillars cause a bit of a visibility concern at the rear. The rear seats have good kneeroom (thanks to the scooped out rear seatback which also get magazine pockets) but average legroom (the floor might be flat but at the bottom of the front seats, there is a raised floor area) which is much lesser than the Hyundai Grand i10 and even lesser than the Maruti Swift, its two chief rivals. The black cladding which houses the outside rear door knob makes things claustrophobic at the rear which is amplified on the 6-seater model as forward visibility is further reduced by the extra front seat. The headroom isn’t adequate for tall passengers and space for the shoulders is just about decent. The seat belts aren’t height adjustable and are placed low, causing another issue for tall occupants. The boot of the KUV100 is decent but will hardly fit in a weekend’s luggage for 2-3 people (the rear seats fold flat though). The ORVMs are also very small and offer a limited view of what’s behind.
ENGINE AND GEARBOX ;
It was no secret that Mahindra had been developing a new family of small-capacity petrol and diesel engines, and the KUV100 is the first recipient of the new mFalcon range. The petrol engine, called mFalcon G80, is an all-aluminium, 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit, which uses a four-valve head and variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust. Pumping out 81.8bhp at 5,500rpm and 11.7kgm from 3,500-3,600rpm, the petrol KUV doesn’t stand out amidst peers for max power or torque.
However, performance is more than acceptable. Sure, the KUV’s 15.13 second 0-100kph time does put it behind rivals, but if you look at in-gear times, it’s actually quicker than the Swift and Grand i10. The KUV’s relatively shorter gearing undoubtedly helps here. What also works in the KUV’s favour is that part-throttle response is pretty good, which makes ambling around town quite relaxed.
However, it’s when you floor the throttle or want to execute a sudden overtaking move that this engine falls flat, quite literally. Power delivery is flat and lacks any sense of urgency and it’s only when you are in the 4,500-6,000rpm range that you get a second wind or surge. But it’s a bit pointless as average users will rarely ever push the KUV so far into the rev band. Just as well, because the engine gets thrummy and loud at high revs. Engine refinement is a bit disappointing especially the petrol engine which vibrates quite a bit at idle and rocks on its mounts. Clutch engagement could be smoother too, though the five-speed gearbox won us over for its slick and accurate action.
The diesel KUV uses a 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that Mahindra has labelled ‘mFalcon D75’. A cast iron block and aluminium head make up this engine, while diesel is fed via a common-rail system at a pressure of 1,600bar. The engine makes a respectable 77bhp at 3,750rpm, while its 19.37kgm max torque figure is on par with the larger-hearted four-cylinder Swift diesel’s output. That said, in outright acceleration contests, the KUV won’t keep up with the Swift. The KUV will hit the ton from a standstill in 14.85 seconds, while the Swift will do the same in 1.2 seconds less. But compare the KUV diesel’s performance to the three-cylinder Grand i10 diesel’s, and you’ll find the Mahindra to be significantly quicker.
In everyday conditions, the KUV diesel is actually quite nice to drive. There’s minimal turbo lag and the diesel motor feels quite responsive as the turbo kicks in from about 1,500rpm. There’s a gentle surge that comes in at 1,800rpm and it stays put until 3,500rpm after which, the engine takes its own sweet time to rev harder. If you are patient enough, you can have the engine rev to 4,800rpm, but doing so only increases the noise level without any real rewards in performance. As you would have gathered, this is not an exciting or punchy engine, but one that feels well in tune with the rigours of urban driving. Taking it easy is the best approach here, and one that also keeps the engine noise levels to a minimum.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
During its product presentation, Mahindra stated that the KUV100 has a long travel suspension setup for better ride quality over bumpy roads.As it turns out, the KUV100 does have a pliant and comfortable ride, soaking jerks from small potholes and road undulations like a proper SUV.While it may instill confidence, be aware that the KUV100 only has an hatchback-like ground clearance of 170 mm.
The soft suspension may have affected its handling characteristics. Driving around the sharp hairpin corners towards Yelagiri, I found that the body roll and understeer can be a bit nerve-wracking.Given that the KUV100 is not developed to be a cornering machine, its handling capability isn’t too much of a bother.
Mahindra is offering ABS as standard across every variant of the KUV100 while dual front airbags are also offered as optional on every variant except the top K8 variant where they are standard. The hatchback also comes with a 2-year, 1 lakh kms standard warranty which can be optionally extended to 5 years. Mahindra has a good after-sales network across the country while the service quality levels are neutral. While some dealers offer exceptional levels of service, there are some where the quality of work done is below par too.
We will definitely update you with more details as soon as the updated Crossover is launched in the Indian market. But with the refined engine and better fuel efficiency and obviously some cosmetic upgrades there is no doubt the Mahindra KUV100 definitely has everything to dominate over this newly formed segment.