For – Engine drivability, spacious cabin, standard airbags option
Against – Cabin quality, sloppy dynamics, sound insulation
Verdict – A unique effort from Mahindra, but needs improvement in key areas
Rating – 6/10
It’s Mahindra’s rival to the ever impressive Maruti Swift and quite a unique one at that. It’s because of the way it looks – like an SUV. Sure, there is no shortage of stylish hatchbacks in the segment, but with the KUV 100, Mahindra has tried to give it a chunky, crossover-like stance and it definitely stands out from the crowd. As SUVs are the flavour of the moment in our country a jacked-up look assures its appeal.
Mahindra has launched the car with the option of a petrol or a diesel engine, distributed across a total of twenty plus variants, which is backed by a rather generous two-year/unlimited warranty which can be extended upto five years. The pricing is also fairly competitive. So just how good is Mahindra’s new KUV100?
Design and Style
Although it looks interesting from certain angles, for most part the KUV100 looks awkward and overdone. Let's start with the good bits first. Mahindra has used a lot of modern inspiration in designing the KUV and this is apparent when viewed from the front. The headlights and the grille combine to make the KUV look like it is wearing Oakley sunglasses. The slim grille is a departure from Mahindra’s family look and it looks more inspired from the Range Rover Evoque. The front bumper sits too tall but the blackened lower portion help hide some of the bulk. It is from the rear the KUV looks the best and the wrap around tail lamps and the strong crease above them looks nice.
But when seen in profile, the KUV looks weird and overdone. By making the car tall and in pursuit of giving it a SUV stance, Mahindra also should have given it bigger wheels than just 14 inches. Also the large metal portion above the front wheel arches looks ungainly and the crease which runs from the tail lamps to the rear door doesn't gel well with the overall design. Flared wheel arches are missing too and this makes the KUV look more like a compact MPV than SUV.
The KUV100 is the second car from Mahindra to use a modern monocoque chassis. In a bid to qualify for the future crash tests and keep the car's weight down Mahindra has employed high strength steel in key areas. Also lessons learnt in developing the XUV’s monocoque chassis helped Mahindra finalising the final design and keeping the development time to just 48 months. The KUV at 3,675mm in length is quite compact as compared to its rivals. So to generate room inside, Mahindra has made the KUV tall (135mm taller than the Swift) and even its 1715mm width is best in class. Despite the SUV look the KUV100 has just 170mm of ground clearance which although on par with the competition, looks too less for its tall proportions.
The KUV's suspension layout is quite standard with independent front and non-independent rear. To get things right from go, Mahindra took help of Cayman Dynamics from USA for base suspension tuning, while the final tuning was done in India. As Mahindra refused to share the KUV’s kerb weight we went ahead and weighed it ourselves and we came away quite surprised. With a full tank of fuel and essential fluids on board the KUV diesel weighed at a hefty 1155kg. This makes it a massive 100kg heavier than the Maruti Swift diesel and is maybe the reason behind them not revealing the data.
Slide in the KUV’s driver seat and you are greeted by a modern-looking dashboard whose showpiece is the large central console with the high accommodated gear-lever. You sit at a good height and ingress height is very good making it ideal for elderly people. We had the 6-seater version on test and though Mahindra has made a floating dash to accommodate a third person upfront we highly recommend to go for the five-seater version with bucket seats. Firstly the bulging centre console makes it best for children. So if you love your small ones, you don’t want them to go through a face full of centre console with no airbags to save them in an unfortunate accident. Although you can fold the middle backrest to use it as a front armrest, it gets in the way of you shifting gears.
The seat itself though is comfortable with good back support and the wide cabin gives you an airy feel. Even at the rear, space is good with the wide cabin and flat-floor making it good for three people. You sit at a good height and it has one of the most comfortable seats in the segment. But it doesn’t particularly feel airy at the back thanks to the rising window-line, large front bench arrangement and the blacked-out section right next to your face where the exterior door handles are placed. Even getting in the rear seat is compromised by the small rear door.
Although the KUV gets good fit and finish for a Mahindra, it can’t match the likes of Hyundai or even Maruti in this respect. The dash-top gets a uniquely grained plastic which looks nice but as you go lower down things gradually get low-rent. The black centre console which is finished in matt-black feels old-school and there are many places where bits are ill-fitting and have hard edges. Interior quality is one area where the KUV just hasn’t kept pace and feels a generation behind the Grand i10 or even the Swift.
In terms of storage, Mahindra has done really well with thoughtful under seat removable tray at the front. There are enough cup-holders and other storage areas for knick-knacks.
Safety and Equipment
For the segment, the KUV is quite well equipped and comes with essential features like a CD, USB, Bluetooth and Aux-equipped music system, power windows, height adjustable steering, steering mounted controls, driver seat height adjust, a comprehensive trip computer and power steering. The only thing that is missing are rear parking sensors which would have made the deal even sweeter. What’s commendable though is that Mahindra is offering ABS as standard across the range while you can also opt for two airbags on any of the lower variants, while the top K8 version gets it as standard.
Engine, Performance and Braking
A pair of brand-new three-cylinder engines – a 1.2 petrol and a 1.2 turbo-diesel power the KUV100. To keep costs down Mahindra have used some common parts and they have even used identical bore centre spacing.
The 1198cc petrol is an all-aluminium motor with variable valve timing for both inlet and exhaust valves. This 4 valves per cylinder engine is good for 82bhp and the torque output is rated at 115Nm which comes in at a low 3500rpm. Thanks to short gear ratios and good spread of torque the KUV petrol surprised us with its driveability. The motor is responsive and has a linear pull from low engine speeds, which makes it ideal for city driving. As a result, you don’t need to change gears frequently. But if you have to, then the short-throw high mounted gearbox feels relatively crisp and nice to use. On the highway the motor feels sufficiently powerful too and overtaking manoeuvres are easy to execute. But where the short gearing helps the KUV in town, it doesn’t make it a great cruiser on the highway. As the engine gets quite vocal when you go up the rev range cruising in three digit speeds makes the engine strained and lot of mechanical whine is filtered inside the cabin. In terms of performance the petrol motor managed to reach 100kmph from standstill in a decent 14.84 seconds. But thanks to its clever gearing the KUV managed to post segment best drivability times of 13.18seconds for the 20-80kmph in third gear and 19.77seconds for the 40-100kmph in fourth gear.
Moving to the diesel motor, the 1197cc diesel motor makes a healthy 77bhp and 190Nm of torque. It’s a fairly quiet unit when it’s not revved too hard but it can’t match the refinement or performance of the four-cylinder motors from Maruti and Ford. There are vibrations which can be felt through the steering and pedals at idle but things smoothen out as you build speed. There’s precious little turbo from this small capacity motor diesel motor and progress is smooth right from the get go. The gradual build-up of power makes the KUV diesel a friendly car to drive in the city. Things stay that way till about 3,800rpm, after which the power simply falls off a cliff. This also means you need to plan your overtaking manoeuvres and the motor feels best when you upshift early and keep the engine in the mid-range. We also tried the ECO mode on the KUV diesel and unless you want to stretch every drop of fuel we suggest to stay away from this mode. In this mode the engine feels too restricted and redline is reduced to just above 3000rpm. The diesel KUV100 is a pretty relaxed cruiser but under load it’s quite audible and here too we feel Mahindra could have done a better job with sound insulation. Shuffling through the gears, though, poses no problem. Like on the petrol the five-speed gearbox on the diesel is smooth enough and the clutch is light by diesel car standards.
When driven in normal mode performance figures are quite impressive. The diesel registered a time of 14.48 seconds to 100kmph and like with the petrol, the diesel version really impresses in terms of in-gear acceleration. 20-80kmph in third is dispatched in just 11.31 seconds and 40-100kmph in fourth is completed in an equally impressive 12.92seconds. We also did a run in ECO mode and unsurprisingly it took more than 10 seconds longer to do the 0-100kmph sprint.
Ride and Handling
The lightness of the KUV’s controls is immediately apparent and it has been designed around ease of operation. Both in the petrol and diesel versions the clutch is light and combined with the generous assistance of the electric power steering, it makes the Mahindra a restful companion in the urban environment.
Mahindra has tuned the suspension on the softer side so it does a good job of dealing with speedbreakers and potholes at low speeds. Sharper potholes does catch it off-guard though and this is mainly down to the suspension travel which is on the shorter side. Also as you up the pace, you begin to notice inconsistencies in the damping. Over patchy roads, the KUV tends to bob, which can get uncomfortable for passengers and the ride never feels settled. While tackling corners there is excessive body roll too, and the tall KUV feels too top heavy for a car this compact. Even the steering feels vague at high speeds and there’s also a bit of dead zone around the straight-ahead position which makes you feel disconnected from the road. The steering rack is on the slower side too with plenty of turns lock to lock which makes the KUV a car to be driven in a relaxed manner than being hustled around.
Price and Fuel Economy
While the lower variants of the KUV are very well priced, the top-of-the-line K8 variant is quite expensive. The petrol KUV’s prices start from a low Rs 4.55 lakh for the base and go up to Rs 5.99 lakh for the top K8 six-seater variant. The diesel prices start at Rs 5.30 lakh for the base and go up to a massive Rs 7.41 lakh for the top variant.
In terms of fuel economy, the petrol expectedly was the thirstier of the two. The 1.2-litre petrol variant returned a respectable 11.7kpl in the city and 16.5kpl on the highway. The diesel variant, on the other hand, proved much more efficient with figures of 12.9kmpl and 17.5kmpl for the city and highway cycles respectively. The diesel figures were done on eco mode.
Final Rating: 3.56/5
The KUV, then, has quite a bit on offer. It’s got a spacious cabin, is well equipped, has a decent low speed ride, gets potent powertrains and is well priced too. But perhaps these traits are not enough to fully camouflage the KUV’s weaker aspects. Leading the list here is the odd exterior styling and mediocre quality of plastics in the cabin. Both the engines are on the noisier side too and Mahindra could have done a better job of sound insulation. Even in terms of ride and handling the KUV leaves a lot to be desired and it doesn’t come close to the likes of the Maruti Swift and Ford Figo in this department. In the final analysis, the KUV comes across as a competent and practical hatchback, albeit one that doesn’t stand out in any particular aspect.
Photography by : Kapil Angane
|Displacement||3 cyls, 1198cc||3 cyls, 1198cc|
|Valve gear||4 valves per cyl, DOHC||4 valves per cyl, DOHC|
|Power||82bhp at 5500rpm||77bhp at 3750rpm|
|Torque||115nm at 3500-3600rpm||190nm at 1750-2250rpm|
|Power to weight||71bhp per tonne||66.6bhp per tonne|
|Torque to weight||99.56Nm per tonne||164.5Nm per tonne|
|Gearbox||5-speed manual||5-speed manual|
|CHASSIS & BODY|
|Construction||four-door hatchback, monocoque|
|Type||Rack and pinion, electric assist|
|PERFORMANCE & BRAKING|
|20-80kph in kickdown/3rd gear||13.18s||11.31s|
|40-100kph in kickdown/4th gear||19.77s||12.92s|
|Tank size||35 litres||35 litres|
|Seat base length||510mm|
|Seat base length||510mm|
|Loading lip height||850mm|