The KUV100 NXT continues to be powered by the same 1.2-litre petrol and diesel engines that power the outgoing model, mated to a five-speed manual transmission. What we have here is the diesel one with the three-cylinder mFalcon D75 turbodiesel motor producing 77bhp and 190Nm of torque. The engine makes little sound, if at all any, and still settles into a thrum if not clatter at idling. However, rev it beyond 3,000 rpm and it gets noisy and starts to feel coarse. Its refinement is nowhere close to the four-cylinder mill housed by the Swift or the Figo. Nonetheless, the power delivery is linear, turbo lag is minimal or almost nil thanks to the smaller turbo. This, paired with the generous torque available from as low as 1,800rpm, helps the vehicle pull away nicely without any fuss. Trudging along in traffic becomes easy due to a minimal need to change gears constantly.
It’s only while driving out on the highway, you realise that the engine starts to lose its fizz post 3,500rpm. But once you get a hang of it and manage to keep the revs in the meat of the power band (2,000-3,200rpm), the KUV100 can make swift progress to achieve triple digit speeds. You will still have to shift to a lower gear to manage a quick overtake. The five-speed gearbox feels notchy, but is easy to use with the short throws. However, it is the clutch pedal with its tight spring action, which will make it a tiresome job for your left leg on long drives or in traffic.
Now, the KUV's suspension has been tuned to be on the softer side. Since it also has a good ground clearance, all uneven surfaces are taken in its stride with ease at low speeds. However, side-to-side rocking gets prominent and at higher speeds the rear kicks out on harsh bumps. The vertical movement also increases, making the ride floaty. The ride doesn't settle until it finds a flat stretch. Likewise, the steering is another aspect that sits firmly in the list of cons. It is big for a compact car, lags a bit and feels vague. It makes more than three turns from lock to lock which makes parking a tedious job despite having such a compact footprint. One can steer through a corner at low speeds, but at higher speeds, its entire dynamics undergo a change. The car understeers and the body roll becomes pretty evident at that point to the extent that it will make all the occupants feel uneasy. Thankfully ABS is available, but still the car doesn't feel surefooted under hard braking.