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Mahindra NuvoSport AMT First Drive Review

What is it?

Mahindra reckoned that its Quanto needed a new dose of life and in the process performed a nose job on the existing design before christening it the ‘NuvoSport’. You don’t need to stare at this iteration to arrive at the conclusion that it looks butch and impressive. However, as much as it looks stunning from the front, it looks quite the opposite from the rear. And that’s mainly because Mahindra designers stuck with the Quanto’s rear end bringing only minimal changes. In this episode, we review Mahindra’s five-speed AMT version; the carmaker’s serious attempt to steal your attention from the obvious dump of the clutch pedal. Here’s the gist. 

How is it on the inside?

As the NuvoSport serves as a replacement for the Quanto, you get the same interior dimensions and layout which is quite spacious. While  huge glass panes all around account for great visibility, you also get the same dash design and finish. The quality levels of the plastic on the dash and other parts of the cabin remain the same as the Quanto and leaves a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, the dual colours splashed around does liven up the interiors to an extent. Though the centre air vents offer appropriate cooling even on a hot summer day, the design is an eyesore. All switchgear feel positive to operate and are easy to access, but every now and then you tend to miss the presence of a door lock-unlock button. 

You literally have to clamber onto the NuvoSport, thanks to the height, which is when you miss the A-pillar handle that would have been a nice addition. Once in, you’re perched high and there’s a commanding view of what lies ahead. The front seats have appropriate back support and can hold large frames with reasonable comfort. Plus there’s enough legroom and headroom for you to stretch out too. However, keep an eye out on the plastic edges of the arm rest as they have a tendency to scratch you at times. That said, you will also have to keep yanking the arm rest out of the way for access to the seat belt buckles. Move on to the middle row and these seats can be reclined for comfort too. They offer the same amount of support and legroom, and three people can sit abreast reasonably. When the side facing third row jump seats are folded, the boot space breaks free by up to 412 litres and can swallow another 850 litres if the middle row is tumbled. 

Mahindra’s NuvoSport AMT is sold through two versions, namely N6 and N8. To give you an idea, the N8 adds DRLs, alloys, spoiler, side body decal, blacked out B and C pillar and a leatherette over the N6 variant. You also get aluminium pedals, scuff plates, a 6.2 inch touchscreen infotainment system and reverse park assist. Add to this the steering mounted controls, driver seat height adjust, lumbar support, second row tumble seats, front arm rest and fog lamps. All that for Rs 77,000 more. 

How does it drive?

The AMT version of the NuvoSport has specs that are identical to the manual version but it does away with the Power/Eco mode. So you get the 1.5-litre mHawk diesel motor that does 100bhp at 3750rpm, and 240Nm of torque between 1600rpm and 2800rpm. A five-speed AMT box takes care of transmission duties. Once you’re ready to get on the move, your hands naturally go for the gear shift and that’s when you realise that the lever is a tad too small. It also feels farther from the driver than it should. But you forget all this when you start analysing the uniquely designed ‘+’ shaped transmission gate. A few trials on how to get each mode actuated and a quick spin is all it takes for you to understand the shift layout. 

As you slot into auto mode and back off the brake pedal, you’re greeted by a hesitance to crawl. This is much more pronounced while reversing and will call for some getting used to in ‘stop-go’ driving, especially on inclined surfaces. On the go, it is difficult not to notice the extra refinement compared to the Quanto. However, the shifts are slow and the AMT pause is even more pronounced when compared to any other AMT gearbox in general. The drive feels flat after 3500rpm and there is no grunt from the engine after that. It makes more sense to drive the NuvoSport AMT sedately as there’s loads of torque below 2000rpm. 

To give you an impression of how this AMT manages its job, here’s the breakup. In ‘Auto’ mode and sedate acceleration, all the gears shift at 2100rpm, however, floor the pedal and the transmission shifts between 3500-4500rpm to keep you in the midst of the power band. Nevertheless, it needs to be noted that the AMTs 0-100kmph sprint is way slower than the manual, by 4.44sec! What makes matters worse is that the AMT and manual have recorded similar in-gear accelerations for the 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph runs. It kills the whole idea as automatics are supposed to post quicker times by using the kickdown feature. Mahindra refused to divulge the weight of the NuvoSport, and when we weighed it, it touched the scales at around 1.7 tonnes. We believe that this is one of the reasons which dampen the overall performance of the car.

Slot into the ‘Manual’ mode and the system lets you shift as you please. Nevertheless, all gears automatically shift around the 4500rpm mark. On the whole, the AMT really suffices as a decent city dweller and makes for an option for those buyers who want to avoid the rubbery long throw gearshift that’s on the manual version.

We noticed that the steering is a tad too big but you get over this shortcoming eventually. Also, the NuvoSport feels best when driven over smooth surfaces. Anything less, like a patched or broken surface at any speed and you’ll be confronted with a lot of sideways movement that disrupts passenger comfort. However, there’s no stress about hitting any road as the NuvoSport makes zilch suspension racket. Despite the harshness of any terrain, it feels rugged and built to last. Though braking is adequate for most situations, up the pace and you will be left wanting more feedback from the pedal. 

Should I buy one?

Mahindra’s NuvoSport AMT is built to gratify a set of urban SUV consumers who need the convenience an automatic can bring to their city runabout. It makes more sense than the manual version as the price difference only ranges from Rs 55,000 to Rs 65,000, and the fuel efficiency figures should not differ as much either. But the highlight is that you will need to live with the dwarfed performance figures vis-a-vis the manual model. What you do get though, in addition to the inherent left foot freedom, are qualities like a refined engine, decent service backup and a rugged SUV that offers class-leading cabin space. 

Where does it fit in?

As of now, Mahindra’s NuvoSport AMT has no competition in its segment. Mahindra has positioned this vehicle clearly above its stable mate, the TUV300, by up to Rs 23,000. While the N6 AMT retails for Rs 9.10 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the N8 AMT costs Rs 9.87 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). 

 

Pictures by Kapil Angane

 

Click here for the Nuvosport M/T First drive

Click here for the Nuvosport M/T comparison test

Click here for the Nuvosport spec comparison

Photos

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Mahindra NuvoSport Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 9.55 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 9.69 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 9.25 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 9.41 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 8.89 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 9.19 Lakhs onwards
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