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Mahindra NuvoSport First Drive Review

What is it?

The new Mahindra NuvoSport, according to its maker might be the ideal tool for adventure seekers, but behind the marketing curtain, it is the replacement of the Quanto. It uses the same shell as the Quanto – same doors and the same roof – but the NuvoSport sits on a new ladder-based platform. It's the same that underpins the Scorpio and the TUV300. So, it's lighter, more rigid and dynamically better set up than the older non-hydroformed chassis.

Mahindra is targeting the likes of the Ford EcoSport and the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza with the NuvoSport. And though that might be a tough ask on a number of counts, we expect this new Mahindra compact SUV to have a few aces up its sleeve. Are we right or wrong? Let's find out.

How is it on the inside?

Remember we mentioned the NuvoSport is in fact the replacement for the Quanto. And though it uses a new ladder frame, like the body shell, the interiors have been carried over from the older car as well. So, you get the same dashboard, same interior door panels (complete with those odd, round shaped door handles), and the same stowage options. The quality, like on the Quanto, isn't great either. And, plastic all round looks and feels tacky for its class. Operability for switches, dials et al, lacks crispness and the well-engineered feel of its competitors as well.

Space, however, is NuvoSport's strong point. It's the same as the Quanto, but compared to other compact SUVs, there's significantly more head, shoulder and knee room all round. Seats are decent too - cushy, large, and decently supportive, and the ones at the rear (which also split and fold 60:40), can be reclined. Also carried over from the Quanto are the two jump seats in the boot. When it comes to safety and comfort, these are pretty much useless. But fold them up, and there's over 400 litres of luggage space to be had, along with a low loading height.

Equipment wise, the NuvoSport gets a multifunctional steering wheel adjustable for rake; height adjustable driver's seat (there are only two steps – up or down); a multi information display with gear indication, speed, average fuel economy and range; electric adjustment for ORVMs; and a touchscreen infotainment system with AUX, USB and CD compatibility. Conspicuous by their absence are the climate control system; a cooled glovebox and electric fold function for ORVMs.

There are some ergonomics issues as well on the NuvoSport. Lower the front armrest and you can’t access the seatbelt hook; come to a stop to drop off a passenger and there’s no unlock button; and though the new instrumentation has a big central display, it doesn’t throw up any MID info.

How does it drive?

Like an old school ladder-based SUV would. The NuvoSport can't sugarcoat its rudimentary roots. So, you begin by sitting high, which gives you a commanding view of the road ahead, for sure. But the controls – the steering and floor pedals with respect to the seat – feel as if they belong in a utilitarian vehicle. Plus, the steering is large and with over three turns lock-to-lock, not to mention its vague nature, the NuvoSport doesn't feel car-like at all.

It rides and handles like an old school SUV too. There's pronounced side to side movement over uneven roads; it jiggles over bumps and potholes; and when subjected to undulations at speed, it feels anything but planted - there's bounce, there's squat and a bit of twist as well. But, the upside of all that travel and 65 profile tyres is that no matter how bad the road gets, how deep the potholes or how high or squarish the bump, the NuvoSport takes it in its stride. So while its competition might feel fragile on such occasions, this Mahindra feels unbreakable.

There's sadly no upside to the NuvoSport's handling. It has a lazy turn-in, prominent body roll, and it never feels up to quick direction changes. The best way to take a corner in the NuvoSport then is to load it gently and ask little of if in terms of high corner speeds. Braking again isn't great. There's bite and there's ABS and there are warning blinkers that come on under hard braking, but there's very little feel at the pedal.

Now to the best bit about the Mahindra NuvoSport – its engine. The 1493cc, three-cylinder diesel is essentially the same as the Quanto, but has been revised to deliver better performance and economy. It makes 100bhp of max power and the torque at 240Nm is the highest in its class too.

Not surprisingly, the NuvoSport feels peppy from the word go. There's a bit of lag under 1500rpm, but because the NuvoSport is short geared, the engine rarely drops under 2,000rpm. Meaning, every time you get on the throttle, there's enough pull to keep you entertained. Driveability as a result is good. The engine is also refined and quiet. All this is in the default Power mode. Switch to Eco and the power drops to around 72bhp. Additionally, the throttle response becomes dull, the engine only revs to 3500rpm instead of 4500, and the Eco map is such, the NuvoSport refuses to pile on the revs in a hurry. It certainly makes the compact SUV feel underpowered.

It’s best then to stick to the Power mode, shift up early and ride the torque curve, because the long throw and rubbery shift quality of the 5-speed manual doesn't make for an enjoyable experience either.

Should I buy one?

The Mahindra NuvoSport is a body on ladder frame SUV. And with it come a few compromises. It can't match its monocoque competition when it comes to handling or braking; it isn’t as easy to live with inside the city either. But, if it's space you want, topped up with some ruggedness and a torquey, no nonsense engine, the NuvoSport might just work for you.

 

Where does it fit in?

The NuvoSport is here to take on more urban centric compact SUVs like the Vitara Brezza and the EcoSport. In terms of pricing it sits above its own sibling the TUV300, which is fine, but it is also more expensive than the Brezza and the EcoSport spec for spec, which might be more difficult to justify. This particular N8 version is priced at Rs 9.22 lakh ex-showroom in Delhi.

 

Photograpy by Kapil Angane 

 

Click here for Mahindra NuvoSport and Ford EcoSport eqiupment and specifications

Click here to read our first drive report on the Mahindra TUV300

Click here to read our first drive report on the Mahindra Scorpio 

 

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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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