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.