What is it?
Not too long ago, we drove the Mahindra XUV300 and came away very impressed with its diesel-manual drivetrain, but sometimes revisits are in order especially given the fact that nothing in the perky compact SUV segment stays still for long. This time around, we have the diesel-AMT arrangement which seems to be all the rage at the meat end of the market. Sure, it won’t set your pulse racing but this XUV300 is as punchy and practical as ever and now with a diesel-automatic, it’s much easier to drive and more desirable.
But is there anything new to look at? The short answer to that would be, no. The only difference on the outside is the ‘autoSHIFT’ badge over the tailgate to let you know of the newfound convenience. In terms of dimensions, the XUV300 is wider and taller than both the Nexon and the Hyundai Venue and its 2600mm wheelbase is the best-in-segment, too.
How is it on the inside?
It’s the same as its manual counterpart. You get a two-tone cabin that offers a commanding view over the road with a high seating position and good visibility. Unlike the all-black insides of the Brezza and the Nexon, there is an insulated ambience to the XUV300’s cabin with a sea of gloss black and silver trim giving it a brighter appearance.
The XUV300 has the longest wheelbase of all compact SUVs and it pays dividend upfront wherein you have plenty of knee room to stretch out. The seats are supportive as well and it’s the same story at the back where you will find more than enough headroom. What’s disappointing though is the lack of under thigh support and the modest legroom. Despite the wheelbase, the knee-room is just about average which is really surprising. However, there is no surprise when it comes to storage – throughout the cabin, there are enough storage spaces for your phone, wallet, bottles and lots more. You get a deep glove box that can fit a laptop, plenty of cubby holes between the front seats, open tray on the dash and big bottle holders on all four doors.
The top-spec W8 (O) variant we had on test is loaded with segment-first features including 7 airbags, dual zone climate control with memory function, front parking sensors, heated mirrors, and disc brakes for all four wheels. Other noteworthy features include a sunroof, cruise control, push button start, leather seats, hill hold function and a 7-inch infotainment system with smartphone mirroring tech and navigation. Even though it’s absolutely feature loaded, the infotainment system lacks the outright display crispness and ease of use that the competition offers.
How does it drive?
Unlike the Nexon AMT which can be had with both petrol or diesel power, the AMT’s pairing on the XUV is limited to the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine that we are fans of. Also found in the Marazzo, this engine makes 115bhp at 3,750nm and 300Nm between 1,500 and 2,500rpm. Straightway, the most impressive thing about it is that it makes maximum torque from as low as 1,500rpm which is always good for low speed drivability. Naturally, the XUV300 is effortless right from the word go – be it low speed pulls or highway passes, any manoeuvre is done with ease thanks to the strong bottom end and mid-range. This engine pulls particularly hard in the midrange, with a steady flow of torque right until 4,000rpm.
The XUV300 is also among the most silent performers in its segment. It gets a little loud when you wring it, but the engine is plenty refined and has more than enough grunt to get up to speed with minimal turbo lag. As for the crux of this test, the six-speed AMT, it is by far the least intrusive automated-manual we have encountered in this segment. At low speeds, the way it responds to the throttle is commendable and the back-and-forth motion between gear changes is surprisingly minimal. The only thing we do not like about this AMT is the built-in creep function which could have been more refined. Designed to help with crawling ever so slowly in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the slightest push on the throttle ends up with you jolting forward. It’s best, then, to cover the brake pedal when driving in traffic.
What about ride and handling, you may ask? Over bad roads, the XUV300 AMT is just as unruffled as the rest of the range. Low speed bumps and undulations are dealt with minimal vibrations and a lot of plushness. Similarly, the ride remains composed at highway speeds and the bump absorption is well controlled as well. As for handling, the feedback from the steering can be changed using different modes namely Normal, Comfort and Sport. Honestly, there isn’t much difference in normal or comfort but in sport, the steering delivers more of that crucial weighty reassurance at everyday speeds.
Should I buy one?
Although not quite as spacious at the rear as the Nexon or as well-built as the Venue, the XUV300 still manages to be an impressive compact SUV. It’s visually appealing, surprisingly quick and feature-loaded to the roof rails. Better still, the smooth-shifting AMT is quick and well calibrated to the potent diesel motor, offering an impressive driving experience combining performance and drivability in equal measure.
Where does it fit in?
The XUV300 AMT competes against other diesel-AMTs in the compact SUV space, namely the Tata Nexon and the Maruti Vitara Brezza.