We will get to the 'BUT' a little later. First, let's get 'what we know' out of the way.
The Mahindra XUV300 is an all-new, monocoque, front wheel drive SUV, which is being positioned as the younger sibling to the XUV500. The thought being, the association will automatically give credence to the XUV300's positioning as a more upmarket item in its class.
It will be launched in February. It will come with both a petrol and a diesel engine. And, it will get a manual gearbox. It will compete against the hot-selling Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and the Tata Nexon.
The favourable odds:
Now, to the favourable winds.
The XUV300 has traditional, squared-out SUV looks. It has Mahindra's famed ruggedness – at least perception wise. And, it is built on the modern, meant-for-developing markets, Tivoli platform.
The latter comes with its set of pluses. Now, the XUV300 isn't just the Tivoli with a new top-hat. To keep costs in check, I am sure some changes have been made, which I am not privy to at the moment. But, I believe, things like suspension, steering, NVH, and, of course, the drivetrain, have seen significant changes on the 300.
However, it's also clear that Mahindra has carried over some things from the Tivoli. The seven airbags, the dual-zone climate control system, cruise control, sunroof, and disc brakes on all four wheels to name a few. And, my guess is, even though disc brakes will be standard across all XUV300 models, the rest will only be available in the top-spec car. Call it the play of sensors, modules or wiring harness, if you will.
The platform offers other advantages too. Like good crash test worthiness. It is after all, a platform that is sold in the US, UK, and in Europe. The Tivoli, by the way, scored four stars at Euro NCAP. Sure, apart from the body structure and the seven airbags, the Euro NCAP car had quite a few driving aids, which will be missing on the 300. But, nonetheless, the new XUV should do well at Global NCAP. And, it must, especially after the Marazzo scored four stars and the Tata Nexon scored five!
The inside game
Then there's the cabin. Look at the Tivoli and the XUV300 cabin, and it’s obvious, not much has changed. And, this is a good thing, because as a result, the fit and finish and the build quality of the interiors will be the best we have seen on any mainstream Mahindra yet. The Alturas is a different kettle of fish, of course. What's more, the choice of material and the textures have been chosen such that the XUV300 will now boast of a much better look and feel compared to the Marazzo even.
There's also the footprint of the Tivoli platform to consider. Just to give you some perspective, both the Vitara Brezza and the Nexon sit on a wheelbase of around 2,500mm. Now, according to Mahindra, the XUV300 will have the largest wheelbase in its class. And it's not difficult to see why; the Tivoli does sit on a 2,600mm wheelbase, after all.
Now, if you were to look at the 300 and the Tivoli side-by-side in profile, it will become obvious that Mahindra has decided to hack away at the front and rear to get the new XUV under the 4m mark. The DLO hasn’t changed. And given that the engineers had to lose around 200mm off the Tivoli – that’s only about as long as an average man’s hand, chances are the wheelbase hasn’t been changed on the 300 either. Add, to it the squared-out design, and Tivoli's near 1800mm width, and the XUV300 should offer good knee and shoulder room all around.
Where it will be comprised though, is the boot space. We don’t expect it to be anywhere near the Tivoli’s 423 litres; the sub-4m stance does have its shortcomings. But, between 300-350 litres is possible, and it will be par for the course.
The driving equation
Let me be clear – I haven’t driven the XUV300. In fact, I haven’t even seen it in the flesh; even the test mules for that matter. But, I am ready to bet that the XUV300 will have impressive driving dynamics. And here’s why.
For starters, the XUV300 shouldn’t be heavy. It should ideally weigh between 1200-1400kg for the petrol and diesel. And then, there are the learnings from the Marazzo. The Marazzo is heavier, it sits on a ladder frame, but it has a surprisingly good ride, handling and straight-line stability.
The XUV300 should deliver the same.
Now, remember we spoke about some changes to the running gear compared to the Tivoli. One such change should be the rear suspension. The Tivoli runs a multi-link setup, which will clearly prove too expensive for the XUV. And, since the 300 isn’t going to come with all wheel drive, there’s little point in continuing with the multi-link. It will instead, get a twist beam axle, which as most sub-4m cars have shown, isn’t just cost effective, but easier to set up for our roads as well.
Now, the ‘BUT’
The XUV300 has all the makings of a good product. I am ready to put my neck on the line to say it will score well in areas like equipment, build quality, space, looks, and even driving dynamics. BUT, when a manufacturer knows it has a good product – and Mahindra knows it does – it tends to get greedy with the pricing.
Yes, the top-spec with seven airbags and dual zone AC etc will have many class-firsts, but the entry-level models will be more in line with what the competition already offers. And, it is a strong, well-entrenched competition, at that. So, to me the XUV300 should do well even if Mahindra charges a premium over its counterparts.
BUT, for it to really join the 10,000 units a month club – which in my book is the true potential of the XUV300 – it needs to be priced aggressively. It needs to start around Rs 6 lakhs ex-showroom for the petrol and around Rs 7 lakhs for the diesel. And, the top-spec versions should ideally be around Rs 9.5 lakhs and Rs 10.5 lakhs, respectively, because, well, you do get seven airbags and dual zone aircon, and a sunroof, after all.
Now, let’s just hope ‘thirst’ doesn’t get in the way!