Mahindra XUV300 TurboSport first drive review: A rally car for the road?
Sentimentality does not have a place in a road test. Work as a motor noter for long enough however, and you do tend to harbour a soft spot for some cars over others. Maybe because said car was your first road test or because the first time you saw serious numbers on the clocks, it was behind the ’wheel of a certain SUV. With the Mahindra XUV300 TurboSport, it is hard for me not to be sentimental, as it was the first car that I yanked the handbrake and went sideways in. But having spent more time with it, I can assure you that my fondness for Mahindra’s XUV300 is not without reason. Gaurav Gill’s rally car for the road now promises to be faster than before, boosting its appeal in the compact SUV segment.
Mahindra XUV300 TurboSport: Most powerful in its segment
The reason for the XUV300 now getting the TurboSport moniker lies under the bonnet, in the form of the new mStallion turbo-petrol engine. It continues to displace the same 1.2 litres as before, but with the addition of direct injection, power is up by 20bhp over the old engine, with total output now at 129bhp. This makes the TurboSport the most powerful offering in the segment, eclipsing the likes of the Hyundai Venue and the Kia Sonet. The TurboSport will be sold alongside the ‘regular’ turbo-petrol XUV300, with the new engine being reserved for the higher variants, and
also, this engine will only be offered with the six-speed manual gearbox.
Mahindra XUV300 TurboSport: ride and handling
You might not expect compact SUVs to be very thrilling to drive with their compact dimensions and jacked-up stance, but the XUV300 has always left me impressed. I first drove the XUV300 for the first time a few weeks before the TurboSport, when we borrowed an example for a comparison test, and I was blown away by how the XUV handles. It actually rewards an enthusiastic driving style, carrying speed through corners and making the tyres work hard. The steering weighs up quite nicely too, and though this is the only compact SUV to get steering modes to adjust the weight, I have no issues with the standard setting that offers a decent amount of feedback. There is body roll, make no mistake, but since the chassis is torsionally rigid, that has allowed Mahindra to use softer dampers which means that the superb ride comfort does not come at the expense of handling.
At low speeds, it does not go over bumps with the same level of plushness as the Tata Nexon or the Maruti Suzuki Brezza, but the XUV300 feels a lot more solid on the move, capable of hammering through bad patches of road without breaking sweat, much like a rally car would! The XUV300 definitely benefited from Mahindra’s success in the INRC, and it has one of the most sorted chassis in its class, with great ride and handling balance. The only thing that stopped us from crowning it as the Thrill of Driving benchmark in its segment was the engine, which did not do justice to the sweet chassis.
Mahindra XUV300 TurboSport: performance
That shortcoming though has been corrected with the TurboSport. With 129bhp of power and 230Nm of torque, the XUV300 feels a lot more sporty when you launch it hard off the line. 0-60kmph comes up in a claimed 5 seconds and although no 0-100kmph time was revealed, I can tell you that the responsiveness has improved, especially in the lower gears.
With the new engine, turbo lag has reduced significantly as well, compared to the earlier engine. Our initial drive of the XUV300 TurboSport was at a twisty circuit set up at the Raymond Track, and the agility of TurboSport continues to remain impressive, turning in hard and powering out of corners with more gusto.
Mahindra XUV300 TurboSport: design and style
A few cosmetic updates have been made too, making the SUV look more sporty. There are no major design changes but closer inspection will reveal a blacked-out front grille with red accents, now sporting the Mahindra Twin Peaks logo. The air dam gets red accents as well, and the TurboSport gets a new Blazing Bronze shade, which can be had in a single or dual-tone scheme. The 16-inch alloy wheels get a new design too, identical to the all-electric Mahindra XUV400’s, and apart from that, there are no major visual differentiators between the standard XUV300 and the TurboSport.
It’s a similar story on the inside. The interiors are now all black, with the top-spec variant getting leatherette upholstery. Equipment levels remain unchanged with creature comforts such as two-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto, auto headlamps and a sunroof. The XUV300 also gets six airbags and has scored five stars on the GNCAP test, making it one of the safest Indian cars on sale.
Mahindra XUV300 TurboSport: verdict
The Mahindra XUV300 has always been a driver’s delight, and with the new engine, it now gets the power that the chassis always deserved. The XUV300 TurboSport will be offered in the higher-spec trims and will be sold alongside the existing turbo’d XUV300. Prices start at Rs 10.35 lakh, undercutting our fun-to-drive benchmark in the segment, the Hyundai Venue N Line, by nearly Rs 2 lakh. The Mahindra also has a much better ride and handling balance, is more powerful, and all that comes together when driving hard. It enthuses the enthusiast and if you’re looking for a fun-to-drive compact SUV, the XUV300 TurboSport is a no-brainer.