Anand Mahindra uses the word ‘authentic’ over and over again as he takes the stage to give his closing remarks at the unveil of the TUV3OO (three-double-oh, not three hundred!). And it’s the first thought that strikes me when, an hour later, I climb behind the wheel of Mahindra’s hotly anticipated compact SUV. It feels exactly like what a Mahindra should feel like – a commanding driving position, meaty steering wheel, excellent seats with an integrated armrest and an overwhelming sense of being a man’s SUV. Let me highlight that once again – this feels like an SUV, not a jacked-up hatchback. In fact this is the first compact SUV on the market that is an SUV first and foremost, complete with a ladder-frame chassis and rear-wheel-drive. But first let’s address that elephant in the room.
Well, it looks better in the metal
One thing you must credit Mahindra for, they don’t shy away from risks as far as styling goes. The TUV3OO is radically different from anything else on the road, Mahindra’s own SUVs included. It’s all straight lines, slab sides and boxy proportions – and it was styled with inputs from Pinninfarina (yes, I’m serious), that storied Italian design house that Mahindra is in advanced talks to acquire (yes, I’m again serious). Sure styling is very subjective and I might not like what you like, but, at the unveil, I wasn’t the only one staring at it with mouth agape. What I can tell you is that it looks better in the flesh and as you see more of them on the road it will become more palatable. But why take such a big risk in the first place?
“Welcome to your tough and stylish TUV three double-oh”
Yup, that’s what it tells you when you crank it up. And if you forget to wear your seatbelts it will remind you to belt up. It’s neat but, and I’m saying this from experience having lived with a Scorpio for a year, it can get on your nerves the seven hundredth time.
Nothing polarising about the interiors – this is a first-rate cabin, the best Mahindra has produced to date. Fit and finish is very good, there are no ungainly panel gaps, the two-tone black and beige is well thought out, the infotainment system is well integrated and the design is also very appealing to the eye.
The seats are nice and wide with an integrated armrest that immediately harks back to that ‘authentic’ SUV-feel. The meaty steering wheel, the way the gear lever falls to hand, the view out, all feel exactly like the Scorpio and that’s a very good thing. Like the Scorpio there’s not too much space between the driver’s right elbow and the door pad but unlike the new Scorpio the power window switches remain on the centre console so you don’t bang your elbow against some hard plastics. Mahindra has been listening to our sore elbow stories!
Equipment includes a Bluetooth-equipped and fully-functional infotainment system including a rear parking sensor, twin front airbags and ABS. In fact Mahindra says the TUV was designed to meet future crash regulations so that’s a good thing.
The TUV3OO is 5mm under 4 meters in length thus qualifying for the reduced excise duties applicable for small cars. You’d think a sub-four-meter SUV would be compromised on space (going by the example of the EcoSport) but – surprisingly! – the TUV is very spacious at the back. It is wider than the Duster so three people can sit abreast in comfort and even with the driver’s seat adjusted to my height (five foot nine inches) the passengers at the back had a little legroom to spare. The seat back angle is also properly raked, not too upright like in the Quanto, and together with the well-judged cushioning it can be a very comfortable mile-muncher.
Speaking of the Quanto
Well, this isn’t an upgraded Quanto, though you could be forgiven for thinking that going by the bluff and abrupt rear treatment and spare tyre mounted on the tailgate. The Quanto was a chopped Xylo, the TUV is a chopped Scorpio. It is based on the ladder-frame chassis of the third-generation Scorpio, an SUV that has moved the game on for Mahindra’s venerable SUV, and an SUV that we rate very highly. Note the operative word here – SUV. Like a proper SUV the TUV is rear-wheel-drive (no word on an all-wheel-drive option as of now, though if there is demand it should not be too much of an engineering challenge to integrate it). And like a proper SUV it comes with all terrain tyres that can be put through a spot of off-roading.
We didn’t try it off-road (Off Road Chacko was in Goa testing the Kwid) but I did get the sense that when the roads turn to slush it will go way further than any of its rivals right now.
Heart of the matter
In very simplistic terms the mHawk80 motor is the Scorpio’s motor with one cylinder lopped off. Except nothing is ever so simple. The TUV’s motor shares the same bore and stroke which means the architecture is the same and the commonality of parts results in significant cost savings (a trend very much in vogue the world over and practiced by everybody including the likes of BMW). However Pawan Goenka, president of Mahindra’s automotive division, was at pains to stress that the motor is heavily reworked from the first three-cylinder unit than went into the Quanto. And with all the changes the motor is now lighter by 20kg.
Crank up the engine and it feels exactly like a Scorpio, without the exaggerated rocking of the gear lever. The power build up also brings to mind the Scorpio, and it must be said that with 230Nm of torque the motor is very flexible and can be driven all day long in third or fourth gear.
However, get a move on, and where the Scorpio would reward you with a surge of turbo-charged torque the TUV flat lines. North of 3500rpm there’s nothing and you need to upshift to keep going. 84bhp is not enough for the TUV’s kerb weight and you’re always asking for more; a matter exaggerated by the low gearing. 100kmph comes in fourth gear and cruising at 120kmph has the engine working hard. We’ve come to expect 100bhp from a 1.5-litre engine and this motor does feel underpowered.
Also cane the motor and it gets rather noisy. Vibrations are not an issue but more attention should have been paid to sound insulation considering the three-cylinder note isn’t very refined to begin with.
The TUV gets Mahindra’s micro-hybrid technology that includes automatic start-stop and brake energy regeneration leading to a claimed fuel efficiency of 18.49kmpl.
Battle tank on the road
Point the TUV at a bad stretch of road and it proceeds to flatten it without a sweat. As is the case with ladder-frame equipped SUVs the TUV does feel over-sprung but its bump absorption is really very good. In that sense you can treat it like an SUV, put two wheels in the dirt to overtake and hit potholes and speedbreakers at silly speeds and the TUV will take it all in its stride. Mahindra calls it ‘Cushion Suspension Technology’ and it does cushion driver and occupant very well from whatever our roads throw at it. Top marks here.
As for the handling there isn’t much in the way of feedback or communication from the steering or the seat of the pants so, like the Scorpio, it is a matter of pushing, pushing and pushing till the tyres squeal and then you back off. This is the downside of using a ladder-frame chassis, you will never get car-like handling. Grip is decent, body roll isn’t very exaggerated (thanks to anti-roll bars) and the good thing is the TUV won’t do anything funny even when it is caught out by mid-corner bumps.
As for straight-line stability it is excellent, which is what makes you wish and want for more power. The top-of-the-line variants get Corner Brake Control (CBC) and ABS but the latter kicks in too early and you don’t expect the brake pedal to pulse so early.
Rs 6.9 lakh is great pricing
Styling is an intensely personal subject so let’s not go there. Okay, let’s go there. Why Mahindra, why? Boxy styling is so yesterday, and the TUV also looks very under-tyred. But maybe in time it will grow on us, so let’s wait and watch.
As for the rest of the package the TUV is pretty impressive, particularly when you consider the prices start at Rs 6.9lakh in Pune. The version tested here is Rs 8.4 lakh while the top-end version with the Automated Manual Transmission (which, incidentally, was developed in house with inputs from Ricardo) is Rs 9.12 lakh. At that price you get a spacious and very well designed cabin, torquey (if a tad underpowered) motor, an excellent ride, decent handling and an ‘authentic’ SUV feel.
Looks like the SUV specialists have cracked the compact SUV code.
|Engine||mHawk Diesel Engine, 2-stage turbocharger||mHawk Diesel Engine, 2-stage turbocharger|
|Max Gross power (bhp/rpm)||84/3750||81/3750|
|Max Gross Torque (Nm/rpm)||230/1500-2250||230/1500-2250|
Rigid Axle Multi-Link
Rigid Axle Multi-Link
|Fuel tank capacity (litres)||60||60|
|Turning Circle radius (m)||5.35||5.35|
|Gross weight||2225 kg||2225 kg|
|Vehicle Dimensions |
|Boot space (litres)||384||384|