Punching above its weight?
Clearly the Mahindra XUV500 is no performance SUV, nor can it scamper up a rough-and-tough 4×4 obstacle. What it does do brilliantly though, is performing the role of a practical, well-specced SUV with a very appealing price tag.
At a glance…
The recently updated XUV500 is not bad looking at all. It features an abundance of curves and modern elements, which is quite unlike the rest of the boxy Mahindra commercial-based line-up.
There are some peculiarities: The accented curve above the rear wheel arch which extends as far up as the C-pillar, giving it a slight resemblance to a double chin. Another minor issue is the vertical door handles.
The inside is nice too, but…
The cabin is loaded with modern technology and features that would certainly not look out of place on some top-end German offerings. The mainstay feature of the interior is the infotainment system which features the usual bells and whistles such as USB playback, Bluetooth connectivity, voice control and even navigation. All as standard.
It also has an integrated reverse camera and park distance control. To top it off, leather seats also come standard in this trim level with adjustable lumbar support on the driver’s side.
The third row of seats is difficult to access, but the boot (with these seats folded flat onto the floor) is very spacious.
There are some small issues. The plastic used in the cabin just doesn’t have that good-quality feel. And some drivers couldn’t find an ideal driving position, no matter which way they adjusted the seat or steering wheel.
And to drive? Is it any good?
Essentially the answer is yes. Look, it’s no dynamic driving machine, and there’s plenty of body lean in the corner, accompanied by some loud diesel clatter when you start hustling along. But there are certainly much worse driving experiences to be had.
The 2.2-four-pot diesel’s power delivery is surprisingly linear with almost no turbolag. It delivers 103kW and 330Nm of torque, with the latter available from a low 1 600r/min. With the drive only sent to the front wheels in this model, and all that torque at hand, getting some wheel-chirping action in when you take off from traffic lights is not difficult at all.
Another bonus is that the six-speed manual gearbox also proved a pleasure to row through the cogs, so overall the driving experience – especially considering the R340 000 asking price – is pretty good.
Steering is good but not great; it is a little bit vague around the centre point. On gravel roads the XUV500, with its all-round independent suspension set-up, offered a solid, confidence-inspiring ride, able to iron out the worst corrugations without much fuss.
And off-road? Well, that’s not really an option for the FWD model, but it does have a claimed 200mm clearance, a hill hold and hill descent system, and traction control (part of the electronic stability programme). So rough gravel roads are certainly on the menu.
On the safety front, the XUV has six airbags and the usual driver aids in the form of ABS and EBD.
For R340 000, the Mahindra XUV500 offers a lot of seven-seater SUV for the money. It’s surprisingly good to drive and although the FWD model was obviously not designed to tackle dongas and rocks with, it’s not scared of a pot-holed, heavily corrugated dirt road at all.
It’s packed with equipment, safety features and some nice-to-have accessories. It is economical too, expect around 7.5 litres/100km if you don’t try and dice hot hatches between traffic lights.
For the money it’s a really tough seven-seat deal to beat.
Specifications: Mahindra XUV500 W8
Engine: 2 179cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 103kW @ 3 750r/min
Torque: 330Nm @ 1 600r/min
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Driving aids: Traction and stability control, hill hold and hill descent
Ground clearance: 200mm
Fuel tank: 70 litres
Average consumption: 7.5 litres/100km
Warranty: Five-year/150 000km
Service plan: Five-year/100 000km
Price: R339 995