Think you know what to expect from Indian manufacturer Mahindra? The XUV500 might just change your mind.
At the end of the film Back to the Future, Marty McFly returns from the 1950s, where he meddled with the events of the past to a worrying degree, to find a present-day reality he doesn’t quite recognise. It’s a pleasant reality, to be sure, but things are, well, different. His mom and dad are more successful than they were in the old reality, their family home is fancier, Marty suddenly owns the car he always wanted. Life is good… but weird. The same thing might happen to you if you step inside a Mahindra XUV500. Chances are, you’re expecting a vehicle that is affordable and functional, a well-priced alternative to more established brands.
What you’ll encounter, however, is an SUV that is genuinely striking. As a manufacturer, Mahindra has evolved considerably over the last few years. The XUV500 has been around for a few years now, but Mahindra has done a good job of tweaking and improving it. For example, the SUV received a six-speed automatic gearbox late last year that makes it a more user-friendly vehicle, easier to manage in traffic, and more relaxing on the open road. This gearbox is mated to the XUV500’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder mHawk turbodiesel that develops 103kW of power at 3 750r/min and 330Nm of torque at 1 600r/min. This might not seem like a tremendous amount of oomph, but what is on offer is particularly usable. When peak torque kicks in at 1 600r/min, the XUV feels eager and willing. Put your foot down and the Mahindra will overtake slower traffic with relative ease.
When it comes to long-distance driving, there’s a lot to like. Thanks to that frugal 2.2-litre turbodiesel, fuel consumption is pegged at around 7.5 litres per 100km. Combine this with a 70-litre fuel tank, and you won’t be filling up too regularly. The vehicle is also quite capable of dealing with bad roads and gravel. Unlike many other SUVs, the XUV500 comes standard with some reassuringly chunky rubber. It has 17-inch rims that have been shod with 235/65 R17 tyres. Ground clearance is also a respectable 200mm. Should you want, you can opt for an AWD version of the vehicle (though not with an automatic gearbox), but since this is not a trail vehicle built for serious off-roading, that seems unnecessary. For road trips and day-to-day driving, the front-wheel-drive auto version seems like the most obvious choice. It is frugal, practical and competitively priced (R394 995).
This price seems even more enticing once you experience the cabin of the XUV500. Features include an infotainment system with seven-inch touchscreen, navigation and connectivity for your iPhone or other Bluetooth device. There’s even an app for the car that you can download on your smartphone. Leather seats, climate control, voice command, bending headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat and a tyre-monitoring system are additional nice to haves. On the safety side, the XUV500 boasts multiple airbags, ABS with EBD, an electronic stability programme with roll-over mitigation, hill hold and hill descent control. And then there’s the space. The XUV500 is a far roomier vehicle than it might seem at first glance. In fact, the Mahindra has three rows of seats, which can be folded flat when not in use.
Overall, the XUV500 is a solid SUV, boasting decent performance, great features and a good price. Mahindra clearly also has confidence in its product, since it sells the SUV with both a five-year/150 000km warranty and a five-year/100 000km service plan. Five-year roadside assistance is another nice touch, especially if you’re planning some long road trips.
Open-road rating 7 out of 10.
The good Spacious and well equipped.
The bad Could do with a bit more power.
Specifications – Mahindra Xuv500 W8 Fwd A/T
Engine Mhawk 2 179cc Vgt Turbodiesel
Power 103kw @ 3 750r/Min
Torque 330nm @ 1 600r/Min
Transmission Six-Speed Automatic
4wd System None
Fuel Tank 70 Litres
Fuel Consumption 7.5 Litres Per 100km
Tyre Size 235/65 R17
Spare Yes (Full-Size)
Luggage Space Not Stated
Price R394 995