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India’s top Utility Vehicle manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra, in partnership with SsangYong Motors, is developing a compact Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) to be slotted under the current Quanto. This new vehicle has been codenamed as S101 and could be priced at about Rs. 5.5 lakh. The aggressive pricing would make it one of the most affordable SUVs in the country. Additionally, it would also not be a redesign of an existing vehicle such as the Quanto, but a completely new vehicle, as per initial impressions. Along with the Quanto and a smaller Verito, it would also become a member of the company’s sub-4 metre vehicle club.
Industry experts believe that S101 is to be prepared on a platform similar to the XUV500 and its chassis will be of monocoque construction designed especially for use in compact SUVs. The overall appearance of the SUV is quite similar to that of the hatchback, while bulk has been added to the nose. Further, it has a rear mounted wheel that gives the vehicle a distinct appearance. The S101 is believed to have ample space volume for 6 passengers, though there are also talks on creating space for 1 or 2 more occupants in the future. Reportedly, both Mahindra and SsangYong are in the process of developing engines from capacities of 1.2 litre to 1.6 litre, in both petrol and diesel versions. However, industry experts believe that it may get the same 1.5 litre turbo diesel that currently powers the Quanto. This engine would be mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox, which is expected to set new levels of performance in this segment.
On the inside, the Mahindra S101 would have a two seater bench in front, in addition to the driver’s seat, instead of a conventional passenger bucket seat. For the middle passenger, legroom can be created at the front by removing the central console and moving the gear knob ahead. However, with extra passengers, it is interesting to see how seat belts would be organised.
In terms of fuel efficiency, it is yet to be seen how frugal the powertrain in the S101 would be. However, the Ford EcoSport is most likely to set the benchmark for the compact SUV segment, which may get some serious competition once Maruti Suzuki’s XA-Alpha rolls out. The segment leader Renault Duster diesel trim delivers an ARAI certified mileage of 20.4 kmpl, while the diesel version of Premier Rio compact SUV provides 17.5 kmpl. It would be interesting to note how popular the petrol version of S101 becomes upon its launch in India, since its mileage is expected to be much lower than its diesel powered counterpart. If the petrol version of Renault Duster is considered, this compact SUV delivers a not so impressive fuel economy figure of just 14 kmpl. Industry experts believe that the diesel version of S101 would definitely be more popular than petrol, though the latter trim could assist in increasing the sales volume.
Being in the competitive compact SUV segment, S101 is expected to be pitted against Ford EcoSport, Renault Duster, Premier Rio and the yet-to-be-launched Maruti XA-Alpha. It will be positioned as a distinct and less expensive SUV, as compared to the existing Mahindra Quanto. Additionally, Mahindra is also known to be working on a premium version of this baby SUV, codenamed as S102.
From the pricing point of view, the S101 could become a certain winner, as Renault Duster Ford EcoSport, Premier Rio and the upcoming Maruti XA-Alpha. While all vehicles are priced between Rs. 6 lakhs to Rs. 11 lakhs, S101 starts at Rs. 5.50 lakhs. The one that would come closest to it would be Premier Rio, but there are several quality and service-related differences which would make the Mahindra compact SUV a clear winner. Though exterior designing is not as brilliant as the EcoSport, it would still appeal to buyers, being a completely new vehicle. Here’s what a vendor close to the new development had said, “M&M is banking on high volumes of at least 1,00,000 to 1,50,000 units per annum and the use of lighter and cost-effective material such as plastic in fuel tank, fender, and the front-end module to keep costs low. The vehicle may be somewhat like a mini-Gypsy.” It is also been revealed that close to 100 automobile designers and engineers are working on different details of S101, including styling, cooling systems and engine development.
The upcoming Mahindra S101 compact SUV is expected to be rated with maximum power outputs close to 90 bhp in both of its petrol and diesel powered variants. Therefore, with respect to the generated power, figures are higher than 77 bhp produced by the Premier Rio’s diesel version, but lesser than the Ford EcoSport. While power of the S101 is expected to be lesser than the 109 bhp Renault Duster, it is greater than another variant of the same vehicle which generates 84 bhp. Another entrant in this segment may also be the Chevrolet Trax, which could be powered by engines more powerful than the S101. General Motors India has revealed intentions to enter the compact utility vehicle segment clearly and is believed to be lining up its Chevrolet Trax SUV and Enjoy Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) to launch soon in the country. However, industry experts are of the opinion that the new compact SUVs may further eat into the sales witnessed by the sedan segment, as they are to be priced at similar levels.
While looking at the current market scenario, it is clear that compact SUVs are definitely here to stay. Interestingly, India is one of the few markets of the world where SUVs are heavily in demand. There still are very few manufacturers who have entered the compact SUV segment and one could expect many more players here. For example, Fiat India, Mitsubishi, Tata Motors and Hyundai have still not created models for the above mentioned segment as yet. But continuing in the same fashion, that is, first building a large SUV and then creating a baby version has become a sure shot success formula for Mahindra & Mahindra.
From Mahindra’s point of view, customer expectations for vehicles have gone up, ever since designs of XUV500 achieved several accolades. Now customers expect the Utility Vehicle manufacturer to come with class-leading designs every time. Going by the S101’s initial impressions, it does not seem as though the company would disappoint.
Apart from selling well in India, Mahindra’s XUV500, Scorpio and other utility vehicles offerings are also exported to countries in Africa and the European Union. Based on domestic demand, the company may also think about increasing S101 through exports, once it is launched in 2014. Interestingly, Mahindra is the only company in India to be maximising sales only through utility vehicles, with the exceptions of Mahindra Reva e2o electric hatch and the Verito entry level sedan.
Another interesting point here is that in partnership with Mahindra, SsangYong would now be looking to change its image of only being a premium SUV manufacturer. Currently, Mahindra owns 70 per cent of controlling stake in SsangYong Motor Corporation, which was purchased for Rs. 2,105 crore in 2011.
SsangYong has launched its first product in India- the Rexton premium SUV, which carries a steep price tag of Rs. 18.50 lakh. Even Korando, an upcoming SUV from the same company, is expected to be priced around Rs.15 lakh, upon its launch in the Indian auto market. More upcoming products, such as the Rodius MPV, would also be placed in the premium category. But knowing that compact SUVs have the potential of forming the largest segment in India, SsangYong wants to combine its technical expertise with the experience and services of Mahindra. However, one cannot say whether future products would be available at a price point similar to the S101 or not.
The fact that Mahindra is giving the S101 and other similar vehicles a lot of attention can be further verified by the construction of a new small car facility in Andhra Pradesh. The theme for this new building has already been made and submitted to State Government for approval. Currently, popular pick up vehicles Bolero and Maxi are already being manufactured in another plant at Zaheerabad, Andhra Pradesh.
Further details about the new plant are expected to emerge once Mahindra’s tractor plant is inaugurated. Interestingly, the new tractor plant would be the world’s largest tractor manufacturing unit, capable of making 300 units a day. Along with the new S101, a car by the codename C101 is also expected to be built at the new upcoming facility.
In the 2012-13 financial year, Mahindra was one of the very few companies that posted a growth in the automobile industry. It has been rapidly going up the ranks and is ahead of Tata Motors in the sales arena of the domestic auto market. With greater experience, Mahindra has been systematically expanding its size in India, which is clearly visible after the addition of SsangYong. Being a company that was once known to make only trucks and buses, it is now foraying into almost every possible automotive space.
There are clear reasons to be introducing new products in the Utility Vehicle arena. Till February 2013, sales of Utility Vehicles went up by 54.4 per cent to 499,794 units compared to a year ago, as per data from Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM). As a contrast, sales of passenger vehicles fell by 4.64 per cent to 1.71 million, which is clearly the greatest fall experienced in 12 years. Hence, with the upcoming S101 model Mahindra & Mahindra is looking at enhancing its utility vehicles fleet, in order to bolster its sales prospects even further in the country. In addition, Mahindra would be looking to introduce new variants and refreshes of existing models. This strategy clearly works, as can be seen by sales of Mahindra Bolero, which still sells 10,000 units a month despite being several years old, as a product.
Engines & Specifications of Mahindra S101
Mahindra & Mahindra is reported to be spending Rs. 4300 crore towards development of its new engine fleet. The company wishes to provide both petrol and diesel options in S101, in a bid to attract more number of domestic buyers. While the petrol variant is anticipated to get a 1.2 litre engine, the diesel version could be powered by a new 1.5 litre engine with similar mechanical bits from the Quanto’s powertrain. The engines are to be mated with 6-speed manual transmission gearboxes. Putting an automatic gearbox might just make the SUV a tad too expensive. In addition, a highly advanced Front Wheel Drive system is expected to be used in the S101 baby SUV.
The length of S101 would be a little lesser than 4 metres and its width would be to the tune of 1.8 metres. It would be manufactured at the Chakan facility near Pune within a timeframe of 2 to 3 years. This is the same place from which the company’s flagship XUV500 model is already being produced.
At present, it is known that Mahindra, along with SsangYong, is in the process of developing three new diesel engines- a 1.2 litre, a 1.5 litre and a 1.6 litre. These engines would be installed in different models of Mahindra, expected to be rolled out during this year and the next. Interestingly, a lot of time and resources are being devoted towards Research & Development (R&D) by the country’s largest utility vehicle manufacturer. Further, a dedicated team of over 100 automotive engineers are already working on the S101 project.
Performance of Mahindra S101
Industry experts believe that Mahindra S101 could possibly deliver a mileage around 20 kmpl. Mahindra understands the importance given to mileage in this segment and thereby would not want to compromise on the same. Due to its compact dimensions, it will be easy to handle the S101 within city limits. Stability levels on highways may not be as high as traditional SUVs, but it would still be able to take on uncertain and demanding terrains. Industry experts believe that with a 4x4 variant, the Mahindra S101 could become a popular buy among off road enthusiasts. But as is usually the case, most companies look at introducing 4x2 variants first to gain loyalty, and therefore Mahindra is believed to be looking at the same.
In addition, the reasons why several people look at purchasing compact SUVs are for enhanced society status and for carrying a large number of people with ease. For this section of domestic buyers, safety and comfort is much more important than sheer off roading ability. At the same time, price and fuel efficiency are also equally important. Mahindra and SsangYong engineers have kept these in mind, going by the initial impressions.
Since the S101 is going to be much lighter than the bulky Mahindra XUV500 premium SUV, it should be quicker off the blocks. Initial acceleration figures would be better, but its elder sibling would be able to catch up at higher speeds, as the engine is much larger.
Exterior, Interior & Safety Features of Mahindra S101
From the outside, the S101 seems to have dimensions that are similar to those of a hatchback. However, it has been known that bulk has been added to make the vehicle appear more like an SUV. Based on the spy shots, it is a trendy vehicle with a length under 4 metres. It can be expected to have a high ground clearance of 200 mm, enabling it to move over rough tarmac and off-road terrain with ease. A wheel has been attached to the rear door of this vehicle. The front and the rear suspension would be made firm, providing a ride quality as desired by most customers. In addition, a responsive steering wheel would be used in the compact SUV, so as to make its handling a breeze.
From its first impressions, an overall aggressive look has been given to the S101 compact SUV. Many experts believe that S101 is quite similar in design language to the Mahindra XUV500. Even though there are clear similarities between this vehicle and XUV500, fresh changes are also visible. Head lamps in the S101 look different than those in its elder sibling, and this new SUV will clearly make a bold statement whenever it arrives. S101 would have a refreshed front that would look simpler than the XUV500’s front, which is often criticised for being overdone. However, one thing that can be assured is that build quality will be just as solid as the XUV500. This is also an important factor which is considered by many families. As the years pass by, with more powerful cars being built every day, the need for safety becomes higher.
Mahindra may look to bring in some of the infotainment features from the XUV into S101. A smaller and less expensive variant of XUV’s audio-visual navigation system would certainly give the vehicle a competitive edge over rivals. Usual features such as steering mounted audio controls, side airbags and a trip computer should also be in store for the upcoming S101. Higher variants would also have Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) system, from the safety perspectives. Keyless entry, as provided in rival vehicles, along with power windows, central locking and air conditioning should be standard features. There may not much of a point including the last row for passengers, as it would be difficult to fit into the same, owing to its hatchback dimensions. However, this would certainly generate more space for the luggage. In addition, a bench with space for two passengers, along with the driver’s seat would also be provided. Unlike conventional vehicles where two seats are present in the front, there would be a single driver’s seat and a bench.
The Mahindra S101 compact SUV is expected to be launched in the domestic market soon. Engineering and other work is still on and the model should burn rubber on the Indian roads by 2014. However, by this time the Mahindra & Mahindra’s service network will become larger and this will make servicing the S101 easier. By March 2013, Mahindra has presence across 70 per cent of Indian cities, after completing a vast expansion process. To ensure that this model meets sale volumes, Mahindra must ensure that spare parts for the S101 are easily available and are reasonably priced.
|Price||Rs. 5.5 lakhs|
1.5 litre diesel engine rated at 90 bhp of peak power, 1.2 litre petrol engine rated at 88 bhp of power
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