Saying that Mahindra cars are tough and rugged is like saying Irfan Khan is a fine actor, or that veg Biryani is essentially Pulao. It’s stating the obvious. However, it’s not every day that you come across a Mahindra offering that’s as small as a Maruti Swift or a Hyundai Grand i10, designed primarily for urban driving.
Its part hatchback-part pseudo SUV, and it’s called the KUV 100 and in case you missed it, Mahindra updated it late last year, giving it a new name (Read: KUV 100 NXT) and introducing plenty of improvements inside out. You might have read our review of the original KUV 100 from 2016. Here’s take two.
This new version represents a major design update for the KUV100 and it has arrived barely a year and a half after the launch. For a facelift, the NXT comes with surprising amount of small design updates. For starters, the fascia has been changed to keep the KUV in line with Mahindra’s current range of models. The grille, for instance, features the now familiar chrome finished vertical slats. The lower half of the front bumper, too, has been updated with silver skid plates and new number plate housing. Then there are the headlights which retain the DRL layout but are better detailed for the lens.
We appreciate the fact that Mahindra has introduced bigger 15-inch alloy wheels which look more appropriate and enhance the stance. Other changes on the sides include new wing mirror design and black colour for the rear door handles. At the back, you will find a more angular design for the rear bumper, new clear lens treatment for the taillights and lastly, additional gloss black trim pieces around the rear glass. All in all, the updates do freshen up the look of the KUV100; however, the oddball design is still a little too radical for our liking.
It may not be as extensively updated as the exterior, but the cabin of the KUV100 NXT is still fairly modern and surprisingly spacious. So what’s different and what extra features do you get? Firstly, Mahindra has introduced an all-black theme which adds to that sporty look and like most new cars, the dashboard is covered in ‘piano black’ trim pieces and silver accents for the centre console and the steering wheel. The only visible design change comes in the form of the giant centre console which houses a new layout for the AC controls. Although this new layout looks cleaner than before, we found the blower speed knob to be unnecessarily firm to operate and the temp control a bit iffy.
The other big improvement in our top-spec test car is the TUV300-sourced 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system which comes with USB, GPS navigation and video playback. However, there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto inbuilt in this system. The other notable upgrade over the old car includes electrically foldable mirrors and dual tone exterior colour. As for the rest of the features, you get climate control, puddle lamps, height adjustment for the driver’s seat, rear parking sensor, door pad mood lighting, stop-start function, Eco and Power mode, 2 airbags and ABS. The KUV100 NXT, however, misses out on push button start and a backup camera.
Although Mahindra says they have improved the seat bolstering for this new version, there isn’t any real improvement in seat comfort. Our test car has the unique 6-seater configuration which is possible thanks to the dash mounted gear stick and the handbrake lever. In theory, the front bench can accommodate two adults and perhaps a child, however, the bottom end of the centre console is bound to foul with the middle seat occupant’s knee room, rendering it useless.
The only salvaging bit here is that you can fold down the backrest (featuring a handy open storage bin) to use it as your armrest. At the back, there’s more than enough room for two occupants with plenty of headroom (thanks to the tall height) and adequate legroom. Although you are seated at a good height, which allows for more under thigh support, the rear bench is flat with hardly any contours, resulting in less than ideal lateral support. In terms of storage, the KUV100 NXT scores high with well thought out under seat trays at the front, multiple cup holders and a generously sized floor mounted storage bin at the rear for knickknacks.
The KUV100 NXT can be had with either a 1.2-litre petrol motor with 82bhp/115Nm or a 1.2-litre turbo diesel with 77bhp of power and 190Nm of torque. For this test, we opted for the more popular diesel option with a 5-speed manual. While there are no mechanical changes whatsoever, Mahindra says they have upgraded the engine mounts for a smoother operation. Nonetheless, here’s what the KUV is like to drive.
Displacing 1197cc, this diesel engine is unobtrusive on idle, especially when you consider that it’s a three-cylinder unit. On the move, it remains fairly refined unless you rev it past 3,500rpm because at higher rpms it simply cannot match the inherent refinement of a 4-cylinder motor. Nevertheless, this engine is backed by a tiny turbo and thanks to forced induction; progress is nice and smooth right from idling rpm. Perhaps the biggest upside of using a small pressure turbo is the minimal amount of turbo lag and you can feel it in the KUV – the power delivery is linear with none of that noticeable spike even when accelerating hard. That said, the torque band is really narrow with the engine losing all of its gusto post 3,500rpm. As we found out, the best way to make strong progress in the KUV is by keeping the engine spinning between 2,000 and 3,000rpm.All in all, this diesel engine has a linear pull from low revs, which makes it ideal for city driving as you wouldn’t be making too many gear changes frequently. But if you have to, then the short-throw gearbox feels crisp and nice to use. The clutch, however, has a springy action and the pedal travel could have been shorter.
Thanks to its compact dimensions, responsive diesel motor and good all-round visibility, the KUV feels right at home within city limits. However, the steering is poorly assisted – although light, it feels vague no matter what speed you are driving at. Add to that a slow rack and you end up making nearly four turns from lock to lock which makes driving cumbersome when parking. As for the suspension, Mahindra has tuned it purely for comfort and as a result, the springs and dampers are on the softer side. At low speeds, the NXT takes on bad roads with ease, delivering a comfortable ride even while going over bumps and potholes. At high speeds, things aren’t as comfortable due to the constant vertical movement and the floaty rear end. This is down to the softer set up which makes the whole car jump and bob at speed under full load.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||77bhp @ 3750 RPM|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||190Nm @ 1750 RPM|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||35|
|Tyre size||185/60 R15|
|Reverse parking sensor||Yes|
|Touch screen multimedia system||Yes|
|Dual tone exteriors||Yes|
|ABS and two airbags||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp)||77bhp @ 3750 RPM||75bhp@ 4000rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm)||190Nm @ 1750 RPM||190Nm @ 1750rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||35||43|
|Tyre size||185/60 R15||165/65 R14|
So there you have it, the improved and new for 2018 Mahindra KUV100 NXT. It’s always had plenty going for it, what with its spacious cabin, comfortable low speed ride, light controls and a long list of variants to suit a large crowd. With the new NXT version, there is no questioning the fact that Mahindra has made the KUV more desirable. The improved styling is somewhat more digestible than the original design and the added convenience of a touchscreen system, electrically foldable mirrors and the new AC panel is something that will bode well with potential buyers. Speaking of which, at Rs 7.50 lakh (ex-showroom) for the top-spec diesel variant, the KUV100 NXT isn’t cheap but for those looking to buy a spacious city car that can handle bad roads with ease, it is among the very few good options out there.
Pictures: Kaustubh Gandhi