With over 32 000 vehicles sold on the SA market, over 3 500 in 2016 alone and the establishment of 56 dealerships since appearing locally in 2004, Mahindra can no longer be considered a fringe player.

Playing strongly into the Indian firm’s favour is that its entire passenger car offering consists of SUVs and crossovers of various sizes; segments that have experienced significant growth over the last decade.

Tank-like

This wholly owned, local subsidiary has just launched another crossover product onto the local stage called the TUV300 – that’s "three double oh", not three hundred.

As you can see it is particularly blocky and angular in appearance, which Mahindra guaranteed is purely intentional. To underline the ruggedness aspect of the TUV300 it draws stylistic inspiration from an army tank.

Bakkie derived

In part, the solidity and ruggedness espoused by Mahindra is based on the fact that the TUV isn’t a unibody vehicle. Like many bakkies, this crossover is a body-on-frame design; quite interesting for a modern day urban hopper.

Suspension is via double wishbones at the front and multi-links at the rear. As it shares some componentry with its LCV siblings the TUV is also rear-wheel drive.

Diesel heart

Powering those rear wheels is a three-cylinder turbodiesel engine that was developed in-house by the firm. Power is rated as 74 kW at 3 750 r/min with a healthy 240 N.m of torque on available between 1 600 and 2 800 r/min.

Drive is transferred to the rear axle via a five-speed manual transmission. There isn’t an automatic available as yet, though spokespersons on the launch event did say that a self-shifter is currently undergoing validation for this model.

Driven at altitude

The local ride and drive event was held in Gauteng, where the bulk of owners are likely to reside. On the byways east of Pretoria towards Cullinan the TUV proved to hold its own quite well.

The little engine does a good job of maintaining speed, though a quick downshift or two is required to make safe overtakes, of which we completed quite a few. Interestingly the inline turbo triple doesn’t feel strained as it revs up, pulling well to 4 000 r/min but the power delivery tapers off quite drastically from there; oddly the red line is set at 5 000.

Jiggly ride                 

For the most part the ride quality is good, riding as it does with a relaxed soft gait. However, if there are a series of ruts or bumps on the road surface then the body and chassis can feel at odds with each, resulting in an uncomfortable jiggle in the cabin.

Well priced and well specced

At a shade under R230 000 the TUV300 offers a very good package. There’s seating for 5+2 via a set of fold-away rear seats, placing it in competition with the likes of the Suzuki Ertiga and Honda BR-V.

Standard specification includes dual front airbags, an infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and rear parking assistance. The standard price even includes and three-year/100 000 km warranty and three-year/90 000 km service plan.

Summary

For first time buyers looking to hop into an SUV-type vehicle, the TUV300 may just have all the ingredients they desire, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see quite a few of these hitting the roads in the not too distant future.