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Mahindra expands its crossover line-up with the TUV300. Is the only model in the TUV range enough to make a mark?

This, as Mahindra describes it, is the tough and stylish TUV300 with looks inspired by a battle tank. Stylish might not be how you describe its angular, aesthetically dated design, with short front and rear overhangs and a tippy-toes appearance, but it does represent yet another solid addition to the quirky and versatile line-up currently offered by the Indian manufacturer.

With an exterior clearly favouring functionality over form, the interior is a little more forward-looking. The predominantly tan cabin may not be the easiest to keep clean, but with its black plastic trim and neat finishing strips, it’s a comfortable space despite perceived quality that doesn’t match up to the (pricier) competition. While the switches and controls may be a little low rent, the TUV300’s interior boasts armrests for driver and passenger, electric window controls, multifunction steering wheel and plenty of storage compartments.

The most notable inclusion is a third row of seats in the form of two folding pews in the boot that allow it to claim seven-seater status ... and this could be seen as a big selling point for the TUV300. However, the issue with these seats is the awkward positioning and, more importantly, the lack of seatbelts.

According to the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act, this is technically legal, although it is patently unsafe and we would recommend owners remove them and treat the TUV300 as a five-seater family car. Because of the seats, there is also no retractable boot cover, meaning any valuable items are always in sight and cannot be securely stowed. With these seats folded up, the TUV300 offers a respectable but not class-leading 288 litres of boot space.

The little crossover’s packaging still affords generous interior space with sufficient head- and rear legroom, as well as 1 128 litres of utility space. It is, however, somewhat let down by the middle row of seats that fold down without a split, making for an awkward obstacle in the way when packing large items.

Unusual in this segment is the TUV300’s engine; it’s an mHawk 1,5-litre three-cylinder turbo-diesel unit that works hard in this car. The 74 kW power output is relatively low compared with those of other contenders in the segment, but it does counter with a healthy 240 N.m of torque. Together with an easy-to-use clutch and short-ratio, five-speed manual gearbox, the TUV300 displays a capable nature in low-speed environments, with little evidence of turbo lag, but it does struggle above the 100 km/h mark, where the engine runs out of steam.

As mentioned before, the gear ratios are very short, with only fourth and fifth gear making it past 100 km/h. And the extended time it takes to get up to these speeds means that overtaking needs both planning and caution. Our in-gear acceleration test results show that, in both fourth and fifth gears, the TUV300 took 9,19 and 9,27 seconds to get from 100 to 120 km/h respectively; 140 km/h could be reached only in fifth gear, and that took an additional 19,18 seconds to hit.

Our acceleration test figures reflected a similar theme, with 0-80 km/h accomplished in an acceptable 10,66 seconds, but time slows quite dramatically after that. With an overall mass of 1 654 kg, its indicated 0-100 km/h time of 16,89 seconds is much slower than other contenders in this segment. The 0-140 km/h figure of 56,89 seconds further supports the fact that the low power output, plus a hefty, boxy design, results in compromised performance.

On the positive side, the mHawk 1,5-litre’s frugal consumption adds to the TUV300’s value proposition. With a CAR fuel index of 6,48 L/100 km and a 6,40 result on our fuel route, it is a rather light sipper that also benefits from an auto stop/start function, as well as an eco driving mode which we would advise be used only in slow-moving traffic, as the system dulls the power delivery further.

There were, however, some inconsistencies in the TUV300’s braking characteristics; most of the 100-0 km/h figures hovered around the 3,0-second mark (a “good” rating), but these were hampered by the occasional 3,4-second result. This pushed the overall average up to 3,22 seconds, which registers an “average” rating on our scale.

Although displaying some body roll, the TUV300 has a comfortable and softly sprung ride thanks to Mahindra’s Cushion Suspension Technology that consists of a double wishbone front and live axle with multilink rear suspension. Aiding these characteristics are the 215/75 R15 Ceat Czar H/T tyres that are both cushioned and quiet.

That said, their grip levels feel lower than the more well-known brands and that, together with the body roll mentioned earlier, doesn’t encourage any spirited driving. Given its angular shape, wind noise is less than expected, but the NVH rating is ultimately let down by the noisy three-cylinder diesel rumble.
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.

 

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5 + 2
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: front
  • Front armrests: driver + front passenger
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 2
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: ECO
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear
  • Central locking: remote
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Park distance control PDC: rear
  • Fuel Type: diesel
  • Fuel range average: 1111 km
  • Driven wheels: rear
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 5
  • Gearshift: manual
  • Transmission type: manual
  • Front tyres: 215/75 R15
  • Reartyres: 215/75 R15
  • Spare wheel size full: Standard
  • Length: 4096 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1795 mm
  • Height: 1839 mm
  • Wheel base: 2680 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 10.7 m
  • Load volume / capacity: 384-720 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 720 L
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2225 kg
  • Towing capacity - braked: 750
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 60l
  • Fuel consumption average: 5.4 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 142g/km
  • Power maximum: 74 kW
  • Power maximum total: 74 kW
  • Power peak revs: 3750 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: #DIV/0! kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 240 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1600-2800 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 240 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: #DIV/0! Nm/ton
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1493 cc
  • Engine size: 1.5l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.5TD
  • Engine + detail: 1.5 turbo diesel
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 4
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i4
  • Valves per cylinder: 2
  • Valves quantity: 8
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 3
  • Warranty distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 3
  • Service plan time (distance): 90000 km
  • Roadside assistance time: 3
  • Service interval (distance): 20000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1
  • Brand: Mahindra
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 41524200
  • MMVariant: TUV300 1.5TD (7 SEAT)
  • MMintrodat: 2017-02-01
  • Introdate: 2017-02-21
  • DuoportarecordID: MahiTUV3_1e1

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