It is not often that new segments are created. And not from a brand which has been playing hard in just one segment for a very long time. This is the review of the Mahindra KUV100, a car which the brand calls a ‘Kool Utility Vehicle’. And it’s not One Hundered, Mahindra pronounces it as ‘One double Oh’. Why do we call it a new segment? Well, there are more such products which will soon be launched such as the Maruti Suzuki Ignis. Brands think there is more space below the sub-4 metre compact-SUV segment to call pitch & lure customers looking for SUVs.
Codenamed as the S101, the KUV100 is Mahindra’s big ticket to high volumes. Additionally, it is expected to be a game changer for Mahindra since this is their most compact product offering for the Indian segment. While the brand calls it a mini SUV, it is nothing but a hatchback on stills, but a bit more rugged than the premium hatchback crossovers. Mahindra has spent over Rs. 1,200 crore in the development of the KUV100 from grounds up. After a lot being said about the brand with the recent ban on high capacity diesel cars in the capital city, the KUV100 brings new hope with a potential to more than compensate for lost sales. Going by the brands standards, the KUV100 will surely manage to find over 5,000 buyers month-on-month. Mahindra has their loyal customer base as well who will be very keen to check out this smallest offering.
But slotting in a segment to rival established products such as the Maruti Suzuki Swift & Hyundai Grand i10 at the moment, does the Mahindra KUV100 have enough to prove a point? Just SUVish looks could find buyers? Are people willing to spend money on a brand focused on utility vehicles in the budget segment? We put the KUV100 to a short road test to find out…
As is the case with all Mahindra products, the KUV100 is hard to miss and has enough boldness in the exterior design to generate curiosity out on the streets. Well, to each his own, but the KUV100 is surely a decent looking product from Mahindra compared to the previous launch, the TUV300. Mahindra is primarily targeting the youth who wants to own a SUV but cannot afford it, and with what we see, it will manage to turn eyeballs.
At the front, you get the familiar toothed grille design with chrome inserts, but this one is not as large as Mahindra’s full size SUVs. It is sleek and is then complemented with elongated headlamps on either side which are smoked out and get LED DRLs. The headlamp also sport the mFalcon engine badging on the LHS while to your right you have KUV100 slapped under the glass. There’s also a red contrast strip, not really useful, but typical of Mahindra to do such cheesy stuff. Below, you have a muscular front bumper with bold creases and the lower section sports black plastic cladding which also house the rectangular fog lamps. There’s also a silver pseudo skid plate which adds to the SUVish looks of the KUV100. The bonnet is sculpted and overall the car looks quite handsome from the front.
Come to the side and the first thing you notice are the sharp & bold crease lines flowing back from the headlamp, below on the doors & dropping ahead of the tail lamp. Wheel arches are prominent and also get mild plastic cladding. The cladding is a bit thicker under the doors though. While the front door gets a conventional pull type door handle (without keyless entry), the rear sports a Chevrolet Beat like C-pillar mounted door handle painted in silver to grab attention and make it clear where to look. The ORVM does not get turn indicators but has crease lines which Mahindra thinks looks like a clenched fist. The side turn indicator is housed within the headlamp extension. The KUV100 sports 14″ 6 bi-spoke alloy wheels running on 185 section MRF rubber. The LHS front fender also gets an engine badging which reads G80 for the petrol model and D75 for the diesel model. There’s silver coloured roof rails as well to complete the SUV design theme.
The bold design continues at the back as well with sharp crease lines over the twin-barrel tail lamps. You get a integrated roof spoiler without LED stop lamp. The stop lamp is mounted conventionally on the rear windscreen. Yes, this is a mini SUV but we are glad Mahindra did not mount the spare wheel on the tail gate. The tail gate sports the Mahindra logo in the centre, Mahindra badge to the LHS & KUV100 badge to the RHS with the variant name below. The rear bumper gets body colour on the top half with the lower section coming in black plastic cladding. You get dual rear fog lamps with chrome surrounds. The black plastic cladding however is a dust magnet and will get dirty very soon. Keeping this clean & shiny will be a task.
Paint quality, panel gaps, exterior fit & finish is acceptable.
Get inside and the KUV100 welcomes you with a light greige & black interiors. The cabin at the front feels quite airy with tall windows and a nicely raked windscreen.
The dashboard of the KUV100 is all-new, unique & does not take any inspiration from other models. The dashboard top is not flat, and is curved from end to end. You can still manage to place idols in the centre. There’s piano black inserts which separate the black & greige section. Steering wheel is a 3-spoke unit with silver accents and audio controls mounted for your left thumb to access. Behind, there is a twin pot instrument cluster with a small MID between the tachometer & speedometer which displays information such as engine temperature, fuel gauge, odometer & dual trip meter. DTE is oddly revealed through the infotainment system in the centre. Instrument cluster is recessed & is easy to read under bright sun as well.
What’s different is the centre console. The gear stick has been mounted here unlike any other car sold in India. While the Hyundai i10 started this design theme with the gear mounted below the centre console, the KUV100 actually hosts it where you conventionally find AC or Audio controls. The gear stick looks decent, except for the shiny steel rod which comes out which grabs too much attention. A black stick would have been subtle. On top, you get an integrated audio system with bluetooth, aux-in and USB support. The AC controls are stacked vertically which is again a unique setup in the segment. What’s more different with the KUV100 is that there is no floor console (in the 6 seater version). With the gear having moved up, the floor is completely flat for foot movement. The pull type handbrake & charging point are located below the centre console. For those with bigger hands, it will be a pain pulling the handbrake as there isn’t too much space for your wrist to wrap around.
Now that there’s no floor console & gear between the two passengers, how is the space utilised? Well, Mahindra has made the KUV100 a 6-seater vehicle with 3 adults being able to sit at the front. While the driver seat is independent, the passenger seat is extended to the right to touch the driver seat. This can be used to seat a 3rd occupant when need be. Mahindra does offer a 5-seater variant where you get a floor console in between with 4 storage spots. And for times when you’re just two in the front, the seat back in between folds down to work as an arm rest with 2 cup holders. How easy is it to fit 3 adults? Not much. It is best suited for 2 adults and 1 kid. Mahindra themselves claim that this 6th seat will rarely be used, but is an interesting offering considering people do squeeze in 2 in the passenger seat. The 3rd occupant will also have very little knee clearance option as he has to keep his feet on either side of the centre console
Back seat has adequate space for 2 and acceptable space for 3. It is a bit tight though to seat 3 adults, but considering segment standards, we are not complaining. Seat bench is flat and so is the floor which makes 3 people adjust their positions easily. There is an arm rest for the rear passengers as well. What’s a pain point here is the rear window which ends well ahead of the rear passenger seat back. This allows lesser light inside and could leave you feeling claustrophobic at times. C-pillar is also quite thick when seen from inside. Seats are wrapped in fabric and the quality is decent. Cushioning is on the softer side, as is with every Mahindra model except the Thar.
Boot space isn’t that great. It can occupy 2-3 bags at most. The claimed size is 243 litres.
Other talking points from the interior are mood lights & puddle lamps.
Engine, performance & handling:
Powering the KUV100 is a range of all-new mFalcon engines. While there is a diesel motor on offer, the KUV100 also brings out a petrol engine from Mahindra.
The petrol model is powered by a 1.2L, 3-cylinder, G80, mFalcon motor producing 82 BHP of power and 114 Nm of torque matched to a 5-speed gearbox. This is an all-aluminium engine with double overhead camshaft with variable timing on both intake & exhaust valves. Mahindra claims that the petrol model can deliver 18.15 kmpl of mileage. Considering this is a new territory for Mahindra, we were going to be easy with the engine, but it was refined enough to suggest us to push hard. It revvs clean till the 6,000 RPM mark but gets a bit vocal above 3,000 RPM. Compared to competition such as the Grand i10, the NVH levels from a petrol motor might sound just satisfactory, but by Mahindra standards, it is not bad. At idle, you do realise that the petrol motor is running. We drove around for a very short while and hence cannot comment much about how effective this engine will be in the city or highway. Moving away from 0 kmph is easy but enthusiastic gear shifts leads to a bouncy ride. Typical of 3-cylinder motors, engine isn’t very revv happy and it is best to upshift early. Mid-range & in-gear acceleration is acceptable, but not as great as the Swift. Gear shifting is easy, and gear gates are well defined. Clutch pedal is not too heavy either.
Powering the diesel variant is a 1.2L, 3-cylinder, D75, mFalcon motor producing 77 BHP of power and 190 Nm of torque matched to a 5-speed gearbox. This is a turbocharged unit matched to a 5-speed gearbox. The engine maxes out under 5,000 RPM. Mahindra claims that the diesel motor can deliver 25.32 kmpl of mileage, which is quite impressive. NVH levels again compared to the Grand i10 are just satisfactory. Shift to 1st and the crawl is much lesser compared to bigger diesel engined cars. The KUV100 has a peppy motor though with very well contained turbo lag. Acceleration throughout the revv range in initial gears is good and should make city driving enjoyable. The engine does get throaty when pushed hard and there’s no option but to floor the pedal out on the highway. Top end performance is just average and it is best to drive the KUV100 up to 100 kmph or below. The car gets two driving modes, Power & Eco. Engine doesn’t climb over 3,600 RPM in the eco mode. The car starts running on power mode by default while you have to switch to eco mode for better mileage. Power is delivered in a linear fashion in both modes and the flat torque curve doesn’t demand frequent gear changes either.
You also get Mahindra’s Micro Hybrid technology which is nothing but automatic engine start / stop function to save fuel when at idle.
One very interesting thing we’d like you to note is that the gear stick is placed so close to the steering, that one can downshift from 5th to 4th with their fingers having their left hand still resting on the steering wheel.
Carrying forward Mahindra’s bouncy nature, the KUV100 also has a softly sprung suspension setup. We couldn’t test it much on the track inside the plant, but even on mild undulations, the suspension does push down a fair bit. On hard cornering, the rear end does squat reasonably suggesting you to lift the throttle. The KUV100 makes use of a MacPherson strut at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. With 170mm of ground clearance and a soft suspension, moving over rough patches won’t be a trouble. Steering is light as well, but we couldn’t test the feedback much. There is noticeable body roll at high speeds because of the tall stance.
Braking performance is acceptable but could have been a bit more servoed for a sharper feedback. Mahindra offers ABS & EBD as standard across all variants. MRF ZVTS tyres squeal easily when pushed hard. Under panic braking, the hazard lights turn on automatically to alert surrounding traffic.
Mahindra offers 2 year / 1 lakh km warranty as standard on the KUV100.
So, is it worth buying a KUV100? Well, it depends on what type of a consumer you are. If an affordable hatchback with styling cues of an SUV is what you want, the KUV100 fits the bill just right. There’s ample room thanks to the versatility of 6-seats. With pricing undercutting the Swift & Grand i10; the KUV surely feels like a VFM product. While the design might turn out to be a bit overdone for some, it is not hugely offensive. It is an easy car to drive, and should be easy to maintain as well given Mahindra’s product portfolio and their history.
Prices (ex-showroom, Pune):
- K2 – Rs. 4,42,000 (6-seater)
- K2+ – Rs. 4,64,000 (6-seater)
- K4 – Rs. 4,77,000
- K4+ – Rs. 4,99,000
- K6 – Rs. 5,36,000
- K6+ – Rs. 5,58,000
- K8 – Rs. 5,91,000
- K2 – Rs. 5,22,000 (6-seater)
- K2+ – Rs. 5,44,000 (6-seater)
- K4 – Rs. 5,57,000
- K4+ – Rs. 5,79,000
- K6 – Rs. 6,21,000
- K6+ – Rs. 6,43,000
- K8 – Rs. 6,76,000