First Drive

Mahindra KUV100 review, test drive

The radical-looking KUV100 promises to stand out from the crowd. But just how good is to drive?

DETAILS
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photos
 
What is it like to drive?
 
The KUV100 is also the launch vehicle for Mahindra’s new mFalcon line of petrol and diesel engines, so there’s lots to talk about. Let's focus on the petrol engine first. Christened mFalcon G80, it’s an all-aluminium three-cylinder, 1.2-litre unit with four valves per head and a double overhead camshaft with variable timing on both intake and exhaust valves. It produces an impressive 81.8bhp at 5,500rpm and 11.7kgm from 3,500-3,600rpm, which is on the higher side for this class of vehicle.

Driving the KUV around Mahindra’s test track at its Chakan plant, the initial feeling is that the petrol engine is good but not special. While the engine responds well to throttle inputs and driveability is fine, it offers little to excite. Power delivery is flat and the build up of revs isn’t particularly urgent either. It’s only post 4,500rpm or so that the engine gets a fresh wind and revs with more vigour. However, it’s unlikely KUV users will really stretch it so much. The engine also sounds thrummy when revved hard and we were disappointed with the refinement. However, the petrol works quite well on part throttle and the KUV can gamely keep up with the flow of urban traffic. The engine comes mated to a five-speed manual gearbox and we’re glad to report the location of the gearshift, placed on the centre console, falls nicely to hand, the shift action has a short throw and is remarkably crisp. In fact, the gearbox is one of the best bits of the KUV100. To top it off the gearshift knob is also superbly finished. The clutch is light too but could be a touch smoother to engage. 

Mahindra’s past experience with diesel engines seems to have helped when developing the new D75 diesel engine that comes across as the more rounded of the mFalcon motors. Like the petrol, the diesel engine is also a three-cylinder, 1.2-litre unit though this one uses a cast iron block and aluminium head. This turbocharged engine makes 76.4bhp at 3,750rpm and a strong 19.37kgm between 1,750-2,250rpm. Also worth highlighting is that the D75 motor offers two drive modes – Power which is the stock mode and Economy – and adjusts fuelling accordingly.
 
The D75 motor is fairly responsive from the get-go, but like most small-capacity diesel engines comes into its own once the turbo has spooled up which is past 1,900rpm. Post that mark, you can feel greater pulling power at your disposal, but there’s no spike in power delivery and the engine doesn’t rev all that quick either but what you get is a linear and friendly build up of power that many will like. In fact, slipping the diesel KUV100 into Mumbai revealed how easy it is drive. You can ride the nice and flat torque curve and you don’t need to constantly change gears. A small flex of the throttle gives you enough overtaking ability in town. Refinement levels are also good as small-capacity diesels go. You can hear the distinct three-cylinder clatter at idle but noise levels are overall well contained. Gearshifts are superb and the short lever is a joy to operate but once again the clutch could do with a more progressive action. 
 
Mahindra claims a fuel economy of 25.3kpl for the diesel KUV100 when driven in Eco mode. As you switch from Power to Eco, you can feel performance take a serious hit. Not only do responses get duller, the engine also doesn’t rev beyond 3,600rpm in the mode. As you’d have guessed, Eco is not the mode for anyone in a hurry but quite useable in the city. 
 
The mFalcon pair of engines is a great effort by M&M and we were particularly impressed with the user-friendly character of the 1.2 diesel. 
 
As for the suspension, the KUV100 uses a traditional front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam configuration. The KUV is set to the softer side, especially at the rear which has a gentle pitching motion. Driving it around on the streets of Mumbai the KUV smothers potholes well and deals with speed breakers with far more aplomb than its 170mm ground clearance would suggest. The steering is light, the turning circle is small and the general feeling is of being in a light and nimble hatchback.
 
At higher speeds though the KUV moves around a fair bit. There’s a bit of body roll around corners and the tall stance doesn’t help here. The steering may not be super quick or bristling with feel but it has a consistency and weights up nicely to give the driver lots of confidence at the helm. The brakes could do with a bit more bite and servo assistance. Also, what we did notice was wind noise around the A-pillar and it’s enough to make you think you’ve left a window open.
 

Fact File

Engine

Fuel Petrol / Diesel
Installation Front, transverse
Type 1198cc MPFI with Dual VVT / 1198cc turbocharged, intercooled, common rail direct injection
Power 81.8bhp at 5500rpm / 76.4bhp at 3750rpm
Torque 11.7kgm at 3500-3600rpm / 19.37kgm at 1750-2250rpm

Transmission

Type Front-wheel drive
Gearbox Five speed manual

Dimensions

Length 3675mm
Width 1715mm
Height 1655mm
Wheel base 2385mm
Boot volume 243-litres
Ground clearance 170mm

Chassis & Body

Construction Five door hatchback, monocoque
Wheels 14-inch alloy
Tyres 185/65R14

Suspension

Front Independent, Mcpherson Strut, coil spring
Rear Semi-independent, twist-beam with coil spring

Brakes

Front Disc
Rear Drum

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Issue: 215 | Autocar India: July 2017

We’ve exclusively driven the third-gen Maruti Swift, compared the Dzire with all its compact sedan rivals, and tested the all-new Volvo XC60. That and lots more in the July 2017 issue!
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