The radical-looking KUV100 promises to stand out from the crowd. But just how good is to drive?
The KUV100 (pronounced ‘one double oh’) is the latest addition to SUV maker, Mahindra & Mahindra’s (M&M) burgeoning model line-up. M&M may market the KUV100 as a compact SUV but in reality think of the model as the Indian manufacturer’s first indigenously developed ‘car’. The KUV100’s 3.6 metre length, front-wheel-drive setup and monocoque construction broadly puts it in the same category as hatchbacks such as the Maruti Celerio, Maruti Swift, Hyundai Grand i10 and the Tata Bolt.
A rival to conventional hatchbacks it may be, but there’s nothing conventional about the way the KUV100 looks. Like the template-busting Renault Kwid that was launched last year, the KUV100 too relies on SUV-like cues to distinguish itself from the crowd. The final product gets your attention though not necessarily for the right reasons. The styling may be too over the top, but like the Nissan Juke this is a car you simply can’t ignore and for many that may be reason enough to buy it. There’s a mishmash of styling elements, the proportions are awkward and there’s a general lack of cohesiveness to the design; the SUV-like front and the hatchback tail could very well belong to different cars.
View the KUV head on and it will certainly catch your eye. The front is similar to what we’ve seen on newer SsangYong concepts (remember Mahindra owns the Korean SUV maker), but there’s a hint of Range Rover Evoque to the pinched grille and the acutely swept back headlights which extend almost all the way to the A-pillar. The detailing in the headlights is superb and the LED strip is particularly distinctive, especially at night. There’s beefy cladding on the lower portion of the bumper and a scuff plate at the bottom to announce the KUV100’s SUV credentials.
However, it’s in the side profile that the KUV looks particularly disproportionate. Also, there are too many design elements such as the pronounced crease extending from the headlights to the front doors, and another one originating at the rear door that rises to the tail. The oversized wheel arches dwarf the 14-inch wheels which are small even by hatchback standards. Look closely and you’ll notice the rear door handles sit aft of the rear window (à la the Chevrolet Beat) rather than on the doors. From the rear, the KUV gives the impression of being a tall hatchback with crossover detailing in its blackened bumper base. The protruding tail-lamps, again, look distinctive. Just wish the good folk at Pininfarina (recently acquired by Mahindra) could have been involved when the KUV was in its design stages.