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  • Rear looks identical to Quanto, but black cladding and ac...
    Rear looks identical to Quanto, but black cladding and accents give it some much-needed relief.
  • Heavy dose of black cladding helps disguise the slab-side...
    Heavy dose of black cladding helps disguise the slab-sided profile.
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Mahindra NuvoSport review, road test

10th May 2016 12:15 pm

Read the Mahindra NuvoSport review, road test from Autocar India; Less than a year after the launch of its TUV300, Mahindra has launched another sub-four-metre SUV. We find out what's different.


  • Make : Mahindra
  • Model : Nuvosport

When Mahindra launched the Quanto in 2012, it was easy to view it cynically as just a chopped-down Xylo – a quick and easy entry into the compact SUV segment, which was still in its infancy then. Was it an MPV or an SUV? The answer wasn’t very clear. On the other hand, you had to hand it to M&M for getting the job done with the resources available. Alas, it didn’t do well enough to stick around for very long. Then came the TUV300, which though a little rough around its very angular edges, at least felt like an all-new vehicle, and found its own niche in the compact SUV class. Now, less than a year after that, the Quanto is back with a new name – NuvoSport – a new face and all-new chassis too. It’s much more than just a facelift then, and that warrants digging deeper under its skin. In the process, we aim to find out just where it fits not only in relation to the competition, but Mahindra’s own model range as well.

It may be a compact SUV, but as we’ve mentioned before, it’s also a very heavy one, owing to its body-on-frame construction, so fuel economy, even in the ARAI test, is nowhere near what you get from a Vitara Brezza or an EcoSport. Our tests turned up 11.45kpl in the city and 14.16kpl on the highway for the manual NuvoSport, while the AMT version managed 10.68kpl in the city and 13.61kpl on the highway. The reason the urban figures are as good as they are is the engine’s effortlessness at low revs. The manual version has stop-start and an Eco mode that limits the engine’s revs, and that should improve those numbers slightly, but again, this is more beneficial in city driving.

Dramatic – that’s a good way to describe the NuvoSport’s face. Gone is the rather blunt-looking face of the old Quanto (and Xylo) and in its place is a rather interesting blend of angles and creases. The challenge was to give the car a new, more SUV-like look without drastic alterations to the Quanto’s ‘body in white’. So, while the position of the headlamps is more or less the same, the bonnet has been raised with the help of a big new bonnet intake (to feed air to the new top-mounted intercooler) and a pair of LED ‘eyebrow’ daytime-running lamps. Lower down, there’s a massive new grille and an equally vast lower air dam, flanked by round fog lamps.

From there rearward, the car is identical to the Quanto. The doors, windows and roof are as before, but Mahindra has draped the bottom half of the car in black cladding to good effect; it keeps it from looking too slab-sided. The 16-inch alloy wheels look good too. There’s a lot more black around the rear too, with more cladding on the tailgate, a blacked-out D-pillar and smoked tail-lamps. It’s not a lot, but it does make a slight difference.

The NuvoSport uses the Scorpio and TUV’s ‘Gen 3’ hydroformed ladder-frame chassis, onto which the old body has been mounted. That makes it more rigid than the Quanto, but surprisingly, at a portly 1,670kg, the car overall is actually 30kg heavier, not to mention several hundred kilos more than its monocoque rivals. It also gets the same suspension setup as the TUV300 and, likewise, it’s been tuned by US-based Cayman Engineering for a better ride and handling balance, says Mahindra. The layout is a fairly standard double-wishbone independent front suspension, with a multi-link, coil-spring setup at the rear, and the steering, as before, is hydraulically power assisted. So, under those Quanto-sourced body panels and that new face, the NuvoSport is identical to the TUV300 mechanically.

The interior is not identical to the TUV300 – it’s identical to the Quanto. That’s a huge disappointment, as that car, in turn, dates all the way back to the original Xylo from 2009! The reason is the same reason they’ve retained exterior panels for – though the chassis is new, the car’s body-in-white had to stay the same to keep manufacturing costs in check and with it, the placement and fit of most of the interior panels were carried over as well. So, you get the same upright dash, awkward-looking central AC vents and the same central console, among other things. Though they look old and hard-wearing, to their credit, the cupholders and cubbyholes in the central stack are pretty useful. The door pockets, however, are still too small and narrow.

There are a few new bits to bring this cabin more up to date. The Xylo’s instrument binnacle gets new chrome-ringed dials that look a bit smarter, the AC and ‘power mode’ controls are lifted straight from the TUV300, there’s dual-tone leatherette upholstery and a 6.2-inch touchscreen (see box) dominates the top of the dash. But some things are still irksome in here. The doors have speed-sensitive locks, but there’s no ‘central lock-unlock’ button anywhere in the cabin – you have to lift up the knob like it’s 1995; there is an electronic fuel cap release button though. The multi-info display is annoyingly split between the instrument binnacle and the dash-top display, so while the trip and odometer are where you expect, you have to turn to the dashboard for the fuel consumption, distance to empty, optimum/selected gear (essential in the AMT version) and inside/outside temperature displays. And finally, though it may have improved slightly from the days of old, fit and finish in most places is still below modern standards, and some parts like the column stalks and door locks clearly feel a generation old.

The NuvoSport may seem similar to the TUV300 in exterior dimensions, but it actually has an 80mm longer wheelbase, and this has translated directly to greater legroom in the middle row. The boot, at 412 litres (with the jump seats folded away) also trumps the TUV’s 384 litres. As ever with Mahindra’s ladder-frame SUVs, you have to climb two steps into the cabin, and then a bit more into the seats. The advantage here is a tall and commanding driving position with a great view in every direction. The only trouble is, the NuvoSport’s bonnet tapers quite sharply, and so if you’re not very tall, it’s hard to see the front left corner of the car from the driver’s seat, especially going up a steep slope.

Climb into the middle row and you’ll find ample room in all directions, and this is one area where it truly trumps all its rivals, and how. It’s easy to fit three abreast here, and even the tallest passengers won’t want for headroom or kneeroom. The seats are a touch flat, though, and this might hurt comfort over long distances. The middle row can now be split-folded 60:40 for a more flexible luggage area and the backrest can even be reclined. But there’s one caveat and that’s the jump seats in the boot. They have to be flipped down to recline the middle row, and doing so means no passengers and limited luggage in the boot. The jump seats have three positions – flipped up, opened, or flipped down – the first giving maximum luggage room, the second letting passengers use them, and the third letting the middle row recline. And they are standard, so you can’t opt for more luggage and two fewer seats, even if you wanted to. It’s good to see height-adjustable seatbelts for the front seats, and while there’s a conventional three-point system for two middle passengers and a lap belt for the middle, there are no seat belts for the rear jump seats. And speaking of safety, ABS and two airbags are standard on the middle and top trims, while they are optional on the base trim too.

After all the similarities to the TUV300, it’s no surprise to know that the engine and gearboxes are essentially the same too. This one, however, is called mHawk100 instead of mHawk80 and that points to its power output, which is 101.42hp (or 100bhp). The 1,493cc, three-cylinder mill has had its torque uprated to 240Nm, and both these numbers are, incidentally, identical to what you used to get in the Quanto. But, Mahindra says, the advancements to the motor since then – mostly for refinement and fuel economy – have earned it a place in the ‘mHawk’ engine family and to that end, it’s closer related to the TUV300’s mHawk80 motor.

Fire it up and it feels that way too. It’s got the same clatter and vibration at start-up, felt especially through the tall manual gear lever, but then it settles down to a surprisingly quiet idle. In every aspect, this engine is at its best at low revs, making you want to shift up early and keep the revs below 3,000, and you can put some of this down to the well-tuned dual-stage turbo and the dual-mass flywheel. Beyond 3,000rpm, you lose refinement and power starts to fade too, and once you’re past 3,800rpm, it’s all noise and no go. The NuvoSport steps off the line very eagerly, and the torque feels strong enough to be able to do this with a full load too. It pulls smoothly and cleanly in traffic and the only letdown here is the slightly rubbery manual gearshift.

Then there’s the optional five-speed AMT. This is the same Ricardo-sourced unit from the TUV300, and while we were very disappointed with its jerky and inconsistent behaviour in that car, it has been improved since. You can feel a bit more smoothness in everyday driving, provided you’re gentle with the accelerator, but it still stutters a bit too much when you ask a lot of it – like in kickdown acceleration and especially on a hill start. It still has a long way to go, and unless an automatic gearbox tops your priority list, we’d stick with the manual.

While it feels a lot like the TUV300’s 84hp motor in practise, the NuvoSport is ultimately quicker. The manual car, at 60kph from standstill, is 0.8sec quicker than a TUV, and by the time they reach 100kph, the NuvoSport is 2.3sec ahead, with even in-gear performance being around 1sec better. The bigger difference comes from using the NuvoSport’s Eco mode, which seriously blunts performance – 100kph is reached in a yawning 25.62sec; the price you pay for better economy.

The new chassis has helped dynamics a little bit, but you can’t cheat physics – this is still a tall, heavy, boxy, ladder-frame SUV, and it comes with the associated shortcomings. There is, as you’d expect, a lot of body roll and the steering feels rubbery and inconsistent. It turns in quite sharply, but it’s just not an enjoyable experience moving all that mass around. Of course, this isn’t a hot hatchback, but the simple fact is, monocoque SUV rivals just require less effort to drive and are sharper handlers too.

Ride quality is much better than the Quanto thanks to the new chassis, but the setup is still tuned on the soft side. So, while it can iron out smaller bumps and potholes really well, larger bumps create a bigger upset. The major issue is, as you pick up the pace, you’ll feel a lot of movement inside the cabin; in fact, hit a rough patch at highway speeds and your passengers will be tossed around quite a lot. The advantage is, it can tackle rough roads effortlessly.

Touchscreens are all the rage today, and the Brezza was the first to bring it to this class. The NuvoSport’s one is clearly an aftermarket unit from Kenwood. The 6.2-inch screen’s graphics are hard to read in bright daylight, and it’s angled almost downwards, making it harder still to use on the move from the high perch. The shroud it sits in seems like an afterthought and is not well-integrated into the dash. Though the unit is navigation-ready, the car has no maps installed, and unlike the Scorpio and XUV, no other car functions are included. Purely for audio and phone functions, it gets the job done, but nothing more.

At a price range of Rs 7.41-9.21 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the NuvoSport is priced bang on against the Vitara Brezza, although the base Brezza is cheaper and the top-spec is a bit more expensive. More interestingly, its about Rs 20,000 more than the TUV300, spec for spec and this is crucial. Mahindra says the difference between the two SUVs is that the TUV has a tough and rugged appeal, while the NuvoSport is a lifestyle vehicle. The simple fact is, theres a lot of overlap here, and it really begs the question, was there need for a second SUV in the same segment from M&M? Yes, the NuvoSport is slightly better equipped, slightly quicker, marginally more spacious, and some might prefer its look to the TUV300. But, its interior design and quality is a major letdown and it really doesnt add much else to the mix. The TUV300 created a niche, it was somewhat of a novelty, sacrificing some user-friendliness for toughness, which had its own special appeal. The NuvoSport aims to squeeze into the same niche, rehashing the same formula with little improvement and charging a premium for it. It aims a bit higher, and therefore falls a bit harder.

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