We first broke the news of the ‘mini-Xylo’ (code: U203) on our website on June 3, 2010, and it’s been no secret Mahindra has been developing its own sub 4-metre car, one that has finally taken shape as this, the Quanto. The case for chopping the Xylo’s length was to qualify the Quanto as a small car and, correspondingly, a lower 12 percent rate of excise duty. The result is Mahindra’s first compact SUV that’s set to expand the segment the Premier Rio originally created.
From the front there’s little to distinguish the Quanto from the facelifted Xylo. The ‘V’ on the bonnet is more defined, and there’s a new lip above the toothed grille, but this apart the two cars are near identical upto the rear doors. Where the Quanto looks totally different is from the back. The Xylo’s large rear windows and sizeable rear bumper have been replaced by a smaller quarter glass and minimal overhang aft of the rear wheels. The Quanto also gets different D-pillars, wraparound tail lamps and comes with its spare wheel mounted on the side-opening tail-gate, which goes with its SUV character. The tail however is quite truncated this gives the Quanto slightly gawky proportions that are further accentuated by small 15-inch wheels. However, there are good reasons for this, which you discover when you step inside.
With the Quanto sharing the Xylo’s 2760mm wheelbase, space inside the cabin is fantastic. You do have to step up into the high-set cabin, but once inside it’s easy to get comfortable. All round visibility is excellent, the front seats are comfy and the dashboard, a straight lift from the Xylo, adds to the feeling of familiarity in here. Cabin quality feels better than previous Xylo’s but its still not perfectly finished and there are a few ill-fitting gaps and rough edges. You are compensated with lots of features. The top-spec Quanto C8 we drove featured power windows, two airbags, a music player with MP3 and aux connectivity and a reverse-parking sensor.
The middle row gets lots of space and the flat seat base is comfy, but the non-adjustable backrest is a tad too upright. That’s because, believe it or not, the Quanto is a seven-seater and the second-row backrest has undoubtedly been kept upright to free up space for the rear jump seats which are best used for really short drives. There are no headrests and the knees-up seating position and near-vertical backrests force you to adopt a very uncomfortable posture. The seats do fold though, and with them out of the way there is decent luggage space in the back.
To qualify for excise benefits on small cars, the Quanto had to come with a sub-1.5-litre diesel engine. The engine in question is the new 1493cc motor – the mCR100. Interestingly, this common-rail motor is not a grounds-up design but actually a downsized three-cylinder version of Mahindra’s existing 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine. While understandably not as powerful as the mHawk, the new engine uses a two-stage turbo and an intercooler to output fairly impressive power and torque figures of 98.6bhp and 24.5kgm.
Given the inherent imbalance of a three-cylinder engine, we were quite surprised by the engine’s refinement. Idle is fairly quiet, vibrations are well contained and some transmission judder apart, refinement is impressive. Even on the move, that typical three-cylinder thrum is obvious but doesn’t become intrusive until you go high up the rev band. However, this isn’t an engine you’d rev hard anyway. Power seriously tapers off post 3500rpm and even on full throttle it doesn’t gather much pace. The Quanto’s heavy kerb weight of 1640kg seriously weighs it down and it took a slow 17.41 seconds in the 0-100kph dash.
However, at slower speeds, the engine shows a more likeable side. Power delivery is linear and there’s decent pull between 1500rpm and 3500rp though it still feels flat for most part. All this points to a car that will amble well through traffic but could find itself out of depth on the highway. At city speeds, the gear ratios seem well matched to the engine but we found the gearshift quality on the five-speed box slightly rubbery and the light clutch a bit snappy too.
Driving the Quanto on Mahindra’s test track, we experienced acceptable levels of road noise filtering into the cabin on the smooth section of the track though the small undulations on the main straight resulted in ride becoming bouncy with lots of vertical movement. The Quanto does share its suspension hardware with the Xylo and uses the same combination of double wishbones up front and a five-link setup at the rear. While a smaller body should have resulted in greater rigidity and tidier handling, the top-heavy Quanto was slow to change direction and there was lots of body roll too. Its hydraulically assisted power steering (standard across the range) isn’t particularly fast either but is light enough at typical city speeds.
The Quanto’s quirky looks are sure to split opinion but you simply can’t ignore the massive cabin space (at least for the front two rows) and the advantages of its elevated driving position. And while the rear jump seats aren’t very useable, they do add flexibility to the cabin, at least for short stints. Its engine is also nicely refined for a three-cylinder unit, has sufficient power for city use and promises to be fuel efficient too. Where the Quanto didn’t impress us in the areas of ride and handling and we wished the interiors could have been better too.
But factor in the Quanto’s pricing, which starts at Rs 5.82 lakh for the base C2 model and stretches to Rs 7.36 lakh for the top-spec C8 variant (ex-showroom, Thane), and it looks a whole lot more interesting. For many it could be a lifestyle (albeit less sophisticated) alternative to the brigade of premium hatchbacks. There’s nothing quite like it for the price.