Mahindra Quanto review, test drive
21st Nov 2012 7:11 pm
Mahindra brings hatch benefits to a compact SUV, but does it work? Read our comprehensive review.
With the Quanto, Mahindra & Mahindra wanted to extend the excise duty benefits of the sub-four-metre length and sub-1.5-litre engine capacity category to the compact SUV segment. M&M has taken the low-cost route of essentially snipping the tail off the Xylo to bring it below the four-metre mark. It’s not a new idea. M&M, however, is the first to start this practise in this segment with the Quanto (remember that the Premier Rio that pioneered this segment was always less than four metres long), and going by the market response, there seem to be a lot of takers for it.
However, squishing the humongous Xylo into a small footprint wasn’t going to be easy. So does the Quanto really work as a compact SUV, or are there too many compromises?
The Quanto isn’t a scaled down Xylo, but essentially the same MPV with its tail chopped off. The result is awkward proportions, accentuated by the tall, 1.9-metre height and the short four-metre length. M&M has carried over as much from the Xylo as possible and hence the Quanto’s front has the same ‘raised-eyebrow’ headlights and a similar bumper. A new lip above the toothy front grille, as well as a more defined ‘V’ on the bonnet lends differentiation.
The front and rear doors are also carried over from the Xylo and hence the similarity extends right up to the C pillars. However, M&M has given the Quanto some distinct SUV design cues, like blackened D pillars, roof rails, footboards and the spare wheel mounted on the tailgate (it gets an anti-theft lock too). Crucially, the spare wheel’s dimensions are not counted when measuring the length of a car.
The Quanto and Xylo share the same 2760mm wheelbase, which suggests there is no compromise on space for the first two rows. The Quanto also uses 15-inch wheels, but the narrower and lower-profile tyres (65 profile versus the Xylo’s 75) further enhance the car’s top-heavy stance. The Quanto is 535mm shorter than the Xylo and a big advantage of shedding so much metal is that it weighs a considerable 190kg less. However, at 1640kg, it is still unduly heavy for such a compact vehicle.
Powering the Quanto is a 1493cc, three-cylinder version of the powerful and capable 2.2-litre mHawk common-rail diesel engine. M&M engineers concentrated on insulating the cabin from noise and vibration and, for the most part, the Quanto is pleasantly refined. The engine settles down to a smooth idle and there’s only a hint of pitter-patter from the three-cylinder motor.
While 98.6bhp of power and 24.5kgm of torque from the small-capacity engine may not appear generous, the well-judged gearing and the two-stage turbocharger (a first on this class of car) results in impressive driveability. The engine hits a sweet spot from as low as 1600rpm and there is a linear and strong tug all the way past 3000rpm, making the Quanto ideal for low-speed and in-traffic driving. Trundling along in third gear at 30-40kph, you need just a gentle squeeze of the throttle to ease past slower cars. However, the superb low-speed driveability comes at the cost of top-end punch. Even the mid-range isn’t particularly strong. The rubbery gearshift doesn’t feel great either, but it’s something you cannot avoid during quick overtaking manoeuvres. The shortfall in grunt requires a downshift or two.
Also, the three-cylinder diesel thrum becomes more apparent once you get past the 2500rpm mark and is hard to shake off at high revs. In fact, revving the engine to its 4600rpm redline is pointless as, in the last 1500rpm, it only gets more vocal without adding any pace. You feel the shortfall of power most when you load up the Quanto with a full complement of passengers or when powering up a hill road. For the record, the Quanto takes a leisurely 16 seconds to reach 100kph and reaches a top speed of 143kph.
The modest top speed is a good thing, because the Quanto’s high-speed handling doesn’t inspire confidence. The top-heavy SUV tends to rock and never feels settled. The steering, which isn’t exactly bristling with feel or accuracy, doesn’t help either. Grip levels are pretty good, but that only accentuates the excessive body roll which, along with the tendency to pitch on an uneven surface, makes the Quanto a bit of a handful on any road that isn’t smooth and straight.
In the city, the Quanto is much better behaved. The ride is still fidgety and never feels settled, but the way it tackles potholes and bumps is quite impressive. The suspension works quietly and insulates the cabin from road shock and, at low speeds, the ride is quite comfy. Factor in the Quanto’s compact footprint and high seating position, and you get a vehicle that is well suited to the daily urban grind.
The lofty seating position, huge glass area and low window line give the insides a very airy ambience, underscored by the incredibly generous amount of space. The middle row is particularly roomy, but the seatback is a bit too upright and the cushioning is a bit too flat and hard. As for the last pair of seats, the side-facing position, tight space, knees-up seating position and near-vertical backrests make these usable only for short drives and their safety in the event of a rear impact is questionable.
With all rows in place, luggage space is pretty limited. Fold the last two seats, however, and you get a reasonably big boot. In fact, Mahindra has done well when it comes to storage space around the cabin – there’s a useful box under the driver’s seat, foldable trays for the middle-seat passengers, and space below the second-row seat that is good to store two soft bags.
For the price, the Quanto is quite well equipped and comes with essential features like a two-DIN, USB, SD Card and Aux-equipped music system, power steering, two airbags and ABS. The dashboard, a carryover from the Xylo, houses the Digital Drive Assist System (DDAS) that gives you information on your distance to empty, average fuel economy and outside temperature.
The overall fit and finish of the interiors is quite disappointing, thanks to sharp edges, inconsistent panel gaps and ill-fitting rubber beading and the Quanto fails to keep pace in terms of quality.
Despite its considerable weight and cliff-like aerodynamics, the Quanto was surprisingly fuel efficient, and though it’s nowhere near as frugal as a hatchback, it acquitted itself quite well with figures of 11.4kpl in the city and 16.1kpl on the highway. A fuel tank capacity of 55 litres gives it a practical range of over 700km on the highway between fills.