The ridge lines on the bonnet look menacing. But they impede the view while driving, making it difficult to judge the width of the car – especially to the left-hand side.
BHPian buzzy_boy recently shared this with other enthusiasts.
The selection process
Exterior & interior
Electronics & Practicality
Engine & Driving
Circa mid 2020, I was very unhappy with my Figo Aspire. I used a drive a used Figo TDCI between 2013-2017. It was a fantastic machine; fantastic at handling, and a gem of an engine.
So, when it was time for an upgrade, I went for the Aspire as a natural choice. I didn’t not know much about automobiles at that time, but I could feel that something was odd.
The suspension was soft, and the fantastic handling of my erstwhile Figo was missing. It used to wash wide in the same corners where my Figo could hold the line at higher speeds. The throttle response was plain weird, and oftentimes there was a noticable delay between my input and the engine’s response.
But my biggest gripe was with the scraping. The suspension was so soft that with a full load, you can’t help scraping the bottom. I’m a believer in mechanical empathy, and everytime this happened, I felt like someone had whipped me.
So, I decided that the Aspire wasn’t my cup of tea, and sold it off.
In the following sections, I’ll mention the word handling a lot. So, I want to first explain what I mean by that from my perspective. In my view, there are two aspects to handling; straight-line & dynamic. In a straight-line, I expect two things from a good handling car: one, the front should feel planted at legal speeds, and two, the rear should recover well from undulations.
The dynamic aspect of handling is much more interesting. It deals with how the vehicle manages changes in direction. Imagine you are cruising @ 70 KMPH, and you meet a corner, & you gently turn the wheel. A good handling car does the following things in order:
- The shoulder of the car drops gently.
- The nose points to the direction of input, and the front half of the car is super eager to turn-in.
- The rear follows the front with poise, and is always ready for a quick change in direction.
- The chassis telegraphs all these motions to your body so that it feels like a natural extension of yourself.
Let me illustrate that with an example: The Polo is a good handler, and the Figo is a great handler. Why? The Polo does the first two very well, but you are always unsure about what the rear is doing due to the lack of feedback. The Figo on the other hand does all the four very well, and you feel like the car’s body is an extension of your own.
In this picture, the Polo is like the gazelle, while the Figo is like the Cheetah. Both change directions easily, and at some speed, but the Cheetah does it much more elegantly.
- A decent ground-clearance.
- Safety = stable body structure.
- Good engine, and drivability.
- Automatic preferred, but was fine with a manual with light clutch.
- Decent handling.
- Good service support.
- Budget less than 20 lakhs.
Venue 1.0 IMT:
Home test drive offered by Kovai Hyundai, Coimbatore. Neat car, and professional SA. The SA arrived at the scheduled appointment hour. I was never going ahead with the Venue due to questionable safety standards of Hyundai, India. However, I still took the test-drive as I was intrigued by the IMT gearbox.
The first thing I observed was the Venue’s compact dimensions; this was a really city friendly car – but one which you could take on the highway as well. The ingress, and egress were easy. The seats were comfortable, and getting a good driving position was easy – even without the telescopic adjustment. Overall visibility was good. The view out of the back is poor, but that is the case with most modern cars, and it isn’t a deal breaker – especially with a competent reverse-camera.
I was really impressed with the IMT gearbox. I have been driving manuals all my life, but I have driven automatics as well; I was able to adapt to the IMT gearbox easily. Moving off, there was no noticeable lag. I was able to work through the gears smoothly till about 80 KMPH. The lag did start to raise its head when I wanted to make a quick move-on after slowing down. Then it hit me; I was driving this vehicle like an automatic – ie: I was giving a generous amount of gas immediately after engaging the lower gear; I then started to go easy on the gas for a split-second for the clutch to engage without slipping both on the upshifts, and downshifts, and then the gear shifts were really quick. I also especially liked the rev-matching feature on the down-shifts. In summary, with a bit of practice, it is easy to drive the Venue IMT spiritedly, and I found it to be a rather enjoyable experience.
In the end, I did not proceed with the Venue due to the aforementioned safety concerns. But, I feel that the Venue IMT is still a very strong package.
Tucson 2.0 D AT:
The Tucson was ~10 lakhs above my budget. However, I was not against extending my budget for the right car. So, I requested a home test-drive from Kovai Hyundai, Coimbatore.
When I requested for the test-drive, the older Fluidic Tucson was in its last production run. The showroom did not have a dedicated vehicle, and had to bring over the car that was being used by the MD – as claimed by the SA. Three weeks after my request, they did bring the car home. It was impeccably maintained with clean interiors.
My first impression of the Tucson was a feeling of premium. Both the exterior, and the interior could hold its own against the Kodiaq which was ~10 lakhs more expensive at that time. Space in the front, back, and the boot was ample. The seats were extremely comfortable, and premium. The back-rest of the rear-seat reclined by quite a significant degree, and it was clear that it would be super comfortable on longer journeys. The boot was quite big, and even the retractable load cover felt premium, plus – it could be neatly tucked in under the boot-floor.
Ingress, and egress was easy for both the front and the back-seats. The car is wide, and can easily hold 5 adults. There’s generous use of soft-touch material on the dash, and all the materials felt premium. The infotainment system felt a little plonked on. However, its resolution was good, and the response was slick. The panoramic sunroof helped make the cabin feel airy, and spacious.
I was much more interested in the driving dynamics of the now famous engine, and transmission combination, and it did not disappoint. The engine had enough poke, and it was easy to make swift progress. However, the overall tune of the engine & transmission seemed geared towards comfortable long distance cruising rather than enthusiastic driving. When you want to overtake a slow moving vehicle on undivided roads, the gearbox does take a second to respond, but you do get a move on when the engine enters its power band. The suspension was on the softer side, but there wasn’t excessive body movement, it again felt geared towards comfort.
Overall, the Tucson is a nice package for someone who hits long highways often, and wants to put it on a cruise to enjoy the relaxing drive and the scenery. It just was a little vanilla for my taste. I was also worried about the low sales volume; and when the SA mentioned that the first 3 years (I think) of service cost was on them, I started worrying about what I would have to shell out from year 4. Due to these reasons, I decided to not go-ahead with the Tucson.
Safari 2.0 D AT:
We used to have two Tata cars – a 2003 Indica V2 DLS, and a 2007 Indigo – with mixed experience. While the Indica’s engine went dud after clocking 80,000 KMs, the Indigo served us for 1,50,000 KMs, and was still going strong when we decided to upgrade to the Figo in 2011. So, I was a bit ambivalent about the Safari.
I asked for a home test drive from SRT Tata, Tiruppur. The SA was a dynamic person, and he brought home the vehicle on the same day. From the outside, the car was drop-dead gorgeous. It was a bit more of a climb in, compared to the Tucson. The seats were neither comfortable, nor uncomfortable. The captain seats in the rear could have been wider, and the ingress into the last row was poor on the 6-seater variant with no tumble mechanism for the middle seat. You could adjust the middle row to make more room for passengers in the rear, and it was a genuine 6-seater. Boot space was non-existent with all the 6 seats in place.
On the driving front, I found it difficult to maneuver the Safari, and in this respect, it is similar to the XUV. Out on the open road, the engine had enough poke, and the transmission was well-matched with the engine. The response from the transmission was better than that on the Tucson, and the Safari has something to give for the enthusiasts as well. The suspension was poised, and offered a good balance between comfort and handling. The steering was overly sensitive even at high-speeds.
The quality of the interiors were the biggest deal-breaker for me. In retrospect, I think I made a mistake by back-to-backing it with the Tucson which offered much better interiors for ~3 lakhs more after discounts. That, combined with niggles, frequent service intervals, and the unknown safety rating were the main reasons why I dropped the Safari.
Imagine this; the year is 2015, and Ford Motors, India launches the Freestyle, and the Ford Kuga – instead of the Ka twins (Figo, and Aspire). How would the fortunes of the Company, and us customers, have turned out? No one would know. As history would have it, they launched the twins, and ~5 years later went out of business.
Unlike the twins, the Freestyle is a cross-over that the Indian market loves. It has the 185 section tyres that offer better grip (compared to the 175 on the 2016 Aspire). It also has ESP, and other electronic aids. In Freestyle, the agile chassis (which was shared with the twins) got the supporting act that it deserved, and as a consequence, the car was genuinely fun to drive.
I requested a home test-drive from Suryabala Ford, Coimbatore. The SA duly brought the vehicle home. It wasn’t the cleanest, but wasn’t dirty either. The dimensions were city friendly. However, the narrow width made it a four-seater, and not a 5. The cabin, with its black interiors felt dingy. The boot was just reasonable, and nothing more.
However, all that is forgotten when you start driving. Boy does Ford make the best handling cars. The TDCI was always a decent engine. It offered great drivability with its wide torque band. However, the highlight of the drive was the suspension; it offered the best ride, and handling balance. The small size made it chuckable into corners, and the steering, and the tyres gave enough feedback to do so with confidence. I loved the car, and booked it on the spot. ~ 1 week later, rumors about Ford shutdown started circulating, and I had to cancel the booking.
Ford had the weapons in their armory to be a significant player in the Indian market. But, they made the mistake of assuming that India is a cheap market. After all their years here, they did not realize that it was in fact a value market. With the Freestyle, Ecosport, Kuga, and the Endeavor, they should’ve been selling ~40,000 units a month in today’s market. Their loss is Tata’s profit.
Magnite 1.0 Turbo MT:
I was reluctant to go with the Magnite when I learnt that one of the leading Nissan showrooms in Coimbatore had closed down. Still, I was interested in the product, and did not want to reject it without a test-drive. I requested a home test-drive of the Magnite from EVM Nissan, Coimbatore. The SA duly brought the vehicle home. Cleanliness could have been better, but the SA was a decent chap.
The Magnite is a vehicle that masks its small proportions very well. I liked the futuristic looking front. The sides, and the rear weren’t half-bad either. Being a cross-over, ingress and egress were easy. As is the norm in that segment, the narrow width made it a 4 seater. Cabin plastics were budget grade (some even worse). However, the colorful TFT instrument cluster livened things up.
I follow Scotty Kilmer on Youtube, and hence was reluctant to go with a Jatco CVT (he takes the mick’ out of them in many videos). So, I went with the MT. The first thing I noticed was that the gear-shift & the clutch weren’t as heavy as what the Autocar review said. The gear-shift did have some heft, but it had a nice mechanical feel that I would have liked – even in traffic. Likewise, the clutch also had some weight, but the travel was very short, and it wouldn’t have bothered me. Being a port-injected engine, the 1.0 Turbo has decent low-end drivability. The anti-stall is also well calibrated, and you can potter around town lazily in second gear (it did not even struggle in 3rd). When you put the foot down, you’ll not be pushed back into the seat, but the car does build up speed briskly. The suspension was little on the firmer side, but it was livable.
The crash test results were a pleasant surprise, but I had already decided to drop it as I wasn’t convinced about Nissan’s longevity. Overall, it is a decent car, and apart from the value for money proposition, nothing really stood out as special to me. The Magnite reminds of Karna from Mahabharatha. Had it had the Suzuki badge on it, it would be clocking substantial numbers every month.
Innova Crysta 2.4 D MT:
Have one in the family, and I love the package. I did not request for a test-drive. I briefly toyed with the idea of buying another one, but then decided that I’m not too old, just yet, to be 100% sensible always. So, I decided to add some variety to my life, and dropped the Innova.
I had dropped into the SGA Skoda showroom, Coimbatore. I was greeted by a smart lady. I thought she’ll hand me off to some guy who’s the SA, but then was pleasantly surprised that she was the SA. I hope that the readers would forgive my sub-conscious bias for assuming that the lady wasn’t the SA as this was the first time I met one. She was competent. While she knew the basics, she did not know the answers for some questions regarding the GDI engines, and the DSG. But, she did put me in touch with a technician who knew the answers. She told me that she’ll bring the car home for a test-drive as one wasn’t readily available.
One week later, as promised, she brought the vehicle home. She was accompanied by a middle-aged gentleman who was the chauffeur. He was a pleasant chap, one of those with uncanny observations on the car – purely based on common sense. There are many such folks in our country, and I believe that this is the reason why our market rewards the best vehicles (the 800s, Altos, and the Innovas) more often than not.
I quite liked the styling of the latest gen Octavia. In Europe, the Octavia is positioned as a family hatchback. In India, it is positioned as an entry-level luxury sedan. To be honest, the product does justify the positioning.
The exteriors are contemporary, stylish yet understated. This, unlike the XUV, is genuinely something that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to turn-up in at a party of sophisticated folks. On the other hand, it doesn’t mark you out as some random sensible uncle Alok as well. The style extends into the interiors too. There’s generous use of soft-touch material. Unlike the Tucson, the design isn’t vanilla, and carries some style. The Octavia is certainly a fascinating car.
Things get better when you start driving. The 2.0 TSI is extremely refined, and it is mated to a superb transmission. The Octavia morphs into the vehicle you want it to be. If you want an effortless cruiser, it would do that all day long without breaking a sweat. If you are in the mood for some fun, it’s got you covered there as well. The DSG seems to communicate through telepathy, and it is always in the right gear for what you intend to do. I was worried about the low ground-clearance. But, the chauffeur assured me that the latest multi-link setup in the rear wouldn’t bottom-out even on the steepest of speed-breakers. I did try a couple, at some speed, and true to his word, it didn’t scrape – this with 5 people, but without any luggage.
The Octavia was worth every Rupee of the ~12 lakhs that I’d have had to shell-out over and above my original budget. What was a lot more problematic was the potential running, and maintenance cost. For 12 lakhs, I could run the XUV an extra 1,35,000 KMs, and that is not something to be sneered at. Hence, I dropped the Octavia.
Toyota Fortuner 2.8 AT:
I wasn’t a big fan of expensive vehicles. Still, the charm of the Fortuner was too hard to resist. As I had plans to keep the new car for atleast 10 years, I briefly toyed with the idea of extending my budget to buy the Fortuner. Machines like the Fortuner are dinosaurs, and I’m sure that they wont be around 10 years from now. Hence, I wanted to see if it was worth ~2X of my original budget.
I requested a home test-drive from Annamalai’s Toyota, Tiruppur. The vehicle wasn’t readily available, but the SA promised to bring it home within a week’s time. True to his word, he brought the vehicle home. The SA was extremely well attired, and was accompanied by a chauffeur who was in his all-white uniform. If Toyota targets the social elite with the Fortuner, the dealerships are certainly playing their part.
One would have to literally “climb” into the vehicle. Once in, you get a commanding view out. No wonder that the politically inclined adore the Fortuner; they could look down on the mere peasants when they roll around town. The cabin wasn’t plush like the Octavia’s, but I’m pretty sure that it would survive a nuclear armageddon – it feels indestructible. The seats were comfortable in the front two rows. The rear seats did not have enough head-room – for reference, I’m 5’10”. It is certainly no 7 seater – not for 7 adults in any case. The Innova has better head room for the last row of passengers.
The 2.8 D is mated to a 6 speed automatic. The Fortuner doesn’t have any sporty intentions. It knows that it is a big SUV, and doesn’t hide that fact. The suspension is never settled, but it’s not as uncomfortable as the previous generation Scorpio. The soundtrack inside is dominated by the 2.8 liter engine. Road and wind noise, if any, is drowned out by the engine. Torque is the defining characteristic of this engine; peak torque of 420 Nm is accessible from 1400 RPM, and the engine pulls, pulls, and pulls like there’s no tomorrow.
If I were in the African wilderness, or the Australian outbacks, I know which vehicle I’d buy. Unfortunately, in the regular grind of an Indian city, the Fortuner has not much more than smug value.
Honda City IVTEC MT:
The City is a vehicle close to my heart. In my youth, it was “the” vehicle that showed the world that you had “made it” in life. In addition to desirability, the superb engine, and the generally inexpensive maintenance costs, and the contemporary design of the 5th Gen City were irresistible for me.
I requested a test drive through the official Honda website. The next day, I got a call from Manchester Honda, Coimbatore. They fixed an appointment for the next day. The next day, the SA brought the vehicle home. The car was neat, but I wouldn’t call it immaculate. Ingress and egress were slightly difficult due to the low height. Once in, the front seats were very comfortable. Honda has a knack of making supremely comfortable seats, and I found this to be true in lower models like my friend’s Amaze. It was a shame that Honda doesn’t offer adjustable rear head-rests. The cabin, with its beige theme felt airy. The glass area was generous, and the car felt bigger than its actual dimensions.
I took the car around for a spin. Less than 4000 RPM, you’d never know what the vehicle is truly capable of. The gear shift has nice short throws, and it is sure slotting. The clutch is light enough, and has short travel. The steering is decent. Visibility is good, and the City is an easy car to drive in town. And then, I turned a corner, came to an empty stretch of road, shifted to second, and then gunned it. The IVTEC pull from 4000 RPM was otherworldly. I have never experienced such a feeling of nirvana in any vehicle. Forget the handling of Ford cars, the tingle you get from the IVTEC at 6000 RPM is something else.
I had to let go with a heavy heart due to the low ground clearance. I managed to scrape the bottom twice during my short test drive over my regular route. I frequent rough terrains, and I did not want a replay of my Aspire experience. The City remains the vehicle closest to my heart.
Maruti S-Cross 1.5 AT:
2018 was the first time I drove an S-Cross DDIS. It was a relative’s vehicle, and I was the spare driver. They asked me to take over the wheel, and when I did, I didn’t have any expectations.
The 1.3 D was good, but nothing special. Just when I was settling in for a regular Maruti experience, the road curved to the left; I let go off the accelerator, and immediately the car started to slow down due to regen braking. I didn’t expect this, and was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t have to use the regular brakes. But, the biggest surprise was how well it took the curve. The suspension was so good, and the vehicle was extremely poised. Then, I started to have some fun, and chucked the car into corners, and thoroughly enjoyed the drive.
The memories of this drive was the reason why I requested a home test-drive of the 1.5 AT from Ambal auto, Coimbatore. The SA promptly arranged for one, and turned up in a well maintained car.
Being a crossover, ingress and egress were easy. There was enough legroom and headroom for 4 passengers; 5th would be a squeeze. Everything was sensibly laid out, but the cabin was drab. Maruti seriously needs to reconsider the lifecycle of their vehicles. The younger folks are not going to wait ~6 years for an interior refresh. Moving off, I drove sedately, and didn’t find anything seriously amiss. If anything, the 1.5L, with its lighter nose, felt more agile. The suspension still offered a good balance between ride & handling. The poise in handling was still evident.
However, that’s where the similarities stopped. The engine/transmission couldn’t have been any more different. If the 1.3 D was “nothing special”, the 1.5 L was out-right boring. Refinement was the only defining characteristic of this engine. Compounding matters was the gearbox. The 4 speed auto is very basic, and it’s job isn’t made any easier by the engine. Even when you are on a straight line, and you just as much as flex your toe, the gearbox thinks for a moment, shifts down a couple of gears, and then you get going. In semi-urban conditions that I frequent, the gearbox was constantly shifting up, and down, and it was a fairly stressful driving experience. Overall, the drive-train was disappointing.
The S-Cross deserved better treatment. I find it scandalous that manufactures don’t do justice to good-products due market considerations. But, we can’t blame them too harshly; Maruti launched a good product with the Baleno Sedan, but we all know how that story ended. I believe that Maruti targeted the sedate urban driver for the S-cross, and that’s where my interest stopped.
I20 N-line DCT:
I was stricken by the design of the latest generation I20. So, when Hyundai launched the nLine with better dampers, and exhaust, I was one of the first ones to visit the Chandra Hyundai showroom, Coimbatore to take a look.
I was greeted by a pleasant SA. It was fairly late in the day, and I had no hope of taking a test-drive. But, the SA managed to arrange for a 20 minutes test-drive around the race-course road in Coimbatore. Right now, the road is under “active” maintenance, so I had ample opportunity to test how well the car handled the pot-holes.
The car was very clean. The first thing that you notice is the quality of the interiors. I liked the black theme with red accents. I also felt the roof-liner to check if my eyes were deceiving me; the material looked & felt premium. The font-seats were comfortable & supportive. The rear-seats had enough leg-room. Shoulder room was tight for 3 people. The cabin felt dingy in the rear, and could have done with more glass area.
The variant that I drove was the top of the line DCT. Over the short test-drive, I found that the engine, and the gear box combination worked well in tandem. The gearbox wasn’t as fast as a manual over downshifts – it hesitated for a moment before shifting. However, it worked well 99% of the time. I tried out the manual mode, and the gearshifts were fast enough. One curious thing that I observed was that both in the manual & auto modes, the gearbox tended to hold on to second gear, slipping the clutch generously, while crawling until the vehicle came to a complete stop. This should be detrimental for the clutch-life in the long run; the gearbox did have a triptronic function, and I could put it manually into first in these situations. I would rate the gearbox 8/10. On the handling front, the test-drive was too short, and I couldn’t tell how it would take to the corners. On the gentle curves of the race-course road, I could feel the increased stiffness of the dampers. The kid in me liked the exhaust note! Overall, the car felt like a competent hatchback rather than a fun to drive one (the regular i20 < competent – tuned for the mass market).
I was happy with the package, and would have snapped it had it been ~12L on-road. However, 14.5L was a bit of a stretch. With ~5 L more, I could fit 5 people comfortably, and still have ample luggage space in the XUV, and we all know what’s 5L worth in today’s market. I was also worried about the longevity of the gearbox, and the structural integrity of the vehicle. So, I decided to drop the N Line.
Baleno 1.2 AMT:
This one is a bit of an odd-ball as the Baleno is not known to be a particularly fun car to drive. I’m not here with any hitherto unknown revelations about the Baleno; it is nothing more than a A -> B commuter. Then why does it find a place in my shortlist? Because of the package: value for money, low running costs, and reliability – being a Maruti.
I wasn’t a big fan of the old Baleno’s design. The new one is quite smart looking. Maruti has certainly improved the sheet metal quality, and the Baleno no longer feels tinny. I dropped into Shri Shasthi cars, Tiruppur. They offered a showroom test-drive of ~ 1 KM. The demo vehicle was in heavy demand, and it was pretty obvious that they wouldn’t oblige a home test-drive anytime soon. The test drive vehicle was a manual, but I wanted an automatic. To be fair to them, they brought an Ignis AMT for home test drive so that i could get a feel for the drive-train. The Ignis was unkempt, but the Baleno, being brand new, was clean.
Ingress, and egress were slightly more difficult than a cross-over, but, I’m splitting hairs. Once in, the front seats are nice & supportive. Maruti has put a lot of effort into their design, and you can tell. The dashboard is contemporary. The rear seats are surprisingly spacious, and have a good glass area – so, it feels airy. Seating for 5 is a stretch. Zeta & above get adjustable rear head-rests which are comfortable. The boot is of reasonable size. HUD, and modern looking display add some much needed flair to the cabin, and overall, the cabin is a nice place to be in.
There’s nothing much to write about the driving experience. The 1.2L is like the 1.5’s smaller brother, and just like it, it is boring, and refinement is its only strong point. That’s not a bad thing for a commuter. The gear-shift has short throws, and is precise. The clutch is very light to use. The engine has good drivability at city speeds, and like the Magnite, the anti-stall is well calibrated. All these make the Baleno an easy car to drive in town. Maruti has the best AMTs, and it is fairly obvious that you’d have to use it as a clutchless manual – similar to the Venue IMT; and just like the IMT, giving a gentle pause after each shift makes the whole experience quick & smooth. Though the test drive was short, I knew exactly how it would handle the highways, and the twisty roads. Driving the Baleno is like dining at McDonalds – you have a clear idea of what to expect every time you step in.
After the test drive, I booked the Glanza with Annamalai’s Toyota, Coimbatore, as I liked its styling better – though both are handsome cars IMHO. I was about to take the delivery when I was offered the XUV. When I asked to cancel the booking, the SA was very supportive. Infact, he was the only one who did a bank-transfer – while other showrooms insisted on giving me a cheque. Annamalai’s has a good reputation in Coimbatore, and it is well deserved – IMHO.
After calling up Ramani Mahindra, Coimbatore, and CAI, Coimbatore, it was soon apparent to me that I’m not gonna get a home test drive. So, after pulling some strings, I walked into the Ramani Mahindra showroom, and was promptly offered a test drive of both the petrol, and the diesel manuals.
The cars weren’t clean. Plus, they were in the electric blue colour (slowest selling, me thinks). It was odd because test drive cars are usually in the best colour, with the top-most configuration to make a good first impression. It was obvious that the dealers didn’t think that a good first impression was necessary for the XUV 700; you can’t fault them when people are queueing up to book the vehicle. The SA was anonymous, and I felt that he was just there in the car as a matter of procedure, and not to answer any questions, or to try to sell the vehicle.
The test drives were short. The performance matched with the team bhp reviews. Three things stood out to me: the XUV is an oddly shaped vehicle with lots of ergonomic issues (more on that later); the lack of headroom in the front with the tweeter (i think) placement on the roof – close to the head in the AX-7 models; and palgarism from Mercedes Benz (the form factor of the infotainment, and the digital instrument cluster, and the design of the seat adjust mechanism).
I selected the XUV700 due to the good engine, practicality, safety, and access to service support. We also had a good experience with the Scorpio in the family, and that helped. What also helped was the fact that the styling was toned down – it wasn’t as *ahem* flamboyant *ahem* as the XUV500.
Points of note:
- Variant = AX-5 D MT Midnight Black. Chosen due to it’s availability at a dealer I knew.
- On road price =~ 20 lakhs.
- Month of manufacture, and purchase = March 2022.
- Accessories installed at the dealer: Boot scuff plate, 7D mats, reversing camera, mud flaps, and rain visor. Cost = ~ 25K.
- Accessories installed at an accessory shop: Sun film = ~35K.
- PPF at Kirthi car care (sides and bumper corners) = ~66K (they were running a discount at that time)
- Fuel efficiency (50-50 City-Highway) = 14KMPL.
- Current mileage: 14K Kms.
- Took insurance from the dealer. Provider = Bajaj Allianz. Got a discount of 30K.
- Dealer: SKS Mahindra, Salem. Professional staff, and straightforward to deal with.
- The “With you Hamesha” app does not have a separate manual for the AX 5 D MT. The one for AX 7 L D MT is 1.06 GB in size.
6 good things:
- Zero boot-lip. The rear seats don’t fold flat in the 5 seater versions. But, the boot is big, and the height of the loading bay is manageable. This means that we can easily load and unload heavy luggage.
- Chill AC – you’ll feel cold in no time.
- 17 inch rims = taller sidewalls= better ride..
- Nifty feature that shows the tyre position while starting, and reversing.
- Unlike some other implementations, the XUV gets a park regeneration mode – handy for Indian conditions.
- You can configure the engine, steering, and AC individually in the custom-drive mode.
6 not so good things:
- Value for money AX-5 does not get cruise control. Could have traded the sunroof for this.
- No telescopic adjustment for the steering = not a great driving position.
- Fake buttons in the center console.
- In other vehicles, locking the power windows would disable the front passenger ones as well. In the XUV, it doesn’t – just locks the rear windows.
- Driving around in rains with LED headlights, and fog lights is a leap of faith.
- The drive modes are reset to default upon restarting the vehicle.
Modesty isn’t one of the XUV’s virtues. Compared to the Innova, Astor, and to some extent, the Seltos, there’s a lot more going on in the XUV’s exteriors.
The ridge lines on the bonnet look menacing. But they impede the view while driving, making it difficult to judge the width of the car – especially to the left-hand side. The head lamp design, I believe, is spoilt by the large side-arms that house the DRL extensions; they are intended to hide the bulk of the muscular shoulders. However, it’s a bulky abomination of plastic, and could’ve been designed better.
There are a few positives too. For instance, I like the overall shape of the bumper, and I like how the last slat on either side of the air-dam extend seamlessly into the light housing.
On the sides, the 700 is a toned down version of the 500, but much better proportioned:
The rear is smartly done, with plenty of clever lines. The tail-lights are smart, but they’re a little too similar to the Seltos’:
Paint quality is good, but the clear-coat doesn’t take abuse well, and gets scratched easily. Dry twigs, bushes etc. register their mark easily – not good for a vehicle with off-roading intentions. This is one of the main reasons why I went for the PPF.
However, it’s good to see that Mahindra has not caught up with the habit of other manufacturers to dispense with paint and clear coat in the boot area. Full cover has been provided:
The interiors are neither plush – like Hyundai – nor rough – like Tata. Material quality is passable, but there’s no piece of trim that feels premium. Compared to the higher variants, there are no soft touch materials on the dash. Plus, there’s no faux wood trim on the dash – I didn’t really desire either in any-case.
The AX-5 variant gets LED cabin lights in the front. There are also two LED lamps in the back (one on each side). You’d have to make do with a thin LED strip in the front for ambient lighting, and white is the only colour. Cabin illumination is good. The boot doesn’t get a light.
You can seat 4 people comfortably. The cabin is wide, and there’s no hump in the floor. So, there’s enough shoulder and leg room for 5 passengers. It’s a shame that the middle seat doesn’t get a head rest; you can’t travel comfortably for long distances in it. The middle seat doesn’t get a 3-point seat belt as well. The front passengers get height adjustable seat belts, but their range of adjustment is low.
*The cabin has a modern feel.
The door openings are wide, and aid easy access:
A convenient clip for holding the rear seat-belts so they don’t snag when folding the seats:
The engine bay is cleanly laid-out, and has a amount good working room for most part:
However, the air-intake runs above the battery housing. One would have to remove it to replace the battery, or access the positive terminal. A silly flaw that could have been avoided.
Also, the bonnet is heavy, and Mahindra could have provided pneumatic struts. It is difficult for anyone less than 5’7” to operate it conveniently:
*The V belt has its own plastic housing. Mahindra has certainly put in a lot of effort to improve the NVH.
*Heat insulation has been provided.
*Grounding is neatly done.
*Recommended tyre pressures – no guidance for the R17 spare wheel – an oversight?
Continue reading BHPian buzzy_boy’s review of his Mahindra XUV700 diesel MT for BHPian comments, insights and more information.
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