Step into the real world though, and the KUV100’s styling is the first dampener. Yes, we know looks are subjective. And we know we are more grease monkeys than style critics. Even so, we can still tell a visually appealing design from an oddball one. And the KUV100 borders on the latter. It has the detailing, the cuts and creases, and some nice design touches. But, it is the proportions and the randomness of these elements coming together that leaves a lot to be desired.
But, where credit is due, the Mahindra KUV100 does offer buyers a whole range of choices. On CarWale for instance, we have listed 23 different variants for the KUV from diesel and petrol, to trims that range from K2 to K8 with some ‘plus’ variants thrown in. And it is the only car in its class to offer airbags as options on all trims and in fact, seating for six.
Our test KUV is a petrol, six seater in K8 trim.
How is it on the inside?
It’s pleasing with the variety of shades, textures, finishes and surfacing. There’s gloss, matte, dull and metal finishes, and lots of geometrical shapes as well. And it looks good in the photographs. The gloss and textured plastic all round looks upmarket but the dull plastic used for the aircon vents and the door opening latches on the inside look downright tacky. The satin silver finish is passable. The quality, the fit and finish and the operability, also isn’t great. There are roughly cut edges, loose fittings and an overall lack of finesse in the way the buttons, knobs and stalks work.
The KUV doesn’t score high on ergonomics either. From the uneven pedal positioning to the way the central armrest gets in the way of shifting gears to the large steering, the KUV isn’t one of those modern day cars that make you feel at home instantly. It will need to grow on you. Plus, the floating central console digs into the knee; the dead pedal is cumbersome to use; and the cup holders on the foldable armrest are too far back.
What we did like on the KUV100, however, is the all round room. The car measures less than 3.7 metres in length but even so, the kneeroom is very good. As is the head and shoulder room. And the seats are large and comfy. The rear one also gets adjustable headrests for all three passengers. In fact, in this class of cars, only the KUV can seat three adults in the rear in genuine comfort. As for the front, we’d recommend not to use the third seat for it simply doesn’t work. The height of the KUV in the meantime makes it a breeze to get in and out of.
And because the KUV100 is a Mahindra, it’s not short on features either. On the K8 we are driving, there’s ABS and dual front airbags. There’s also a Bluetooth enabled infotainment system (sans touchscreen though), mood lighting, height adjustable driver’s seat and keyless entry. It also gets puddle lamps, a gear indicator, electric ORVMs, and a cooled glovebox as well.
How does it drive?
The Mahindra KUV100 feels and drives like an SUV. Which isn’t a compliment because the whole idea of doing a monocoque SUV (take the Duster or the EcoSport for instance) is to have something that looks butch, has good clearance but behaves like a car on the road. Plus, it feels inconsistent. Take the steering response or the gearshift quality or even the throttle response, not to mention the handling and ride quality, and the KUV lacks crispness, predictability and surefootedness of its hatchback counterparts like the Maruti Suzuki Swift and the Ford Figo.
The steering is vague and has too may turns lock to lock. The gearshift, though short throw, is notchy. And as far as ride is concerned, it’s quiet but unnecessarily jumpy. There’s also constant kickback from the steering over poor roads. It lacks that all-crushing ability we liked so much in the TUV. Handling isn’t the KUV’s forte either. It rolls, and when it stops rolling, it understeers. It’s not the most stable under braking either. ABS is standard on all variants – and thank god for that – because the KUV does move around with its rear wanting to overtake its front under hard braking.
The KUV100 we have here is the petrol, which uses Mahindra’s own all-aluminium engine. It’s a 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder engine that gets variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust sides. It makes 82bhp and the torque at 115Nm is commendable. It is mated to a 5-speed gearbox and because it is a monocoque with a transverse engine, it’s also only front-wheel-drive.
Now here’s the surprise. On the road, the KUV is almost as quick as the Swift to 100kmph taking a little under 15 seconds to hit the mark. But that’s not all; it completely destroys the Swift when it comes to driveability. It is 3 seconds quicker in the 20-80kmph run (in 3rd gear) and almost 10 seconds faster in getting to 100kmph from 40kmh in 4th. And it’s only 8kmph down on top speed with the KUV maxing out at 156kmph (true speed).
This is partly down to the engine’s flat torque curve that peaks at 3,600rpm and to the KUV’s shorter gearing. The engine pulls well in the low and mid range but only comes on song past 4,000-4,500rpm. However, when it does, it sounds more like Altaf Raja than Sonu Nigam. It’s noisy, a bit vibey and it’s not one of those petrol engines you want to redline. In fact, the refinement levels all round need a relook on the KUV100.