When it comes to making Utility Vehicles in India no other automaker can take a bigger credit than Mahindra. The Indigenous car maker has been launching new products in different categories every few months. Each of those products has something new to offer in terms of style, features or technology. A case in point is the TUV 300, a sub 4 meter 7 seat SUV that made rapid advancements when it came to interior features and style. End of last year Mahindra gave us a sneak peek into their latest car the KUV 100, a car they promised would fulfill the SUV needs of buyers who cannot spend a fortune to buy a SUV. When they did launch the car last week at a starting price of 4.43 lakh rupees, they kept their word about the price but was it apt for the product they were offering. We were at the Mahindra plant in Chakan, Maharashtra for the launch post which we took the KUV on the long drive to Mumbai to get answers to that all important question.

Curves are back and thank God for that. Notwithstanding its compact dimensions the KUV is a great looker. Mahindra has borrowed the right styling cues from other SUVs in its portfolio and merged them to get a great design out of this car. In fact a lot of curious onlookers we encountered on the long drive also compared the KUV to Range Rover Evoque. Despite being small the car does resemble an SUV, something that has worked really well for some other cars in recent times. Wraparound headlamps and daytime running LEDs add a lot of character to the car. However when it comes to proportions things could’ve been slightly better. While the car looks fantastic from the front and rear it is from the profile that designers have missed a trick. The big sized bonnet probably needed a sloping roof design to make it look slightly smaller and a little better proportioned. The big gaps in the wheel arches don’t present a pretty picture and it becomes more evident in white and signature orange colors. Maybe one sized bigger tyres instead of the 14 inch ones present here would’ve helped. On the other hand a few things that look good and out of the ordinary are the crossover elements like blackened bumpers and rear handles that are place besides the windows just like the Chevy Beat. Roof rails, rear spoiler, body cladding and dual rear fog lamps also add to that list.

The biggest attraction here is the presence of a sixth seat in the car. The gear lever is mounted on the dashboard and the handbrake is placed under it which has made space to seat an extra passenger on the first row. This sixth seat can also be folded down and converted into an armrest which also provides some added storage space. However In case you’re not a big fan of the sixth seat, there’s a regular 5 seat option as well that you can go for.  There are bottle holders on all four doors and a tray is provided under the front passenger space to store items safely as they will not be visible even when the car is left unattended. Having said that, there could’ve been some more small storage options on the dashboard. The front seats have integrated headrests that come with see through bezels which add a nice touch. Puddle lamps and LED roof lamps add style while a sunglass holder adds utility. The TFT display screen and a specially designed Blue sense App makes the KUV more practical to use. On the second row there’s a very smartly designed under floor storage space which can be used to store things secretly. That there are 3 adjustable headrests and a charging point on the second row is also an action that needs to be appreciated. The car offers a decent boot space of 243 litres which can be increased as the rear seat can be folded flat.

The KUV 100 is the first car from Mahindra to run on a petrol motor as well. Both the Petrol and Diesel engines are powered by 1.2 litre motors; the latter at 77 bhp is about 5 bhp less than Petrol. Both come with a 5-speed manual gearbox and claimed mileage figures also stand impressive at 18 kmpl for Petrol and 25 kpl for Diesel. Mahindra has comes up with some first in class technologies for both these engines. The Diesel motors comes with two different driving modes named Eco and Power and depending upon you driving style you can opt for higher fuel efficiency or a more fun drive. The higher fuel consuming petrol motor comes with a Micro hybrid stop start technology that aids in saving some fuel and also ensures lower emissions. Low end torque is pretty good on both the engines and this means these cars give rapid acceleration. The gear shift also is slick though you would take some time in getting used to the position of the lever.

The biggest attraction here is the presence of a sixth seat in the car. The gear lever is mounted on the dashboard and the handbrake is placed under it which has made space to seat an extra passenger on the first row. This sixth seat can also be folded down and converted into an armrest.

Ride & Handling
The KUV just like some other Mahindra SUVs turns quite a few heads. It has a decent ground clearance of 200 mm which means you can go over those scary speed breakers with a lot of ease. Owing to the same factor it also offers a great driving position and despite the raised height there are hardly any blind spots on the car. The steering wheel gives good feedback contributes in giving a good drive. The ride is stable and body roll is limited because of the dimensions. Mahindra has also worked on NVH levels of the car and it is a definite improvement on some other Mahindra vehicles. The turning radius isn’t the best when compared to other hatches and that can be an issue sometimes.  All variants of the KUV come with ABS as standard and Airbags as option which is a job well done.

The KUV is everything a mini SUV driver would hope for. Barring some space constraints everything works really well on this car and that includes style, features and drive. The big bone of contention here is the price as this is a price sensitive segment. The 14 different variants of the car range from Rs. 4.45 lacs to 6.79 lacs and that looking at the product isn’t exactly aggressive. There are 7 different colours to choose from and each of the variants is available in 5 or 6 seat options. Finally an unlimited warranty for 2 years is a good step by Mahindra to give the buyer some peace of mind.