Car reviews - Mahindra - XUV700
Quietness of cabin, fit and finish, easy-to-use tech interface, smooth and capable driveline, accurate steering, tidy handling
Room for improvement
High-set passenger seat, cargo space in seven-seat mode, thicker A-pillars, larger turning circle, interior décor a little drab
Forget what you know about Mahindra, the XUV700 turns the brand’s image on its head
1 Jun 2023
By MATT BROGAN
IT HAS been easy to dismiss Mahindra’s past offerings as fit for developing markets and little more. The Indian manufacturer has had several attempts at introducing its vehicles to ‘first world’ countries in the past – including Australia – with little success; and until now, it has not been hard to see why.
Largely, the quality of Mahindra’s past vehicles, coupled with sub-standard safety scores, average fit and finish, and dare we say, irksome designs, sent most prospective buyers in search of a good used car from a well-known marque at a comparable price, leaving Mahindra to wallow in the ambiguous end of the new-car mire.
It is amazing how quickly that has changed…
Forget what you thought you knew about Mahindra and set aside any preconceptions that an Indian-made car cannot compete with Chinese, Japanese and European rivals.
The Mahindra XUV700 is a vehicle that is not only new from the ground up, but one that is developed, manufactured and tested at facilities we can say with authority shame some of the very best we have seen – and we mean that earnestly.
The about face comes as part of a significant investment from India’s third-largest car maker and is one that shows that it is serious about changing the hearts and minds of buyers the world over.
Putting the XUV700 through its paces at its modern 463-acre (187ha) proving ground outside of Chennai this week gave us our strongest signal yet that Mahindra means business – and that it finally has a car we are certain Aussie buyers will accept as worthy of their hard-earned.
The Mahindra XUV700 is a competitor to the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, and Toyota RAV4, meaning it will enter Australia’s most competitive market segment when first shipments land on June 15. For now, the seven-seat SUV offers a 149kW/380Nm petrol power and front-wheel drive and two highly specified model grades – each with a level of safety equipment Aussie buyers have come to expect.
The AX7 and AX7L feature monocoque construction, ride on a sophisticated MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension arrangement with frequency selective damping and are stopped by four-wheel disc brakes.
Importantly, both variants include a comprehensive array of advanced driver assistance systems, including adaptive cruise control (ACC), autonomous emergency braking (AEB), auto high beam, forward collision warning (FCW), lane keep assist (LKA), traffic sign recognition (TSR) and more.
Seven airbags are provided, the XUV700 also including top-tether and ISOFIX child seat anchorages as part of a comprehensive safety package that earned the vehicle a five-star Global NCAP rating.
As standard, infotainment technologies include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, six-speaker sound, AM/FM radio reception and a rear-view camera.
Seventeen and 18-inch wheels are available, as is a panoramic Skyroof (panoramic roof), LED headlights, auto lights and wipers, tyre-pressure monitoring system (TPSM), a 360-degree camera system with continuous digital video recording, and Sony-sourced 12-speaker 3D sound system.
Colour choices extend to five: Everest White, Midnight Black, Dazzling Silver, Red Rage and Electric Blue.
The road-focused SUV is likely to share the same warranty and roadside assistance package as the recently released and off-road-focused Scorpio meaning seven years or 150,000km of coverage, whichever comes first. Maintenance intervals are expected to be set at 12 months or 15,000km with capped-price servicing likely.
Driving Mahindra’s brand-new baby at the company’s two-year-old proving ground – the same used to develop the all-new model from scratch – gave us a very clear idea of how the car should perform on home soil.
This world-class facility combines on- and off-road circuits, handling courses, noise roads, myriad surfaces, simulated ice roads and even a NASCAR-worthy 43-degree banked oval that aim to test every component of the vehicle to a standard which ensures it is fit for global markets.
Mahinda’s mStallion petrol engine offers decent bottom-end performance and revs assertively to redline to provide smooth acceleration. Its pairing with an Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic might lack the finesse of some eight-speed units now available elsewhere, but considering the price, is smooth of shift and a master of using the engine’s low-down torque.
The all-important specifications show the mStallion unit offering 149kW at 5000rpm and 380Nm between 1750-3000rpm. A 0-100km/h time of less than 10 seconds is expected, though Mahindra has yet to get back to us with an official figure.
We ran the XUV700 through Mahindra’s complex test route and at speeds up to 190km/h finding no signs of struggle – and very effective air-conditioning consider the +46C outside temperatures and 65 per cent ambient humidity.
The vehicle rode with a quality feel on all surfaces, offering tidy handling and hatch-like steering. Recovery from larger bumps and fast directional changes were taken in the model’s stride, the calibration of the Bosch-sourced electronic nannies (ESC and ABS) up there with the best-in-class.
The XUV700 holds accurately to the line directed from the driver and maintains its composure until pushed far beyond the limits of the everyday. Mahindra’s chief test driver demonstrated this point by ripping the vehicle into a U-turn at 80km/h… suffice to say the car held its line and the electronics worked a treat.
We were also impressed with just how quiet the vehicle remained over even the worst surfaces encountered at the test track.
While it is unfair to say the fuel consumption experienced on test is representative of the real-world, we found a 9.9 litre per 100km average more than acceptable. Mahindra says we should expect numbers in the mid-to-high seven-litre range in “normal conditions”.
Outward visibility is generally good, though the thicker A-pillars can hinder the view when approaching intersections (Mahindra has a series of faux city blocks replete with traffic lights laid out within its proving ground facility). The turning circle could also be a little tighter, but on both counts the XUV700 is not alone in possessing these characteristics.
Cabin quality and accommodation is more generous than you might expect, the XUV700 feeling closer in size to the likes of the Mitsubishi Outlander/Nissan X-Trail or Skoda Kodiaq than other mid-sized rivals. The XUV700 measures 4695mm in length, 1890mm in width, 1755mm in height and rides on a 2750mm wheelbase. In top-spec trim, the model tips the scale at 1960kg.
There is decent amenity levels throughout and supportive leatherette-upholstered seats, which in the top-spec model sampled were equipped with in-seat ventilation.
On the downside, the passenger seat sits high and is fixed in position, which can feel peculiar when perched next to a driver whose seating positioned is set lower. The rear seats offer a good view forward and to the side and are fitted with both top-tether and ISOFIX hard points for securing child seats.
Entry to the rear-most seats is typical to many competitors in that limber grown-ups and energetic kids will have little trouble clambering rearward. The seats are expectedly smaller than those in the first two rows but will accommodate taller passengers for shorter trips.
Once in place, however, the third-row seats do limit luggage space, so keep that in mind if you plan to use the area regularly. Be mindful also that in five-seat mode, the stowed seats create ‘slots’ that may devour smaller luggage items.
What’s great to observe inside the cabin is not only the MBUX-style instrument and infotainment screens, but the absence of squeaks and rattles. Sure, the cabin won’t win any Scandi-chic design awards, but it is both presentable and functional.
The layout of the switchgear is logical and well-placed, likewise the touchscreen interface with takes little time at all to master. Some of the functionality is a little gimmicky, but the operation of the system works well, especially in higher trim grades with the Sony-sourced premium audio package.
The camera system provides very good resolution for the price and will come in handy when parking the XUV700 in city streets.
Taking a price-sensitive vehicle from acceptable to exceptional in just three years shows just how serious Mahindra is when it comes to making its mark.
As a rival to mainstream contenders, the XUV700 is a vehicle that is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as SUVs we are more familiar with. It represents a massive leap forward for the Indian brand and proves that when it comes to a quality and affordable new vehicle, all is not lost.
Now, they just need to get Aussie bums in the seats of the XUV700 to prove our point.
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