Car reviews - Mahindra - Pik-Up - utility range
Bargain-basement prices, full new-vehicle warranty and parts back-up, cute name and styling, massive single-cab tray, headroom, standard features, payload
Room for improvement
No ABS option, no airbag option, no automatic transmission option, NSW-only dealers, tight cabin, interior fit and finish, unladen ride quality
7 Jun 2007
AS SINGLE-CAB workhorse utilities go, Mahindra’s cutely named Pik-Up is surprisingly convincing.
Priced from $23,990, which is around the same sticker that graces either petrol or cab-chassis versions of the big-name ute models, the Pik-Up goes at least one better than its Thai-built rivals by offering a massive style-sided steel tray that’s the biggest in its class, plus clean-burning 2.5-litre turbo-diesel power.
The Pik-Up doesn’t stop with keen pricing and a big rear tub, however. Throw in a super-tall roof that accommodates even the tallest of Akubra-wearing farmers, plus standard features like air-conditioning, power windows, remote central locking, alarm, immobilizer, metallic paint and a Kenwood AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/SD sound system, and it’s clear Aussie tradies and cockies have never been so spoiled for $24,000.
The same value-for-money equation exists at the other end of the Pik-Up range, where the roomy dual-cab 4x4 diesel can be had for under $30,000 (plus on-roads) – undercutting SsangYong’s brand-new, similarly configured (and dual-cab-only) Actyon Sports ute by a solid $3000.
To appreciate just how cheap that is, bear in mind that the likes of Holden’s Rodeo, Ford’s new Ranger, Mazda’s new BT-50, Nissan’s Navara, Mitsubishi’s Triton and Toyota’s top-selling HiLux command prices of around $40,000 (or $10,000 more) for their turbo-diesel dual-cab 4x4 range-toppers.
Yes, it seems India has gazumped South Korea, which only recently superseded Thailand, as the source for Australia’s best-value utility this side of Proton’s Malaysian-built, pint-sized Jumbuck.
Let’s not get too carried away, however, because the single-spec Pik-Up is certainly no HiLux. In fact, it’s far from it, offering the sort of interior design and (hard and plasticky) materials that remind us of the previous generation of Japanese utes, and a variable interior fit and finish that at least a generation off the pace.
Major controls are stiff, there are rear window switches even in the single-cab and the carbon-look centre console stack houses many blank switches from the Scorpion 4WD wagon to which it’s closely related.
Despite the copious amount of head room, the Pik-Up interior is quite cramped too, with tall-mounted seats placed close to the dashboard and a steering wheel that, as in most utes, adjusts for height only.
Elbow room is tight and access to the small door pockets difficult, and the small, unlockable glovebox in the single-cab we drove needed a hamfisted slam to stay shut.
That said, like the low-waisted, tall-windowed exterior, the interior is kind of cute too, presenting a non-derivative, individual style all to itself. Like the left-field Mahindra brand itself, that’s likely to either attract or repel buyers, depending on their point of view.
An upside of the large glass area is good vision in all directions, while large side mirrors, proper pull-type door handles and standard steel side steps continue the practical theme.
While the alloy-look plastic wheel covers look odd (a 16-inch factory alloy is the only option at this stage), the doors close with a solid thud and the two examples we drove revealed no squeaks or rattles during the demanding launch drive.
Out back there’s a massive style-side steel tray (importer TMI Pacific plans to offer an even cheaper cab-chassis version too) that can shift up to 1160kg in single-cab 2WD guise, and measures 1520mm wide, a tall 550mm high and a lengthy 2294mm long.
Even in dual-cab form, in which the tray is 1489mm long, there’s still a genuine one-tonne payload on offer (provided the driver is no more than 60kg!). Speaking of which, the five-seater version also offers best-in-class rear legroom, with enough rear seat space for three burly brickies and their eskies.
Unfortunately, luxuries (and basic safety items is passenger cars which, unlike commercial vehicles, aren’t required to under go crash-testing for Australian certification) like ABS and airbags won’t become available in the Pik-Up until next year, when an Australian-built six-speed automatic transmission will also come on stream.
Alas, there are no tie-down points on the ribbed floor of the steel tray either, let alone a non-rusting hard plastic tub liner such as the Falcon ute’s, but combined with a large 80kg fuel tank and a 750kg/2500kg un/braked towing capacity, the Pik-Up is ready for hard labour.
To that end it’s supported by a benchmark three-year/100,000km new-vehicle warranty, 12 months of free roadside assistance and full spare parts back-up
In the engine-room, the Pik-Up offers a high-tech common-rail turbo-diesel engine that’s neither unacceptably load, coarse or thirsty. Mated exclusively to a slightly baulky, self-built five-speed manual transmission, the official combined fuel consumption figure is a respectable 9.9L/100km and claimed CO2 emissions are a reasonably low (for a diesel) at 260g/km.
We drove ballasted 4x4 examples of the Pik-Up during the launch in the hills around Bowral, NSW, including some testing off-road inclines and declines and found the power delivery of the Austrian-designed, Indian-built diesel very effective.
We suspect, however, that with just 79kW and 247Nm on tap (much less than even the similar-capacity diesels that power its rivals the SsangYong delivers 104kW/310Nm from its Benz-sourced 2.0-litre oiler), performance will be reduce markedly by heavy loads. Nonetheless, with small loads on board the Pik-Up delivers crisp, strong response right from idle and revs happily to 4000rpm (there is no redline).
The Pik-Up’s clever 4WD system requires no alighting from the vehicle to fiddle with wheel hubs and can shift between 2H and 4H on the fly. It needs to be stationary to de/select 4L and to be reversed to return to 2H.
The 4WD Pik-Up’s low-range ratio is extremely low and was specified uniquely for Australia, making it well-suited to rock climbing or slow crawling. Good wheel articulation and 210mm of ground clearance further enhances its off-road ability.
The Pik-Up’s suspension damping, front torsion bars and rear leaf springs were also tuned specifically for Australia. Overall it’s a firm set-up that, despite surprisingly direct, kickback-free steering minimized on-road bodyroll, yet remains relatively compliant off-road. However, as expected from any vehicle that can carry more than a tonne, unladed on-road ride quality is jiggly to say the least.
For a functional, utilitarian vehicle with a massive rear tray or a spacious rear passenger compartment, the Pik-Up stands apart from its fancier, plastic-clad competitors (and the challenging looking SsangYong) as a bargain-basement, unique workhorse alternative with the right credentials and a good dose of charisma.
Welcome back Down Under, Mahindra.
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