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Car reviews - Mahindra - XUV500 - Petrol range

Our Opinion

We like
Off-the-line eagerness, smooth automatic transmission, value for money, impressive packaging, class-leading braked towing capacity
Room for improvement
Lethargic overtaking acceleration, wind noise at highway speeds, poor fit and finish, vague dynamic steering, no active safety features

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Mahindra logo5 Mar 2018

Overview

‘CHEAP and cheerful’ – a term that is thrown around a lot at the budget-friendly end of the new-vehicle market. Needless to say, when you offer a seven-seat mid-size SUV from $25,990 driveaway like Mahindra now does, it’s hard to shake that term. Enter the XUV500 Petrol.

This new model has quite the task ahead of it, charged with the responsibility of handling the SUV load in the wake of its XUV500 Diesel forebear’s discontinuation. Until Mahindra’s next generation of SUVs arrive in the next 18 months to three years, the XUV500 Petrol will go it alone, endeavouring to raise brand awareness alongside the company’s Pik-Up LCV.

Essentially the petrol version of the XUV500 Diesel, the XUV500 Petrol has different blood pumping through its veins but is very much the same as the vehicle it replaces. However, the question is, does it amount to being more than ‘cheap and cheerful’? Read on to find out.

Drive impressions

According to Mahindra, the XUV500 Petrol is positioned right at the hearts of young families on a tight budget. Unashamedly, every automotive product from the Indian brand is built to a price – free of any unnecessary luxury or convenience items that may drive costs up – with the XUV500 Petrol being a prime example.

Driveaway pricing kicks off from $25,990 for the W6 FWD, rising to $29,990 for the W8 FWD and $32,990 for the W8 AWD. For reference, its closest seven-seat mid-size SUV rival in cost is the Mitsubishi Outlander ES, from $30,500 before on-road costs. There is no denying that the value proposition of the XUV500 Petrol range is substantial.

Key standard equipment in the W6 FWD includes rear parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a rear-door mechanical child lock, premium black fabric upholstery, three second-row Isofix child restraints, climate control, a central storage bin cooler, a 6.0-inch monochrome LCD infotainment system, a six-speaker sound system and cruise control.

Opting for one of the W8 variants sees folding power side mirrors, a 7.0-inch colour TFT touchscreen infotainment system, satellite navigation, a reversing camera, genuine leather upholstery and a rear tailgate LED camping light added.

However, the XUV500 Petrol goes without advanced driver-assist safety technologies, such as autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist that buyers are increasingly expecting to be offered. Nevertheless, Mahindra says these will be introduced in the next-generation model.

As such, the XUV500 Petrol retains the XUV500 Diesel’s four-star safety rating that was issued by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) in 2012 to AWD variants. Lingering questions about safety – including the fact that the curtain airbags still do not extend to the third row – continue to hurt the XUV500, but a five-star result for its replacement has been promised.

Naturally, the big news here is the switch from diesel- to petrol-power, with Mahindra adopting an unusual approach for this task. Most parts of the XUV500’s 2.2-litre mHawk turbocharged four-cylinder engine are shared between the petrol and diesel versions, apart from a different compression ratio, turbocharger and heads.

This has led to eerily similar outputs, with the petrol unit producing 103kW of power and 320Nm of torque, while its diesel counterpart develops the same power output but an extra 10Nm of torque. Mahindra says this was a deliberate move so that the petrol would drive like the diesel. A braked towing capacity of 2500 kilograms is a testament to such, outpointing all rivals by at least 1000kg.

The result? As desired.

Unlike nearly all petrol offerings, the XUV500 Petrol’s ratio between power and torque is undeniably diesel-like, and it certainly drives like it. Leaping off the line with a certain keenness, the XUV500 Petrol is happy to put its meaty torque output to work. We particularly enjoyed its enthusiasm, but engine noise is pronounced under load – much like the XUV500 Diesel.

However, cruising at highway speeds is relatively quiet, save for a fair amount of wind noise over the side mirrors that penetrates the cabin with ease. We would recommend pumping your favourite tunes on high-speed commutes – such a move is necessary unless you want to lose the plot.

Speaking of highway driving, burying the accelerator at speeds above 80km/h is unlikely to result in rapid progression. While the Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic transmission does a tremendous job changing gears smoothly at all times and is happy to kick-down in these situations, the engine itself falls short.

As its diesel roots would suggest, the petrol unit runs out of breath in the upper reaches of the rev range. Opting for a lower gear when overtaking results in lethargic acceleration and more engine noise.

By Mahindra’s own admission, its models are primarily designed for its home market, India, which is a typically low-speed environment unlike Australia – and it shows here.

Unfortunately, we only drove the W6 FWD and W8 FWD during our two-hour test on country and highway roads, meaning we missed out on assessing the variable all-wheel-drive system in the W8 AWD. Grip from the front-wheel-drive variant was more than respectable, but it is unlikely to become unsettled due to the low power output.

During dynamic driving, the XUV500 Petrol’s steering can feel a little vague and light, meaning drivers will have to wrestle the front end back into line with minimal feedback. This is a stark contrast to its steering in urban environments which tends to be on the heavier side, especially on turn-in.

Passengers will inevitably make good use of the XUV500 Petrol’s interior handles on certain occasions as it is prone to body roll through corners. It can remain flat during less demanding stretches, but more dynamic runs will see it tip inwards and outwards. This behaviour is typical of most SUVs given their size, but the XUV500 Petrol won’t be considered a class-leader dynamically.

Its ride on country and highway roads is relatively compliant, but unsealed roads and potholes are felt through the cabin. These were accentuated by the rattle coming from the third row in the W8 FWD we drove. As far as we could tell, it was locked into place, but the unwarranted disturbance persisted. Nevertheless, occupant comfort is reasonable thanks to the softer ride.

The XUV500 Petrol’s strong point, other than value, continues to be its packaging. While it is the same length as a Honda CR-V, a fellow mid-sizer, it shares its wheelbase with the Hyundai Santa Fe, a competitor from the class above. This mismatch of dimensions results in a spacious cabin.

With a cargo capacity of 702 litres when the 50:50 split-fold third row is stowed, the XUV500 Petrol is only bettered by the Holden Equinox (846L), which is a five-seater only. The third row itself offers impressive legroom and is comfortable enough for adults on shorter trips.

However, when it is in use, boot capacity is almost non-existent given how far set back the sixth and seventh pews are. We could only manage to fit a few backpacks standing upright in this scenario. Operation of the second and third rows is a breeze thanks a trio of one-pull latches.

In general, the XUV500 Petrol’s interior would be best described as rough and ready thanks to its preference for hard plastics and overall simple design. The only soft-touch material is a unique woodgrain-textured plastic that tops the dashboard and upper door trims.

The genuine leather upholstery offered in the W8 grade is of a decent quality and doesn’t scream artificial. However, fit and finish leaves a lot to be desired – particularly that of the ill-fitting secondary glovebox.

The centre stack is simplistic and not at all modern, but that’s not such a bad thing. We would recommend that the extra spend for either W8 variant is worth it considering their inclusion of 7.0-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system which is lightyears ahead of the 6.0-inch monochrome unit found in the W6 FWD – it is old and an eyesore. Functionality of the former is, in fact, better than most.

Evidentially, the XUV500 Petrol is a budget vehicle for budget buyers. Its level of engine refinement, and fit and finish, are a testament to this philosophy.

But that doesn’t make it a bad thing – it is far from being the worst in class.

In fact, class-leading braked towing capacity, impressive packaging and exceptional value for money are significant positives.

The challenge now for Mahindra is to convince new-vehicle buyers into showrooms so it can demonstrate its crucial petrol-powered family SUV. Some may find it hard to resist a ‘cheap and cheerful’ assessment, but if they get in the driver’s seat and have a steer, they might be surprised. The XUV500 Petrol is not a bad effort, and its price will prove too much of a temptation for some.

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