Cape Town - They say first impressions last and sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll have the opportunity to make a second one. Since 2015, Indian automaker Mahindra has been reinventing itself with a fresh new product range.
In 2016, the automaker launched its KUV100 K6+ diesel to help lead the charge. Unfortunately, it stumbles in many areas.
Riding on stilettos
The little KUV does not look too peculiar as far as Mahindra models go. The design is funky yet it verges on the safe side of car design. The KUV100 has a high roof, which makes it appear taller than it actually is. Add to this the relatively thin wheels and something seems amiss in the overall design.
The downside is that when a strong wind blows, the car feels unsettled. Perhaps if the roof was lower and the wheels an inch or two larger, the vehicle would look and handle better.
At least it’s spacious…
One of the best aspects of the car is the amount of headroom for all passengers in the vehicle, accommodating tall individuals.
Sadly, Mahindra did not build on the spacious headroom as elsewhere space is limited. Legroom is minimal and the boot, too, is on the small side. You can't help but get the sense that in trying to be affordable, Mahindra skimped on practicality.
Gallery: Mahindra KUV100
The controls are simple enough. It’s easy to clear the windows on a frosty winter’s morning and the lack of frills is a welcome feature. Bluetooth, AUX and USB ports are standard.
Despite having hydraulic gas-charged shock absorbers and McPherson suspension, the KUV100’s ride quality is wobbly, at best. It's not great at cornering either as the huge amount of body roll begs that the car be driven at a sedentary pace.
Its 1.2-litre diesel engine (57kW/190Nm) has sufficient power and is ideal for city driving but sounds unrefined and rough. Despite this, initial impressions are that the vehicle can be fuel efficient. A 4.6-litres/100km, achieving more than 700km from its 35-litre fuel tank is achievable.
But the KUV100 is not too bad on the open road. Despite the above-mentioned short-comings, the car holds its own at speeds. Feedback is not 'talkative' and brisk driving should not be called upon. But in the city, weaving through traffic, the car is more at ease. Slower speeds is what the car calls for and to a great extent, that's when it drives at its best.
Issue with the brakes
On the first day the KUV100 joined the Wheels24 fleet, there was an issue with its brakes. In what could have been a serious incident, the left front brake caught fire as I was heading home from the office. Fortunately, traffic officers driving behind saw smoke emanating from the vehicle, signaled for me to pull over and provided assistance.
The car was subsequently taken to the nearest Mahindra dealership where the issue was attended to.
The reason for the fire? Mahindra SA said: "...A spring behind the brake pedal was over-tightened and didn't fully release. This applied constant pressure on the brakes and is what, ultimately, jammed the brakes."
The car was returned to us the next day and the issue was resolved.
If fuel efficiency is your primary motivator to purchase a vehicle, then the KUV100 could be the car for you. Despite its competitive price tag of R187 995, the KUV100 K6+, in its current guise, needs a lot more "polish".
This is Mahindra's latest attempt at carving its name in the brand-loyal South African motoring landscape, but an opportunity has possibly slipped through the company's fingers. This car is a budget beater, yes, but overall execution could have been better, with more attention paid to build quality.
A three-year or 100 000km warranty comes standard, but the three-year or 50 000km service plan is optional.