Convenience of an automatic gearbox for “India’s safest car”
Automotive crash test certification agency Global NCAP has given this sub-4m SUV a five-star rating for safety. It is the highest ever for a made-in-India car, yet. And while it has been fairly successful, one of the reasons why it isn’t topping the sales charts was the noticeable absence of an automatic gearbox that is so relevant to our times, atleast in the urban context. They have tried to correct that with this XUV 3OO AutoShift.
Design & Dimensions
The XUV 3OO has been carved out of the latest-generation Ssangyong Tivoli. Ssangyong, as you might be aware is a relatively small Korean automotive brand that Mahindra has a controlling stake in. There is news that Mahindra is keen to offload the struggling brand from its portfolio but that’s a story for another day. Although it has been around for a couple of years, the XUV 3OO continues to be attractive for many. It has presence and has a similar kind of “look” as its elder sibling – the XUV 5OO. The stance is muscular with bulging wheel arches and it looks modern but with a hint of retro. May not be the most smashing design of the lot but doesn’t cause a polarising perception as say the segment best-seller, Hyundai Venue.
Power & Performance
There are two engines on offer – a 1.2-litre turbo petrol and a 1.5-litre turbo diesel. These were only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, so far. AutoShift is what Mahindra calls its version of AMT or automated manual transmission. In this, instead of a full-fledged automatic gearbox which is usually expensive, an additional electronic unit is placed in the car’s manual gearbox system which can control the gear changes and make the foot clutch redundant. So, the operation of driving an AMT car is the same as an automatic-gearboxed car. There are three modes – drive, neutral and reverse (no park mode, use the handbrake) and you get an optional ‘manual’ mode too incase you want to change gears yourself.
The diesel engine generates more power than the petrol engine. Peak power is up marginally to 117ps but peak torque is significantly high at 300Nm. The claimed fuel efficiency figure is also slightly higher at 20kpl however we have yet to test that.
Ride & Handling
The downside of an AMT is its inability to match a conventional automatic in terms of quicker gear changes. So, is the Mahindra AutoShift any different?
Honestly, it is better than some of the earlier AMT versions we have seen on Mahindra cars. We have driven the petrol variant here where it makes 110ps of power and 200Nm of torque. One of the first things that strike you is that the engine is amazingly refined and powerful. It is easy to get the turbo in action. Maybe a bit too quick for the AutoShift as going from first to second sees a prominent lag. But go a bit gentler on the accelerator pedal and it falls into place nicely. The problem is when you are in bumper-to-bumper traffic and the ’box is overthinking on which gear to be in. A slight tap of the accelerator pushes the gear into the second while you want it to just crawl ahead. So, you end up braking or keep modulating the throttle. The trick here is to keep it manually slotted in first.
This niggle apart, the AMT is pretty progressive to use when in motion. It gels well whether you want to cruise or show some urgency while overtaking. Braking is also reassuring thanks to disc brakes on all four wheels. The powertrain combination works best in moving traffic conditions – fast or not so fast. We would have liked it to be a bit more fuel-efficient though given the fact that AMTs are usually more economical to run than fully automatic versions. Our test car returned a figure of around 12-13kpl which is similar to what you can get from a dual-clutch (fully automatic) Kia Sonet.
Interior & Variants
This XUV 3OO’s interiors has some hits and misses. The dashboard looks pretty old school with tiny digital displays and buttons on the centre console akin to ones we saw on defunct home theatre systems. The boot is also pretty tiny too but it has a removable floor for emergency luggage use. On the plus side, the fit and finish is pretty good and the car generally feels solidly built. The seats are plush and the view is commanding despite this being a compact, not-so-tall SUV. Creature comforts such as leather upholstery, sunroof and electric tailgate release have been incorporated.
AutoShift is available in two trim levels – the mid W6 and the top-of-the-line W8 (O). While the manual version is also available with a base W4 trim starting at a mouth-watering price of Rs 7.95 lakh, the base AutoShift variant is W6 and starts at a highish Rs 10.63 lakh for the petrol engine. In the top-spec, it goes upto Rs 12.55 lakh. It is the only car in its class to boast of 7 airbags in this spec. The top variant also comes with Mahindra’s BlueSense Plus connected car feature which allows remote tracking, door lock/unlock, geo-fencing and emergency assist.
With AutoShift, the XUV 3OO has become a more versatile small SUV great for urban usage. With added driving convenience, it continues to offer a safe and comfortable car for daily use as well as long-distance trips. It has a typical Mahindra feel of being a tough vehicle that isn’t bothered much by road imperfections. In petrol guise, there is now a lot of finesse too with a quieter cabin and generally better NVH. The only piece lacking is a fancier dashboard that would have upped the premium feel significantly. But if you looking for a tough sub-4m car that won’t be high on maintenance, the XUV 3OO AutoShift can make the grade.
LxWxH: 3995 x 1821 x 1627 mm
Fuel tank: 42 litres
Wheels: 215/55 R17 (alloys for top spec only)
Turning radius: 5.3m
Petrol: 1197cc, 110ps, 200Nm, 12-13kpl
Diesel: 1497cc, 117ps, 300Nm, 15kpl
Price: Rs 10.63-12.55 lakh (ex-showroom)
[Image Credit: Mahindra]