My very wise mum always said, “If, you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all”. That’s all well and good in general terms, but heck, I’m a motoring journalist so it’s my job to comment on all vehicles, good, bad or indifferent. I’ve had the opportunity to test drive another medium sized SUV, this time the Mahindra XUV500 W8 Automatic.

My former company, Northstar Motor Group had the Mahindra franchise for a little while in 2015/2016. At the time, the XUV500 had only recently been launched and was only available in manual transmission. 2 years down the line, I’ve been given the automatic version to test drive from my local Mahindra dealer, Ross Starkey Motor Group of Rothwell. I wasn’t sure what to expect – had Mahindra improved their Indian manufactured vehicle or was it more of the same from the sub-continent brand?

Interestingly, Fiat Chrysler’s soon to be launched Jeep Compass will likely be assembled in India for the Australian market, so perhaps the build quality will be comparable or perhaps Jeep will set a new standard for design and quality for all Indian brands.

My first impression of the XUV was that it was pretty reasonable, but let’s look at the 6 positions for features and benefits from a car buyers viewpoint.

Front of the Vehicle and Under the Bonnet

The front end of the XUV500 is still pretty chunky, typical of most of the Indian designed brands. The grille/bumper/bonnet looks dated in terms of design and most definitely needs a European styling input. It’s important to remember for both Chinese and Indian manufacturers that the styling is pointed directly at the majority market where they’re sold rather than international markets. Accordingly, design for Australia isn’t the important subject for these companies. However, if they want to take a place in the international arena modern styling and design is a must.

XUV500 runs a 2.2 diesel engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The engine is reasonably torquey and the transmission is relatively quiet and smooth. The transmission is manufactured in Japan by Aisin for Mahindra. The 6-speed auto can be used in normal auto mode or changed with a switch (mounted on the transmission lever) to manual mode.

Standard in this vehicle is “Static Bending Projector Headlamps with Light Guides” auto wipers and auto headlights, so good features in a price sensitive market.

Bit of a problem with the warranty terms. On their website, clicking on the new car warranty terms and conditions indicates the warranty is 3 years/100,000 ks. However, there’s a YouTube video with Matthew Hayden which indicates a 5-year warranty and 5 years roadside assistance. Perhaps that’s a marketing thing that’s currently available, but it will pay to check

Side of the vehicle and Safety

XUV500 looks pretty dated on the sides. Old style door handles, poor paint coverage and panel gaps that aren’t up to modern build quality.

Alloy Wheels are standard which does go a way to make the vehicle look ok at first glance. Side Intrusion beams are standard as are 6 Air Bags, Front, side, and curtain – but I noted that there’s nothing safety wise for the 3rd-row passengers who are generally children.

Other features are:

Side Indicators, wrap-around taillights, daytime running lights

10 Cup Holders

Front centre storage is air conditioned to keep your drinks cool

Progressive rate crumple zones

Electronic Stability Program with roll over mitigation

Anti-Lock Brakes with Electronic brake force distribution

Hill Hold and Hill Descent control

Traction Control – Bosch branded

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

 

Mahindra XUV500

With 7 seats deployed, there isn’t any carrying capacity

Rear of the Vehicle and Boot

As it should be with all vehicles XUV500 comes standard with a reversing camera. The boot capacity is 702 litres with the second row of seats folded and a massive 1512 litres with the second row folded. If you’re using all the seating positions, there’s nothing left for any sort of luggage at all. I’d be suggesting a roof rack mounted pod if you need to transport your family of 7 or perhaps a small trailer.

Drivers Side

Back Seat entry is reasonable – but considering it will be children sitting in the 3rd row, it’s ok. There are 3 ISOFIX child seat anchor points. Passenger grab handles are standard

Drivers Position

Steering Wheel Controls are acceptable, but the door tops and dash are hard plastic with a faux wood like attempt to make it look nice. Doesn’t work I’m afraid. Satellite navigation is standard as is Bluetooth for your smartphone. I was able to get pretty comfortable in the driver’s seat so seating position gets the tick.

 

Mazda CX-9 ANCAP Rating

ANCAP assessed the original Mahindra SUV500 5 years ago in 2012. Suggesting that nothing has changed since 2012 in design or safety I’m not so sure that it would still rate as a four star vehicle. Anything less than four stars would be a no-go zone in my opinion.

SRS Airbags:                       Dual Front, Side, Head

Frontal Offset:                    10.00 out of 16

Side Impact:                        16.00 out of 16

Pole:                                      Not Assessed

Whiplash Protection:        Good

Pedestrian Protection:      Marginal

ESC:                                      Standard

Seat Belt Reminders          0.00 out of 3

Overall Score:                     26.00 out of 37

ANCAP Safety Rating        Four Stars

Year Assessed                      2012

Using the Car Business percentage rating Mahindra XUV scores 70.27%, well behind the market front runners. You’ll notice that this vehicle test was conducted in 2012 and hasn’t been tested since.

No data or information was available on the Australian Government site. Information secured from the Mahindra XUV500 brochure sets the combined economy (suburban and highway) at 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres in front wheel drive mode

Towing

The Mahindra has a good towing capacity with electric brakes fitted. 2,500 kg capacity would allow it to safely tow a larger caravan or boat whilst 750kg un-braked towing weight allows for a small trailer, or jet-ski. Tow-ball download weight is 160kg.

Insurance

Utilizing the RACQ Online Insurance portal, the premium for this vehicle for a 45-year-old male driver, rating 1, with another RACQ policy would be $575.55. This is fairly reasonable for a 7 seat vehicle.

Service Costs

Mahindra offers capped price service for 3 years or 60,000 klm costing you $2740 over the term. The 5000klm/3 month first service is free then needs to be serviced at 10,000 kilometres and thereafter every 6 months or 10,000k.

The Bottom Line

I’d hoped for the Mahindra XUV500 to be a quantum leap ahead of the vehicle I saw 3 years ago, but I’m sorry to say that it hasn’t really improved. As I mentioned earlier, the build quality is pretty poor and the design hasn’t improved. However if you can put up with a dated design, the heart of the beast seems to be adequate. Mahindra’s strong point is its price of under $30,000 for a 7 seat SUV. The upgrade to an AWD will set you back around another $4000 which, if you want to get your family out and about is value for money

Vehicle:

Vehicle as tested – Mahindra XUV500 W8 Auto in Moondust Silver $29990 drive away (current offer) plus metallic paint.

Vehicle supplied courtesy Ross Starkey Mahindra  – Phone 07 3203 0000