Indian carmaker Mahindra has been in the mainstream Australian market since 2007 to a very limited extent, with only a couple of vehicles in its range, both aimed at rural buyers — the Pik-Up utility and XUV500 SUV.
We assume sales have been low but do not actually know because the company has chosen not to submit its sales figures to the national VFACTS database.
Mahindra is now looking to boost its Australian profile and expand into the urban market, with the recent launch of a pair of SUVs — the Scorpio and XUV700.
We’re looking at the Scorpio here which has been on sale in India and other overseas markets since 2002, but the latest third generation model is the first to come to Australia.
What’s it cost?
Scorpio competes against vehicles such as the Isuzu MU-X, Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and SsangYong Rexton.
Not surprisingly, Scorpio’s price will be the main attraction, with two versions on offer: Z8 and Z8L, priced at $41,990 and $45,990 driveaway.
Scorpio’s body shape is pretty much the same as most of its three-row seat competitors, although it is one of the shortest which shows up in its tiny boot.
The front grille features six vertical chrome bars with Mahindra’s butterfly symbol in the centre in place of a seventh bar, which of course would have seen the Jeep legal team pounce.
Headlights are full LED with orange horizontal daytime running lights beneath them.
At the rear there are large LED tail lights, together with the Scorpio name topped off with a small red ‘N’ with a claw shape around it.
The rear door is side-hinged which can cause problems in tight parking spaces.
Five body colours are available: Deep Forest, Napoli Black, Everest White, Red Rage, and Dazzling Silver. All are included in Scorpio’s base prices.
Both grades have an 8.0-inch colour infotainment touchscreen with a number of shortcut buttons below it.
Z8 gets a 4.2-inch monochrome driver’s instrument cluster with the Z8L stepping up to a 7.0-inch screen with two analogue and one digital displays.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is standard on both, together with a reversing camera.
There’s a USB-A read-and-charge port in the front console and USB-C charge ports in both the front and second rows.
The higher-spec Scorpio Z8L adds a 12-speaker Sony 3D Immersive sound system, smartphone wireless charging and a front-facing camera.
There’s no satellite navigation or digital radio in either model.
A lack of safety features are the major downside to Scorpio, limited to front, side and curtain airbags (with limited third-row coverage), electronic stability control, ABS brakes with electronic brake distribution, tyre pressure monitoring, reversing camera and Isofix child seat anchors.
Z8 has rear parking sensors only, Z8L adds front sensors.
There is no autonomous emergency braking, which will be mandatory from next year.
Also missing are active lane keeping, forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
What’s it go like?
There’s a quality look and feel to the inside, highlighted by brown and black two-tone leatherette seats together with matching soft-touch trim on the front console and doors.
The old-style ratchet hand brake on the centre console leaves only enough space for a single drink holder and a tiny centre storage box.
Although both Scorpio variants have three rows of seats, the seating is in a 2+2+2 formation with individual captain’s seats for the centre row.
No doubt this will attract some buyers and deter others.
Boot space is negligible with the third-row seats in place.
Indeed, the amount of space doesn’t even appear in the specifications sheet.
The third-row seats can be folded and tumbled for extra space, again not specified.
Both Scorpio models are powered by a four-cylinder 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine with outputs of 129kW and 400Nm at 1750 rpm, paired to a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission with all-wheel drive.
A petrol engine is available but at this stage will not be coming here.
Fuel consumption is quoted as 7.2L/100km.
Entry requires a bit of a climb but there are side steps on the outside and large grab handles on both A-pillars to help if needed.
The steering wheel has only height adjustment, meaning that the seating position needs to be adjusted to suit each driver.
On the road Scorpio is quite impressive.
It’s not particularly sharp off the mark but once up to cruising speed it’s smooth, relatively responsive and surprisingly quiet for a diesel-powered vehicle.
Fuel consumption during our week-long test was 8.9L/100km compared with Mahindra’s claimed 7.2 L/100km.
Where Scorpio does stand out is off-road.
With that in view it underwent a six-month testing program in Australia, including 120,000km in the snow at altitude in the High Country as well as the heat of the Red Centre.
Its 4XPLOR intelligent terrain management technology allows shift on the fly between 2WD and 4WD modes.
It certainly handled the moderate conditions that we put it through with ease, with hill hold and hill descent control as part of its emphasis on off-road performance.
The big news though came a few months back when a couple of professional drivers set a new Guinness World Record by crossing a 385km section of the Simpson Desert in just under 13.5 hours.