We journey into the unknown this week behind the wheel of India’s Mahindra seven-seat XUV700.
The company’s relationship with Australia has its roots in the early 1990s when it sold the 4×4 Bushranger Jeep clone here.
The Pik-Up utility followed in 2007 and was joined by the more modern XUV500 SUV in 2014, in a long, drawn out, half-hearted assault on the Australian automotive market.
In fact, we struggle to remember the last Mahindra of any description that we drove, which turned out to be a Pik-Up 16 years ago.
Right now there’s a shiny new Mahindra XUV700 sitting in the driveway.
It’s the best looking thing so far from the Indian car maker and looks like something people might want to own, so we’re keen to make up for lost time.
What’s it cost?
Mahindra says XUV700 is designed to meet the expectations of Australian consumers, with a contemporary and sophisticated SUV experience.
It has undergone rigorous testing in various countries, reportedly including Australia – to test reliability and performance in a diverse range of conditions.
XUV700 is available in two grades and five colours: entry-level AX7 priced at $36,990 and the higher-spec AX7L at $39,990.
Both prices are driveaway and it makes the entry AX7 the cheapest seven-seater in Australia.
Our test vehicle was the more expensive AX7L.
Standard kit includes dual-zone climate control and synthetic leather trim, with off-white the only colour and a six-way power-adjust driver seat.
There’s also 18-inch alloys, keyless entry with push-button start, LED head, tail and daytime running lights, auto lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, tyre pressure monitoring and six-speaker sound.
AX7 L ups the ante with pop out door handles, an electric parking brake, cooled console box, wireless phone charging, 360-degree camera, stop-and-go functionality for the adaptive cruise and 12-speaker Sony sound.
Weirdly, it also adds reach adjustment for the steering wheel (not sure why this isn’t standard to start with).
Infotainment comes in the form of two 12.5-inch digital screens, one for the instrument cluster and the other a centre-mounted touchscreen to control audio and other functions.
They include Bluetooth, Alexa Integration, AM/FM radio, wired Android Auto and Carplay and 12-speaker Sony audio with four selectable sound stages.
Four digital cameras, located front, back and in each of the side mirrors, can be set to continuously record while driving, negating the need for a traditional dashcam.
There’s two USB-A ports in front, a USB-C port for second row passengers and a 12V/120W power outlet in the luggage area.
I don’t know where Alexa was hiding, but we couldn’t coax her into talking to us?
It scored five stars from Global NCAP, but this is not as stringent as our system.
But XUV700 has not been tested here and does not carry a safety rating in this country.
On this basis we’re not prepared to give the XUV700 more than 6 out of 10 for safety.
This puts the car at a disadvantage to Chinese competitors and needs to be addressed post haste.
In terms of active and passive systems the wagon comes with six airbags, a rear-view camera and autonomous emergency braking, from 10-110km/h (with pedestrian protection).
There is also forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control, smart pilot assist, traffic sign recognition, high beam assist and driver drowsiness detection.
AX7L adds a driver’s knee airbag as well as blind-spot camera, but neither grades get blind-spot monitoring nor rear cross-traffic alert.
ISOFIX and top-tether child seat anchors are provided for second-row window seats.
XUV700 is covered by a 7-year/150,000km warranty, with service intervals pegged at 12 months or 10,000km.
Rivals seven-seaters include LDV D90, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and the Nissan X-Trail.
What’s it go like?
The new badge is unfamiliar and many people are curious about what sort of car it is?
The same mainly younger people found the styling attractive and that bodes well in terms of sales.
At 4695mm in length, with a 2750mm wheelbase, XUV700 is a little longer than a Toyota RAV4.
It is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder petrol engine that delivers 149kW of power at 5000 rpm and 380Nm of torque from 1750 to 3000 rpm.
Both versions of XUV700 are fitted with a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, with drive to the front wheels.
It’s a Japanese Aisin unit and while other manufacturers may offer more cogs these days, it hooks up quickly and the changes are smooth and timely – that’s what counts.
A 2.2-litre turbo-diesel with all-wheel drive is offered in India, but only in five-seat configuration.
While the company suggests diesel is part of the plan, it does provide a point of difference between the XUV700 and recently released Scorpio.
XUV is front-drive, petrol-powered and has an all-in-one monocoque chassis, while the similarly-sized Scorpio is all-wheel drive, diesel-powered and sits on a separate ladder chassis.
There’s no talk of a hybrid at this stage.
Advertising shows a choice of different drive modes: Zip, Zap, Zoom and Custom, but this option was absent from our test vehicle.
At the same time, the infotainment system includes a lap timer — not sure what they had in mind?
XUV700 has a 60-litre fuel tank, takes standard 91 unleaded, with claimed fuel consumption of 8.3L/100km.
We were getting 9.3L/100km after close to 400km, but the trip computer actually expresses consumption in terms of kilometres per litre.
Suspension is independent, with Mac struts at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, with stabiliser bars and frequency selective damping.
Wheels are 18-inch diamond-cut alloys fitted with 235/60 series Indian MRF Wanderer Ecotred rubber.
A full-size steel spare wheel is mounted under the rear.
XUV700 can tow a 1500kg braked load.
Mahindra has gone for a high impact, with a cabin that is light, bright and inviting, featuring a sweeping digital instrument panel and large panoramic sunroof in both models.
Although the steering wheel and transmission level are trimmed in real leather, the rest of the upholstery is artificial.
But it still feels pretty good, especially to the untrained touch.
But, and it could be a big BUT, there’s a choice of white, white or white.
We like it, but it will be interesting to see how it stands the test of time (and grubby little fingers).
The front seats are large and comfortable and rear legroom for second row passengers is good, but the third row seats offer little legroom and are designed primarily for children.
Tall second row headrests block rear vision, making it difficult to see who if anyone is following.
Access to the third row is via the passenger side, with a single second row seat that moves forward and tumbles all in the same motion.