What can I say, the Mahindra TUV300 T8 is a real “clunker”. But it is very far from a clunker, which is often used to describe an old and dilapidated vehicle or a skorokoro, as we sometimes call them. The only reason I describe the TUV300 T8 as a clunker is because whenever you close a door it goes clunk.
Brian Joss – Each time the stop-start feature kicks in it goes clunk. When it cuts out altogether which it did often it goes clunk. It also clunks over the road imperfections, and sometimes the 1.5 three-cylinder in-line turbocharged diesel also goes clunk.
That said the rear-wheel TUV300 T8 five-speed manual has a lot going for it even if it looks a bit old-fashioned. Which grows on you and adds to its appeal. The design has been inspired by a battle tank, according to Mahindra, which is why it is so angular and chunky. Sanjoy Gupta, chief executive officer of Mahindra South Africa, said the TUV300 is an “authentic off-roader designed to tackle challenging conditions around the globe, including South Africa”. Somehow I don’t think so. The crossover TUV is better suited to the highways and byways and the occasional foray on to gravel. Unusually, like the bakkie it is a body-on-frame design, unlike most other crossovers. The TUV’s suspension is of the double wishbone type and has some parts in common with the Mahindra light commercial vehicles which probably explains why the ride is not as smooth as I would have liked (Clunk). Still, once I got used to its quirky nature, I enjoyed driving it around the Peninsula. Not so much in heavy traffic. The stop-start feature kicked in regularly then it would cut out altogether. Later I discovered the switch that you can use to disable it. The Eco element is best suited to heavy traffic where you crawl along and don’t need to put your foot on the accelerator. However, it is not very effective on the open road: there’s a distinct drop in power and the TUV300 struggles a bit.
The little diesel puts out 73.5kW at 3 750 rpm with torque of 240 N.m between 1 600 and 2 800 rpm. I didn’t experience any turbolag thanks to the two-stage turbocharging system and although the engine has quite a lot of grunt, I noticed the mHawk engine seems to run out of oomph at speeds above 110km/h, so overtaking must be done with care. The gearbox is a five-speed manual and the clutch is easy to use.
It is frugal with fuel. The test route , which included a trip to Hout Bay, over Kloof Nek which is heavy going for many vehicles, back through Sea Point’s traffic trawl, to Stellenbosch, although not on the same day, as well as side trips to the mall, used just over 6 litres/100km. With its 60-litre tank you won’t habe to stop too often at the filling station.
The TUV300 does offer a reasonably comfortable drive, despite the odd clunk or two.
However, there is quite a bit of body roll so I wouldn’t exactly go screeching around corners. The seats offer good support and talking of seating, the TUV300 is a seven-seater with fabric upholstery for the front bucket seats and rear bench seat.
The interior is spacious and there are numerous storage spaces. It is a seven-seater because of the third row of two folding seats (they don’t have safety belts) which can be removed, are basically situated in the boot, and are more suitable for children.
There is no retractable boot cover so any valuables you carelessly leave in the TUV will be in plain sight. There is plenty of leg and head room for driver and passengers. It has 1 128 litres of space and the boot has a capacity of 228 litres, with the seats up. The third row seats can be folded down but can’t be split so I assume you’d have a problem with large packages.
The fascia features piano gloss black detailing and brushed chrome-look surrounds. I got a bit irritated with the positioning of the power window controls which are sited on the centre console which means that if you want to use them you have to take your eyes off the road for a few seconds which could have tragic consequences for inexperienced drivers.
A multifunction steering wheel offers audio and hands-free Bluetooth controls, while the centre stack is also home to an infotainment system, as well as the controls for standard air conditioning The figures on the neat instrument panel are easy to read.
Other tech features include static cornering lights which illuminate automatically to improve after-dark vision through bends; follow-me-home and lead-me-to headlights when the TUV300 is locked or unlocked. The BlueSense app allows you to control the infotainment system, including volume adjustment, track selection, play/pause control, and it can even track selected vehicle parameters. Brake energy regeneration helps to improve fuel efficiency, Mahindra said.
Since Mahindra entered the South African market in 2004 it has become a big player with its range of SUVs including the KUV100 (tested) and which also had its eccentricities. Mahindra South Africa, is part of the $17.8 billion multi-national Mahindra group.
Despite the TUV300’s clunkiness it is a worthy contender in the specific market sector where its rivals include the Suzuki Ertiga and the Honda BR-V.
The Mahindra TUV300 T8 is a well specced vehicle and if you’re looking for a SUV that’s a little different from others on the road you could do a lot worse than this little crossover, despite its old-fashioned look and oddities. I was sorry to give it back, if truth be told.
I didn’t notice any other TUV300 on the road but I predict they’ll soon become a familiar sight.
The TUV300 T8 Manual has a price tag of R229 995 and comes with a three-year/100 000 km warranty; a three-year/ 90 000km service plan with first service at 10 000km followed by intervals of 20 000km