Mahindra has given its first monocoque hatchback a significant makeover just 21 months after its launch and the result is the KUV100 NXT. This facelift gets premium features and styling tweaks which make the hatchback a lot more appealing than before.
While most of the design is unchanged, the Mahindra KUV100 NXT has some immediately noticeable changes. The clamshell bonnet isn’t any different from its predecessor, but the headlights, while retaining their basic shape, now feature twin pods, with restyled indicators and DRLs. The front bumper design has been updated to feature a more distinctive air dam, with the reshaped fog-lights getting body colour surrounds. Even the slender nose grille gets more distinct chrome inserts and at the bottom of the bumper, there’s a well defined silver skid plate.
Further strengthening the KUV100’s appeal are sporty 15-inch alloys which fill the wheel wells a lot better now, and new outside mirrors which get integrated turn indiators. The rear door handles are black now and don’t stand out like before. New clear-lens tail-lamps, new character lines and a new spoiler give the rear a much nicer look. Like the Anniversary Edition of the KUV100 that was launched earlier this year, this car also gets a dual paint option – the red or silver shade with a contrasting black roof – alongside the six other body colours. Overall, the KUV100 is more palatable to look at, and with this facelift, it leans more towards SUV than hatchback. But the oddball proportions remain and the confused mix of styling elements will not be to everyone’s tastes.
Just like the Anniversary Edition, this KUV100 NXT gets all-black interiors in the top-spec K8 variant, which enhances the cabin’s appeal. The overall design is familiar, but the centre fascia is redesigned and the layout of the manual air-con buttons is new. The most apparent change is the addition of a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, available in both the mid and top variants. While it’s been borrowed from other contemporary Mahindra SUVs, it’s a welcome addition to the cabin. The infotainment experience is quite good, with a host of connectivity options including Bluetooth, USB and aux, all controlled through a touch interface that’s intuitive, extremely responsive and fairly legible even in harsh sunlight. And it even gets a full-fledged built-in navigation system.
Possibly the most unique feature of the KUV100 is its six-seat configuration. But it’s not very practical sitting three abreast in the front, unless the middle passenger is a child. There’s really not much place to speak of with the centre console cutting into knee room in the middle, and shoulder room too is a bit tight. The middle-seat backrest doubles as a really comfortable front armrest and that’s the best way to use it. The KUV100 is as practical as ever with several storage bins including a couple of hidden compartments. The rear-seat space and the 243-litre boot remain unchanged.
This is one area where we can wholeheartedly say that Mahindra has done an excellent job. Just like the earlier car, ABS and EBD come as standard across all the variants. However, this time around, even dual front airbags are included on all trim levels except the base K2 model, which still gets them as an option though.
Engine options are the same as before, so there’s the option of an 83hp, 1.2-litre petrol and a 78hp, 1.2-litre diesel engine, both mated to a five-speed manual transmission. We drove the diesel, which is smooth and with decent driveability. Like before, you can easily cruise around in a higher gear at lower revs and there’s adequate pep to keep up with traffic without the need to constantly downshift.
There’s no spike in performance like in a typical turbo-diesel and the powerband is narrow, so by no means will it satisfy enthusiastic driving, even in Power mode. A special mention here goes to the superb five-speed gearbox that’s been developed by Porsche engineering; it is slick, precise and a joy to operate. Mahindra claims to have improved the insulation and reduced vibrations. First impressions are positive and the sound from this engine isn’t intrusive, and only when revved hard does the diesel drone become audible. Making more of a racket is the air-con blower which, even at low fan speeds, is really loud.
There’s no perceivable difference to the way this car drives with the suspension being tuned to be the softer side. So while it’s comfortable over bad roads, on open roads there’s a constant bobbing motion. The steering is still heavy and vague compared to cars like the Hyundai Grand i10 and Maruti Ignis, and the brakes feel a bit spongy, just like before.
For this NXT update, Mahindra has revamped the trim nomenclature. The base K2 diesel starts at Rs 5.39 lakh ex-showroom Mumbai, moving on to Rs 7.33 lakh for the top-spec K8 diesel. What is really commendable is that prices for the K2, K2+ and K4+ models have actually gone down despite offering more features, while those for the K6+ and K8 have gone up only marginally.