When Mahindra & Mahindra MD Dr Pawan Goenka was introducing the 2017 Mahindra KUV100 NXT compact SUV at its launch, he was quick to address the big question: Why such an early refresh for a new model launched only last year. At the time, he noted that shorter timelines are the new norm with manufacturers in India launching new vehicles in quick succession and shortening shelf lives of existing products. There is a push to capture the constantly growing sub-4m compact SUV market. At the same time, the KUV100 NXT facelift is Mahindra's attempt to capture a market that had hitherto been buying only small cars - the first-time car buyer.
You see, as diverse as its portfolio of utility and sport utility vehicles as well as the odd sedan may have been, Mahindra has never before had a vehicle for this particular customer. And the manufacturer seems to have done things right, as the original Mahindra KUV100 has attracted around 60,000 customers over the past 21 months. Of these, close to 50 per cent have been first-time car buyers, and 15 per cent women customers, Goenka had said.
With a diverse, new customer base, Mahindra now looks to keep the ball rolling with the 2017 Mahindra KUV100 NXT facelift that gets 40 new features. It is also of essence for Mahindra to popularise its smallest SUV platform, which is slated to become the first Mahindra SUV to be electrfied in a year's time. And to this end, Mahindra has priced the KUV100 NXT lower than before at Rs 4.39 lakh for the base K2 petrol and Rs 5.39 lakh for the base K2 diesel variant (both prices ex-showroom, Mumbai).
The KUV100 which stands for Kool Utility Vehicle One Double-Oh was originally launched in January 2016 and had good exterior styling to begin with. However, where it was left wanting a little was detail that can grab attention from all quarters. On the KUV100 NXT this comes in the form of a sporty, more muscular look. Up front is now a more aggressive grille that also extends lower with its incisor-like chrome slats. This remedies the plain looking top half of the older KUV100 bumper. The NXT bumper now has a more resolved look, thanks to the honeycomb-pattern black grille surrounded by more pronounced fog lamp bezels in body colour. At the bottom of the front and rear bumpers is a silver faux bash plate.
The sunglass-style wraparound headlamps get the house treatment too, with dual chambers for the low and high beam units. The stem of the left headlamp features KUV100 NXT badging, while the right sports mFalcon badging. Red highlights from the older KUV100 have now been replaced with chrome details. Move to the side, and the KUV100 NXT has a more visually-balanced look than its predecessor with the front bumper extension reduced, and the rear extended a tad bit. This change results in the KUV100 NXT gaining 25mm in length over the older KUV100 at 3,700mm.
Thicker plastic cladding runs around the flared wheel arches and the bottom edge of the NXT, which also gets new 15-inch two-tone diamond cut alloy wheels. Three new two-tone colour options feature a black roof and pillars, in keeping with which the C-pillar mounted rear door handle is now black to enhance the two-door look.
The electrically-adjustable rear-view mirrors now also sport integrated side indicators. Move to the rear, and the clear lens double-barrel LED taillamps are the first thing to catch your eye. The new roof mounted spoiler also wraps around the rear windshield better. The NXT 'evoques' the feeling of larger international offerings now, especially from the side, albeit in a pocket-friendly size.
Mahindra has now made the 6-seater configuration standard on the KUV100 NXT. The small central seat on the front row can seat a slim adult or child in comfort, although it features a two-point seat belt. This configuration and the flat floor will work well for a young family of four and two grandparents or a youngster who travels with a group of friends.
With fewer passengers, though, the back of this centre seat folds down to become a large armrest for driver and front passenger, with cup holders in the centre and can be height-adjusted to two positions. A foldable armrest is also available for the rear seat. The interiors now get a more sporty feel with a textured black fabric being the choice colour for the trim and some silver accents around the steering, and centre console. Options below the K6+ and K8 variants now get a darker grey trim than earlier.
Glossy piano black inserts on the dashboard and doors look great, but could become fingerprint magnets in daily use, if not cleaned regularly. The top of the dash with a faux matte carbon finish looks and feels good to the touch. It is the plastic on the lower part of the dash that feels inferior when knocked. The new centre console is the life of the party, featuring a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which also gets BlueSense connectivity, GPS Navigation, and a parking system with three rear sensors.
Phone pairing was quick and the sound system does a good job with music as well as phone calls. The touch functionality is spot-on and we loved that the system can read out GPS directions in 14 languages. The three knobs for the AC from the previous KUV100 have made way for a single knob and temperature adjustment buttons, and make for a cleaner look. The cabin is also more distanced from outside and engine noise thanks to reworked door sealing on the Mahindra KUV100 NXT.
One botheration was that the only function of a lamp switch above the mirror on the roof is to turn on/off the LED mood lamps for the door handles. The boot can only be unlocked using a button on the key fob, and there is no physical button in the cabin for the same. The KUV100 NXT also gets the same smart storage options as its predecessor with the front underseat, and rear floor storage bin apart from a decently sized glovebox.
There is also a small wallet-sized storage near the right knee of the driver. The boot has a 243-litre capacity, which can be increased to 473 litres by folding flat the rear seat bench. The boot has small lamp to help locate objects, and also gets a 12-volt socket which could very well power a portable drinks cooler on long trips.
The KUV100 NXT has the same underpinnings as its predecessor, and we have had good things to say about the monocoque's limited body roll despite its height, compared to small cars. The NXT features slightly retuned versions of the mFalcon 1.2-litre three-cylinder G80 petrol engine which produces 83PS/115Nm and D75 diesel engine which outputs 78PS/190NM from the earlier KUV100. At the small straights on the Mahindra test track, the NXT stayed stable at speeds up to 135kmph, and it will go beyond that but we will have to wait until we bring it in for a detailed road test to find out. With the micro-hybrid electronic start-stop system, the engine will turn off when placed in neutral for a short time, and restart when the clutch is engaged.
The system works well and will give a 3 to 4 per cent boost to fuel efficiency, which stands at 23kmpl for the diesel and 17.45kmpl for the petrol (ARAI tested). With the D75 diesel motor on the top-spec K8 variant, throttle response feels direct in the switchable Sport mode, while the Eco mode slows it down a fair bit and limits the engine RPM in each of the five gears. The reach to the console mounted joystick-style gear lever is easy. Always staying within view, this lever should prove useful, especially for new drivers while constantly shifting gears in traffic conditions. With the centre seat folded into an armrest, driving through traffic will be less of a chore.
The steering wheel now feels a notch lighter to use at low speeds and does weigh in well as speed increases. However, some vagueness in feel sets in at speeds above 105kmph. That said, the small size makes it a breeze to turn the NXT and U-turns in tight spots will not be a bother at all. Braking with ABS as standard fitment is rapid from speeds in excess of 80kmpkh and the Mahindra feels composed through it. Some more feedback from the pedal would be welcome.
We drove the KUV100 NXT at Mahindra's test track and while we did not test the suspension over real-world potholes,driving over the speed humps and rumblers here gave us an impression of a soft, stable setup that needs to be shoved to feel unsettled. Thuds when the suspension is pushed are audible, but such will only be experienced if you decide to take the NXT off the road or to a proper cratered road. It should fare well in urban driving conditions.
The Mahindra KUV100 NXT is available in five variants with either the diesel or petrol engine - K2, K2+, K4+, K6+, K8. Interestingly, all but the base K2 variant will feature dual airbags as well as ABS as standard. The NXT is available in eight colour options - Dazzling Silver, Designer Grey, Fiery Orange, Flamboyant Red, Midnight Black, Pearl White, Red Black, Silver Black.
In terms of competition, the Mahindra KUV100 NXT is a unique proposition, as it primarily competes with hatchbacks such as the Maruti Suzuki Swift, Maruti Suzuki Ignis, Hyundai Grand i10, Honda Brio as well as compact sedans such as the Volkswagen Ameo and Ford Figo Aspire given its Rs4.39 lakh to Rs 7.33 lakh price range. Goenka, meanwhile, said that the NXT's features are available at a better price than larger compact SUVs Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Tata Nexon. However, as to whether customers looking to pick up their 'first SUV' will choose the NXT over the larger competitors remains to be seen.
Images: Ishaan Bhataiya