With the sub-four-metre SUV segment booming, Mahindra decided to usher in their take on a compact SUV, in the form of the new XUV300. With help from SsangYong, it jointly developed for our competitive compact SUV segment. This SUV is underpinned by the SsangYong Tivoli’s platform but has been re-engineered from ground-up for India and promises to offer the best quality possible. It is refined, feature-loaded and is dynamically sorted too. We pit it against Mahindra’s very own, age-old, old school, tough as nails Mahindra Thar to see if it makes for a better bet or not.
The XUV300 looks somewhat identical to the SsangYong Tivoli, since it is based on the very same SUV. At the front, it features a contemporary version of Mahindra’s six-slat grille, flanked by smart headlights that have LED DRL extensions, giving it an L-shaped layout. The front bumper is well sculpted, while the side profile consists of 17-inch alloy wheels. The front and rear fenders have swollen impressions, giving the SUV a beefy stance. The white roof is a part of the dual tone exterior colour theme and it also gets roof rails. At the rear, the SUV appears to be rather squished but the smartly designed tail light and silver skid plate, give it a good look from the rear.
In comparison, the Mahindra Thar looks like a proper jeep with its rugged, off-road profile. It gets a huge plastic bumper that is an extension of the body in the front. The fenders are well scooped and are wider than before. It gets a soft-top for the roof and is made up of better materials now. It also gets new wiper linkages. It gets circular headlights, a six-slat grille, curved bonnet and wheel arch extensions on the sides. This is proper off-road pedigree you see on the Thar.
The cabin of the XUV300 feels solidly put together, and looks particularly up-market in the two-tone colour theme. The high seating position allows for a good view of what is ahead. The gloss black and silver trim add to the premium look. The leather-wrapped steering looks great and we love the vibrant upholstery too. Some bits do feel a bit tacky though, and the absence of soft-touch plastics is a bummer. There’s a lot of space up-front and the seats are large and supportive; the same can be said about the rear. There is also sufficient headroom, but legroom feels restricted. The seats offer decent cushioning, and there are storage spaces galore.
The interior of the Thar is rather basic, with a simplistic dashboard ahead of you, the steering from the Bolero, and there’s a lockable glovebox too. The comfortable seats are borrowed from the Scorpio and the instrument cluster gets a backlit odometer. The steering has moved a bit to the right and feels better to grip. However, with its high-set pedals and raked steering, it is nowhere as comfortable as the XUV300. The quality and finish of plastics is no match for the XUV300’s and the cabin isn’t particularly plush.
The XUV300 is loaded with features like dual zone climate control with memory function, push button start, heated mirrors, sunroof, leather seats, hill hold function, cruise control, a 7-inch infotainment system with smartphone mirroring tech and navigation, hill hold function and 7 airbags. The Thar is barely equipped with anything. It gets a power steering, driver’s airbag, alloy wheels, air-conditioning and ABS.
Performance & Handling
We’re driving the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 115bhp and 300Nm of torque. The motor makes maximum torque from low revs, and it pulls effortlessly, thanks to the strong bottom end and mid-range. The engine is quiet too, but gets louder as the revs climb. There isn’t much turbo lag and the SUV loves cruising at triple-digit speeds. It’s a strong performer, and the 6-speed manual ‘box is light but the throws are long. As it tackles pot holes, you can hardly feel vibrations and the car stays composed at high speeds. In Sport mode, the steering has a nice weight to it, and you feel quite confident tackling corners too.
The Thar’s 2.5-litre engine produces 105bhp, which is more than sufficient to pull you through obstacles. And with the differential lock, it is very capable. The Thar is built more for terrains, something the XUV300 won’t excel at. The ride is quite firm, and the steering is lacking in feel. The Thar just feels too bare-bones compared to the XUV300. And the 5-speed gearbox on the Thar isn’t light at all.
While the XUV300 impresses with its refined engine, well-built cabin and good ride quality, the Thar floors you with its off-road prowess. It cannot play the role of a family SUV, and is best suited for a couple that doesn’t have kids. The XUV300 is the perfect compact SUV and offers amazing bang for your buck.