Less than a year after the launch of its TUV300 compact SUV, Mahindra has launched the NuvoSport, and in essence, they seem to be similar. They are both sub-four-metre SUVs that have seven seats and wear their spare wheels on their tailgate.
They both use the same basic chassis and different versions of the same engine. Even their prices are almost the same, with the NuvoSport commanding a very slight premium. So why is Mahindra selling two compact SUVs that are so alike? The carmaker says it’s all down to the positioning, and while the TUV300 was focussed on those who wanted something tough and rugged, the NuvoSport is more focussed at younger people as a lifestyle vehicle.
Interpret that as you will, what you really need to know is that the NuvoSport is a refresh of the Quanto – Mahindra’s first attempt at a compact SUV, which was later discontinued. In fact, if you look past the NuvoSport’s rather aggressive front grille, you’ll realise the rest of the body is similar to the Quanto. It’s just been given more black body cladding (which helps disguise its bulk well), sharp new 16-inch alloy wheels and new colouring at the rear. But back to the front, which will be the biggest talking point. It certainly draws attention, but it’s not what you’d call pretty.
But under the skin, the old chassis has been replaced with the Scorpio’s new, lighter and more advanced one. The engine too is an upgraded version of the TUV300’s 1.5-litre, three-cylinder diesel, now called mHawk100, as it makes just over 100hp. What it also has is 240Nm of torque, which is the highest in the segment, and that’s crucial when it comes to pulling this relatively heavy SUV along. The engine is very responsive, and the NuvoSport sets off from rest eagerly. Its strength at low revs makes it great for zipping in and out of traffic, and it’s pretty strong in the mid range too. Trouble is, it runs out of steam quite quickly, and you get nothing (but noise) out of revving the motor hard. It’s best to change gears often.
The five-speed manual gearbox is light enough, but the tall gearlever feels rubbery and vibrates. What’s more interesting is the NuvoSport’s five-speed AMT (automated-manual transmission) gearbox option. It’s an improvement on the TUV300’s poorly calibrated AMT, but it still suffers from inherent problems. If you flatten the accelerator, it will slur through each gear, interrupting power delivery, so it’s best to be light footed. Still, for most drivers, the AMT will serve its purpose well.
It may be less than four metres long, but this is still a tall, heavy SUV built on a utilitarian body-on-frame chassis, so it’s not great in the handling department. It rolls around a lot around corners, and the steering feels a bit ponderous, but that can be expected of an SUV. The good news is that the NuvoSport’s soft suspension yields a cushy ride. The bad news is that it also causes the SUV to bounce around a lot over bumps and undulations in the road, tossing passengers around.
Speaking of passengers, Mahindra calls this a 5+2-seater. Aside from the five main seats, there are two, small side-facing seats in the boot, but they’re very cramped to sit in and don’t have seat belts, so we don’t recommend them. The five ‘main’ seats, on the other hand, are very spacious. You sit high up and get a good view out, and the second row is wide enough for three people comfortably. What’s a big disappointment is the cabin design itself, which is all but identical to the old Quanto and the Xylo – it feels dated and the quality of fit and finish is still far off the mark. There are some updates, like switches from the TUV300 and a 6.2-inch new touchscreen which owners will appreciate.
The NuvoSport costs Rs 7.42-9.87 lakh (ex-showroom, New Delhi) for which you get a very spacious cabin with the flexibility of seven seats, and a tough and unbreakable feel from behind the wheel. Trouble is, that apart from a more powerful engine, it doesn’t offer much more than its sibling, the TUV300, which even costs a little less. Moreover, as far as compact SUVs go, it still lags far behind competition like the Maruti Vitara Brezza and Ford EcoSport. Ultimately, the NuvoSport seems like an unnecessary addition to the popular and hotly contested compact SUV segment – especially since there’s already a Mahindra present there.
In partnership with Autocar India