FIRST DRIVE | 2020 Mahindra Pik Up is an easy rider
In February 2017 this scribe headed out to the fringes of Gauteng to present an insert on the Mahindra TUV300 for Ignition TV.
It was the region near the North West border and we appeared to have stumbled upon a real-life commercial for the brand. Because it seemed that every second vehicle we spotted was a Bolero or Scorpio Pik Up. Some were pulling trailers brimful with hay. Others were carting livestock, secured by rails in the rear load bay.
They all had that distinctive, battle-hardened look - attesting to a life of toil in the field. But they were moving. And chances are they are still running at this very hour, serving their roles in the big tapestry of agricultural enterprise.
While the Mahindra stable has expanded to include models for the passenger market, it would not be remiss to say that its local reputation was forged through rudimentary and hardy tools built for workhorse applications. A reminder: the firm has an entire division producing farming implements, and the company itself is rooted in a heritage owed to military vehicles. You can still have that experience in the rugged, but extremely basic Thar.
By comparison, the model seen raising mud here is positively luxurious. It is the Pik Up double-cab in the highest specification level available: the latest S11 4x4 model grade with Karoo edition trimmings. And why is it in the headlines this week? For the first time, the range is available with two-pedal convenience (S11 only), which positions it for competition in the ever-fierce leisure bakkie ambit.
What we have here is a more affordable alternative to the likes of top-tier, automatic 4x4 versions of the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Volkswagen Amarok and Nissan Navara - a tough set to mix-up with indeed. Luckily, the Mahindra has a number of aspects to hold it in good stead, as we learnt during a morning drive in Tshwane on Monday. It matched our expectations in some ways and exceeded them in others.
Let us start with what we expected: hard plastics and coarse materials for starters. And it delivered. The Pik Up is not something that would be described as premium. That said, the overall ambience is one of utilitarian durability, although plusher upholstery would have been nice, given the loftier ambitions of this specific model. Wind intrusion at 120km/h was notable, but that was something to be braced for, given the blocky shape of the vehicle. The big, parking lot-unfriendly turning circle is also something to anticipate.
What we had not prepared for was the frankly epic smoothness of the new six-speed self-shifter and remarkably biddable, forgiving ride quality of the Pik Up. Perhaps we should not have dismissed the dramatic, action-flick-inspired audio theme played on start-up so swiftly.
The newly developed gearbox has not been transferred from any other model and is replete with a simulated manual mode. We found that hands-on intervention was never necessary because it works with alacrity when left to its own devices. That applies whether keeping things on the boil in the crawl of traffic driving, or dropping down ratios for a brisk overtaking task on the freeway.
It helps of course that the transmission is mated to a competent engine. That is the well-proven mHawk 2179cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged-diesel unit, producing 103kW and 320Nm.
Back to that suspension: the Pik Up, shod with 245/75R16 rubber, showed comfort levels that were unexpected - not only on tar but on corrugated off-road surfaces. A 210mm ground clearance and differential lock on the rear axle ensures adeptness on the treacherous stuff, in addition to the benefits of four-wheel drive, switchable on the move via a rotary dial.
Standard technology and convenience features in the S11 include a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, as well as a reverse camera. Some aesthetic bonuses over the S10 comprise a larger grille with wider slats and fog lamps with chrome bezels. The Karoo package throws in unique alloys, a rubberised bin with a useful roller-shutter cover, a roll bar and nudge bar and a smattering of decals.
From a safety perspective, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, dual front airbags and electronic stability control are part of the mix.
Reasonable pricing is likely to see many buyers overlook some of the quirks of the Pik Up S11 in favour of the merits. Foremost, the ease of use that comes with a pair of pedals and bountiful standard amenities, complementing the existing character of robustness that has always defined the vehicle.
- S11 AUTOMATIC DOUBLE-CAB: 4x2 – R384,999 / 4x4 – R414,999
- S11 AUTOMATIC DOUBLE-CAB KAROO: 4x2 – R399,999 / 4x4 – R429,999
Five-year/100,000km service plan, four-year/120,000km warranty and roadside assistance programme included.