REVIEW | Mahindra XUV 700 is good but rough around the edges
It is certainly a step up from the XUV 500
One of the most illuminating assignments of my career as a motoring journalist was visiting the Mumbai headquarters of Tata Motors. This was in 2015 as the company was planning a resurgence for its passenger car brand in Mzansi, to be spearheaded by the B-segment Bolt.
The Bolt turned out to be a flop in South Africa. While the product is best forgotten, my mental archives are full of fascinating sights and stories in the home of the monolithic automotive firm that played a crucial role in the industrialisation of India. Tata is a heavy-hitter in its domestic market, but locally, Mahindra has managed a far better effort.
Mahindra earned its stripes in our region largely thanks to its hardy range of basic and robust light commercial vehicles and farming implements. There are agricultural businesses that swear by products such as the Bolero, Pik-Up and Thar. The brand also has offerings for other sectors based on the Pik-Up chassis, including game-viewing vehicles, ambulances, mining workhorses and refrigerated carriers. Its presence in the passenger-focused arena has not been neglected.
Over the years it has made contributions such as the Xylo multipurpose vehicle and compact KUV 100. Better received was the medium-sized XUV 500 sport-utility vehicle and XUV 300 crossover, the latter earning a highly respectable five-star rating in the Global NCAP Safer Cars for Africa programme. The former was succeeded by the new XUV 700, which aims to further the idea that Mahindra can dabble in prospects beyond the sturdy but basic character that has long defined their portfolio. Could the XUV 700 be the first Mahindra that Mzansi buyers would describe as upmarket?
It is certainly a step up from the XUV 500. Looking back in my personal files to a 2015 road test of the entry-level derivative, wearing the W4 moniker, the emphasis was on affordability. A brown fabric interior was not to all tastes, nor were the quirky styling traits, which included a tailgate donning what appeared to be a curly moustache. The old XUV 500 was durable, but with a 2.2l turbocharged diesel engine that sounded and performed in a way hinting at the farming experience of the brand. At launch, it carried a price of R249,995.
In July 2022 Mahindra announced the arrival of its XUV 700, which holds an Indian Car of the Year title. TimesLIVE Motoring recently secured a test unit. Visually, it marks a significant evolution over its predecessor, with a more conventional appearance.
Gone is the moustache-wearing backside and instead came a more cohesive, contemporary stylistic package that echoed flavours of European and Japanese counterparts. This is a pleasant vehicle to look at. Our vehicle was battle-hardened, with close to 15,000km on the odometer and a light-hued upholstery that evidenced decent usage by various influencers, content creators, motoring journalists and just about everyone else on what must have been a lengthy list of testers.
Base pricing for the XUV 700 starts at R479,999 for the AX5 model, which is a five-seater. The seven-seater AX7 costs R534,999 and the AX7 L R569,999. Pricing includes a five-year/100,000km service plan and five-year/150,000km warranty.
Similarly-sized rivals at the price include the Mazda CX-5, Haval H6 and Chery Tiggo 7 Pro. These are five-seaters. A direct match for the AX7 would be the recently launched Proton X90, a seven-seater, priced upwards of R559,900. In that price range you could also look at seven-seater multipurpose vehicles with a crossover spin, such as the Honda BR-V or Hyundai Grand Creta. Note the “L” in AX7 L does not signify a longer wheelbase, but a lengthier list of features.
This was the model we tested. The range is front-wheel drive, all powered by the same 2.0l turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine linked to a six-speed automatic gearbox. Output is 149kW and 380Nm.
Approaching the Mahindra and pressing the unlock button reveals a nifty party-piece: door handles that retract and eject, almost like those on a Range Rover. Open the door and the XUV 700 has a swanky appearance with sculpted surfaces, dual-tone shades, metallic inlays and a portion of the fascia in a stitched finish. Really impressive and a huge leap over the XUV 500. But when you start to touch and feel, the illusion of plushness falls away. Hard, scratchy surfaces are everywhere, the switchgear feels flimsy and those glossy piano black accents on our tester had worn poorly, with scuffs and swirl marks.
The infotainment system is among the worst on the market, frustrating to operate, with useless tabs (lap timer in a family SUV?) and a confusing layout. The designers took inspiration from the old BMW iDrive system with a central rotary controller surrounded by four buttons. Surprise: that huge rotary dial controls audio volume. The screen is touch-operated. Display is grainy. A blind-spot camera is activated when the indicators are used, with visuals displayed on the small screen between the instrument cluster gauges. A useless feature, given how poor the resolution is.
Now for some positives. Ride quality and suspension damping are good, handling the various surfaces of Johannesburg roads competently, complemented by 235/60 rubber wrapping 18-inch alloys.
The engine does not impart the same stout, tough character of the previous 2.2l turbocharged diesel, but it is more responsive and tractable, boosting hard to keep things on the boil. The six-speed automatic is complementary and though there are intervals of lag around town, the XUV 700 never feels out of puff on the freeway. Consumption was indicated at 7.7km/l (12.9l/100km).
Wind noise and insulation at freeway speeds is average. Certain scenarios confirmed my view that the upmarket impression of the XUV 700 is surface level. Certain controls lack the damping you would experience in more accomplished rivals. The brake pedal, for example, clicks in a way expected from a budget car. The driver assistance technologies could also use refinement. On one occasion, the collision warning system had a complete fit because it thought we were destined to hit a parked vehicle a sufficient distance away. Specification on the AX7 L is hard to fault.
Everything from adaptive cruise control, to a 360º camera and wireless charging is part of the deal. The AX5 also has a respectable level of kit, including that 26cm infotainment screen, panoramic sunroof and four airbags (the AX7 models have six airbags). Benchmarked against its predecessor, the XUV 700 is an improvement. And if three-row seating is a must, the AX7 represents fair value for money. But there are offerings in the C-segment SUV category that offer superior refinement and polish.
Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.