Tested: 2022 Mahindra XUV300 W8

Great news for those who aren’t scared to stray from the trusted brands in search of better value: the Indian brand Mahindra recently updated their XUV300 compact crossover.

To be completely honest, even I am hard-pressed to spot the differences between this 2022 model and the versions that came before it. That goes mostly for the exterior design details, which do their utmost to disguise a rather chunky shape with plenty of panel creases, contrast colours and chrome touches.

The interior is slightly easier to differentiate because the older derivatives had (mostly model dependent) two-tone efforts with a light creme covering. We have it on good authority that such a hue is considered classy and luxurious in India… but is absolutely detested by every single Saffa buyer. It’s black leather or bust.

And guess what?

Despite my incessant wailing about the current black fad, Mahinda ZA listened to their customers. Our silver W8 turbo-diesel press car had furniture covered in a fairly soft and fitting black hide. Now add subtle white contrast stitching, black dash and door panels, plus a few silver highlights and this cabin is bang-on for local buyers.

That also goes for the technology in here, which starts with the obligatory power windows, ABS brakes, etc. but starts from a fairly substantial base-level… extending with dearer models to keyless entry (and start), climate control, more airbags and clever driving assistants.

Mahindra claims the title of “safest car in its class” for the updated XUV300.

A universal observation of all our testers (and passengers) was that the cabin quality is slightly inferior to current competitors. The door cards and dash top are made of hard plastic, plus there’s a visible contrast between panel textures and finishes.

Some are shiny piano black, others are dull and grainy.

Most silver surfaces and switches are matt, no problem there, but it all goes wrong on the centre dash where a stylish silver wedge separates the infotainment screen and climate control. In every XUV300 I’ve piloted so far, this bright panel is mismatched in colour, misaligned to its neighbours and houses a few properly puzzling buttons.

The hazard switch works well (and looks good, by the way) but it is flanked by four thin slithers of red translucent plastic: one which functions as a single button for a ventilation setting, another that isn’t a button but displays four safety belt settings, another which operates two trip meter items and a single button for the steering feel/response.

It’s not a complete deal-breaker in my eyes but its ill fitment and bizarre controls irritated me a bit. While we’re noting negatives, someone bemoaned the feather-light clutch and initially weak engine combination: it’s easy to stall this car if you’re not used to its delicate left pedal and lack of low-down grunt.

This phenomenon is happily countered by the lively nature of this little 1.5L turbo-diesel 4-cylinder engine. Peak power is 81kW at 3,750rpm while 200Nm of torque arrives at 2,000rpm. So, once peak twisting power is reached, the six-shot manual gearbox provides sufficient ratios to aid your forward momentum; in all but high-speed scenarios.

Mahindra claims a terminal velocity of 175km/h for the 1.5TD, while our performance tests with an identical (pre-facelift) model in 2019 yielded a best 0-100 sprint time of 11.69 seconds. Reversing the process took a highly impressive 2.7 seconds and just 38.81 meters. And for the record, the ‘300 is also available with a 1.2L turbo-petrol 3-cylinder motor.

With two power plants and three distinctive trim levels, Mahindra is catering to a wide range of potential customers. Prices start at a very reasonable R250,000 and reach this top-level turbo-diesel at almost R350,000. Still, considering all the features and claimed efficiency (4.8L/100km) this little XUV300 ticks all the right boxes. 

Included in each sale of a new Mahindra XUV300 is a 5-year/150,000km warranty and 5-year/90,000km service plan.

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