Usually we test a car for about a week and put it through its paces in the CarAdvice garage. That wasn’t the case with the 2016 Mahindra Genio.
For this test we decided to put the 2016 Mahindra Genio in the hands of a hard-working tradesman. That tradie just so happens to be my dad, Brian Campbell.
Having been a painter for more than four decades, my old man has spent plenty of time working hard – and putting his work vehicles through the wringer in and around Cooma in the Snowy Mountains – and it was his intention to do the same for the Mahindra during his six-week stint with the car.
As for his own work ute, it just so happens that Brian could’ve bought a Mahindra Genio, brand spanking new, for about the same price that he paid for his second-hand Toyota HiLux. At $25,990 driveaway, the dual-cab 4×2 Genio was near-to the same price paid for his 2012 Toyota HiLux dual-cab 4×2, which had just 25,000km on the clock when purchased in mid-2015.
That was another key element to this test – should Brian have bought a brand-new budget ute, like this Mahindra? Or did he make the right decision by choosing a pre-loved Toyota HiLux with little-to-no warranty?
He admitted that buying a new ute wasn’t something that crossed his mind, but having spent some time in the Mahindra, he said there are plenty of enticing elements to buying a new vehicle instead of a used one.
“I didn’t particularly look for a brand-new ute,” he said. “I purposely looked for one with low kilometres because I knew an equivalent HiLux would cost me $35,000 new.
“I didn’t get much warranty because it was a used, ex-government ute – I tried to get 12 months but I got three. So the [three-year/100,000km] Mahindra new-car warranty – even given that it’s the bare minimum on a new car – could be enough to sway some buyers.”
The Indian-made workhorse is designed to withstand some of the world’s worst roads and to be put through some of the most torturous workloads of any vehicles on the planet. In India, it’s not unusual to see them overloaded well beyond the dual-cab’s 1100-kilogram payload rating.
Now, my dad didn’t exactly have plans to load up the Mahindra to its limit: it was more his intention to use the vehicle as he would have used his own ute during work hours. Still, that lead to him loading up the tray with 32×15-litre paint drums to test that payload, and with that near-500kg load he said he was impressed by how unaffected the Genio felt at lower speeds.
One of the biggest pluses Dad found was that comparatively large tray. Measuring a lengthy 1950mm from front to rear, 1777mm wide and 450mm deep, the Genio’s tray is well above average for a dual-cab ute, and notably larger in most ways than his HiLux (1700mm long by 1820mm wide and 300mm deep).
The Mahindra has a pair of internal rails with tie-down points, which Brian found was handy as it makes tying down items simple, but the downside is that the gap is not easy to clean out.
The fact the Mahindra sits a little higher on the road to allow extra ground clearance meant that Brian – who isn’t vertically advantaged, at five-foot-six – said loading in ladders and trestles was a bit more difficult in the Mahindra than in his HiLux.
With an average load of a few hundred kilos in the tray, and two bodies in the cabin, the Mahindra wasn’t being asked much in terms of strain and demand on the drivetrain, but Brian said he felt there were some positive and negative elements to the 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel M-Hawk engine.
With 88kW of power at 4000rpm and 280Nm of torque between 1800-2800rpm, the engine displays the typical diesel characteristics of some very low-range lag, a strong band of power across the mid-range, and a slow-off once you’re outside of that torque range.
Brian said he thought the engine was “very torquey” down low, and that it allowed for “good cruising on the highway, but if the terrain is hilly, the cruise control struggles to maintain momentum at highway speeds”.
He said the gearbox “seemed even in terms of actual gearing” but noted that the shift from first to second was hard to master, with some rev-hang.
With his HiLux boasting a bigger engine (3.0-litre turbo diesel) with more power and torque (126kW and 343Nm) it is no surprise that Brian felt that the Mahindra was underpowered in comparison, and the HiLux’s cruise control also does a better job of maintaining speed, according to Brian.
“The HiLux has more usable power, it feels more effortless,” he said.
That said, Brian was surprised at just how efficient the Mahindra was at times. During one tank he averaged a sharp 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres, where the ‘Lux runs about 8.0L/100km at most times.
Brian was also suitably impressed with how it handled itself on rough gravel tracks, which he often encounters when travelling outside of Cooma. He said the Mahindra felt “really stable despite its higher ride height”.
In fact, the way the Mahindra drove in day-to-day circumstances impressed him in general.
“It was good to drive,” he said. “The suspension is pretty good suspension – a bit bouncy with nothing in the back and not as refined as the HiLux in that regard, but with a bit of weight in the back it was more comfortable.
“The steering was a little hard to get used to as you’re sitting on top of the wheel because of the higher driving position. Shorter people may also find the fold-down armrests on the front seats a bit annoying, too,” he said.
Speaking of the driver’s seat, Brian found the cockpit of the Mahindra to be a welcoming, but not exceptionally well-finished, place to be.
“When we first got it, there was a big clump of wires hanging down from under the dash,” he said, before adding that it didn’t offer the best first impression when it looks like the thing is already falling apart when it’s brand new.
“Little things like the plastic clips on the seatbelt cover, where it connects to the B-pillar, kept falling off. And the plastic tabs over the screws on the ‘Jesus’ handles kept popping out, too,” he said.
Brian was happy with the storage on offer, though, noted that there were adequate cup-holders, a “good-sized” glovebox and a “handy drawer under the seat” for storing loose items or valuables to be kept hidden away.
While the stereo appears to be an aftermarket unit that clearly lacks the level of sophistication of an integrated stereo system that you find in more reputable brands, Brian said he managed to set up the Bluetooth phone streaming very easily.
“It was simple to connect, but I had some instances where it cut the radio out between calls. It did that a couple of times, then everything worked as normal again.”
He liked the high driving position, and his passengers – including co-workers and the five- and nine-year-old grandkids – appreciated the high seating position in the back. He found that with such big doors, getting in and out is simple for people of all shapes and sizes, too.
But being a painter who often has to encounter grubby worksites and muddy terrain, he said he would like to see a vinyl floor rather than carpet because “it takes ages to vacuum out”.
So, after six weeks in and out of the Genio dual-cab, was Brian filled with regret over not having thought about an affordable ute instead of his used work vehicle? Not exactly…
“When people asked if I would buy one, I said yes – but not if I was still a painter,” he said, referring back to the difficulties the carpet and cloth bits he found he could encounter.
“The hard to clean interior is a deal breaker for a painter,” he said. Who would have thought the Mahindra could be too plush inside?
Brian made it clear that he’d stick with his Toyota if he had to make a choice between the two, but he said Mahindra doesn’t seem far away from being something that is more appealing to a broader buyer group.
“I’d keep my HiLux. All the little things are done better and I feel a bit more comfortable in it,” he said. “Nothing grabbed me enough to convince me to buy it.
“The HiLux suits me better, but I could see the Mahindra being a really good farm ute – on rural properties it would be great.”
Brian knew that Mahindra is targeting exactly those types of buyers, as the company is the world’s largest manufacturer of tractors, and agricultural workers are likely to get great deals on a ute when they spend bigger bucks on other vehicles.
Click the Photos tab for more 2016 Mahindra Genio images by Christian Barbeitos.