Okay, this 2019 Mahindra XUV500 W10 isn’t the cheapest seven-seater – that goes to the petrol-powered W6-spec XUV500, which is priced at $26,990 drive-away.
The specification we have here, which is powered by the same 2.2-litre ‘mHawk’ turbo petrol engine, goes for $31,990. Get all four wheels driven, and you’re looking at $34,990.
When you consider this kind of money for a seven-seater SUV will have you scrounging around the classifieds and used car lots, the Mahindra does get some runs on the board. Not as quickly as Matt Hayden in the 2007 World Cup against South Africa, but it’s a start.
Going up from W6 to W10 certainly seems worth the money. The extra few grand gets you a 7.0-inch touchscreen on the inside, along with a reversing camera, sat-nav, passive entry and push-button start. Seats go from cloth to leather, as well.
That comes on top of cruise control, auto wipers, auto headlights and climate control. Considering the low starting price of the range, the level of starting kit is impressive.
The XUV500 look did get a spruce-up in 2019, with a new rear end and some subtle tweaks up front. There’s an improved warranty offering, as well. Going up from the usual three-year, 100,000km warranty, Mahindra now offers five years on the drivetrain. It’s complicated, however. The drivetrain doesn’t cover the entirety of the vehicle, and the kilometre limit stays unchanged.
There is five years of roadside assistance as part of the purchase price, and three years of capped-price servicing. There’s a maximum cost of $1720 for the first four years or 55,000km – sharp pricing that will be considerably less than a used vehicle with higher kilometres.
The XUV500 has 4585mm worth of sheet metal in length, sitting on a 2700mm wheelbase, 1890mm is the width, and 1785mm is the height. All of those dimensions encompass three rows and room for seven aboard, which is standard fare across the range.
This is all pushed along by a turbo petrol motor replacing the previous turbo diesel. There is 103kW at 4500rpm and 320Nm at 2000–3000rpm extracted from the 2.2 litres thanks to forced induction. This runs through a five-speed automatic transmission (no manual option), powering the front wheels. Those kilowatts, just breaking into triple digits, are largely forgettable and not exactly enjoyable. The torque, however, is decent. You can feel it come on in that range, where it gets a good workout around town. And in that situation, it’s passable.
As an effective highway cruiser, it is not so good. It just doesn’t have the power to monster up hills or dominate overtaking opportunities. You’ll be asking it to give everything it’s got, which it will only do with fair protest.
It's a relatively thirsty unit, as well. The listed combined fuel economy is 11 litres per hundred, which seems high for a small engine with modest power outputs. The fact that you're verging on wringing its neck half the time in traffic surely wouldn't help matters.
Front-row seating and comfort are decent: the seats aren’t overly supportive or comfortable, but are good enough to get the job done. Having tilt and rake adjustment on the steering column certainly helps oneself dial in behind the wheel.
There’s a big spread of buttons on the centre console, which seems to have an ad-hoc nature to its organisation. Once you get your bearings, it’s relatively easy to find what you’re looking for. The 7.0-inch display sits hooded and recessed in the dashboard, which does help with prevailing sunlight affecting visibility. It still happens, but not as often as it could. There’s native navigation and Android Auto, but no Apple CarPlay.
In terms of storage, you’ve got one small lidded compartment in front of that unusually long gearshifter, and a couple of cup holders behind. Storage bins in the door cards are small, but you can stow some bits and bobs away above the screen, and in the dual gloveboxes in front of the passenger’s knees.
Slide into the second row and you’ll find a reasonable amount of space. The Mahindra has a tall, narrow feel about it from the inside. Leg room is decent, but not huge. Big rearward-facing baby seats or your mate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could find it a little tricky. One good point is that there are air vents for the second and third rows.
Whereas the second row might feel potentially short in terms of knee room, the third row is surprisingly decent. A full-size adult can squeeze in there with a small semblance of comfort, but teenagers and down will find it ample enough in terms of space. As a genuine three-row SUV, the XUV500 scores well. In fact, it’s a bit more spacious in the back than a Nissan Patrol.
Add in the fact that there are ISOFIX points across all three rows, and the XUV500 starts to stack up as a true seven-seater. Six airbags scatter themselves throughout the cabin, but they don’t extend as far as the third row. That’s the only big blight against it.
Fold that third row into the floor, and 92 narrow litres of storage space grows into 702L. It’s a useable space, with a flat floor and square edges.
The Indian Mahindra is not the best option for tipping into corners. Tipping is the right word, with a fair amount of body roll coming in as you twist that numb-feeling tiller around and around. That tall and narrow feeling of the XUV500 doesn’t help much, either. You can’t be too hard on it, though. The Mahindra is a cheap seven-seat SUV made for cost-effective cartage of people around town. Race car it is not, but it’s worth noting the lack of steering response and body control compared to other new vehicles.
That soft feeling does net you a reasonably comfortable ride, with decent absorption of small bumps and jittery roads, provided you give the XUV500 enough time to soak them up. Travel too quickly and composure will soon go out the door. Once again, for pottering around town, it’s up to the job.
Looking at this XUV500 range begs the question about the second-hand market, and whether the better value offerings from some pre-owned wheels would be the best call. It’s a personal preference: trading a new-car experience with a decent warranty for something a bit more polished and well put together.
Perhaps the strongest points in the Mahindra’s corner are the known capped servicing costs as well as the warranty offering. Although that warranty is flawed, it’s still likely going to be better than most second-hand warranty offerings. And servicing costs can be an expensive part of pre-owned ownership.
The fact that Holden’s Captiva is no longer around means Mahindra will likely be eyeing a larger piece of the pie.
However, there are a couple of other options worth investigating. For the family needing seven seats on a budget, you’ll want to check out the Mitsubishi Outlander ES, as well as the Nissan X-Trail ST. They are both at the bottom of their respective spec ladders, and have drive-away prices not far off the Mahindra. Both of those manufacturers aren’t afraid of a sharp deal, and often have a handful of additional incentives to sweeten it.
While those other options might not match the Mahindra pound for pound in terms of outright value and good space across all three rows, they will have strengths elsewhere. Think interior finishings, driving refinement and drivetrain performance.
The chief element of the Mahindra is no doubt that value and inclusions, which when coupled with a five-year drivetrain warranty and capped price servicing, does take some of the guesswork out of the cost-of-ownership calculations.