Cape Town - Mahindra is bidding for a slice of the Ford EcoSport’s compact SUV cake with its first-ever XUV300, which has just been launched in South Africa - in fact this is the second market in the world after India to receive the newcomer.

Although smaller in size than most Mahindras, one could say it’s a step upmarket, being based on the Ssangyong Tivoli (remember, Mahindra now owns the South Korean SUV specialist). Measuring less than four metres in length, it is the shortest vehicle in its class (no doubt designed around tax breaks in its home country) but the 2.6-metre wheelbase is slightly above the class average.

In terms of pricing, the XUV300 isn’t exactly in the bargain bin, retailing for between R249 999 and R324 999, but the range toppers are loaded with features and it looks to be a good quality product with neat, likeable, styling.

Turbocharged petrol or diesel power

It also takes a modern approach to engine technology, the petrol variant being a new three-cylinder turbocharged unit with outputs of 81kW and 200Nm.

There’s also a diesel on offer in the form of an also-brand-new 1.5-litre turbo unit credited with 85kW and 300Nm, the latter on hand from 1500rpm.

Both motors drive the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox, but Mahindra would do well to consider an autobox for our market.

“Both the 1.2 litre petrol and 1.5 litre turbo-diesel engine have been subjected to extensive stress-testing at Gerotek in Gauteng,” says Mahindra SA CEO Rajesh Gupta.

“We are confident that they will not only offer exceptional durability, but also deliver the type of acceleration and high-speed cruising power that South African drivers enjoy.”

The model range

On the spec front, Mahindra is offering the little crossover in two flavours: W6 and W8.

The base W6 comes with a 17.78cm touchscreen infotainment system, as well as air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors, central locking, dual front airbags and ABS brakes.

The W8 adds Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration as well as satnav, voice control and a reverse camera to the infotainment equation, while further amenities include dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, cruise control, multi-function steering wheel, front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and headlights, a start button, synthetic leather seat trim, five additional airbags (side, curtain and driver’s knee), a burglar alarm and ESP stability control.

Both versions are sold with a five-year/90 000km service plan and five-year/150 000km warranty.

XUV300 PRICES

W6 1.2 Petrol - R249 999

W6 1.5 Diesel - R274 999

W8 1.2 Petrol - R304 999

W8 1.5 Diesel - R324 999

IOL Motoring