Johannesburg - The president had just informed us that we were preparing to move to lockdown level 3 and we were again allowed to buy our desired tipple albeit between certain times and only from Monday to Thursday.
A day or so later a motoring colleague commented on certain online options that promised much but delivered little and I jokingly mentioned that perhaps there was a delivery business option there in these cash-strapped times.
“Time to get a Mahindra Pik Up,” he responded.
Funny he said that because at the time I happened to be testing the new automatic Mahindra S11 Pik Up, launched before we were attacked by Covid-19.
Mahindra slotted in a 6-speed automatic box, as a result of research that showed more people were opting for auto boxes, especially in Gauteng, where traffic often means crawling along. Well, not during lockdown, but this too shall pass.
The transmission is mated to Mahindra’s tried and tested mHawk 2.2 litre turbodiesel engine that puts out 103kW and 320Nm.
I found it was ample to trundle along effortlessly both in the city and on the highways around Gauteng.
The gearbox shifted smoothly, even loaded and driving up steep inclines, testimony to the countless hours Mahindra spent on fine-tuning it in local conditions.
It’s not only the auto transmission that’s new, it now has a new grille and bumper, the grille flanked by new headlamps with chrome inserts and new chromed fog lamp surrounds in the lower air intake.
It now also has colour-coded side mirrors with integrated indicators. Still, you’d never confuse it with it being anything but a Mahindra, especially with the centre rim caps which, after all these years, I still can’t get used to.
Inside there have been a number of tweaks to give the Pik Up a more premium feel such as a 7-inch touch-screen infotainment system that features Bluetooth, entertainment and vehicle information, Satnav and also displays the image of the new reverse camera. Climate control is now standard and the multi-function steering wheel controls the infotainment system, phone and cruise-control.
Front and rear 12V power points take care of charging your devices while a front USB plug connects your phone.
The Pik Up is still very much bakkie orientated and it’s not as sophisticated as some of its ladder frame rivals, especially on dirt. However, with a load on the back (it’s rated to carry 995kg) over a bumpy dirt road it’s not that bad at all.
As you would expect, it’s not a speed machine but cruising at the national speed limit on mostly deserted highways the Pik Up behaved itself, even taking corners at speeds that you normally wouldn’t if you had a load and passengers.
I had the opportunity to take it off-road to play a bit with its 4x4 capability close to where I live. There are a handful of not-too-serious obstacles including a stream crossing and, to be honest, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it regularly if I was an owner.
With 210mm ground clearance, an approach angle of 34 degrees, departure angle of 15 degrees and breakover angle of 18 degrees it’s a lot of fun to take it off the black stuff.
Its pièce de résistance, though, is the mechanical differential lock which Mahindra developed with Eaton Lockers. It offers complete lock-up between the rear wheels when there is a loss of traction, making it remarkably capable. I didn’t need it where I drove, but tested it properly in Mahindra’s Thar a year or so ago and the difference it makes off-road is remarkable.
Consumption during the week ended up at a respectable 8.4 litres/100km.
As South Africa creeps back out of the various stages of lockdown and we come to grips with a battered economy, buyers are going to be a lot more savvy with their money and the Pik Up certainly presents value for money in the double cab and leisure market.
As an example: A friend of mine who works for himself in an industry that was unable to operate until level 3, asked if he could have a look at the Pik Up. We met outside a butcher (where else?) for him to take a closer look and, having had a long affair with one of the opposition bakkies for work and leisure, is now seriously contemplating this option.
Personally, though, I would opt for the Karoo version that has a slightly “cooler” factor with decals, a nudge bar, roll bar, rubberised load bay, lockable roller deck and custom-designed off-road ready alloy wheels.
At R414 999 for the Pik Up and R429 999 for its Karoo version cousin, Mahindra is likely to ruffle a few feathers when we return to some semblance of normality.
The S11 Automatic and S11 Automatic Karoo come with a standard 4-year/120 000km technical warranty and free roadside assistance plan. It also has a comprehensive service plan for 5 years or 100 000km.