TESTED: Mahindra Scorpio-N is a capable adventure SUV with a keen price tag

Published May 19, 2023


REVIEW: Mahindra Scorpio-N 2.2D Z8 L

Johannesburg – It’s unusual for a vehicle to stick around for two decades without a replacement, but somehow the previous-gen Mahindra Scorpio soldiered on as a somewhat rudimentary but rugged SUV offering for those seeking a capable 4x4 on a budget.

It might have taken 20 years but finally there’s a new Mahindra Scorpio on the block, or Scorpio-N as they like to call it now, and it’s not just a facelift or rehash of the previous version.

Nor has it gone soft, for that matter. The Scorpio-N is built around a brand new body-on-frame architecture that proved sophisticated enough to earn the newcomer a five-star Global NCAP safety rating.

Styled by Pininfarina, the Scorpio-N is quite a looker in our opinion. There’s nothing daring or swoopy going on here, but its combination of smooth lines and relatively boxy proportions is easy on the eye and just looking at it makes us want to to pack it to the hilt and head for the Okavango Delta.

Although you might be tempted to think of it as a Toyota Fortuner rival, this Mahindra is actually closer in size to a Rav4. This makes it somewhat unique in the body-on-frame SUV space. If a Suzuki Jimny is too small for you, or you’re just afraid of losing it in a pothole, and a Fortuner is just too much of a ship, this Mahindra could strike the right balance. It’s also well priced, commanding between R465 000 and R590 000.

Despite its compact dimensions the Mahindra Scorpio-N still manages to accommodate seven occupants, although the third row is ideally suited to children and because the middle row seats are not slide-adjustable you can’t configure the legroom ratio between the two back rows.

In its fixed position, however, second row legroom is decent enough. With the third row in place there isn’t much of a boot and if you fold the third row down 90 degrees the surface isn’t flat and not really conducive to loading luggage.

Thankfully another pull of a lever allows the bench to tumble forward, creating a flat and deep loading area, but remember to tie it down or it might mutilate your luggage next time you accelerate.

The cockpit area is a huge leap forward versus the previous model, but thankfully it hasn’t gone the Full Digital Monty. You get a 20.32cm central touchscreen and, in the range-topping Z8 L model that we tested, an excellent ‘3D Immersive’ sound system by Sony.

But you still get conventional ventilation controls and overall the cockpit is quite user-friendly. There’s also a wireless charging dock that worked effortlessly every time, and iPhone pairing with the infotainment system proved quick and glitch-free.

But what’s it like to drive the new Mahindra Scorpio-N?

Power comes from an improved 2.2-litre mHawk turbodiesel that’s now rated at 128kW and 400Nm, paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox and either rear-wheel drive (in the base model) or a traditional four-wheel drive system with low range.

As far as we’re concerned, the Scorpio-N and this engine are a match made in heaven. It’s got just the right quantity of power and torque to provide effortless performance whether you’re in the city or on the open road and we never wished for more urge.

Although those compression ignition vibrations still make themselves felt and heard in the cabin, we were impressed by how quiet and smooth it felt under acceleration.

There is one chink in the armour, though. The stop-start system is slow and clunky, and it becomes particularly infuriating when you try to navigate an intersection during load shedding. To make matters worse, if you try to switch it off after it has activated at an intersection, the engine will stall completely, leaving you beached like a learner driver while you move the gear lever back to park and restart the engine.

Your best bet is to get into the habit of switching it off as soon as the engine starts up, and thankfully that’s not too difficult a task as the system has a piano-style physical switch above the centre console.

Overall fuel consumption, in the week we had it on test, amounted to 9.0 litres per 100km in a mixture of conditions.

The Scorpio-N’s on-road ride and handling could do with some improvement, though. The ride can get a bit bouncy and jittery when faced with badly maintained tar surfaces, which are becoming all too common these days.

The vehicle also feels a bit top-heavy through the bends. Granted, it was never designed to shoot through mountain passes like a GTI, but you will have to keep its high centre of gravity in mind when driving at higher speeds, particularly on loose or wet surfaces.

Of course, its compromised on-road manners are understandable to an extent, given that this is a body-on-frame SUV with a traditional part-time 4x4 system with low-range, designed to take this vehicle deep into the bush.

The 4WD system has electronic shift-on-the-fly and drivers can also choose from three modes: Zip, Zap and Zoom, which respectively prioritise smooth riding, off-roading and performance.


Although it comes with a few on-road compromises, the Mahindra Scorpio-N seriously impresses as an adventure vehicle with rugged underpinnings and a gem of a diesel engine. It’s also extremely well priced, ranging between R465 000 for the 4x2 base model and R590 000 for the flagship Z8 L 4x4 that we tested.

FACTS: Mahindra Scorpio-N 2.2D Z8 L 4Xplor

Price: R590 000

Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbodiesel

Gearbox: 6-speed automatic

Power: 128kW @ 3 500rpm

Torque: 400Nm @ 1 750 - 2 750rpm

Fuel use, tested overall: 9.0 litres per 100km

Fuel tank capacity: 57 litres

Warranty: 5-year/150 000km

Service plan: 5-year/100 000km

IOL Motoring