The XUV300 has been available for about 3 years in SA, and recently was presented with a minor facelift and model upgrade.

From a marketing perspective, Mahindra SA have claimed the mantle of "The Safest Car in Africa". A very bold statement backed up by a recent NCAP test that gave results of 5 * adult and 4* child ratings. These are the highest achieved by any car tested to date under the African testing schedule. This is a major kudo for Mahindra and worthy of boasting in your product marketing.

The XUV300 is a crossover/SUV model in the range. As always, this category involves compromise between rear seat and boot space. Mahindra have chosen to maximize passenger space resulting in a rather small boot. Personally, this is a compromise that I would choose and you always have the option of increasing load space by dropping the 60/40 split rear seats if needed.

Our test car was the range topping W8 specification which includes features like 7 airbags (across the range) full leather interior (now in dark brown instead of the light cream colour of the previous model), 9" touchscreen infotainment system including navigation and reverse camera, keyless entry and push button start plus standard sunroof.

Many local testers have complained about the touchscreen being very slow in response, I actually had no complaints in this regard and the system, including navigation loaded quickly and efficiently on the car that I was driving. However, I cannot say the same about the stop/start system. The car stalled a number of times at robots and stop streets. After a few tries, I simply made it routine to disengage the system as part of my routine when starting the engine.

The XUV is offered with 2 engine options being a 1.2L petrol turbo or the 1.5 turbodiesel as tested. This engine provides 86kW and a massive 300Nm to the front wheels though a very light and slick 6 speed manual transmission. Mahindra do not offer an automatic option in SA at present. I think that many more buyers would look at the XUV300 if an automatic was available. Power is good and the engine was very responsive during this test at the coast. Being a turbodiesel, I do not think performance will be compromised at altitude either.

A big bonus with this engine is the fuel consumption of 16km per liter that I achieved in mainly urban driving. Open road driving or cruising should see this closer to 20km per liter or 5 l/100km.

Besides a few small foibles, the XUV300 impressed and I've left the best for last. With pricing from R234 999 to R336 999 as tested, it ranks as an absolute bargain. Add in a 5 year/ 90 000km service plan and 5 year/ 150 000 km warranty as well.

Alan Rosenmeyer:   MotorMatters: