Malcolm Flynn | Jun 18, 2012 | 28 Comments


Vehicle type: Medium SUV
Price: 2WD: $29,900 | AWD: $32,900 (drive-away)
Power/Torque: 103kW/330Nm
Fuel efficiency (claimed): 6.7 l/100km



Mahindra’s new seven-seat XUV500 SUV is the brand’s second model to be launched in Australia, a full five years after the somewhat underwhelming Pik-Up ute reached our shores.

The medium-sized XUV500 is the Indian manufacturer’s first passenger vehicle to be designed - it says - for the world market.

Australia is third in line to get the XUV500, after launching in India in September 2011 and subsequently in South Africa. Europe is to follow next.

The chassis is a unique monocoque design; power comes from an uprated version of the 2.2 litre mHawk turbodiesel-four found in the Pik-Up.

Both 2WD and AWD drivetrains will be offered locally, with a six-speed manual being the only transmission available at this stage.

For under $33,000 drive-away, both drivetrains undercut similar sized seven-seat rivals by at least $5,000.

We were among the first to sample the XUV500 on Australian roads at Mahindra’s Australian launch in NSW’s Hunter Valley.

The drive included a good mix of rural sealed roads: ideal for testing the XUV500’s suitability for Australian conditions.



Australian XUV500s will launch in single W8 spec level, with very generous equipment levels for the price.

Standard equipment includes leather trim for all seats, chilled centre-console, climate control, sat-nav, automatic wipers and headlights, full Bluetooth connectivity, voice commands, six-inch multimedia display, tilt and reach adjustable steering, reverse sensors, tyre-pressure monitoring system, and LED daylight running lights.

The only optional extra at this stage is a reversing camera, with pricing yet to be finalised.

Safety features include six airbags, stability control, anti-lock brakes, hill assist and hill decent control, which helped the XUV500 earn a 4-Star ANCAP rating.

Mahindra wants five stars though, and has pledged to modify the model to suit within 12 months.

The interior’s design marks a massive leap in both quality and aesthetics from the Pik-Up model, signifying how seriously Mahindra is targeting export markets with the XUV500.

There is a mix of textures and colours throughout which at first glance could belong in a far higher price bracket.

2012 mahindra xuv500 launch review australia 12b
Compared with the established SUV competition however, the XUV500 falls behind in many areas.

The fit of several plastic panels can only be described as “crooked”, with key offenders being the dual glovebox lids and the dash-top storage bins.

The glossy faux-wood finish of the dash-top bin is also prone to creating annoying glare under sunlight.

Many of the tactile surfaces are of soft-touch plastics, but buttons and switchgear feel cheap.

And, despite the use of rubber stoppers and felt-lining on most apertures, several creaks and rattles were evident along the test route.

Kudos however must be awarded for the dedicated vents for third-row occupants, with individual temperature control – a rarity among all seven-seaters.

The seating position is high for all passengers, leading to excellent visibility through the deep side-windows.

Legroom is excellent for all, including third-row occupants, which is in turn detrimental to cargo capacity, leaving very little room behind the seats when upright.

There are cupholders for all passengers, along with bottle and umbrella holders in the front doors and an array of oddment storage cavities throughout.


On The Road

Out on the road, the XUV500 is streets ahead of the ageing Pik-Up, with a far more passenger-friendly overall experience.

However, like its interior, this experience lags behind others in the mid-size SUV category.

Although sitting on a monocoque chassis, the XUV500 gives the impression of a very high centre of gravity, more akin to rugged ladder-frame 4WD wagons.

The four-wheel independent suspension impresses on paper, but along the patchy rural bitumen test route, the ride was harsh at times.

The damper tuning certainly needs more work; at the wheel it felt like it was carrying a load greater than the two occupants on test.

Cabin noise too is not quite up to scratch; it’s quite pronounced with diesel clatter evident at all speeds (seeming to enter via the ventilation ducts).

We also found the electronically-assisted steering to be vague with a numb on-centre feel.

2012 mahindra xuv500 launch review australia 03
The relative inconvenience of the manual-only transmission is certain to deter many family buyers, but we found the six-speed to be very useful in extracting the most from the 103kW/330Nm 2.2 litre turbodiesel. Mind you, you have to row it along though.

Engine stop-start technology however is definitely on the plus side of the ledger.

The power and torque numbers look ok, certainly not startling, but don’t translate all that well to the real world.

However, the AWD example we tested had a mere 36km showing on its odometer, so we’ll forgive the rather sluggish performance it offered on test.


First Drive Verdict

Mahindra has made a credible leap into the fiercely competitive mid-size SUV segment with the XUV500.

It has won several awards in its homeland of India, but given the very capable options currently available on the Australian market - without burning too deep a hole in the pocket - success is going to be harder to find here.

Mahindra has however managed to spec the XUV500 very well, and its 4-Star ANCAP with a commitment to a 5-Star is a welcome surprise.

Keep an eye on TMR for a full test, where we’ll pay close attention to how achievable the XUV500’s impressive 6.7l/100km (claimed) combined fuel consumption figure is in the real world.



  • XUV500 - front-wheel-drive diesel manual - $29,990 drive-away
  • XUV500 - all-wheel-drive diesel manual - $32,990 drive-away

The first XUV500 cars are scheduled to hit Mahindra's 25 national dealers this week. The brand plans to double its dealer network over the next 12 months.


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