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Brand New Mahindra PIK-UP

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Steane Klose | Aug 17, 2008 | 25 Comments

Okay, the Mahindra Pik-Up isn’t completely new to the local auto scene (having arrived in 2007), but our road testing is, so when TMI offered me a Pik-Up for a week, I was happy to accept the keys. The fact that I was moving house had absolutely nothing to do with it... at all.

I must confess to an unnatural interest in Indian and Chinese auto manufacturers. The coming years will see them become a part of the Australian automotive landscape and a close-up look at their products is a fascinating proposition.

Mahindra is an Indian manufacturer that started out assembling Willys Jeeps in the last year of WW2. From that inauspicious start, the company has grown to the point where it is now one of the world’s largest tractor manufacturers and, at one stage last year, was teaming up with Tata to buy Jaguar and Land Rover. Mahindra’s specialty is rugged and tough working vehicles.

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The Pik-Up is the ‘second coming’ for Mahindra, who first tried to break into the Australian market with their Bushranger and Stockman 4x4's back in 1990 – they lasted three years. This time around, according to their Australian importation company, TMI Pacific, they are here to stay.

The Pik-Up on test was the 4x4 double cab, which was driven with some verve out of the dealer’s workshop to screech to a halt in front of me - wearing the plates PIKUP3. The driver handed me the keys and a warning: “She’s a chick magnet mate!” Righteo then.

The pre-flight inspection revealed what looked like a ruggedly built 4x4, with distinctive if somewhat dubious looks. Think Russian utilitarianism, made in India. The design is basic but sturdy; with a double-walled tray and reasonable panel fit and finish, you get the feeling that the Pik-Up will take a bit of punishment.

The 4x4 double-cab on test retails for a rock bottom $29,990 and for that you get a comfortable if patchy interior, air-conditioning, electric windows, remote central locking, a Kenwood MP3 stereo with iPod jack, rotary switch selectable 4WD engagement and automatic locking front hubs.

mahindra_02

The cabin and tray area are both well-sized and the Pik-Up sports a set of comfy seats for both front and rear occupants. If you are familiar with Japanese manufacturers’ offerings in the dual-cab ute segment (mostly made in Malaysia these days) then the interior quality of the Pik-Up will be a let down. There are plenty of rough edges to the plastic, and some poorly fitting trim pieces - but it all works and nothing fell off or broke in my week behind the wheel.

Motor vehicles in general have improved immensely over the last decade and occupant safety is a particular area that has improved in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, the Pik-Up appears to be a good 10 years or more behind the eight-ball in this regard and ANCAP crash-testing has seen the Pik-Up score a lowly two stars. There are no airbags and ABS brakes are optional, but TMI Australia has advised that both driver and passenger airbags will become available sometime in 2008.

I’ve somewhat unwittingly covered the Pik-Up’s major downsides early in the piece - safety, quality and looks - but that’s not to say that the Pik-Up doesn’t have its charms. You have to view this vehicle with one eye firmly fixed on the price. Remember, for $29,990 you are getting a rugged, roomy and comfortable 4x4 diesel twin-cab ute.

All Pik-Up variants are fitted with the same modern 2.5-litre common-rail turbo diesel engine producing 79kW and 247Nm between 1800 and 2200 rpm. It might be light on kilowatts but its packing some handy torque low in the rev range and punting the Mahindra around town is a cinch.

The only gearbox available in the Pik-Up range, a five speed manual, is relatively friendly, on occasion needing a little more effort than normal to coax it out of third gear, but on the whole it was an easy drive. Arguably, the Triton is the class leader for ride in this segment, yet the Pik-Up can hold its head high, with an impressive ride quality given its ‘truck-like’ origins. Sure, it will get a little ruffled on mid-corner bumps, and undulating roads will set-up some bounciness in the rear, but on the whole it handled suburban work quite comfortably.


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Most road tests of the Pik-Up 4X4 have concentrated on its off-road ability, but where I see the Pik-Up making real sense is with tradies and contractors. Why spend $45,000+ for a Triton, Navara or HiLux just to belt it around on the job, when a rough and tumble Pik-Up will handle it all and leave a sizeable chunk of change?

The Pik-Up will handle a muddy building site with ease and carry just as much as the competition, but when the apprentice runs it into the cement mixer (and you know he will) you can simply shrug it off, after clipping him behind the ear of course. It would be a different story if it was your metallic red $50k+ HiLux.

So with visions of the Pik-Up cutting it as an urban workhorse, I hitched up the trailer, stacked it high (did I mention I was moving?) and hit the road hauling a load.

The Pik-Up handled the trip with relative ease. The 2.5-litre diesel took the load in its stride, the clutch didn’t complain, the brakes were strong under load, in fact the whole experience was fuss free. No, it doesn’t have the power or torque reserves of a Triton, HiLux or Navara diesel but it got the job done. What it lacks in looks, it makes up for with a big heart and a willing attitude.

One aspect of Pik-Up driving that takes a little getting used to, is the attention that you’ll attract. Everyone looks at the Pik-Up. Some point and laugh but most are just curious. One of the Caterpillar drivers at the tip even shut down his rig and spent 15 minutes talking to me about the Pik-Up. He thought it was made in China, an indication that TMI Pacific still has a way to go in getting the Mahindra message out into the heartland.

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Driving the Pik-Up around town and on the highway for a week revealed little in the way of faults. It’s as easy to drive in traffic as any of the manual diesel twin-cabs on the market. Highway work revealed an excess of road and engine noise but nothing that would be a deal breaker, given the price. It handled 100km/h plus highway work with plenty in reserve and the front pews proved themselves to be quite comfortable. In this regard they are superior to those found in the Triton.

A couple of hours spent tooling along corrugated dirt roads reassured that the Pik-Up is a solid platform. The lads in the TMR chase car (the SS-V Sportwagon) noticed the side panels of the ute tray getting a wobble up, but the Pik-Up felt solid, with no noticeable rattles or vibrations making themselves evident inside the cabin.

Off the road, and while we didn’t do any serious 4-wheel-driving, the Pik-Up proved that its combination of good ground clearance and low front overhang would see it make a good fist of some tough situations.

It would be easy to jump into a review of the Pik-Up and be overly negative, perhaps a little sensationalist even, but that would be selling this particular truck short. And sure, many will compare it to the Japanese utes (I’m guilty of that in this very review) but the reality is that the Mahindra is re-blazing a trail, a trail that the Japanese manufacturers left some time ago – simple, honest, rugged, cheap and built for work.

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Now, I can honestly say that I enjoyed my time with the Pik-Up. But that aside, buyers as they always do, are going to weigh up the pros and the cons before driving the Pik-Up off the dealer’s lot. It has a lot to offer, but to really succeed it will need a reputation for reliability and readily available parts. The reliability will be proven over time; the strength of the dealer network and parts supply is in the hands of TMI Pacific and will no doubt be improving as they expand across Australia.

A 2-star ANCAP crash test score and no airbags is unforgiveable in this day and age but, again, that is a criticism that is in part being rectified with the fitment of airbags later this year.

We all know that Australians like their cars to be lookers – a lesson Ford learnt the hard way with the AU Falcon – and the Pik-Up does challenge the average Aussie’s sense of style. Re-sale values are anyone’s guess and are always a factor for the switched on purchaser.

It feels robust and, with Mahindra’s reputation for building rugged, reliable machinery, there is no reason to question the Pik-Up as a long term proposition. Of course, some buyers will prefer to wait until it's had a chance to bed itself into the market and demonstrate its worth as a willing, reliable, no-nonsense work-horse.


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Our week with the Pik-Up satisfied us that it is worth a good hard look.

If you’re in the market for a basic, tough workhorse, to punish at work or on the trails, and at a price that won’t scare the accountant, then the Pik-Up is not a bad drive at all and could well fill the bill.

The Last Word

It’s no chick-magnet, but remember Aussies, beauty is only skin deep and the price is right.

steane-likes

  • Honest ruggedness
  • Comfortable interior
  • Diesel fuel economy
  • The price
  • The drive
  • The oddball styling

steane-dislikes

  • The oddball styling
  • Front airbags should be standard
  • Only a 2-star ANCAP rating
  • ABS should be standard

Price as tested

Mahindra Pik-Up 2.5 CRDe Turbo Diesel Double Cab 4x4 - $ 29,990 (RRP Inc GST)

Standard Equipment

  • Common rail turbo diesel engine (CRDe)
  • Automatic locking hubs on 4x4s
  • Limited slip differential
  • Electric shift 4WD
  • Power steering
  • Tilt steering wheel
  • Power windows
  • Air Conditioning
  • Front and rear interior 12v accessory points fitted
  • Utility spaces indoor trim (Map pocket, cup & mobile holder)
  • Rear demister
  • Kenwood stereo + SD/USB/MP3/CD player with remote wireless tuner
  • Cab protector
  • Steel side step
  • Alloy wheels optional
  • Metallic paint standard (excluding Diamond White & Arctic White)
  • 180 degree tail gate opening
  • Large size steel tray
  • Remote locking
  • Fog lights

Specifications

Pik-Up Dual Cab/Single Cab CRDe Turbo

Engine: 4 cylinder common rail (CRDe) turbo diesel to Euro 4

94mm bore, 90mm stroke, 2498cc. 18.5:1 compression

Power: 79kW @ 3800
Torque: 247Nm @ 1800 – 2200
Transmission: NGT, 5 speed manual

1st gear 17.20 : 1

2nd gear 9.51 : 1

3rd gear 6.28 : 1

4th gear 4.55 : 1

5th gear 3.53 : 1

Final drive 4.55 : 1

Transfer Case (4WD): Borg Warner electric shift

High 1:1

Low 1:2.48

Clutch: Hydraulic, diaphragm type single plate
Axle Ratio: 4.55 LSD
Steering: Rack & pinion hydraulic power assisted
Turning Circle: 12.6m
Brakes: Hydraulic with vacuum assisted servo. Front 272mm diameter, 21mm thick ventilated discs. Rear - drum. Park brake on rear wheels.
Suspension: Front: Independent front suspension, torsion bar with stabiliser bar & hydraulic shock absorbers

Rear: Multi layered semi-elliptic leaf spring

Wheels: Steel Disc Type – Size 6.5Jx16” wheel rim. Alloy optional

Tyres: 245 / 75 R16”

Ground Clearance: 210mm
Tray (LxBxH): 2294 x 1520 x 550 (Single Cab)

1489 x 1520 x 550 (Double Cab)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 80 litres
Colours: Diamond White

Arctic White

Apple Red

Turf Green

Fiery Black

Mist Silver

Rocky Beige

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