After having driven the Wagon R (VXi 2014) for around 9 years, I convinced myself that I had earned a second car. For almost a year's time, I have been browsing through innumerable auto magazines, websites, blogs etc. My screen time on YouTube increased drastically; most of which is due to binge watching car reviews.
What made to think of a second car?
Although a near perfect vehicle for meeting most of my daily needs, the Wagon R was a kind of compromise since a couple of years after buying the car. It is brutally practical, cost effective (I get >20 kmpl), spacious, budget friendly. However, it is not aspirational. On highways, I have to literally bury my wish to overtake. Even standing on the throttle doesn’t make any difference. Worse is the lack of confidence in braking. So the first thing I wanted in my second car was power and drivability. Other features like safety, ground clearance etc. followed in the list.
The search (starting with VW Taigun/ Skoda Kushaq)
From a very long time I have been fascinated by the design philosophy of Volkswagen. I remember how I always liked the Vento. Too many cuts and lines are deterrents to the overall design. The first vehicle to be test driven in the season was the VW Taigun. Extremely drivable car with highest safety rating. I drove both 1L TSI and 1.5L TSI. The 1.5L TSI with DSG is a king on the road. However, it’s too pricy. The 1L TSI was within our budget and we almost booked the car. There is only one showroom of VW in the entire North East - at Guwahati. The sales team is aggressive and were happy to help any time with any query. They even arranged for a test drive at Dibrugarh (450 km away from Guwahati!). Couple of things held up our decision with VW: 1) Poor service network, 2) Issues with AC cooling in 1L TSI. One more thing I can’t do with is however may be the performance, a 1L engine is a 1L engine. Even if it throws out 114 bhp, I have some doubts about the performance of the engine in the long run. I have watched videos where people weren’t liking it on the hills. I feel the same for Skoda Kushaq, which has a showroom in Dibrugarh.
Maruti Sisters (New Brezza and Grand Vitara)
Maruti is like a homecoming. Visiting the Maruti showroom made me comfortable as I knew the DNA of their service quality. Having driven Brezza several times in the past (as many of my colleagues have it), I had no intentions to take a test drive. I observed that the sunroof was an addition! As for Grand Vitara, I observed it is an unevenly long car and heavily underpowered. I don’t see why people should pay heavily for the Grand Vitara for the same engine. It feels helpless to know that Brezza, Ciaz, Ertiga, XL6, Grand Vitara…all run with the same engine with some variations and that too with such low safety rating. Needless to mention that hybrid was not on my "look for" list.
Hyundai Creta/ Venue
I must admit that Hyundai is one of the best when it comes to design and plastic engineering. The looks of both, Creta and Venue are stunning. I test drove a Creta 1.5L and found the performance linear and stable. The steering feedback is awesome and the drivability is exciting. The boot space in the Creta is adequate and the cabin looks clean and elegant. Hyundai has an excellent service network and eager to help staff (which comes from their Korean lineage). However, the downsides are unconfirmed safety ratings and low mileage. The car is a little overpriced considering it has been on the market for quite some time. Coming to the Venue, the rear seat is a huge letdown. It can barely accommodate two adults.
Kia Seltos/ Sonnet
Have you watched the videos on YouTube where the car breaks in two halves? For Kia, I must say, excellent design and aspirational. But I couldn’t convince myself to spend lakhs on a Car which is an excellent piece of plastic!
Now, this is one car which meets most of the abilities you look for in a car. Excellent drivability, good road presence, high safety ratings etc. A year back, one of my colleagues bought a Nexon 1.2L Turbo Petrol. Since then, I ran many errands using the Nexon. One thing I disliked was the engine noise...even at noticeable levels inside the cabin. Understand it is a 3-cylinder machine, however, some level of refinement is expected as after all, it’s a private car. Nonetheless, I kind of liked the car. But my wife feels that the rear seats give her a claustrophobic feeling due to the smaller windows in the rear. I kind of clung to the car for a long time - almost made up my mind. But due to long-term nudging by my wife, I found that yes, the car is over-designed.
XUV 300 TGDi
Honestly, Mahindra was never on my list. I carried a feeling that M&M cars are all diesel cars used by contractors and politicians (
). Me and my wife once just dropped into an M&M Showroom to check out the new Scorpio N. We learnt that the waiting time for the Scorpio N is one year!
While we were about to leave the showroom, this new white XUV 300 TDGi caught our attention. It looked stunning in the showroom. The red treatment on the grill area draws immediate attention. Then the engine performance blew my mind - 128 bhp of power and 230 Nm of torque pushed out of an mStallon engine! I wondered if its an underrated car as I had never come across a proper advertisement for the car. The likes of Venue and Grand Vitara have got so much more screen time.
At once I was convinced of the excellent performance this car would offer. However, convincing my wife for the car solely on engine performance was difficult. So I took her to the showroom again. She liked the simplicity of the design. The car has road presence….from the front it looks massive, the shoulder lines are bold, but then, it's suddenly compromised at the rear (they have to). I liked the tail-lamps. From the internet, I got to know XUV300 is an avatar of the successful Tivoli of SsangYong. I liked the rear stance of the car.
I made two subsequent visits to the showroom and then took a test drive. Once I took charge of the car, from the driving position, all inhibitions were dusted away. Such power delivery from a 1.2L engine, excellently silent cabin, awesome drivability and turning radius. There was no turning back since. We booked the car and in a week’s time, it was delivered. We opted for the white coloured top variant - W8(O). The sales guy pitched for chassis and underbody painting and I agreed. Purchased only a couple of accessories like mud flaps, window shades, rear parcel tray (surprisingly doesn’t come with this car!) and 3D floor mats.
My way of comparison
Although I made my mind to go with XUV300 TDGi, I ran the numbers and worked out a comparison (copy of Excel document attached).
After driving the car for a month now, the following are the listed upsides and downsides:
1. Performance (best in class by far)
2. Decent Mileage of 16-18 kmpl
3. Driving Comfort
4. 5 Star Safety / 6 Airbags
5. Too good Cabin Noise Insulation
6. Comfortable rear seat for 3 adults
7. All wheels disk brakes
8. Other features like ESP, Hill Hold etc.
9. Better quality plastics used interior
10. Good cabin design
11. Wide Sunroof
1. Boot Space (smaller than my existing Wagon R)
2. Dated Infotainment system (but works well without any lag)
Driving and ownership review
I was fortunate to take the car out on New Year's Day (01.01.2023). We were three adults in the car. The best part of the engine is that the turbo comes to life almost immediately. From my experience, I found revving at around 1.6k rpm will unleash the beast. The mid range is just awesome. Driving between third and fourth gears gives a supreme experience. I found the second gear a little uncomfortable. Summarily, the engine is best suited for mid range performance and this where most of the driving would be. I found the shifting between second and third gears a little clunky and hesitant. There is no dearth of power and torque in the car.
The suspension of the car is good but not as good as VW / Skoda cars in a similar budget. There is some amount of body roll in the curves. The car gives a good view from the driver's seat and is easy to manoeuvre. Although three steering modes are given, I find the steering feedback just average. The infotainment looks dated. Mahindra could have easily worked on it in line with the one provided in Scorpio-N. However, performance lovers would hardly care for such soft features. The Apple CarPlay works fine with no lag. The BlueSense app has limited functionality and works only when inside the car (which is weird).
I am looking to go for a long drive very soon and hopefully, will come up with a detailed blog.