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Old 13th December 2021, 06:21   #1
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Choosing an SUV up to 22L | Seltos, Harrier / Safari, Hector Plus, Compass, XUV700, Kicks, Scorpio N

Hi Folks,

Replacing the Optra Magnum after a decade of fruitful ownership. 'Finally' some might say. After having ‘Driven’ a few, seeking views from fellow mates for ‘Choosing' a vehicle.

Briefly: Being a bigly built guy with some recent back-issues, need a high vehicle with easy ingress+egress, a lot of headroom, legroom and foot-room. Am much inclined towards a torquey diesel. Fun to drive, though much desired comfort for the back is more important. Ideally of course have both. Budget reluctantly stretched it to about 20L OTR. 22L is a stretch to not rule out the Jeep Compass

Test Drive Reports + Thoughts below:
  • Kia Seltos
  • Tata Harrier / Safari
  • MG Hector / Hector Plus
  • Jeep Compass
  • Mahindra XUV700 (page 1, discussion on page 6)
  • Nissan Kicks 1.3 Turbo (page 12)
  • XUV300 Petrol (Mini TD, page 14)
  • Notes on Skoda Slavia and Skoda Kushaq (NOT a TD, page 14)
  • Second Round of TD (page 15 - mainly about NVH and daily driving)
  • Mahindra Scorpio-N (long test drive experience - page 16)
Besides my own search, the idea of the thread also is to help fellow T-Bhpians looking for similar vehicles to select based on observations and drives shared here.

~~~~~~~~~~


Some background/intro:

The last time I sought help from mates for selecting a car, was overwhelmed by the affection, camaraderie and interest. While the decision got made in about 12 pages, the thread became a more general thread and had 700 posts in 4 months, and became the first thread in What Car-Sedans section to cross over one lakh views. That was a decade ago.

Links:
Main What-Car thread (Choosing a Spacious Diesel Sedan upto 12L)


Sister Thread (Driven! Vento, Optra, Linea, SX4, Manza. EDIT: Fluidic Verna (pg4), New Fiesta (Pg5))

Ownership thread (Finally! ďDriven!Ē & ďChosen a Diesel SedanĒ Ė The VVS Magnum (Chevrolet Optra))


Details of Needs and Wants:
  • Intend to keep the vehicle for long. Say 9-10 years if it holds up well.
    .
  • Need a spacious vehicle. Am bigly built.
    • A comfortable seat
    • Lots of headroom
    • Ample legroom
    • Decent space in the foot-well, ideally with a dead-pedal.
    .
  • Convenient ingress+egress is important. To be easily slide onto the seat is highly desired, hence focused on an SUV.
    .
  • A mix of self and chauffeur driven. It will typically have 1-2 people in the car.
    .
  • Monthly usage is highly uncertain. Could well be a few hundred a month, or even 2000kms odd kms a month.
    .
  • Mainly city usage. Could well have ample city-suburb use which includes expressways. Within the city too, less of bumper to bumper and more of free roads travel. Unlikely to have much highway use, but want to be prepared in case it is to be used such.
    .
  • An Airy cabin is much preferred.
    .
  • Features and Gizmos are not a focus, though don’t hurt. I’d any day prefer a better suspension (ride+handling) to the bling-gizmos.
    .
  • Quite dislike the idea of an automatic, so am only considering Manual Transmission. It just feels natural, enjoyable and intuitive to me.
    .
  • Due to what I’ve been used (about 230Nm/tonne) to and enjoyed, and also potential use, have only focused on diesel till now.
    .
  • Budget: started with about 14-15 in mind while exploring, but have reached about 20L OTR. Very unhappy to extend beyond that.
While I have already paid a booking amount and am frustrated with the wait, I am willing/considering a change. To avoid bias and keep views flowing freely, let us ignore that a booking has been made - at least for now.

Please share your thoughts.

Thanks,
Poitive.

Last edited by Aditya : 29th July 2022 at 18:26. Reason: As requested
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:23   #2
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Re: Choosing an SUV up to 22L (Spacious, Urban) DRIVEN: Seltos, Harrier / Safari, Hector /Plus, Comp

~~~~~ Sort-of Rambling Starts (please skip this section if youíre reading in a hurry) ~~~~~

I like my car to be low slung, with a good independent suspension as the Optra Magnum had. Really enjoyed that finely tuned independent multi-link suspension and how it gave a wonderful ride, yet was an extremely well controlled car. Not as quick to react to steering inputs as itís lighter and firm-suspension rivals might be, but a little anticipation took care of that. I have gotten spoilt with that. Got that for a bit over 9 lakhs about a decade ago Ė a lot of car for the money, and almost no bling.

It also had amongst the highest torque to weight ratios up to cars four times the price! (IIRC only the BMW 3 series, and perhaps one more had a higher ratio) So, been used to that sort of pulling power from a low RPM. It spoils you.

We usually try to spend as per our need, than splurge much on cars. Many other hobbies and expenses to take care of If something of immense value comes up, one is willing to look at it.

With the above, you might ask: Why an SUV?


As much as I like cars with a low centre of gravity, it causes the following issues in my case:

Ingress+egress: It becomes an issue. That is my only major gripe with the Optra Magnum. A crossover or an SUV takes care of that aspect. I couldnít think of a crossover appealing enough. Some back issues, which just might be transient in nature, made me think that I donít want to commit to a vehicle I intend to keep for several years, and might trouble my back.

Headroom: With a change in car design styles, roof lines usually taper down significantly, and there is insufficient headroom, especially at the rear seat. With my height and body proportions, my head almost touches the ceiling of a Passat, canít sit in a Cruze or Vento Ė so you get the idea. In some cars, I even have a bit of an issue on the front seat, but that is rare.

The Hunt Begins:

Being extremely cautious about the pandemic (especially considering older members of the family), tried to minimize the test drives. Saw tonnes of youtube videos, pictures, stats, and of course T-bhp to narrow down things.

Trying to keep finances in check, especially after the big pandemic hit, casually started with what was priced around the Optra Magnum then Ė a Honda City. So a budget of about 12-14 odd lakhs OTR, I thought.

Honda City: Since it is a bit taller than the typical sedan (certainly as compared to the Optra), and have not really struggled with ingress-egress, considered it. Didnít specifically try it, but have spent ample time in itís various avatars to have a general idea. Somehow, despite good finish and features, and a much talked about engine, it really felt a big step down from the Optra Magnum in terms of driving pleasure and confidence. The steadiness, composure and torque of the Optra was not to be expected.

Vehicles considered:

Mahindra XUV300: 2600 wheelbase on a budget
Status: Did not test. Others felt more appropriate.

Hyundai Creta and Kia Seltos: Much talked about and good reviews. Appropriate budget.
Status: Seltos Test Driven. Impressions below.

Tata Harrier/ Tata Safari: Spacious with trims in an acceptable budget.
Status: Test Driven. Impressions below

MG Hector/ MG Hector Plus: Despite talk of unimpressive handling, was an obvious consideration for a spacious SUV. 2750mm wheelbase.
Status: Test Driven. Impressions below

Mahindra XUV700: Besides the badge, checked many of the boxes. Especially a multi-link suspension and the frequency sensing dampers.
Status: Not yet test driven. Studied a fair bit on the net including Youtube videos for space etc. Shared impressions based on that below.

Volkswagen Tiagun and Skoda Kushaq: Look impressive. Wheelbase of 2651 yet compact enough for city use.
Status: Not test driven. Mainly because there is no diesel engine.

Jeep Compass (Base Model Ė Sport): Ticked many boxes, especially driving pleasure.
Status: Test Driven. Impressions below. Stretches budget beyond comfort.

Quickly dismissed:

Toyota Innova Crysta: Personal discomfort to Van/MPV look, Extra life over 10 years less meaningful. Too large for city use?

Hyundai Elantra: Diesel is only 1.5 litre, petrol at 2.0 likely to have low FE. Form factor (not high enough for easy ingress-egress?)

Mahindra Thar/Force Gurkha: Very appealing to the heart, but only 2 door. Seemed impractical for daily use, especially when being chauffeured.

Mahindra Scorpio: Felt dated, without requisite positive to compensate. Hadnít liked it when I had driven the old versions (drive wasnít confidence inspiring enough)

Tata Nexon, Maruti Brezza etc : Wheelbase less than 2600mm. Imagine them to be cramped, especially in the rear. Other better options in the list.

Isuzu D-Max with mods: Seemed an interesting option, however thought: potential , time consuming, questionable service support, too big, fuel efficiency.

~~~~ Sort-of Rambling Ends ~~~~
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:27   #3
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Test Drives Summary (Kia Seltos, Tata Harrier, MG Hector, Jeep Compass)

Test Drives

Folks, the test drives were done with my specific needs in mind, and would not be as detailed as the ones I had shared on T-Bhp a decade ago. They were also done over a longish period a few months ago, so my recollection of things might be somewhat compromised. They are also very personal opinions and observations. Please bear with me. The point also is to not repeat what has been said numerous times, but share how I experienced things and my subjective opinions about the same (which also just might help some fellow-mates).

We’ve maintained extreme precautions during Covid, hence I tried to limit the number of test drives I took. They were done in the evening with traffic building up and somewhat limited option to really stretch the vehicle. Typically with 2-3 occupants in the vehicle (me and 1-2 from the dealership).

The test drives were not focused on features etc, but mainly focused on driving feel, in-cabin comfort, and ingress-egress, and some general observations.

If NOT in a rush, please skip the summaries here, and savour more detailed drive experiences below. Have added summaries there too. This post is like a handbook or sorts.

Kia Seltos - Summary
  • Good handling. Nimble (good in city). Well controlled. Soft steering.
  • Felt underpowered after the 2000cc 1370kg Optra. Sufficient, but not exciting. Decent brakes.
  • Ride felt terribly harsh, coming from the Optra’s multilink to an almost unacceptable level.
  • Fairly good ergonomics. Floor sunk-in while entering. Front ingress-egress was good. Good driving position.
  • Rear felt highly claustrophobic (tall front seats adding to it). Just about legroom in the rear. Ingress-egress not great.
  • Good form factor for the city. A refined experience, especially at lower RPMs.
Tata Harrier - Summary
  • Taught chassis with (very?) good handling/dynamics at different speeds. Enjoyable hydraulic steering. Good driving feel.
  • Ride, though not excellent, was about acceptable – both front and back.
  • The engine had sufficient power/torque, but not really rushed as one might expect (350Nm on a heavy vehicle). Brakes felt good, not excellent.
  • Ergonomic issues. Knee-console issue difficult to reconcile with, and a huge concern.
  • Ingress-egress was comfortable. Headroom okay. Spacious cabin was appreciated. Quite an airy feel.
  • Handsome looking, but with inconsistent design in the interior – the part one actually touches and feels every day.
  • NVH and overall refinement barely acceptable, with fear of it getting worse with time.
  • Ergonomic issues aside, this came across as the one to take out for a highway drive.
Tata Safari - Summary
(This TD was more to evaluate the Harrier than the Safari per se – please also see Harrier’s TD above)
  • Knee-console issue somewhat better after many adjustments, though still compromised, and disturbing overall comfort.
  • Rear seats were too high for easy ingress and especially egress. Third row wasn’t checked at all.
  • The extra weight at the rear could be felt and not as much fun as the Harrier.
  • Rest similar to the Harrier, as above (for my purposes)

MG Hector and Hector Plus - Summary
  • Brilliant low speed ride, especially in the front row. High speed on the rear bench somewhat bouncy. Excellent comfort for city speeds.
  • Quite well controlled (better IMO than most reviews suggest), non-hydraulic but decent comfort based steering. Not agile. A highway cruiser, but not for spirited driving due to it’s suspension characteristics (?) Might be uncomfortable in the rear bench (if with less load, which is typical for me) for high speed driving.
  • Somewhat odd appearance/proportions, yet one that is likely to age well. IMO tasteless use of chrome on the (front) exterior (the plus is way better).
  • Suitable ergonomics for my body, especially driving position. Hardware buttons sorely missed. Rear seat recline a boon. Very spacious (especially for 4). Loved the airy feel, even from the rear seat.
  • Refined feel and well managed NVH. Gear changes (post clutch release) felt smoother than others here.
  • Fiat’s MJD engine felt better tuned on the Hector, than the Harrier. More refined here. Good confidence inspiring well weighed brakes.
Jeep Compass - Summary
  • An absolute joy to drive. Excellent control. Agile, sprightly, feel of good weight distribution. Despite EPS, steering had a hydraulic-like control feeling – kudos! Gear shifts felt right. The drive touches one’s heart!
  • Ride wasn’t Seltos harsh, but not as comfy as the Hector, or even the Harrier in most conditions. Not bouncy though.
  • The Fiat MJD felt faster on this one. The brakes were sure footed and confident.
  • Ingress-egress was acceptable. Seat ergonomics good. Excellent driving position wrt the adjustable armrest and gear knob. Loved the feel of the gear knob. Front was quite good, though not Harrier/Hector spacious.
  • Knee discomfort due to dash-console. Partially managed with seat way back, leaving little space for rear bench. Very surprising that Jeep too has this problem.
  • Rear bench felt somewhat cramped, both physically and visually. Top of window felt low. Just about enough space for 4 large adults in the vehicle. If the driver seat adjusted to avoid knee-console issue, then only 3 large adults + one small adult.
  • NVH management better than Harrier, but not as good as Seltos or Hector. Not bothersome though. A sense of style and x-factor in design in both exteriors and especially interiors (dash/ac, gear knob).

Mahindra XUV700 - Summary
(added later, after test drive of 21 December)
  • Fantastic free revving brute of an engine. Smooth too. Good brakes (?) Steering unjustifiably lifeless for this setup.
  • Very enjoyable yet incomplete driving feel. Somewhat like a senior Jeep Compass without steering feel. Sure-footed. For it’s size, weight and form factor (high centre of gravity), it felt quite agile.
  • Disappointing low speed ride (questionable city comfort?). Good highish speed ride and control. FSD Mulitilink needs better tuning?
  • Ergonomics range from excellent (armchair-like sitting) to poor (controls etc on the door) to inexcusable (co-driver ingress-egress for a tall person). No knee-console issue. Comfortable footwell. From the front, cabin width feels impressive and well used. Front seat comfortable.
  • Rear ingress-egress not as good as Harrier-Hector, but acceptable. Rear is comfortable, but didn’t justify the overall large size and 2750mm wheelbase - didn’t feel as comfortable as Harrier-Hector. Not as airy as the Hector.
  • NVH, while generally good, a hum sound was disturbing and a potential ageing pain. Good vibration control. Traffic noise like a segment lower.
  • With better steering feel, would have taken this one out for the highway for it’s multilink and engine, but till the EPS is sorted, it the Harrier it is.
  • Eventually felt like a 75% worked out body with a fantastic engine, with a yet to be fine-tuned suspension.

EDIT - Mahindra XUV700 report added now

Nissan Kicks 1.3 Turbo Petrol – Summary
(please bear in mind the compromised nature of the test drive as elaborated in the full report)
  • Well worked out practical cabin setup. Decent ergonomics. Impressive headroom on the rear bench.
  • Practical size for the city. More spacious than Compass etc. Lowish top of windscreen height. High enough top of window, especially at the rear.
  • Enjoyable Hydraulic steering. Good feel. Enthusiasts could appreciate this dying tribe; typical buyer might find it ‘heavy’, especially if used to a light EPS.
  • Excellent suspension-chassis setup. Appears good enough to take a way more powerful engine.
  • Suspension-chassis-steering setup should feel very good for city, highway drives and even hills. Good comfort and control.
  • Engine, a big let-down for me. Doesn’t do justice to the overall enthusiast setup. Didn’t feel practical either (for sheer practicality the 1.5NA just might be better).
  • The immensely peaky spread of torque (power) and it coming at a high rpm was bothersome for regular use. Suitable power came late for a turbo (around 3-3.5k RPM), and it was noisy then. The engine and it’s tuning didn’t agree with me.
  • The high rpm engine noise and traffic noise was bothersome, however it didn’t feel harsh.
  • If you find the engine to your taste, it just might be the car you missed out considering, especially if you enjoyed the Jeep Compass Petrol for it’s driving manners and didn’t want to spend for it. (Note: I make the Jeep Compass remarks based on paper specs of the petrol model and having tried out the Compass Diesel on long test drives, so please consider opinions accordingly.)

EDIT - Nissan Kicks Turbo report added now

Mahindra Scorpio-N – Summary
  • Imposing in the rear-view mirror. Handsome and muscular front. Incoherence in overall visual design; especially the rear.
  • High ingress-egress needs a step. Good ingress aperture. Surprisingly poor ergonomics – seat, footwell, pedals’ space and angle, door, armrests, door handles etc. Good knee position to drive, but poor in second row.
  • Airy cabin, sufficient space (6’ behind 6’), but lesser than outer dimensions suggest. Overall, moderate refinement in the cabin and worse than unibody competition on average.
  • Rear seat moderately comfortable; reclineable; poor armrest height. Usable width lesser than Harrier/Safari?
  • Super quiet cabin for it's type; moderate vibrations.
  • Ride is inconsistent – can handle large speed-breakers and tge like rather well, but small undulations felt more than expected. More obvious on longer drives and on the rear bench. Didn't feel properly settled at most times, even on good roads.
  • Easy comfort-oriented soft EPS steering with almost no feedback - slightly better than XUV700; a bit slow in the centre. Not particularly agile (as expected for size/nature). IMO, this deserved a sorted HPS.
  • Better dynamics and handling than size, height, and BoF suggest, but not as good as unibody competition. Impression: Not for insane highway speeds; please don't get carried away.
  • Easier to drive in town than size suggests. Decent highway and city vehicle if outer size is acceptable. VFM 4x4 which can usefully do family duties as well.
  • Decent brakes, with moderate feedback. Not excellent; nothing to complain either.
  • Ride, handling etc are poorly represented in the summary and need a proper reading to understand - check the 4 parts about the suspension.
  • In essence, a good VFM 4x4 usable as a family vehicle, or one for rural roads, or those who really need a BoF vehicle, which comes with Mahindra’s widespread service network.

EDIT - Mahindra Scorpio-N report added now

Last edited by Aditya : 21st July 2022 at 07:31. Reason: As requested
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:30   #4
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Driven - Kia Seltos Test Drive

Kia Seltos (diesel, manual) – Test Drive impressions

Background
This was the smallest of the one test driven till now. Almost did not TD it due to the size, but wanted to be sure that I was not missing out on what is a very popular choice, and one written about quite positively for it’s handling characteristics, I thought I must try it. Was sort of, to be sure about ruling it out.

So the Seltos arrives for a TD after a lot of to and fro from the dealership, but thankfully in short time. Too system driven. Possibly a good thing in the long run.

In the right colour, I find it amongst the smartest looking vehicles from the front till a much higher price band. Not taking the perceptional difference a brand-name can make, but the pure aesthetic form of it. The rear is above average, but nothing impressive or bothersome.

Main
Despite it’s relatively small size, I was surprised at it being easy to get in and out of. Also found a fairly comfortable driving position without much issues. Ample headroom in the front. Though there was no running away from it being a compact SUV, it did do the basics right. Ergonomically. However the base of the door opening was significantly higher than the car floor, and it did stand out. Overall, I was impressed. Good finish too, as is expected from the Hyundai/Kia stable. I’m not particularly fond of screens which visually jut out from the dash, as has become the norm now. Seltos had one and it was a tad odd for me. Did not spend much time on it, but a quick impression was that the interface and graphics were reasonably well thought out.

It felt fairly taught to drive. The higher CoG (centre of gravity) notwithstanding, it felt like one could maneuver it at decent speeds quite accurately. I could understand why it was praised by enthusiasts. Felt rather composed. The brakes too felt good.

Moving further, on somewhat more open roads, and I could feel the big difference in what I was used to from the 2000cc torque-oozing Optra and the 1500cc frugal Seltos. It felt relatively under-powered and became harsher as the RPM increased. At lower speeds/RPM the Seltos felt surely quieter and refined than the Optra Magnum, but on stretching it, it felt rougher; yet it was excellent on the whole. While I would not call it sorely lacking, the turbo induced torque thrust I was used to was lacking and I thought I’d regularly be missing it had I gone in for this vehicle. With much in favour of the car on the whole, especially it’s outer dimensions being city friendly, I was not ready to rule it out just yet.

Though I was largely on good roads till then, I could feel undulations more than I was used to, but since the roads were good, it was hardly a deal-breaker. Come some moderately bad roads, and I was aghast – it felt that every little crevice and bump on the road was being transferred to my skeletal structure (slight exaggeration for effect here, of course). It was way too far from the cushy ride I had so gotten used to with the brilliantly tuned multi-link suspension of the Optra. It was almost unacceptable. The tyre pressures too were close to recommended (one should expect the TP to rise a few points as the tyres warm up) in 3 tyres and one was underinflated, so I could not blame that either. The firmness of the suspension aside, it was quite a good handler, and one felt in good control, though it lacked the big car driving feel. A bit more like a senior-raised-hatch. The steering though light, was not really bothersome for me. It also felt quite nimble for city use. Quite practical in that sense.

Despite the above issues, I still wanted to persist and not rule it out, especially no car being perfect for my needs within an acceptable budget. Now I move to the back seat, after signing the form with the time of ending my control of the car. The ingress was not as convenient at the rear as in the front. The floor-lip made it a bit worse, as did the gap between the B-pillar and the seat. Was just within acceptable limits (IIRC). The legroom was not lavish, but quite livable. The headroom was within acceptable limits. Being tall for an Indian, I hardly expect under-thigh support, and rarely focus much on it, unless something feels bothersome. This did not feel so.

However, what got to me was something rather strange and subjective. I felt visually very cramped in the rear. It was dark by then. The top of the window felt a bit low. What especially bothered was how the front seats towered and one felt to be in a visual cocoon or sorts. It gave me a very odd and unhappy feeling. One enough to not overlook the other shortcomings I logically felt before.

Both the head and heart now said no in unison.

Kia Seltos - Summary
  • Good handling. Nimble (good in city). Well controlled. Soft steering.
  • Felt under-powered after the 2000cc 1370kg Optra. Sufficient, but not exciting. Decent brakes.
  • Ride felt terribly harsh, coming from the Optra’s multilink to an almost unacceptable level.
  • Fairly good ergonomics. Floor sunk-in while entering. Front ingress-egress was good. Good driving position.
  • Rear felt highly claustrophobic (tall front seats adding to it). Just about legroom in the rear. Ingress-egress not great.
  • Good form factor for the city. A refined experience, especially at lower RPMs.
Felt like a “senior-raised-hatch” with an excellent finish. Had a been of a smaller size (windows might have felt less claustrophobic in the rear) and not coming from an excellent suspension setup, things might have been different.

Quite ruled out.

Hyundai Creta
Based on the above, did not find it worth taking a TD of the Hyundai Creta, considering the wheelbase and other similarities between the two. Considering Corona, was trying to limit the TDs.

Please share your thoughts.

Last edited by Aditya : 13th December 2021 at 19:16. Reason: Typos
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:33   #5
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Driven - Tata Harrier Test Drive

Tata Harrier (Diesel Manual)

Background
This test drive happened with much expectations, after the reviews I read, which had much praise, especially for the space and handling. The experience with the SA too was very good, who was available without being pushy, and had gentle well spaced reminders. Also knew the car well. It also came across as a very well proportioned vehicle (unlike the Hector). It was wider and overall bigger for my kind of city use, but within acceptable limits.

The Harrier arrives. Handsome and had good presence. I have casually appreciated itís appearance over the years and every now and then it came across as a well designed premium vehicle from overseas. It felt similar from a distance, however up close, the impression changed a bit. I like this one from all sides and angles. Looks mattered lesser to me than other aspects, but a minimum threshold had to be crossed, and this one certainly did. It looks rather good in white from the rear.

Main

As expected, with itís size, the ingress and egress was comfortable. Doors felt wide enough. On the driverís seat and it had a spacious feel. I didnít really like the screen jutting out (like Seltos and the current trend), but was surely liveable. The overall fit and finish was quite good, especially for a Tata. It was inconsistent, however. While from the driverís seat most seemed good, the steering wheel and even more so itís central part with the Tata logo was exceedingly poorly done. Kind of took away from the overall feel of the cabin for me. This one simple thing done better could enhance the visual appeal of the Harrierís interior significantly for me.

With my size, I am not used to finding cabins/seats feeling a bit wider than needed. The Harrier was such. Felt too wide to place my arms with comfort. Further adjustments with the reach of the steering and seat height (a lower height will allow the elbows/arms to move further away while sitting) might have helped, but I was too eager to get going. The armrest position worked moderately for me. Overall, the cabin felt spacious and a good place to be in. Quite an airy feel. For me, the aesthetic coherence, though not bad was somewhat lacking.

The other much talked about issue was surprising to say the least Ė the left knee hitting the dash-console. It was rather strange to complain about this sitting in a space which otherwise felt too wide. Felt like a terrible design failure. I canít understand how companies having the budgets they do for a car, and ones with as much invested into a product, miss out on such basic things. In a Maruti 800 I can somewhat understand it, considering the small form factor - BTW, never had this issue sitting in one. Inexcusable, TaMo.

The above also had me wondering how well thought out a car it may be, if some basic things were not done right. A product made in a hurry? Well, the issue wasnít corrected even when a redone version was released with a retuned engine.

We get moving and I liked the stance and heft of the vehicle. A part of the reason why the SUV form factor sells, I suppose. While big, I did not feel any issue driving it. Did not have any issues with the footwell either, despite my size. The steering felt kind of familiar. The Harrier has a hydraulic, something I have been used to. The 168 bhp 350Nm Fiat MJD was good to drive, but not exciting as I was hoping (perhaps unreasonably, considering the body size and weight of the Harrier). I have never had issues with the turbo lag in the Optra, or for that matter in other vehicles, and the Harrier was no different. Just that it was quite devoid of that gush one hopes for in a high torque vehicle.

What I loved about the drive was how one felt in good control of the vehicle at all times. Swerve it and it moves with confidence. A semi-independent suspension set up done well, I thought to myself, after a few such at different speeds. Felt good at low speeds too. I guess the chassis being pretty rigid and the much talked about Land Rover derived platform had a role to play. As one might expect, it wasnít as nimble as the Seltos, but had that big-car feel, which too was enjoyable. The delay between the steering inputs and car movement too was lesser than what I was used to in the Optra (this is one of the few areas I found the Optra lacking a bit). Enjoyable. Regarding the gear-shifts, nothing really stood out for me. The brakes were quite good and did their job, but couldíve been better, I thought. We also got stuck in a traffic jam that evening. Surprisingly, I did not find much of an issue managing this one. While many have issues with the clutch of diesels, I have been used to one for a long long time, and felt none. Felt at ease.

As one may expect, the good handling came with a somewhat compromised ride. No, it wasnít bad. Surely not. Way way better than the Seltos. Just not Optra class in most situations. In some situations, however it was a tad better, probably owing to the larger wheel size, weight (hence momentum). It did manage speed humps well, however didnít have that overall magic-carpet of the Optra one got used to. Besides stiffness, suspension dampening too might have something to do with it. I was reluctantly happy with it, Iíd say. While Optra made it look bad, the Seltos really made it look very impressive.

I move to the rear seat now. Yes, this bench felt large. The cabin spacious. None of the visually cramped feeling I got in the Seltos. Yes, this was good. The headroom was acceptable. The windows felt quite large. The seat itself was comfy too. The ride, impression was very similar to what I felt in the front. One could seat one 6í person behind another in comfort.

Besides the major knee-hitting-the-console, other ergonomics, and the ride, there was also the issue of refinement. The NVH was surely on the higher side. Felt a step down from the well maintained decade old Optra I was used to. It was felt at idling (comparing warmed up engines), and also at higher speeds. Noise levels were higher, the vibrations were higher, and it felt less refined. What is also a big concern is how the vehicle might age. This is one area I have less confidence in Tata. While their vehicles are robust, the refinement going down significantly is likely, IMO.

The practical fact also is that while one enjoys a good drive once in a while, and yes it is magic, the pain of a less refined vehicle and a less comfortable cabin/seat is felt on an ongoing basis. The Harrier left me in a quandary. Tough to be with, tougher to leave out unless something better is found.

Tata Harrier - Summary
  • Taught chassis with (very?) good handling/dynamics at different speeds. Enjoyable hydraulic steering. Good driving feel.
  • Ride, though not excellent, was about acceptable Ė both front and back.
  • The engine had sufficient power/torque, but not really rushed as one might expect (350Nm on a heavy vehicle). Brakes felt good, not excellent.
  • Ergonomic issues. Knee-console issue difficult to reconcile with, and a huge concern.
  • Ingress-egress was comfortable. Headroom okay. Spacious cabin was appreciated. Quite an airy feel.
  • Handsome looking, but with inconsistent design in the interior Ė the part one actually touches and feels every day.
  • NVH and overall refinement barely acceptable, with fear of it getting worse with time.
  • Ergonomic issues aside, this came across as the one to take out for a highway drive.
Please share your thoughts.
.

Last edited by Poitive : 13th December 2021 at 06:35. Reason: Split the Tata Safari to a new post, as this one seemed too long to quote.
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:36   #6
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Driven - Tata Safari Test Drive (as a substitute/extension of the Harrier TD)

Tata Safari (Diesel Manual)
(This TD happened mainly as the Harrier wasnít available at that moment, and the Safari was)

While other things about the Harrier seemed things I could consider living with, I wanted to get clear on if I could live with the knee-console issue talked above. It was almost a deal breaker for me. This lead to another TD. With the Harrier being unavailable on the day I was free, opted to check the Safari, as that part of the cabin is meant to be almost the same. So, please take this more like a sort of extension of the Harrierís TD.

This time, I spent some time adjusting the seat to minimize the knee-console issue. I had to pull the extend the steering to keep the seat further from the console. Despite that, there was good space in the rear. Perhaps good enough for a 5í10Ē to 6í person. Things were somewhat better this time on the knee front, having tried the many adjustments cars now offer (seat and steering). One was sitting further from the A-B-C pedals however.

Taking off, the vehicle felt familiar. Quite the same, I thought, till one built some speeds and had some curves to handle. The rear did feel heavier, and the vehicle a tad lesser fun to drive. I suspect it will be felt a whole lot more with 6-7 passengers and luggage. We were only 3 in the Safari. It was nothing to complain about, but I guess would feel less fun and composed when compared to the Harrier on a highway.

The car stalled a couple of times in a low gear (IIRC 2nd). This is something which would happen in the Optra as well before one got used to it, due to a taller second gear. I thought it might be something similar with me not being as familiar with the vehicle. Interestingly, the dealershipís driver too stalled the car, leaving me wondering what the issue might be Ė something with the particular piece or beyond that.

Moving to the rear seat was interesting. I felt more thigh support than I am used to. Almost too much. Theatre seating I was told. That a better view of the windscreen and outside is there with the back seat being raised. With the in-cabin height being the same, and the seat height being raised, one would expect less headroom. I did not have complaints about the headroom, which I easily do in many vehicles. IIRC it was comparable in the Hector and Safari, but not fully sure. Donít know how Tata might have managed this. My memory of this aspect is not too clear.

Now, getting out of the rear seat brought another surprise. It felt too high! With my 6í frame, I had to struggle a bit to get to the ground from the seat. Not that I had the Safari seriously in mind (more seats hardly needed), this made it even more clear. Folks who might have the older gen in the rear seat, please do check this before committing to a Safari.

One part pulls me towards the Harrier, due to the improvements in the knee-issue, but realize that the overall comfort of the seat is not up there due to poor ergonomic design (at least for my body).

Tata Safari - Summary
(This TD was more to evaluate the Harrier than the Safari per se Ė please also see Harrierís TD above)
  • Knee-console issue somewhat better after many adjustments, though still compromised, and disturbing overall comfort.
  • Rear seats were too high for easy ingress and especially egress. Third row wasnít checked at all.
  • The extra weight at the rear could be felt and not as much fun as the Harrier.
  • Rest similar to the Harrier, as above (for my purposes)
Please share your thoughts.
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:41   #7
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Driven - MG Hector + MG Hector Plus Test Drive

MG Hector (Diesel Manual) Ė Also includes Hector Plus
(Also has some comparisons with the Tata Harrier)

Background
Of the many reviews of it I went though, during Covid, and being fond of driving, this should probably have been struck off the list for how itís ride and handling have been described and how it is not really an enthusiast's car. However, given it was one of the two vehicles which did fit the basic criteria of a spacious urban SUV, it really had to be tested. I also felt rather uneasy considering a vehicle made by a company under the PLA (China), but those thoughts, contemplation, pros and cons, discussions with friends around it, etc etc isnít what we are here on the forum for, so will avoid that and stick tot he car. In a nutshell, with some reluctance it was decided (especially considering my back issues, and the employment it also provides to Indians) it should be acceptable to go ahead with it if it suited well.

As youíll see below, I ended up thinking about and analyzing this one more than the others due to it being an odd fit for my case, and not finding suitable enough options in my extended budget.


I contacted two dealerships for this and the experience varied. One was very well presented and systematic and professional, whereas the SA of the other was a lot more knowledgeable and a better communicator. I stuck with the latter (other reasons too were involved). Ended up sitting in/TD 5,6 and 7 seater versions. I will be combining points from all 3 versions together below, than split them into different test drives. Though there was no read need for more seats, I have liked the idea of Captainís seats ever since I sat in one for the first time, which was in a Toyota Qualis on a long distance journey and had found it immensely comfortable and practical. Also to be able to move to the rear bench without folding down the seats seemed like a boon. Let us get this out of the way quickly: I do find a lot of practical use of the armrest in the rear. The ones on the 6 seater were not at all as comfortable as the 5 or 7 seaters. The rest almost didnít matter. A proper bench (vs Captainís) also allows one to spread work files, laptop etc while travelling. My romance with the Captainís seats was over Ė a proper bench it was for me.

Proportions and shape
MG might want to avoid a potential customer seeing the side profile of the Hector first. It felt like 70% SUV, 30% MPV. Mixed feelings. My main reason to not even consider the Innova was that despite the immense peace of mind and practicality, it had zero emotional appeal for me (quite like it was a decade ago, while deciding on the Optra on this very forum) owing to itís MPV looks. Later in other colours, the Hector felt less bothersome, especially in the dual tone ones. But besides the side, I contrary to popular sentiment, I quite liked itís more conventional looks. The roof not being significantly sloping (allows more headroom at the rear), the rear look, also quite front, except for hopelessly excessive chrome. The design had grown on me over the months. Personally, I only needed and preferred a 5 seater, and had already stretched the budget a lot, however the Hector Plus, IMO looks way better. The blingy overdone chrome is reduced to near tasteful levels. The wider (more height) front grill looks way better too.

Why this one appears a bit strange/MPV-ish from the side probably is due to the hood length being a bit less, and A to D pillar distance being a bit more (Front to A pillar : A to D pillar ratio was less). In a way, this sort of design is more practical, as it allows more cabin space within a given length. Typically, I appreciate a low height to width ratio of a vehicle, as it inherently allow more stability, and hence IMO allows more flexibility in suspension tuning to get a better ride+handing experience in a given price. This one was quite the opposite. Considering I needed a high seat height for easy ingress-egress, and also good headroom (owing to my height and body proportions) a tall vehicle was quite inevitable. To have the desired proportion, Iíd need a very wide vehicle, which becomes impractical to drive in the city. I also like the vehicle to be only as wide as needed for comfort, to be easily driven around in the city; also to find parking. So, while the Hector was poor with the ratio, it ticked the other boxes. I could have well done with lesser length, on a 2700mm plus wheelbase. This one was 2750 (like the Harrier), but longer on the outside; much longer than I needed.

Main
Now, coming to the test drive itself. Entering the car was quite easy. Easier after I adjusted the steering and seat (the previous driver was short). I immediately felt comfortable on the seat. Something felt right about the ergonomics. Everything felt in itís place. This just makes it feel like a well thought out car, and not one released in a hurry. No knee hitting the console either. A good comfortable driving position was easily found. Felt at home.

Off we go, and again, it felt familiar right from the word go. Very different, and yet very similar, to what I was used to driving. That said, one did get a feeling of a long body behind oneís driving position. A tiny bit like driving a van, I thought. Maybe it was just me and for my body structure, but things just felt in place Ė the steering grip and angle, the footwell, the gears, the armrest on the door, the pedals, the floor plate angle with respect to the seat pan (was particularly bad for me in the Cruze). However, the central armrest couldíve been better (more on this in the Compass TD). The too cabin felt nice and airy. While besides the big screen, the dash seemed a bit bland and monotonous, it was surely not offensive. I quite liked that simplicity. What was also very nice was that the screen was a part of the dash and not jutting out like the others, and felt right in the visual flow of things. The lack of physical buttons was abhorred. Iíve always preferred hardware buttons, and am unhappy with the overall trend of reducing them Ė be it phones, remotes (Iíve bought a couple just for more buttons for my boxes at home), or cars. Just felt silly to have to not be able to feel and reach a button to adjust the AC and to fumble on a touchscreen while driving (possibly having to remove oneís eyes from the road). Terrible! MG, while Iím enjoying my drive and listening to blissful music, I donít want to interrupt the experience by talking to a bot, only to adjust the AC; a good boy and give us some knobs and buttons, please!

In terms of engine feel and performance, it felt quite similar to the Harrier. Comfortable pick up, but devoid of that torquey rush. I did miss it. It was also very composed and took uneven roads with surprising ease. Very impressive. Surely better than the Harrier. Made me wonder what the fuss about the ride quality was. This was at lowish speeds. Further down, felt rather composed at somewhat high speeds. Took corners better than I expected. Many have complained about itís body-roll and cornering in different reviews. To me, it felt composed. It could well be due to me being used to Optraís soft suspension. Though Optra is way better considering itís independent multi-link and much lower centre of gravity, the Hector didnít make me feel nervous. I guess oneís perception of how controlled a car is, is also based on oneís instinct, which in turn is much dependent on what one is used to driving (especially in the recent past). On turns where the road was a bit uneven, it did appear to have a tad lesser composure. For someone used to a harder suspension, it would likely feel a lot less composed. Harrier was surely better here, but this wasnít terrible either. I wouldnít pick this one for people who are regularly on the hills, but for city and plains, it was pretty good.

The NVH was a lot better than the Harrier. The vehicle was more refined on the whole. Some might say that it is like a ďtypicalĒ Hyundai (Verna?), but no, this felt better. It felt more robust and better built, and the interior quality wasnít Kia Seltos standard, yet good enough. A polished experience, leaving concerns of itís Chinese origins pushed away in a remote corner. It was somewhere between the Hyundaiís softness and Tataís robust hardness.

I should also mention here that the gear changes felt smooth. When one disengaged the clutch after a change, the engagement of the engine felt smooth; probably a bit smoother than the others. The SA also mentioned that the Hector has a dual-mass flywheel, without any clue as to how it may benefit. Recollected from my Optra days reading that it helps with smoother gear-shifts. This further made it feel a more refined experience.

At higher speeds, while it felt okay, it was not as confidence inspiring as the Harrier. Surely less agile (due to the softer suspension setup). With how city speeds are well controlled nowadays, especially in the capital, and most of my use expected to be in the city or city-suburb runs, it was not such a big deal for me practically. There were concerns about the highway, but reports on the forum talk about how people have happily crunched many miles with minimal fatigue. Made me more confident about it being apt for city-suburb runs, and also highway runs. The brakes were confidence inspiring and felt just right and refined, building up as they should and stopping with confidence. I donít know the stopping distance (oh @SmartCat , where art thou? https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/india...e-ranking.html (Sedans Under Rs. 12 Lacs - A Quantitative Ranking)), but surely felt better than the Harrier.

So after much to feel good about, I move to the back seat. The legroom was impressive, as were the seats (5 and 7 seater benches). Being able to recline them was a big boon for the days Iíd be driven back after a long day. It also meant that no one would shirk sitting behind me as was often done in the Optra, occasionally to the extent of going in a different car. Headroom was acceptable. I was to go for a model without a sunroof (really donít feel the need in a tropical country) which would give me some buffer for the unexpected humps one might end up going on. Good for my head, neck and posture. If the headroom is insufficient, one tends to slouch and sit.

Being driven in the rear seat was like being in a totally different vehicle, at higher speeds. At lower speeds, it was okay, as it would be in most cars. When driven higher, I understood all the reviews talking about itís ride being too soft and wallowy/bouncy. While I felt the car to be well composed on corners even at somewhat high speeds from the front, it was not so while on the rear bench. I missed the Optra dearly! While it may be better with more load (luggage and people) in my case, most of the times, when I am on the rear bench, it will be with just 2 occupants in the car. I felt less sure about things now, and all the negatives started popping up again.

On further thought, the vehicle felt like a compromise despite spending a lot more than I had initially started. Though it had much going for it, it lacked that sprightly feel. It wasnít nimble. I missed that a bit in the Optra, and this was surely worse with itís height and body-roll. It was less composed. It meant the next decade could be spent looking back and ruing the fun I could have had. I would be paying for features and bling which I cared for less, and losing out on the driving experience, which I valued more. Refined, very spacious cabin, reclining seats, good proven engine, easy and intuitive to drive and without significant ergonomic issues. For the trims I was looking at, this also seemed to have more relevant stuff at a lesser price. Being someone who prefers to not pay for features and to focus on getting the better car-characterics, considering a mid trim Hector, which was known for features, was also a bit strange.

A mixed bag this one. Almost easy to accept for itís practicality, yet felt lacking. A bit like having had a good viseshi meal, yet feeling incomplete missing our desi masalas.

MG Hector and Hector Plus - Summary
  • Brilliant low speed ride, especially in the front row. High speed on the rear bench somewhat bouncy. Excellent comfort for city speeds.
  • Quite well controlled (better IMO than most reviews suggest), non-hydraulic but decent comfort based steering. Not agile. A highway cruiser, but not for spirited driving due to itís suspension characteristics (?) Might be uncomfortable in the rear bench (if with less load, which is typical for me) for high speed driving.
  • Somewhat odd appearance/proportions, yet one that is likely to age well. IMO tasteless use of chrome on the (front) exterior (the plus is way better).
  • Suitable ergonomics for my body, especially driving position. Hardware buttons sorely missed. Rear seat recline a boon. Very spacious (especially for 4). Loved the airy feel, even from the rear seat.
  • Refined feel and well managed NVH. Gear changes (post clutch release) felt smoother than others here.
  • Fiatís MJD engine felt better tuned on the Hector, than the Harrier. More refined here. Good confidence inspiring well weighed brakes.
Please share your thoughts.
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:44   #8
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Driven - Jeep Compass Test Drive

Jeep Compass (Manual Diesel)

Background
This wasnít at all in the mix, however as one realized that though one had started looking at the Harrier and Hector with their base trims (good strategy, auto-makers) one only found a higher model a good buy, the budget became somewhat close to the base model of the Compass (Sport). Being dead sure that I would not go up the trim ladder in this one, like I did with the otherís, I started checking the Compass. Most were happy with it, and there was much praise for itís driving manners.

Not being serious enough about it, thought I should at least take a test drive of it to not look back and feel sorry if I was unhappy with one of the others, about not having even taken a test drive.

A mini-fiasco or two aside, I eventually got to a test drive. I liked how it looked. Better proportions. Seemed the right size for the city. Based on discussions with the SA and youtube videos, most of the features missing in the Sport were acceptable to me, except the ORVMs being manually folding, but decided to ignore that and look ahead.

Main
After the Harrier and Hector, getting into the cabin, it felt a lot smaller. Smaller than I had anticipated. That it was already dark might have enhanced the effect (cabins feel larger in good daylight). Ingress-egress wasnít an issue. Not Hector-level comfortable, but surely acceptable. The indicator and wiper stalks were the wrong way Ė deja vu Ė the Optra has the same. The seat had an extra level of adjustment. One could adjust the angle of the pan of the seat Ė something the old old Optra provided, yet not seen in the other ones tested. Much appreciated. Got me to a better sitting position. The seat too was quite comfy. What it lacked otherwise was made up by the pan angle.

The dash lines looked good. An element of style with the AC vents and materials. Though of course, I was trying a higher trim, felt quite confident that the base would be good enough. The good feel suddenly got jolted badly on realizing that the knee-console issue of the Harrier was also there in the Jeep. Tried a bit, but could not get to a comfortable enough position. It was late and didnít want to spend any more time on it, so drove along. The centre armrest had a sliding adjustment. It got me to an very relaxed posture (really missed this in the Harrier/Safari and Hector/H+ drives I had later taken). Was very easy to reach the steering and gear from that position. The one little thing made an immense difference in comfort of driving. All manufacturers should seriously consider this.

The gear lever was a joy to hold. This is the one place, the Jeep felt premium to me. That subjective touch and feel factor came into play. The gearbox too was comfortable and fairly quick to use, IIRC. Slotted quick and well, with surety.

Some broken roads at low speed. Handled well (not Hector cushy). Further on, I enjoy the smaller outer dimensions. This one felt a bit more nimble even within the colony. On more open roads, it picked up speed well. Felt more rushed than the Harrier and Hector. A bit of that rush Iíd been missing was found here. As I drove further, I felt that one could feel more of the road inside than the Hector for sure and it was probably close to the Harrier in this respect. Further down, the joys of the Jeep started to show up Ė it was so sprightly nimble and quick to pick pace at short notice, that I felt the enthusiast in me smiling wide. The ride was no Optra, but the agility was way way better. Give an input to the steering and see it executed. Fun! Despite the high position and centre of gravity, it felt very well composed overtaking cars though slower traffic. A boy-racer I havenít been, but this gave me that feel. A bit of a rush. While it wasnít that level, but it surely reminded me of the directness of the Linea I had driven on the same road a decade ago.

The suspension was fantastic and well suited for itís weight. Not particularly comfort based though (could I live what that?). In terms of comfort, it remained moderate throughout Ė not a Hector/Optra, not as good as Harrier either, I later contemplated. Surely not. In terms of composure, it was immaculate for a vehicle with a high centre of gravity Ė straight line uneven roads, corners, corners on uneven roads, swerving in traffic, swerving at higher speeds (Harrier felt somewhat better here). Braking too was very sure footed and confidence inspiring.

With much glee, I kept driving this bundle of fun, smiling ever wider, every now and then wondering if my back would spare me for ever having gone for a harder suspension. Would my knee spare me?

With those thoughts, I moved to the rear bench. The ingress-egress wasnít as good as the Harrier or Hector. Close to the Seltos, Iíd say. Might have made it a bigger issue in my head than it was, had it not been the fun I had just had. Head reminds me of the headroom, which was barely adequate. I was told that the Sport model would have more as it didnít have a sunroof. The seat was quite comfortable, but I missed the option to recline the back one had in the Hector. Such little things matter to me. It could also have given me a bit more headroom. The legroom was kind of okay. Not the 6í behind 6í kind (but I did not properly test this). The cabin felt surely less airy than the Harrier and Hector, but also less airy than the Optra (could be wrong Ė was dark then, so not the best time to judge). It didnít feel gloomy to me, as the Seltos had seemed though. For my size, the foot-room was just about okay. In some ways, especially the width, it felt smaller than the Optra on the inside (Optra had a fantastic inside to outside width ratio), and only a slight bit more room laterally, if at all (wheelbase 2600mm vs 2636mm of the Jeep).

Driving along, the ride quality was quite good, but surely not what I was used to. Never felt bouncy like the Hector did, but with normal city driving, Hector was a bit of a dream, whereas this was moderate in comparison. On bad roads, it would be an even battle, with the Jeep having the odd triumph. The cabin didnít feel spacious enough at the rear. From my height, the top of the window line was kind of low, which spoilt things. Looking out of the window didnít feel too right. Another inch could have gone a long way. Overall NVH was quite good. Almost as good as the Hector. However in the Jeep the vibrations and sound added to the sporty feel and were not as bothersome as they were in the Harrier. The jury is out on whether they would remain enjoyable in the long run.

The question also remained as to how much to care for that fun sprightly drive, and how much for practical everyday comfort. Fun often wears off, and practical comfort is lived with. The heart too doesnít spare one, if the fun is missed! The boot too was rather small and unlikely to be enough for luggage for two for an international flight (not a deal breaker, but surely a sore point at this price).

Quick comparison between Compass and Harrier: both had issues with the knee. Both handled well. Jeep better, at lower speeds; Harrier a bit at higher. Jeep more agile. Ride was moderate in both with Harrier better. NVH was surely much better in the Jeep. Jeep also felt faster and rushed. Jeepís brakes more confidence inspiring. Harrier way more spacious, though while driving Jeep was a more comfortable seat by a thin margin. The sliding armrest and ease it bought was a big bonus.

With all these thoughts, I was left confused. The Jeep seemed impractical with itís extra price on an already stretched budget, with not enough bring brought on the table except the FTD factor (which might wear off in a couple of years), and had issues with space and most importantly the knee-console issue. There were also thoughts and discussions with friends about:
  • Would Jeep last in India with their low sales, and how their products are less suited in a market which favours blingy features than sturdy engineering (this forum is hardly representative of what the general populace would value/decide on)
  • Though there is much talk about Jeep exporting from India, the numbers are very small 10-12k in 4 years, IIRC.
  • Jeep has only ONE dealer in a city the size of Delhi. The one in Gurgaon too is owned by the same company. Not exactly confidence inspiring. Also that, in case one is unhappy with one service centre, there is nowhere else to go. (MG too has very few).
  • The maintenance cost too was likely to be significantly higher. Something I am not too comfortable with.
  • Recent reports about body creaking in the newer Compass is also a worry.
I wanted to forget about the Jeep and move on. I really did. But that drive experience didnít leave me.

So, I thought, like I did for the Harrier/Safari, let me try and adjust the seat and steering to my heartís content, and see if something acceptable can be worked out. Another TD happened (the above write-up is a combination of both) and the steering was elongated to keep the seat and consequently knee away from the console. Much like the Harrier, it was better, but still didnít feel totally right. What also happened as a result was that the seat behind me (driverís) had terribly less legroom. I could not even get into the car with the seat in that position (I tend to recline the seat a bit further than most). Anyone sitting behind me wouldíve cursed me, despite the spending. Was way worse than the Optra here.

While this should be enough to totally reject the Jeep, I still donít, as the number of times an adult needs to sit behind me is not too high, and when I am with the driver, would anyway be on the other side. Will also need to make sure subsequent drivers hired should not be tall! I remain unsure if all the compromises are worth it. Rather difficult to live with and not easy to forget, this one.

Jeep Compass - Summary
  • An absolute joy to drive. Excellent control. Agile, sprightly, feel of good weight distribution. Despite EPS, steering had a hydraulic-like control feeling Ė kudos! Gear shifts felt right. The drive touches oneís heart!
  • Ride wasnít Seltos harsh, but not as comfy as the Hector, or even the Harrier in most conditions. Not bouncy though.
  • The Fiat MJD felt faster on this one. The brakes were sure footed and confident.
  • Ingress-egress was acceptable. Seat ergonomics good. Excellent driving position wrt the adjustable armrest and gear knob. Loved the feel of the gear knob. Front was quite good, though not Harrier/Hector spacious.
  • Knee discomfort due to dash-console. Partially managed with seat way back, leaving little space for rear bench. Very surprising that Jeep too has this problem.
  • Rear bench felt somewhat cramped, both physically and visually. Top of window felt low. Just about enough space for 4 large adults in the vehicle. If the driver seat adjusted to avoid knee-console issue, then only 3 large adults + one small adult.
  • NVH management better than Harrier, but not as good as Seltos or Hector. Not bothersome though. A sense of style and x-factor in design in both exteriors and especially interiors (dash/ac, gear knob).
Please share your thoughts.
.

Last edited by Poitive : 13th December 2021 at 06:46.
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:55   #9
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Mahindra XUV700 – Thoughts, Impressions and questions-NOT a test drive
(This is based mainly on online observations. If a test drive is taken at a later date, will update the thread)

While I have not test driven it yet, it could not not totally be removed from the list. Please share your view; especially if you have who have driven/own the XUV 700 and some others from the above. Especially if in the manual variants. Features are not really a focus. Space, comfort, and driving experience are. A good finish would be great, but of it isn’t at all a deal-breaker.

Though I want a vehicle “yesterday” and the waiting time for this is long, if the advantage of an XUV700 is huge, will look for an interim alternative (say a fun to drive used vehicle for a year, with minimal depreciation, and one I can easily find – probably via a company dealership). Not inclined towards it, but don’t wish to totally rule it out either; more so after the XUV700 thread on the forum. It is the torque and multilink suspension at the rear which is a big draw for me.

Since this had not been test driven, some quick impressions. Please do correct them as needed. Would be great to hear different views/interpretations/experiences by different members. I am mainly comparing it to the Harrier and Hector.
  1. It is the independent suspension with frequency sensing dampers which draws me to this vehicle. How does it compare to the Harrier and Hector? Deos it feel really really special?
  2. How does the ride compare to the Harrier and Hector?
  3. With it’s weight, does it feel like a lazy one to swerve around? (the other end of agility?). How are the dynamics? Can be pretty sure they would not be Compass like, but how do they compare to the Harrier?
  4. How does the sense of control and composure feel, when compared to Harrier (I expect it would be significantly better than the Hector)
  5. The front seat appears to be comfortable, even for a large guy. Has anyone felt the knee hitting the dash-console issue?
  6. The rear seat (second row) appears to have lesser space than the Harrier and Hector. Is it so?
  7. The ingress-egress seems a bit more cramped as compared to Harrier-Hector. Especially that one would need to bend/crouch a bit more due to the top of the door opening (possibly less distance between the seat and top of opening) – is it so?
  8. The fit and finish felt significantly worse than Hector.
  9. I don’t care for ADAS. It would blunt my instincts and likely make things worse, while driving another car.
  10. 5 seats are all I need, so AX5 is what I am likely to look at.

    Petrol?
  11. In terms of torque from a low RPM, how does a petrol XUV700 feel compared to a diesel one? Not talking on the basis of published figures but on real life feel. A torquey vehicle has a different sort of enjoyment. Is it felt in the petrol in this one? (the figures suggest it might be so)
  12. * How difficult is it to drive around in the city, especially in traffic jams? (diesel MT)
  13. Features and ADAS aside, is the XUV700 special enough?
EDIT: Mahindra XUV Test Drive added below.
~~~~ End of XUV Section ~~~~

Folks,

The conundrum remains. Please do share your thoughts. Anything at all, please share. Even if it is for petrol engines, which I have not considered till now. The extra 5 years of life it brings in Delhi is tempting. We haven’t bought used for decades now. Could this be the time to reconsider our approach? A diesel has only 10 years of life in Delhi, so buying used also chews up on those years.

Not that I had much to start with, I have little trust left in reviewers which abound on the net. I would much trust the judgements and points of view of fellow-mates here. It is different points of views which make a forum enriching.

I hope the the posts above and thread in general also help other fellow-mates in their decisions

- Poitive

EDIT: I drove the Mahindra XUV700 (Diesel Manual) on 21st December

Missing: being driven on the rear seat. Includes some comparisons with Compass, Hector, Harrier.
Long report, as drive is recent. (Headings are only indicative and were added only after writing the report)


Background
This one happened without any planning. Reading a few messages about the risk of Corona spreading fast again, thought it just might become unviable to take one, rushed for it. This one was on top of the list to be tried. After some confusions, managed to get a test drive which did include some of the patches I like to test drive on, yet not the ones I use for firming up opinions. It was a top of the line AX7L trim. It included me and two people from the dealership, but no driver, so could not sample the rear bench while being driven.

With all the hype around the car, the expectations were high. 63% votes on T-Bhp Car of the year, rave reviews all across, Srish from the Evo team and others making a 24 hour drive record, delivery queues like it was back to the 80’s socialist India – all raised the bar. I tried to keep the waiting period aside, to be able to focus on the drive itself.

Main I - Looks and Cabin Experience

Personally, I have had mixed impressions about the looks of this one. It didn’t have the flair and flow of the Harrier, or the somewhat classical look (not proportions) of the Hector, and was too bulky in pictures. The side too XUV500 like, which IMO despite the appeal of the 500, was a big downer. In person, it did look a bit better; also more imposing than the others test driven. I also thought that this one might age quite well in some colours (medium/dark ones). I needed a bit of an adjustment of the seat (slide and height) to enter comfortably, but fairly comfortable ingress-egress after doing so. Welcome seat slide was helpful, but left me wondering how a tall person behind the driver might feel about it – besides a feature, it could be an issue too. It is different in cars like the Superb, which have the wheelbase and legroom at the rear for this not to be a hinderance.

The first thought on entering the cabin: this is wide! I liked it. While exterior dimensions of the Harrier are more (1894mm vs 1890mm), this felt wider inside. Had a bit of a feel of an Alturas or one of the bigger ones inside, in terms of width. While the Harrier had made the seats too wide (even for a person of my size, for comfort), this one made the console a bit wider, which gave the feeling of a more plush vehicle. I also loved that it had a lot of hardware button controls. Hated the lack of that in the Hector. Pre-launch had spent much time looking at pictures of the dash of this one comparing it to others, thinking which one I’d prefer looking at (as that is a major part of what one sees while driving), thought I would not like this, as it felt kind of imbalanced due to the screen(s) being long and much more on the left (I can be a bit finicky about some such things) however on use, it didn’t feel so. It felt well integrated, and the steering cutting the two screens happened appropriately, without blocking either of them from my position. I did have to take the seat quite low to find a good positon, and had ample headroom. The overall look was like Mahindra tried hard, and quite succeeded. Succeeded in giving the big car feel, including the way the hood was seen and the width of the cabin felt, however it felt that the finesse was not up there in terms of finishing and minor details. That I was comparing a Mahindra to better established international brands was in itself a compliment.

I also sighed in relief that my knee wasn’t hitting the console as it did in the Harrier and Compass. It did touch the mid-lower leg somewhat awkwardly and wasn’t ideal, but something I could live with and get quite used to. Many parts of ergonomics felt good. I had no complaints with the footwell; it felt natural. I had appreciated the armrest in the Jeep, and it giving me the feeling of that armchair like sitting ease – this one was even better owing to it’s extra width. I enjoy a wide armrest. The arm height and position with respect to the controls felt perfect. The distance between the armrest and gear know felt right; the wiper stalks too accessible. Fel the kind one could sit in an armchair like position and manage this one. Well done, Mahindra. You succeeded in seating comfort where Tata (Harrier) and Jeep (Compass) failed in a royal manner (knee-console issue); the Hector too got much right, except for that armrest you aced. You could however adjust seat firmness – something which the others did better. It felt too firm. Wouldn’t want this seat on a 10 hour drive for sure. An hour was too much for me. The raised/curves parts on the back and especially seat were protruding out too prominently and were overdone. While such designs make things more comfortable for people of a certain size, they do mess things up amply for anyone outside that range. I also appreciated the seat position profiles. Easy peasy to set things up when I take over from the chauffeur. The location of controls was however not right. Almost all the controls on the door felt misplaced and too far towards the back of the car. I had to take my elbow quite a long way back to adjust things. Can't say that it is designed for shorter people, as they would anyway keep the seat further front, and likely face similar issues.

Main II – The Driving Experience
Getting this moving out of a somewhat tight space, I realized that I was much at ease with it and felt quite at home. Home, except the steering felt extremely light (I have been used to a hydraulic on the Optra). Very Hyundai like (am reminded of @Torquedo’s description here (Which Crossover / SUV in the 20-30 lakh price bracket?)) – yes it was like a Verna. Devoid of feel, we move at a low speed and into the traffic. Felt very much at ease and at home while driving, and there was a feeling of driving a bigger vehicle than the other’s TD till now. Wondering if this would give me the rush I used to get on the Optra, and missed in the other test drives, I get an open patch and build up speed urgently – woooooooooo! This didn’t disappoint, despite high expectations! Was reminded not just of the Optra rush after being used to one, but also of how it felt in the initial days, when it was new. It felt good; it really did. Though on a straight line and on an even road (not good situations to judge it), there was a feeling of sure footedness. I was smiling again. This was on Zap (city/middle mode). I didn’t try the Zip (lower), and occasionally Zoom (top/sports) as felt no need. Zap was more than good enough. Though I didn’t try it enough, it appeared that Zoom also increased low RPM torque.

Further down, we hit rush hour accumulation of traffic. Almost a jam. Felt easy to manage, though a bit difficult to get into smaller spaces, giving other vehicles the chance to cut through (as is the norm in Dilli). Some ‘respected’ the size, however. A lucky chance, that I get the stretch I use to check mid-speed cornering on an uneven ground is free, and I build pace rapidly – happily rapidly, with confidence and control – and we hit that corner and uneven ground. It moves like a bulky one, but in very good control, taking the rise and drop in surface with proper control. Not the agility of the lighter and smaller-wheelbase Jeep, I thought, but very sure footed. The similarities in suspension came through. The tyres seemed to maintain average to good contact despite the ground irregularities. Impressed, I exclaim, to the SA, who too is gleeful now. Going through my other test patches, I realize that this one always has a lot of power on tap and has a wide enough torque spread to not necessitate frequent gear changes. It also came across as a very free revving engine, though after a point, it changes nature quite rapidly and the fall in toque and engine noise/stress is felt amply. That said, one really doesn’t feel the need to push it as hard at all, as a gear-shift to a meaty torque range is easily available.

On a side note, when I reached home, I did a bit of calculations and with a 200kg load (what I typically use over car’s kerb weight). Weight figures were not easy to get, and could be a bit off. The Torque/Tonne was about 5% below Optra’s and Power only about 8% more (though the Optra has very high torque/tonne figures, many have much higher power/tonne figures). Why, you might ask, did I do this calculation. Well, this one picked up pace very rapidly. Not sure whether one felt it more, or if it actualy was that fast. Made me wonder. It appears it is more free revving and though the Torque/tonne figures are lower, it builds up RPM very fast (at least for a car of it’s size). It felt that good.

But we were on the drive, and back to it: the sense of torque got to me a bit like it had for the Optra. Had I found my mate? We drive further. The sure footedness appreciated on many occasions. Swerve, and the suspension keeps the wheels adequately in contact with the road, without unsettling the occupants (can’t say for the rear bench – remember, the Hector felt very different in the rear bench). It also wasn’t bouncy at all. Not particularly nimble, but for a vehicle it’s size, it did feel good. Controlled body-roll, I’d say. The sure-footedness also seemed to come from the tyres’ contact patch being bigger, and sure enough on checking specs, it was (235/60 R18). It all also indicated a poorer FE. Bigger engine, much heavier, bigger contact patch with heavier tyres. The performance and feel would come at a price.

While driving, in many ways, especially how the suspension behaved, it made me feel that I was driving a Senior-Compass. A heavier version. One with a bigger engine. Also a smoother engine. A lot more space. The dynamics too felt a bit similar, though the obvious weight and size change could be felt; perhaps even more than figures might suggest. There was one huge difference though. The steering feel. It did improve with speed, but hardly enough. It still felt Hyundai/Verna like. While the engine was enthusiast, it didn’t give enough of a feel of being in touch with the vehicle. That part certainly wasn’t involving enough. Not asking it to be Linea-like, or even Optra’s (or Harrier’s) hydarulic like, but I’d expect it to be at least like a Compass to enjoy it. It wasn’t. It really wasn’t. It would be appreciated by many who are used to EPS, and for whom convenience is a top priority.

I was not able to test the brakes enough, as I didn’t find a good enough patch to brake hard (traffic behind me) and what I could try, it felt quite good, but not Hector/Jeep class, especially in the feel of how it builds up. Better than Harrier, I’d imagine. Nothing special or bothersome about the gear-shifts, as is often the case for me (Compass did impress).

Overall, besides the Compass it was more comparable to the Harrier than the Hector. Very different feel, yet very comparable in terms of control felt and mid-high speed ride. After (and if) the excitement of the engine wears off, the involving steering of the Harrier is likely to be more enjoyable to the enthusiast. For a more casual motorist, the convenience of the EPS and brute, smooth an eager engine might be more appealing.

Main III – Refinement, Ride, Misc notes.
Refinement was mixed bag of sorts. Cabin, as mentioned before, felt big and with many good materials, but the coherence of aesthetics and a sense of flair was missing; except perhaps in the user interface of the screens. I did find them rather blingy though, and the driver-dial’s screen not user friendly. The placements of meters, the direction of rotation of “needles”, the size of “needles” etc, all left a lot to be desired. The engine felt more refined and free revving, however there was a sort of hum – not really a hum, but an odd low frequency sound/feeling one gets from less refined vehicles. It wasn’t the rattle kind, which one could get fixed, and at least seemed the kind one would have to live with. The hum apart, the vibrations and other sounds were well insulated. Thinking practically, once rush of the fun has died down, the hum would bother me. Yes, it would; and as it often goes for Tata-Mahindra, one could only expect it to get worse. That it would take the sense of comfort away for someone who is quite sensitive to sounds, or worse still make the whole experience feel unrefined. While the insulation from the engine seemed okay (for a diesel), the overall insulation from the traffic noise was moderate, at best. Harrier, I think was better; Hector very much so. Wasn’t bothersome, but felt a segment lower.

All said, the hum aside, I was a happy man. Seemed I had found the Compass replacement I was looking for. More space, well controlled, good suspension which maintained tyre contact well, Optra-like torque. Thoughts of delivery times, the practicality of a Mahindra in the first year ot two, the hum, the image of “desi brands” (the Dilli-wala can’t be totally put to sleep!), and other apprehensions were put aside to enjoy the moment. Even the lack of steering feel was forgotten.

Most of the roads were quite smooth, but the odd bad road was well taken care of at the typical highish speeds we were on. Not rough. Not Hector-level, yet good enough. Very different, but overall comparable to Harrier in comfort. Both these changed in different kind of road unevenness and speed.

Toward the end, we pass over a small pothole at a lowish speed. Felt highly disproportionately rough - felt it a lot more than one should. I’m surprised; very surprised. Take a U-turn and go over it again. Same result. Further down, going though some internal roads, find some which are broken. Not the crater kinds but with 2”-4” of unevenness. The ride suddenly feels bad. Shockingly bad, considering how it otherwise was at higher speeds. From a heavy vehicle moving over unevenness with aplomb, it was like a baby lost in a temple (exaggeration). A good chance that it is a very good suspension, but not tuned rightly. Just having a ‘type’ of suspension isn’t enough. Even the old Accent and Tata Indigo (even Indica, IIRC) had an independent suspension – they couldn’t touch the Optra’s ride with a barge pole. I really do hope Mahindra can improve on this (I’ll volunteer to give my inputs, Mr. Mahindra ). This one deserves it.

On the way, we pass a Hector. From the driver’s seat, instinctively, I think: that one is half a size smaller. The Hector ‘felt’ a lot smaller from here. This one felt like a much bigger one to drive all along. Also didn’t give the semi-MPVish feel one got realizing there was a lot of car-length beind the driver’s wheel in the Hector. I guess this has to do with Hector’s reduced width, and also the driving feeling one got in the XUV700 which likely sub-consciously affects how we imagine a vehicle.

So, with a truncated Test Drive, we reach the showroom. I park and inspect other aspects. Time to check the rear seat now. Ingress-egress was okay. A tad worse than Harrier and Hector, but manageable. I get just about enough comfortable legroom behind my own driver-seat-setting (I do recline it back more than normal). It really does feel significantly lesser than the Hector (WB 2750mm), and even the Harrier (WB 2741mm). It’s 2750mm wheelbase doesn’t shine. Probably due to the seat-backs being thicker. The top of the window line too feel half an inch to an inch too low (seats being a bit lower could fix that and recommended). Though late, I do try to sit in the co-driver’s seat. Suddenly, my world changed. I struggled to get inside. The driver’s side was made okay by lowering the seat, and this one had no such provision. The default seat to top of door-opening distance was too less. Tried a few times. Well, I did surely manage to get in and out, but it was pretty far from comfortable. One of the prime reasons of going in for an SUV than a Sedan (a form-factor I otherwise love) was the ease of ingress and egress. This was tough to digest. An SUV of this size having this kind of an issue. Even the much smaller Seltos was better. I think the seat has been made a lot higher than needed, thereby decreasing this distance. (Though 6’, I’m not one with tall legs, but with a long torso).

Mahindra vs Mahindra? (Hard to imagine some things being done so right, yet some some so "wrong")
  • Powerful engine. Totally uninvolving steering.
  • Excellent suspension at high speeds, half a disaster on some low speed situations.
  • Smooth engine. Humming taking away from the refinement.
  • Impressive seat arm positon. Controls on doors placed inconveniently.
  • Totally upgraded look and feel from an XUV500. Yet the side so similar that one might casually miss one for the other.
  • Impressive well divided cabin width. Finish, detailing and colour schemes not up to the mark.
  • Fantastic integration of two screens into one, with the left looking impressive, and the right so poorly thought out and counter-intuitive.
  • One with a good wheelbase of 2750mm. Yet, just enough legroom in the rear (the third row too compromised)
  • Having this hulk of a machine (by Indian standards, at least) and not having easy ingress-egress on the co-driver’s seat for a 6 footer with my body proportions! All due to an improper seat height - Unthinkable!
  • As many trim levels, including immensely VFM MX trims; a VFM detuned diesel too; yet does not make an acceptable 5 seater with a rear centre armrest.
Mahindra XUV700 - Summary
  • Fantastic free revving brute of an engine. Smooth too. Good brakes (?) Steering unjustifiably lifeless for this setup.
  • Very enjoyable yet incomplete driving feel. Somewhat like a senior Jeep Compass without steering feel. Sure-footed. For it’s size, weight and form factor (high centre of gravity), it felt quite agile.
  • Disappointing low speed ride (questionable city comfort?). Good highish speed ride and control. FSD Mulitilink needs better tuning?
  • Ergonomics range from excellent (armchair-like sitting) to poor (controls etc on the door) to inexcusable (co-driver ingress-egress for a tall person). No knee-console issue. Comfortable footwell. From the front, cabin width feels impressive and well used. Front seat comfortable.
  • Rear ingress-egress not as good as Harrier-Hector, but acceptable. Rear is comfortable, but didn’t justify the overall large size and 2750mm wheelbase - didn’t feel as comfortable as Harrier-Hector. Not as airy as the Hector.
  • NVH, while generally good, a hum sound was disturbing and a potential ageing pain. Good vibration control. Traffic noise like a segment lower.
  • With better steering feel, would have taken this one out for the highway for it’s multilink and engine, but till the EPS is sorted, it the Harrier it is.
  • Eventually felt like a 75% worked out body with a fantastic engine, with a yet to be fine-tuned suspension.
Please share your thoughts.
.
PS: In case you've directly landed on this post, reports and summaries of other SUVs in the segment are here.

Last edited by Aditya : 26th December 2021 at 18:35. Reason: As requested
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Old 13th December 2021, 06:55   #10
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Nissan Kicks – Turbo Petrol MT
(It was a pretty compromised TD; has some comparisons with the others tested till now - XUV700, Harrier, Hector, Compass)

Background
This was another hurried one, largely due to it being a last minute one, being done late evening, my getting late, phone batteries being on the edge and other uninteresting stuff. It was a shortest TD of the lot by far. Started with some tension in the air due to the delays and confusions. Went to the extent that on reaching home, I could not really recollect the colour of the car I had just driven! I really didn’t focus on the looks at all. Please bear in mind that I am less certain than usual of the comments I make below due to the compromised nature of this test drive; I could not even check the tyre pressure and there was no onboard monitor. The bare minimum I wanted to achieve was if another one was needed.

Main I – Cabin Experience
Parked amidst many stationary vehicles in a disorganized parking, I enter the vehicle, with the SA being all eager to get going and more so to end the drive so that he can make it home (understandable considering it was late). Ingress was quite good; it is rarely prefect for me, and happily it was about as comfortable as the bigger ones. The passenger side too was fine, unlike the big XUV700. Nice! Seat height wasn’t low (unlike the Optra). Even at it’s lowest, it was quite high. Can’t understand this fascination with raising seats, if even 6’ people want it a bit lower and can’t get it. Why I wanted it to be lower was to have the top of the windscreen felt kind of low in the field of view from my position. This was the point discussed earlier in the thread based on which the Kicks was all but rejected on ‘paper’ itself (latter part of this post). Though not as airy as the bigger ones in this aspect (Harrier, Hector, XUV700) or I think even the Seltos, it was just about acceptable. If everything else works well I could live with this, I thought. The reason I had almost dismissed it before wasn’t bad enough. A good start!

Thankfully the legs sat quite okay and there was no issue of the knee hitting the console. In that respect, it was quite like the XUV700. The armrest in the XUV700 was way better though. This one didn’t feel wide enough in comparison, but to be fair, it was a smaller car. Elbows often brushed with the SA. Not really ideal elbow room if you are two wide adults in front, but surely manageable. Ergonomically, nothing felt too off right away. The footwell too didn’t feel off. Surprisingly I can’t recollect with certainty, but I don’t think it had a dead pedal; yet it felt okay. Tried to see the interiors with the lights available and couldn’t assess much as the light wasn’t too bright. The interior lights themselves didn’t seem high quality. The interiors’ finishing appeared moderate overall, but don’t take my word on it, as I didn’t really focus on it and the light was insufficient.

The rear seat was checked for a short part towards the end. The seats were a bit firmer than I’d like, however on the important aspect of headroom – something which is enough to rule out a car for me – it was excellent. More than some of the bigger ones. Surely way more than the Compass. The top of the window line too was perceptibly higher and it did not feel cramped from that point of view. The base of the window line getting raised did block the outside a bit, but it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. It felt more spacious than the Compass overall. Unlike the Hector, the ride on the back seat too wasn’t too different than the front in that short run.

Main II : The Drive – Suspension, Steering, Control, NVH

(As mentioned before, please bear in mind that the tyre-pressure was unknown, and my guess is that it was about 4-7 psi lower and will comment based on that, but I could easily be way off with that guess as it was my first time with this vehicle.)

Taking it out of the cramped space wasn’t an issue. Almost felt at home. Into traffic, and as expected for a petrol the clutch feels lighter than the diesels tested till now. The clutch would engage quite far, and the release happened fairly quickly. Made me stall the car a couple of times. Gear shifts felt okay. The uneven roads on the way are handled rather well. Not the potholed kinds, but the regular broken city-roads we often get. A composed feeling without a needlessly hard suspension, I thought. Quite impressed. Now on a freer road for a bit, the suspension reveals itself differently. The road is wavy – the gradual up and down shift many roads have. The waviness can be felt a fair bit, and unlike most of the others. I don’t recollect feeling it in the Compass on the same road either. While not really bothersome, might be unwelcome for someone looking for pure comfort, where the Hector shone at city speeds.

We end up in the rush hour traffic; almost a jam. Easy to manage this one. Not too big, not too small, not too hight, not too low – the size felt right for the city. What was revealing during the same was the traffic noise. The XUV700 felt a segment below the others. This felt a segment or more below the XUV700. The sound insulation was disappointing. The engine noise too came in a fair bit; quite a bit at higher RPMs, I thought later. Far from any sense of luxury. Though engine at high RPMs and traffic noise was much, it didn’t have harshness or an unrefined feel overall.

Now on freer roads again, yet again thankfully that the turn I like to test on is free. We pick pace. Rather urgently for what is only a 1.3 litre engine and hit the undulation and turn. It felt composed. Though I didn’t get the confidence I got in the XUV700 (on which I guess I was at higher speeds), but felt good enough and I was quite happy. The XUV700 felt more planted, I suppose due to the weight, and to it’s credit felt nimble enough. Where this one was a whole lot better than the XUV700 was the steering feel. Yes, the HPS (Hydraulic Power Steering)! It didn’t give me the game-like feel one got on the 700. Didn’t feel heavy to me at all (remember, I am used to a HPS from the Optra Magnum). It might have been more direct and sharper with proper tyre pressure. In the tested state, it surely wasn’t as sharp as the Compass. Like all the others test driven, this too didn’t really inform one of the road surface like a Linea might, but for practical daily driving I’d say that is a plus. Though very different from the excellent EPS on the Compass, it would be comparable in overall presentation.

Further in the drive, it is driven on a highly truncated route, further shortened with road blocks. One which allowed me to test it on a vacant small roundabout. While turning hard, I realize that this one didn’t understeer when pushed, and the tyres remained silent. Good? Probably not, as at a point, it felt that if really pushed it might not give enough warning before toppling over! (no, I didn’t push is anywhere close to that and kept well within normal safety limits). Very grippy. Low tyre pressure might have helped with better girp. The saving grace was the steering feel, which made one know when to ease off the accelerator and when it was getting closer to it’s limit. Felt like a sedan with a much raised centre of gravity. Could be dicey in a novice’s boy-racer’s hand, is thought which did cross my mind then.

The suspension overall, was a good balance of comfort and control, but also varied as explained in the wavy road part above. At no point did the car feel less controlled and one felt confident and at ease, except roundabout part mentioned above. It went though speed breakers with proper composure and acceptable comfort, even when the steering was a bit turned. Took bad roads and sharp corners well. The bodyroll was never bothersome. The ride though not plush, was generally fairly comfortable. Not particular agile (possibly due to low TP) but not slow to react either. The chassis-suspension combo was practical, and impressive with it's balancing the two. Combined with the steering feel, as compared to the Optra Magnum: it felt a bit sharper in steering response, comparably composed at moderate speeds (though for an emergency, the Magnum scores way more due to it’s low centre of gravity), not as plush a ride, but almost a fair trade-off with the sharpness and quicker steering response it brought (am partly guessing it would be better with due tyre pressure). The ingress-egress too was fine. Had I found my mate? Had this thought with the XUV700 too, so I headed for the very same roads the suspension of the XUV700 was found wanting.

The same pothole, the very same colony poor roads with those 2”-4” unevenness, similar speeds – how does the Kicks perform? Superb! Totally composed. Took the unevenness with ease, as it had most that was thrown it’s way. The surprise, if at all, was how well they were handled (might be a bit different had the tyre pressure been higher). It made the XUV700 look bad. This also felt the kind which would be well suited to the highway, as for the hills and the city - comfort and control. Overall the suspension-chassis-steering felt closest to the Harrier; a bit like that in a smaller package. Based on the TDs, for highways alone, Harrier remains my pick; for city and hills, this would likely be more practical, quite like the Compass.

So, you might ask me: have you finally found your elusive ride, Poitive? Read on.


Main III : The Engine and a bit more
(A chance that the TD vehicle was had issues, as the SA said that the service was overdue)

What I didn’t mention above to compartmentalize the drive experience was how the engine felt. Though I didn’t get the chance to really go flat out, it did much seem the kind to take a full straight acceleration run well quite like the YouTube video shared in the post before (link). It seemed pretty free revving too (wouldn’t compare it to the XUV700’s magic). Sounds good, eh? Sound! Well, it could be heard a lot more than one would want it to be. If one really revved it often, would be bothersome. Some just might enjoy it. To me, it didn’t have the somewhat enjoyable sound and feel of the Compass (diesel). Livable, but not appreciated. Though not tested properly, the brakes too felt about okay. Not impressive, but enough for the job. Possibly like the Harrier (both have front disc and rear drum setup).

The engine is one co-developed with Mercedes - 1330cc, 154bhp@5500 RPM, 254Nm@1600. (Jeep Compass Petrol is 162bhp@5500, 250Nm@2500-4000 and heavier). Haven’t got proper figures but this is on a roughly 1.3 tonne vehicle. Sounds pretty good with ~118bhp/tonne. Optra Magnum was only ~88bhp/tonne. A good 30% higher (torque comparison is totally different story though). A figure comparison isn’t really fair, but this was just to give some context.

It was a big let-down, as I half expected, but was convincing myself that it would not be so after hearing such good words about turbo-petrols, the said video, and paper figures. Yes, certainly way better than what a 1.3NA engine would be, but the power is too peaky/spiked. That it’s peak torque was from 1600 rpm had raised expectations, but it felt quite dead under 2000 rpm. Somewhat picking up at 2500, and only really comfortable and enjoyable at 3000; or should I say 3500. It does pull cleanly thereon and pulls well for a 1.3 litre engine. 3500 is when the fun started, however what also happens at such rpms is that the car reacts sharply to any change in throttle even while reducing it, as engine braking has a bigger effect. Makes it tedious to drive around town. Might be good for that odd spin, or the avoidable boy-race between traffic which some enjoy, but not practical for daily runs. I’d have to constantly be too focused on the throttle to have an easy drive – a far cry from the 2 litre and above diesel engines it was being (unfairly) being compared to. Was it a whole lot of fun post 3000? Fun, yes; whole lot, no. Not after the Optra Magnum; not at all, in comparison. This was also a lot more noisy too. It might have been better if the engine had a lower peak power figure and maybe even a lower peak torque figure, but a better spread of torque across a wider range.

So, it was either too dull, lifeless, boring at lower rpms, or too peaky/spiked and always kept one a bit too alert and focused on the throttle management while being noisy and only moderately fun (for my case). Would give extremely poor FE at enjoyable RPMs too. At no point was it making a case for itself. Reminded me of the old adage: no replacement for displacement (though turbo petrols do certainly change that to an extent).

I got the answer I sought at the beginning: I didn’t need another TD. Alas, this one too was not for me.

Closing Remarks
With a chassis-suspension-steering steup like this, I think this could easily handle (with fine-tuning and some reinforcements, of course) a way bigger engine. A 1.6-2.0 diesel on this one would be good fun. Something like the Fiat 2.0 MJD could do magic for this setup. But with the increased price I doubt it would find enough takers, so one can somewhat understand Nissan not going for such. However, Nissan also seems to be rather confused as to whom the car is targeted towards. Makes half a case for many, but not enough of a case for most – the comfort driven buyer, the neighbour’s envy driven buyer, the gizmo and features driven buyer or the enthusiast. Or maybe, I am wrong about the last one. Like I said before, anyone wanting the Compass Petrol MT for it’s driving manners should at least TD this one. Similar engine specs, longer wheelbase and more space, well balanced ride and handling, way cheaper to own and maintain. If the engine makes you happy, there is much for an enthusiast to appreciate in this one; and yes, it has an HPS!

Nissan Kicks 1.3 Turbo Petrol – Summary
(please bear in mind the compromised nature of the test drive as elaborated in the full report)
  • Well worked out practical cabin setup. Decent ergonomics. Impressive headroom on the rear bench.
  • Practical size for the city. More spacious than Compass etc. Lowish top of windscreen height. High enough top of window, especially at the rear.
  • Enjoyable Hydraulic steering. Good feel. Enthusiasts could appreciate this dying tribe; typical buyer might find it ‘heavy’, especially if used to a light EPS.
  • Excellent suspension-chassis setup. Appears good enough to take a way more powerful engine.
  • Suspension-chassis-steering setup should feel very good for city, highway drives and even hills. Good comfort and control.
  • Engine, a big let-down for me. Doesn’t do justice to the overall enthusiast setup. Didn’t feel practical either (for sheer practicality the 1.5NA just might be better).
  • The immensely peaky spread of torque (power) and it coming at a high rpm was bothersome for regular use. Suitable power came late for a turbo (around 3-3.5k RPM), and it was noisy then. The engine and it’s tuning didn’t agree with me.
  • The high rpm engine noise and traffic noise was bothersome, however it didn’t feel harsh.
  • If you find the engine to your taste, it just might be the car you missed out considering, especially if you enjoyed the Jeep Compass Petrol for it’s driving manners and didn’t want to spend for it. (Note: I make the Jeep Compass remarks based on paper specs of the petrol model and having tried out the Compass Diesel on long test drives, so please consider opinions accordingly.)
Please share your thoughts.

PS: In case you've directly landed on this post, reports and summaries of other SUVs in the segment are here.

Last edited by Aditya : 16th February 2022 at 07:57. Reason: As requested
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Scorpio-N

Scorpio-N (Diesel Manual) - Test Drive – this one is going to be long!
(As before the report is about the driving experience and some parts of the cabin experience; have minimised comparisons to the XUV700, for which I expect to post at a later date)

A. Background

With the others in the fray being iffy for one reason or another, this of course was a must-try; also to try and avail of the inaugural prices. If the booking did go through in the initial lot, this might be available sooner than the XUV700. Yes, this is a body on frame (BoF) construction which has it’s pluses and minuses, but my idea was to check it for my purpose, which is mainly city and highway driving with occasional bad patches one might encounter on the hills beyond the popular spots, and also while taking detours through inner roads when a highway might have a jam. I don’t really expect to use the 4x4 aspects. The vehicle test driven, though, was a 4x4 version driven primarily in 2WD mode.

The popularity of automatics, especially in somewhat higher priced cars, along with the NCR limit of 10 years for diesels, getting a test drive for a diesel manual seemed problematic. I usually don’t like to ask for favours, but for this I made a call, as I also really wanted to have a test drive beyond the routine 2-3 kms which most showrooms are offering. I got a substantially longer one, thankfully. That I was not expecting another TD for some time to come, I wanted to cover both points of view in this drive – the analytical and driving parts (as covered in the first page) and the overall feel one gets from a vehicle like a daily-drive vehicle (as covered in the round two of the TDs on page 15). Though I wasn’t able to do both perfectly, I thankfully was able to do both to a reasonable extent.

The first page mainly has drives which were reported months after them being taken and the XUV700 and Nissan Kicks which were short compromised drives. This one was different and it being reported soon after the TD, I remember more of it, so this has ended up being way longer.

Note: I share here what I felt, thought, experienced, and interpreted. As I’ve often said, people differ in how they experience cars which is why I always encourage test drives. Your experience might be different from mine. I’ve also tried to limit my exposure to the vehicle to not get predisposed to a certain view based on some buzz-words being repeatedly mentioned by influencers, who also appear to work by keeping one’s attention on certain aspects while glossing over others. This is where, I think, the forum adds a lot of value – people experiencing vehicles in their own way and sharing with others.

If you've landed directly on this page and wish to read way way shorter, but fairly detailed drive drive experiences of the others in the segment, they can be found on the first page here.

B. Before the Drive

B1. First impressions, Exterior Looks.

This was the first time I was seeing it in physical form. The first look was from the rear, the impression I shared on the Scropio-N thread about it being a misfit was very much felt so – quite like patchwork. Moving to the front-side angle, it looked handsome – a high bonnet really helps it’s presence and makes it come across as a tall imposing vehicle. The overall height too does, as does the immense width. It does look impressive from this angle – it’s best one, along with the front, perhaps.

Further, moving to the side, it is one of the few where I like the look of tyres. Most tend to feel small. This one’s profile had a somewhat tough look with a 245/65 on 17” alloys; they suited the vehicle. Further, as noticed from the pictures, the part from the front of the car to it’s C-pillar is really good and proportionate. IMO, it has been ‘inspired’ from the Alturas/Ssangyong Rexton G4. (If not the sales, at least the Alturas is helping Mahindra get good returns in terms of getting a good design to pick from. Resemblance to the Alturas can be seen across - overall conceptualisation and look, steering wheel design has been copied with mods, etc). Beyond the C pillar things get iffy. The cut from the roof to the shoulder line and below does not aesthetically go well and does not have the sophisticated flair of the Alturas, and merges into the disaster the rear of the vehicle. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder, and one might need a lot of beer being held to find this beautiful!

B2. Stepping-in and Basic Ergonomics

Though liking low centre of gravity (CoG) vehicles, I ended up looking at the SUV-Crossover segment mainly for easy ingress-egress due to back issues, this wasn’t a great help. With the height that it does have, one really needs to climb into this one, despite my 6’ frame. It should be a two step process – on the side-step and into the seat. It almost is. One does take time to really get one’s bottom in the right place after that – an issue with climbing into a vehicle. What I am happy to report is that it did have a high enough aperture to enter. This, with my torso being quite large/high for a 6’ person. The front-left seat in the XUV700 was rather high and left insufficient height between the seat and top of door opening for easy enough entry for me (needed about 15-20 odd seconds to enter) and had headroom issues there. Happy to report that the Scropio-N does not have that issue. Easy enough to enter and acceptable headroom to sit. Getting in, of course, was not as seamless as ones which didn’t need a side-step use.

Entry height, though not ideal and generally more troublesome than others being tested, was quite to be expected with a vehicle as high, and a BoF construction (which tends to raise inner floor level relative to the ground).

Now to the all-important driver’s seat. It felt amiss. Took some time to adjust it; a lot, in fact – at the start of the drive and also again midway. The issue is the odd angle of the pan of the seat (the part we sit on). It was way too high from the front side (the part closer to the steering) and low on the rear, and that made for an odd sitting angle. The front of the seat pushed against my thighs and made it uncomfortable; sitting longer didn’t help either. This aspect might be felt differently by people with different leg-heights, seat distance and recline, what they are used to, but I suspect would bother many who are sensitive to it.

Besides the pan angle, the seat overall did not seem to be shaped well enough. It felt uneasy throughout despite the many minutes spent adjusting it in two phases and also while driving. What made things even that the slightest of touches to adjustment controls made the seat move a lot, and it made finer adjustments near impossible. The movements were jerky too. The ratio of control movement to seat movement needs to be improved (made slower). Lumbar support helped, but only somewhat.

The controls on the door too were oddly placed. Had to take my elbow way back to reach some of the controls. The centre console controls were fine though, possibly helped by my longish arms.

Then there were the armrests – differing heights. Not really ideal. Quite good on the front seats, and absolutely atrocious on the rear bench on which I only spent a little time. On the rear, the centre armrest was very high even for my height/torso. Sitting on the so-called Boss’ Chair, my left arm was placed at reasonable height and the right one was way high, as if pushing my shoulder up a bit. It might not feel troublesome in a short TD, but sit on it for long hours, and it is very likely to result in significant discomfort. Strange how such standardized things can go wrong in cars in this era.

If one kept regular bottles in the centre-console, using the armrest would be an issue due to the hindrance it would cause, so it is best used for short stuff – small bottles or glasses. The armrest position itself was okay, but this was no XUV700. It also felt a bit more firm than I’d like. The gear lever too felt about an inch or so too high from the armrest position.

What was excellent was how well the legs and knees sat on the sides with no issue of the knee hitting the console, a console which was way behind my knee (not above) – a design which is more traditional and I like. It was also more comfortable than the XUV700 here, and reminded me of the old Hyundai (fluidic) Verna.

Now, things get interesting – move to the back and one finds things reversed! No other tested had this issue: the knees hit the door-grab-handle on the rear bench. It takes away from usable width of the car, makes one sit about half an inch to an inch away from the window and the feel fo the grab handle odd. I didn’t check it, but others have reported about finding the door pockets difficult to access too. How does one go wrong on such things? A Boss’ Chair, this ain’t – go for the front-left seat if not the driving one, Boss sir!

B3. Cabin Feel and Space

What was excellent in the front was how airy it felt. Okay, maybe not if you built up high expectations with it’s outer dimensions, but overall a happy airy sunlit cabin, even without the sunroof. I loved that part. That said, the headroom was just about enough in the front seat from my comfortable driving height, and also the passenger seat. On the rear it was barely enough. A bit lesser than the others. If I really stretched my back and became totally upright and lunged forward, my heat touched the bulge due to the sunroof. No was was it as bad as a Kushaq – not even comparable – but yes, it did touch the ceiling. On normal sitting position, it was about okay. Not as airy as the front, but about acceptable, with less headroom margin for unseen speed-breakers and the likes.

The top of glass line felt okay at the rear. An inch higher would have felt great but would bring about other issues (higher CoG, alter dynamics, FE etc). The seat perhaps half an inch lower maybe? The lower part of the glass line too felt okay. Nothing to complain about. Just not as airy as the front.

I liked that one could recline the second row seats; individually. Legroom at the back was okay. Just about enough for a 6’ person behind another 6’ person. Nothing comes close to the Hector on this front. Nothing special for this daddy-size vehicle. Well, it is also kind of understandable. Both the XUV700 and this have independent suspensions at the rear and that takes more space as compared to the torsion bar used in the Hector, Harrier/Safari and most others (Compass too has an independent). This takes away from some interior space. Why the Safari has more space on it’s third seat is also likely due to the advantage it enjoys due to a more compact torsion-beam rear suspension setup. Then, being a BoF RWD vehicle, this also has Double Wishbone suspension in front vs the McPherson Struts in most others, which again take more space (are wider). A raised floor height does give some advantage, but only so much.

I did not check the third row at all. Didn’t even look at it. I am seeing this as primarily a 5 seater, with ample luggage space and possibly the odd time house help might end up in the last row in some odd situation. Now, is it a 5 seater? A third in the second row might be a bit of an issue for a ‘healthy’ family; for a vehicle of this size and class. The aforesaid door-grab-handle design makes me fume now!

B4. Cabin Refinement

It depends on what one compares it with. Mahindra says that it is nothing like the old (classic) Scorpio, but if I were to compare it to that, it is a big step up. No question. However, if one was to compare it to the others in competition (unibody ones), it is just about okay. Yes, on a catalogue it ticks the right boxes and has much, but in the impression it creates, to me, it was like one trying hard in a very restrained budget – no wonder this is seen as a VFM offering. For a rugged platform, it is quite good; a posh cabin to please the typical city-dweller it ain’t. But that is quite personal. Others might love it. It would not be a deal-breaker for the typical Scropio-N buyer, I suppose.

The armrests felt a bit hard and overall touch points built to a budget, but doing well for that budget. It is all a matter of where your benchmarks lie.

C. The Drive

C1. Footwell

I could have covered it in the ergonomics section but this needed a special mention, as it connected to the driving aspects significantly for me. It was quite wide, but maybe not enough; especially considering the immense width of this vehicle – more than the XUV700, Toyota Fortuner and even the Alturas G4! The dead pedal was a bit cramped and not really comfortably usable to move from that to the clutch pedal.

Further, there is an issue with the angle of the floor to the pedals. The feet do not sit naturally and the ergonomics of the footwell felt rather off for me. While my largish frame might influence things a bit, but only so much. The position of the heel was uncomfortable, which made the control of the left foot worse. It might matter lesser to ones going for an AT, but those interested in an MT, please check your comfort here.

Not sure if it is realized enough, much science goes into getting these things right. Our bodies operate well in certain conditions. The muscles being contracted to exert force is more comfortable in certain directions, and certain movements are easier than others. Such things done right differentiate a good design from an excellent design.

The other car I had a somewhat similar issue (angles being off) was the Chevrolet Cruze.

C2. Drive - Initial Impression

Ignited the engine and wow! This was silent. It really was. Though the engine was experienced in the XUV700 before, considering this one being cheaper and being for rougher use, I was not expecting this to be as good.
We get moving; three people on board. The steering feels a bit stiff. Like some odd resistance. I wonder if the car is okay. It was quite new. Not even run-in. Soon, there is a U-turn and the resistance was felt very strongly. In a moment, realized that the round dial in the central console had a 4x4 mode engaged. Of course, being on a high contact surface like a road, the wheels being locked caused issues due to them needing to travel different lengths in a turn. Told the SA to keep it in regular 2WD mode as that is what I was really interested in a city drive and also my prime usage. Since I wasn’t sure how much time I will get on the drive, I avoided spending time on things I really didn’t need to and try to get maximum time really driving it, and let the SA do the other stuff when needed. (The cabin points in the above sections happened without specifically looking out for them.)

Further, as I try to do, I checked the tyre pressure. There was a difference of 6psi between the two left tyres and the two right tyres. At the pump, the meter matched the on-board TPMS for the left side. For the right, I went with the pump’s meter, but interestingly the on-board reading read 1-2 psi higher. Recommended was 34psi, and I kept at 36psi keeping in mind that we had driven a bit by then warming up the tyres, and to match real-world tyre pressures.

C3. Drive – Through Traffic

Moving along in traffic, as expected, this felt large but quite easy to handle. The steering being light, helps make a lerge vehicle feel less difficult in traffic. The height one is at, one needs to adapt a bit to not miss out on things much lower down one’s eye level than one is used to. Nothing to worry, but something to keep in mind for someone who typically drives lower vehicles – this one really is high. The towering position might be enjoyed by many, as it tends to give some sense of superiority to humans, perhaps due to some sub-conscious primal instinct we have.

It pulled quite well at low RPMs. How good you find it would depend on what you are benchmarking it against. It felt a tad better than the Harrier/Safari and Hector and perhaps like the Compass. Going a bit higher and one can feel the power increase diminishing significantly. Around 3000-3500 the difference becomes more prominent. While this one tapers off, the FIAT MJD 2.0 based ones mentioned above felt more eager in that space, especially the Compass (lowest weight of the lot helping). Most of the time one tends to be in lower RPMs so it should feel good in typical scenarios.

We moved in a fair bit of traffic, and except the significant ergonomic issues mentioned before, this felt simple enough to manoeuvre, though of course had the limitations such width has in traffic. IMO, while driving around town, the width of the vehicle has the biggest impact and it was not inconsequential here – I avoided the really crowded areas around I otherwise might have tried, as there was a big chance of getting stuck in the narrow lanes around.

C4. Drive – Open and Regular Roads; Suspension Part 1

Here is where the difference in tuning of the engine became the XUV700 and the Scropio-N became evident. From very roughly 3000-3500 RPM it enters a sort-of plateau and feels like it’s neck has been strangled a bit to not allow the engine to breathe freely; not as freely as the XUV700. Please note that it is still very good, and only significantly falls short when compared to the same engine in the XUV700 which has a higher torque and power tune. I expect the Petrol version to feel quite similar in both. The Scorpio-N is about 1900kgs (unclear if the figure mentioned in the launch presentation was of the petrol or diesel) and heavier than the XUV700 (also keep in mind that the unsprung weight would have a significant part of the gain, especially in a 4x4 model, which would have a greater impace; more so in city). So, you’d be well placed for city drives and poor roads, and would need to think twice before racing down a clear highway if you are the kind inclined. This is not really built to be that kind of a vehicle. An XUV700 should easily have this in the rear view mirror diminishing in size.

I did manage to get to test it on the turn I like to for getting a feel of the suspension, dynamics, and overall control. Let me start with the background of this being a BoF construction with a pretty high CoG, and amongst the tallest SUVs around in it’s segment and more. For that, it was excellent. Yes, it was. However, when I see it in the background of all the talk one heard at the launch event, and how the vehicle is being promoted, all the technology behind explained and much talk of how wonderful it is at 185kmph, it scores rather poorly in my books. I think if I had gone with a completely blank slate with no pre-conditioning of how good this one is, and had the height and weight in mind, I would have been impressed, but with all the talk, my expectations perhaps became unrealistic for it’s form-factor. Let us not get carried away by the marketing talk.

While most vehicles would hold well at high speeds in a straight line and without any hindrance, to really drive fast, one needs to account for how it would behave if there were sudden interruptions and need an emergency manoeuvre – be it unexpected traffic or a sudden change in road conditions. We have plenty in India. This is not one I would be happy taking to high speeds due to the above.

If one was to keep aside the technical aspects aside (BoF vs Unibody, FWD vs RWD, vehicle height and CoG, weight etc) and compare how it felt as compared to the others in the segment, it was not as confidence-inspiring, and needs to be driven a bit differently. It is perfectly good for it’s purpose and intent – once again, we should not get carried away taking sales talk to heart and use due judgement. For high speeds, based on what I could TD in the city, my choice in order of preference would be: Harrier, Jeep Compass, Safari, XUV700, Hector/Scorpio-N. Hector would probably be worse due to it’s soft suspension and low track width, but not sure enough to demote it.

Side note: Talking about the Hector, once again, sitting on my high perch in the Scropio-N, one passing by felt quite small; even smaller than what it felt in the XUV700 drive. When seen sideways, the Hector does appear fairly large though, as the Scropio-N’s rear feels truncated and proportions are towards the taller side and the Hector’s on the longer side.

C5. Steering, Suspension Feel Part 2, and More

So, I would not go for very high speeds on the Scorpio-N. How is it besides this?

Driving wise, it is not what I can call agile. Really not. It isn’t as slow acting as a softly sprung Hector is, but it is no XUV700; surely not the Jeep Compass. Like a Harrier and Safari? Somewhat slower than a Harrier and perhaps like a Safari – I can’t really be sure as I don’t remember it well enough to give a proper comparison here. However if you keep it’s overall height, and the height of the cabin floor in mind, it makes it a pretty high CoG vehicle and with that background it is rather good. It is not troublesome on that aspect.

Would I call the suspension hard or soft? It has an interesting feel, which I would elaborate in the subsequent point. Driving dynamics wise, it is closer to a harder suspension, but there is a sense of incoherence in this feel.

The steering felt somewhat firmer than the XUV700 when turned more. Not as light. Is it better? Well, I think we tend to get used to the weight of the steering a fair bit after a few month’s of use – unless it is something more extreme – so weight is a lesser issue in my mind. Does it build a good connect with the driving experience and car? No. It does not. It only felt a somewhat harder steering than the XUV700 and was almost as disconnected to the drive, with the weight only helping a little. The steering didn’t really have any significant feedback. This might be appreciated by many as keeping things smooth and disconnected from the environs, however some who look for the connect to the drive might find this quite sorely lacking.

It is not only about the “enthusiast feeling of connect” the steering feel has safety implications too. Like when I was talking about not being at ease with high speeds on this one, a communicative steering could have changed that to an extent. Being disconnected doesn’t tell you how close to the limit of the car you are while driving it, and tells you little of the surface you are on (more on this in suspension talk further).

Mahindra has gone for it being friendly to the average consumer and I understand the approach from a seller’s perspective – it quite makes sense. One hears of many complaints of the Harrier, Safari and Fortuner having hard steerings (all HPS – Hydraulic Power Steering). This is easier to sell, and also to use within town and in typical conditions. Enthusiasts are a small and diminishing tribe.

I should also qualify the above with me not finding enough suitable bad roads to try this on, so the impression above though likely to be correct is less certain than I would like it to be. Both the roads I test for feel over broker roads (lightly broken and somewhat more broken) have been repaired, as was discovered after a diversion to that segment resulting in dismay – who’d have thought there would be complaints about roads being repaired!!!

Further, the steering felt slow in the centre position. The movement of the steering results in little movement of the vehicle at that point. This too takes away from the feeling of agility. While one might see this as a negative, we need to bear in mind that this is a different kind of vehicle where agility isn’t a prime consideration of design – this is no hot-hatch, and is a proper size SUV. A slower steering in the centre is also said to be helpful when off-road as it allows finer control over the vehicle, and would also result in more controlled bump-steer (the impact of undulations on the steering). It also helps in certain high-speed situations. The steering felt like a regular one beyond that centre part. I guess this is by design and not a flaw.

C6. Suspension Part 3

Okay, we get an idea of the driving part, but how comfortable it it?

It is not what one can call a classically hard or soft suspension. It is also not what one might call a typically well balanced one. This part is a little hard to put in words, but I shall try:

Going across big speed breakers wasn’t an issue. The large tyres and momentum worked well with the suspension to handle them. Tried a few. One can take this quite confidently at decent speeds if it is occupied only in the front row. Smaller roughness didn’t show up as strangely as it did in the XUV700, and didn’t have that unsettling sound and feel inside. However, one could feel the smaller stuff way more than one would like; it wasn’t due to tyre pressure, which you might remember was duly checked. Then there was also this slight and constant movement in the cabin – front to back and side to side. It wasn’t too obvious initially, but on spending more time it became a bit more obvious, especially on the rear bench. I again wonder if it is due to an FSD/FDD (Frequency Sensitive/Dependent Suspension) which is yet to be fine-tuned. It was a bit like one layer of undulations being filtered away, whereas others were felt more. I would not like to put off such stuff as RWD-BoF related issues – think Innova, Hexa etc. A busy ride, one might call it. With the above, it wasn’t going to win any comfort contests for it’s ride. Jeep Compass has used the FSD better than Mahindra on the XUV700 and Scorpio-N; none of this is felt in the Compass.

If you’re going to be driving for shorter periods – say a typical city run – this might feel as comfortable as the other unibody selling in it’s price segment, but might not feel great as them for those 8-10 hour long journeys. No, not terrible; surely not. It left me with a somewhat uneasy feeling over time, more so in the rear seat.

Further, I felt no major nosedive felt on hard braking. So, this is an interesting suspension – not classically soft or hard, and having aspects of both without being middle of the line.

Would I choose it for the hills with a lot of bends? I am unsure. Would need to drive it on such sections and bends a bit to become surer. As of now, my thoughts are: The bodyroll is not too much. It doesn’t sway like a Hector might. However, it also a very high vehicle so even a smaller angle of turn/roll is felt more in this one. Add to that the somewhat jiggly ride, and high CoG influenced dynamics. It is unlikely to be my first choice, however I think it would be good enough and a bit for most, especially in the front seat. Is it expected to be bad on the hills? No! I really don’t think so, except maybe for those very sensitive to sickness. It would anyway likely be a huge step-up from the Scorpio Classic. It also would score high with low end torque which comes very handy on such drives and would score well there.

C7. Suspension and Steering – a bit more

Another interesting suspension+steering part: for practical use and enjoyable driving, I would want the suspension to be filtering away the road surface undulations and the steering to communicate them to me. This gives me and the passengers comfort, and still connects me to how the car is interlacing with the road and what it is like. Here, it was somewhat the opposite – steering had almost no feedback, and the suspension was telling me more about the smaller undulations than I’d like, and that in a less predictable manner. With more use, perhaps, they would feel more predictable.

D. Other Aspects

D1. Noise Vibration and Harshness

Let us start with the noise first. As mentioned before, it insulated the traffic noise very well. The engine is very refined to start with and whatever needed controlling is controlled well. Didn’t notice any bothersome tyre noise either. So, on the noise front it is fantastic. I am thoroughly impressed.

One usually says NVH in one breath, but breaking it down, a bit here. I did not notice it too much in the driver’s seat, but became obvious in the rear seat. This one had ample vibrations. I asked the SUV to be turned to confirm if what I was feeling was the vibration from the engine - it was so. Interestingly at another point in the drive, we were next to a big high-vibration truck on our side and I felt a bit of the vibrations of that too. Something to do with the BoF mounting, I wondered. Again, it is not terrible and almost what one might expect of a rugged vehicle.

Was there a sense of harshness in this one? Except the vibrations mentioned above, nothing significant. Pretty good on that too.

Note: Though I have been avoiding seeing reviews, I slipped and happened to see a YouTube video of the bottle test and it seemed good, but bottles or not, I did feel what I did.

D2. Overall Comfort – Long Distance

The vibrations and ride left me wondering how comfortable it might be for a long journey. Remember, there were ergonomic issues too. The answer would depend on what you benchmark it against. Against the lighter/smaller ones on smaller tyre diameters, likely to be very good. When compared to the others like Harrier, Hector, XUV700, Safari – I do not think it would feel great, except for the very poor NVH on the Harrier and Jeep Compass. The Compass might feel better or worse also depending on the cabin size you need based on number and size of occupants.

In a nutshell, I expect it to be good without being class leading. XUV700 would be better – you would tire lesser. Of course the Scorpio-N 4x4 would take you to places where the others would not, and that is a joy beyond all the other stuff mentioned!

D3. Brakes

Well, this should have been a part of the main drive section, but that was hampering the flow so here it is: At first, it was strange. It rapidly changed: no braking – no feel – sudden bite and braking! It happened a few times. A bit like old cars in which the drum brakes got wet. Much further in the drive when specifically testing brakes, tried to do a two press break (like pumping in the old days). Braking was mild in the first go and much stronger and earlier in the second. This result was not consistent. I was kind of disappointed and wondered how it could be so.

Later realized that the piece is really new and has only done a few hundred kms, so maybe the brakes have not set in well enough. Further in the drive they started to feel more normal, and in a while completely normal. Then, there was some feel and some build up – not excellent – and eventually good braking. Nothing to complain about at all, by the end of it. Nothing to rave about either. Fairly sure footed too, with it’s high CoG being reminded.

D4. Misc

Strangely enough the car was found to be in 4WD mode on it’s own! Asked the SA who had no idea. Not sure if he might accidentally touched the dial on the centre control. It was at very slow speeds. This happened twice. I doubt it could be some automated traction detection system at work (once, I clearly remember was when it was drizzling).
The above is a cause of concern, as it changes the traction and control the vehicle has. Note the start of the drive part when the steering was found stiff (section C2). If one is driving a bit hard or in a tight situation, such a change on the fly without the driver knowing it can be a hazard. Even if it was accidentally changed somehow, it remains an issue, as a co-passenger – especially a kid – might end up touching it while using the console. There needs to be some kind of a master switch accessible only to the driver to enable such changes, possibly on the right side of the dashboard.

D5. Fuel Efficiency / Fuel Economy / FE

Most of this should be a part of the comparison post, but not posting the FE would’ve left out an important aspect. My long TD of the XUV700 was overall in comparable road situations and driving manner as that of the Scorpio-N. Both were almost entirely driven by me. Both are from the same company, of the same generation, share basic software (Adrenox) etc. The MID showed the following:
  • Mahindra XUV700: 14.3 Kmpl
  • Mahindra Scropio-N: 10.5 Kmpl
A direct comparison implies (14.3-10.5)/10.5 = 0.36190 which is approximately 36% higher distance in the XUV700 as compared to the Scorpio-N for the same amount of fuel.

We need to factor in some things and will use some estimates for better understanding:
  • MID usually shows higher. There are fuel losses which the MID would not really capture – evaporation, warming up, etc.
  • Short average trips result in lower FE, especially in a diesel vehicle which takes longer to reach optimal operating temperature.
  • The XUV700 had 2 people on board and the Scorpio-N had 3. A small difference for a high torque vehicle, yet not zero. 0.1kmpl perhaps?
  • The Scropio-N was a 4x4 driven in 2WD mode. Not sure how much of the system is disengaged and what the weight implications might be. Say about 0.3kmpl
  • The Scorpio-N was new and had not even run-in, so might increase slightly on the engine opening up. This estimation is very vague and can vary considerably. Assumed 0.5kmpl
There are subjective ways to estimate the calculate the above. One being:
  • Mahindra XUV700: 14.3 Kmpl
  • Less 10% for MID error and 5% for shorter trips = 14.3 x 0.85 = 12.155 kmpl
  • One extra person at 0.1 kmpl = 12.055 kmpl
  • Mahindra Scropio-N: 10.5 Kmpl
  • Less 10% for MID error and 5% for shorter trips = 10.5 x 0.85 = 8.925 kmpl
  • 2WD over 4WD at 0.3kmpl and Running in at 0.5 kmpl = 9.725 kmpl
Based on the above, a comparison implies (12.055-9.725)/9.725 = 0.2395 which is approximately 24% higher distance in the XUV700 as compared to the Scorpio-N for the same amount of fuel for a 2WD ScropioN for city use.

Further, as it is said - YMMV - Your Mileage May Vary! This is just an interpretation from what was noted from the MID and only a rough indicator at best. Also please bear in mind that the drives were closer to sedate thsn spirited, were on MT, and a mix of heavy traffic and lots of open roads. Those looking at the Scropio-N for it’s price should also consider the extra fuel cost they’d incur over it’s lifetime.

D6. Should I Buy it?

While this can’t be generalized, putting some points which I think might get missed; and a bit more:
  • Look hard on if you need the extra abilities this bring on board. Things like the 4x4, more abuse friendly BoF structure and maybe even RWD (which has it’s own negatives too, including traction and control in low grip situations like rain). If yes, it is an excellent package for 4-5 people on board.
  • If you are never really going to seriously venture off the road, or don’t regularly travel on broken roads well beyond the average person, think if you really need such a vehicle. If not, the other options in the market might suit you better.
  • For someone who is not going to use the extra abilities of this one, an XUV700 in a lower variant or a comparable variant at a somewhat higher price might be a lot better. Other options too. They might also have fewer niggles considering this one is new.
  • If have had enough of being bullied on road and want to give that menacing look in the other’s rear-view mirror, you’d not find a better one than the Scorpio-N in black in it’s price range! For those in the hinterland, it also carries the Scorpio's legacy!!

Summary:
  • Imposing in the rear-view mirror. Handsome and muscular front. Incoherence in overall visual design; especially the rear.
  • High ingress-egress needs a step. Good ingress aperture. Surprisingly poor ergonomics – seat, footwell, pedals’ space and angle, door, armrests, door handles etc. Good knee position to drive, but poor in second row.
  • Airy cabin, sufficient space (6’ behind 6’), but lesser than outer dimensions suggest. Overall, moderate refinement in the cabin and worse than unibody competition on average.
  • Rear seat moderately comfortable; reclineable; poor armrest height. Usable width lesser than Harrier/Safari?
  • Super quiet cabin for it's type; moderate vibrations.
  • Ride is inconsistent – can handle large speed-breakers and tge like rather well, but small undulations felt more than expected. More obvious on longer drives and on the rear bench. Didn't feel properly settled at most times, even on good roads.
  • Easy comfort-oriented soft EPS steering with almost no feedback - slightly better than XUV700; a bit slow in the centre. Not particularly agile (as expected for size/nature). IMO, this deserved a sorted HPS.
  • Better dynamics and handling than size, height, and BoF suggest, but not as good as unibody competition. Impression: Not for insane highway speeds; please don't get carried away.
  • Easier to drive in town than size suggests. Decent highway and city vehicle if outer size is acceptable. VFM 4x4 which can usefully do family duties as well.
  • Decent brakes, with moderate feedback. Not excellent; nothing to complain either.
  • Ride, handling etc are poorly represented in the summary and need a proper reading to understand - check the 4 parts about the suspension.
  • In essence, a good VFM 4x4 usable as a family vehicle, or one for rural roads, or those who really need a BoF vehicle, which comes with Mahindra’s widespread service network.
This vehicle is to be seen for what it is – a high CoG tall BoF RWD SUV – and considered accordingly. Benchmark it against that and it seems like an excellent option in it’s price segment, and a big step up from the Scropio Classic. If you’re looking for a city-highway SUV it could well fall short and the unibody options are likely to be better, however the Scorpio-N 4x4 will take you to places others would not.

Please share your thoughts.

In case you you wish to check the way shorter but fairly detailed drive reports of the others in the segment, they can be found on the first page at this link.

...........

PS: This ended up being way longer than what I imagined when I started writing and took way too much time. Could not spend any more and this is only a partially refined first draft, so please excuse the overall presentation of the drive experience. As they say: better done than perfect.

If I recollect more points, shall add later.

PPS: I am more of a sedans guy, and think others on the forum might be able to better assess the 4x4 and other off-road aspects; a bit difficult in city drives anyway.

I hope someone also does a door test to check the chassis flex when one is able to drive it off-road. It would be a valuable indicator of how it would age on poor roads.

Last edited by Aditya : 21st July 2022 at 11:13.
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Old 13th December 2021, 08:52   #12
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Re: Choosing an SUV up to 22L (Spacious, Urban) DRIVEN: Seltos, Harrier / Safari, Hector /Plus, Comp

Wow that was a really exhaustive review and long read! Might say it substituted my morning newspaper time!
Your review says the MG hector written all over it. It is definitely the most rounded car of the lot and your personal tilt towards it is justified. It offers brilliant city ride comfort - probably the best amongst the cars mentioned above. It is decently built and offers a lot of bang for buck. The music system is mind blowing and so is the NVH levels. MG has best in class warranty and ASS and till now the company hasnít put a wrong foot anywhere. It is definitely more premium than the Harriers and Seltos of the world.
Go for the Hector!

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Old 13th December 2021, 13:44   #13
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Re: Choosing an SUV up to 22L (Spacious, Urban) DRIVEN: Seltos, Harrier / Safari, Hector /Plus, Comp

That was a nice read Poitive. Kudos to you for superbly noting down your impressions of the current segment-favourites.

Considering your requirements, I would say the XUV 700 fits the bill perfectly. If your running isn't going to be regular and as extensive, the new Mahindra petrol mStallion engine surely packs a punch. Do try it out on a TD. As you mentioned, if ADAS and the other bling isn't priority, the AX5 will sit squarely within 20L OTR. Now the downside of going for the XUV 700; if you book right away, you're still staring at a waiting period of atleast a year, unless you have connections with a Mahindra dealer who can allot a cancelled vehicle to you. If you do go for the XUV 700, would suggest using an interim pre-loved car to fill the gap till delivery. Maybe a hatchback which doesn't cost much?

Between the Seltos/Creta, the Creta is the better bet, considering ride handling, ergonomics and the reliability of Hyundai in general.

Hector is coming up to be quite a stellar offering, but at the end of the day, remains a Chinese device. Not sure about long term reliability.

Basically, after the advent of the XUV 700, the rest of the segment fails to excite, considering the sheer all-round offering that Mahindra has introduced!

Last edited by IamNikhil : 13th December 2021 at 13:45. Reason: Typo
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Old 13th December 2021, 13:55   #14
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Re: Choosing an SUV up to 22L (Spacious, Urban) DRIVEN: Seltos, Harrier / Safari, Hector /Plus, Comp

Won't comment on the cars mentioned as I haven't driven any of them but would on the approach and alternates.

1. Would suggest to include turbo petrols into your consideration but being chauffeur driven runs the risk getting poor FE since they're sensitive to throttle inputs.

2. I agree with your fun dies down but have to live with the comfort statement and would hence advice to skip the Harrier and the Compass.

3. You're moving over from low slung sedans to higher cars due to comfort taking a priority. Aren't you going backwards on that requirement when you're compromising with the comfort issues on the Harrier and even more so on the Compass ?
I understand that the FTD of the Compass has smitten you but

4. Since getting a car to your needs is a bit difficult than normal I would suggest to wait out for 1-2 years for the market to settle down.
Jeep's future plans would be clearer, maybe they launch the Meridian, 700's delivery would be streamlined, the chip shortage would've passed and more cars to choose from hopefully.

Get a used S-Cross (largest Maruti) Petrol till then, you won't lose a lot in resale when your car of choice arrives and would give you a feel of how a 1.5 NA behaves. Sell it sooner if you want.

Hope it helps and apologies if it confuses you further.
Good Luck

Last edited by shancz : 13th December 2021 at 13:57. Reason: added cont
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Old 14th December 2021, 01:07   #15
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Re: Choosing an SUV up to 22L (Spacious, Urban) DRIVEN: Seltos, Harrier / Safari, Hector /Plus, Comp

Quote:
Originally Posted by mpod11 View Post
Wow that was a really exhaustive review and long read! Might say it substituted my morning newspaper time����!
Your review says the MG hector written all over it.

Hahaha, Hope the substitution was worth it, mpod11. Hector certainly is a practical choice. Very much a from the head decision. Just that it seems to take the fun quite out of the equation. The diesel one isn't as bland, yet doesn't feel satisfying enough.

With EVs likely to become the norm over the decade, this might well by my last regular Internal Combustion Engine driven vehicle, and I do want to enjoy it too, and here is where the Hector seems to lack. Vehicles which are beyond A to B machines and make one emote a bit are special. The Optra (I wonder if anyone would read the ownership report linked in the first page) was a wonderful combination of comfort and fun (suspension providing both, and a smooth torquey engine the latter) and has spoilt my expectations.

Quote:
MG has best in class warranty and ASS and till now the company hasnít put a wrong foot anywhere. It is definitely more premium than the harriers and seltos of the world.
The warranty is appreciated and takes care of a part of the "Chinese car" apprehension. It also shows that MG is serious about making a base in India and staying here for the longer term. I expect it to outlast many others, unless some political reasons come up, which they well can.

It certainly felt more premium than Harrier, but perhaps not the Seltos. More space did add to the feeling of premium though. IMO, the Seltos had a sense of a better finished product.

Quote:
The music system is mind blowing and so is the NVH levels.
The NVH, I totally agree. The music system, I've read about many times. Maybe I have been totally spoilt by the aftermarket upgrade in the Optra (quality component speakers, amp, sub, HU etc after much research and trying out) that all I heard in company fitted vehicles came across like a sad state I'd have to live with; considering the warranty is affected by any change to the system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by IamNikhil View Post
That was a nice read Poitive. Kudos to you for superbly noting down your impressions of the current segment-favourites.

Considering your requirements, I would say the XUV 700 fits the bill perfectly.
Thanks, Nikhil. IIRC you've booked an XUV. Could you please look into and answer the questions in the XUV specific post (last of the first series #9). It lists my thoughts and concerns about it.

It would be great to have views from ones who have booked/tested/own the XUV700.

Quote:
If you do go for the XUV 700, would suggest using an interim pre-loved car to fill the gap till delivery. Maybe a hatchback which doesn't cost much?
This is roughly the plan, in case the XUV700 is thought to be as superior to the competition. It would mean extra costs of the interim vehicle and the hassle of sourcing a good piece and selling it, which I to find rather painful (not done it for decades now). The prices of the XUV will also rise in the meantime. Worth it?

Quote:
Between the Seltos/Creta, the Creta is the better bet, considering ride handling, ergonomics and the reliability of Hyundai in general.
I didn't try the Creta due to the similar dimensions as the Seltos and the 1.5 motor feeling somewhat inadequate and a significant downgrade from the 2.0 motor (on a 1370kg car) I have been used to.

Quote:
Hector is coming up to be quite a stellar offering, but at the end of the day, remains a Chinese device. Not sure about long term reliability.
I had somewhat similar apprehensions, but seeing and feeling the car in physical form left me quite impressed with the attention to some things (eg ergonomics, where Jeep too was found wanting). For what it is worth, it is sold as a Chevrolet Captiva in some markets.

This failure of spanner and jack reported by @mayankk however leaves me wondering. This happened twice! Link. (The Lumbering Hector | MG Hector Sharp MT | 14000 km & 1 year ownership review)
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