Mahindra Pik-Up dual cab 4x4 utility
Just a few months back I was riding around a remote corner of the Indian sub-continent in my brother-in-law's Mahindra MaXX. It's a sturdy and reliable vehicle that he utilises in his successful poultry and aquaculture businesses. Mahindra have been building general purpose utility vehicles in India since 1945, when they began assembly of the Willys' Jeep under licence. Nowadays, this brand is a very common sight on India's vast road network and Mahindra plays a large role in keeping that great nation, India, "on the move".
But, I was intrigued to hear of the release of Mahindra's new Pik-Up model "Down Under". This vehicle is more than just a reinvention of that earlier model. Designed and built with export markets in its sights, it has an array of creature features aimed at wooing western buyers, while hopefully retaining the toughness that has made it so successful in the home market. The Indians are here - again! And this time round, fighting them off may be no picnic.
But India's half a world away. Just how will Mahindra's new Pik-Up stack-up here against an array of long-established - mostly Japanese - competitors? To find out, we spent a week of inclement weather in the top-of-the-line CRDe Dual Cab 4x4 ute. At $29,990 (RRP), this is a vehicle that looks to offer fairly serious value for money for tradesmen, farmers and outdoors folk alike.
The Pik-Up comes in only one mechanical specification, the CRDe. The recently developed Euro IV-compliant engine is a 2.5 litre common rail turbocharged diesel which develops 79 kW at 3,800 rpm and with maximum torque of 247 Nm at 1,800-2,200 rpm. These figures are a long way from the top of the class, yet, on the road, the Mahindra Pik-Up surprises. With an unladen weight of 2,150 kg, the vehicle is no lightweight, but performance is adequate. The gearbox is a manual 5-speed unit. A light clutch, coupled with an easy gear change, means that driveability is very good. Take off is good, and the engine pulls well throughout the rev range.
The 4x4 has a Borg-Warner transfer case, featuring on-the-fly electronic switching between 2WD and 4WD modes. A [rear] limited-slip differential is standard. No automatic option is currently available - buyers thus inclined will have to wait until next year.
Front suspension is independent, torsion bar with stabiliser bar and hydraulic shock absorbers, whilst the rear utilises underslung multi-layered semi-elliptic leaf springs. Road handling is not quite up with the best, but is reasonable. Ride comfort for front occupants is average. However, things are a little on the bouncy side of comfortable for rear passengers. Perhaps a bag of cement in the back may soften things up when unladen!
Brakes are discs on the front wheels and drums at the rear. Wheels are 6.5"x16". Alloy wheels (of the same size) are optional. Power assisted rack and pinion steering with a better than average turning circle of 12.6 metres made for easy manoeuvring in tight spots.
Environmental sensibilities meant that, unfortunately, we weren't able to do any serious off-roading in the saturated conditions without risking further damage to already badly eroded muddy trails. Although the Next Car team has had limited opportunities on relatively easy fire trails at the model's release day in the NSW Southern Highlands. We're looking forward to a further assessment of the Pik-Up's off-road capabilities in the near future. But it certainly looks the goods, with useful ground clearance of 210 mm and a class-leading entry angle of 39 degrees - although a departure angle of 21 degrees negates this. Wheelbase, at 3,040 mm is about mid-range for the class.
Exterior styling is somewhat 'upright' in a pleasantly rugged way. It's modern enough and we prefer it over one or two of its Japanese rivals. The '20th-century' roof gutters look dated, but generated little wind noise. And they still have their use in monsoonal downpoors!
The dual cab offers adequate room, although it is narrower than others of this class. However, entry and egress, both front and rear, is quite easy. Some dual-cabs are cumbersome for rear seat access, so the fact that the Mahindra Pik-Up provides easy rear-seat access is a major plus for those who regularly use the back seat. Headroom is way beyond impressive.
Once inside, there's a stylish and modern instrument layout, with carbon fibre-look centre dash surround. There is lots of oddment storage including extra mobile phone holders in the rear doors.
The front seats are quite comfortable and supportive, with a good range of adjustment, while the rear bench is also quite reasonable and features a centre armrest. Cloth seat and door trim inserts are an attractive blue/grey combination. However, the quite strong 'new-car' smell does tend to be a little overpowering, and does suggest that perhaps a change of material formulation may be in order to suit sensitive Aussie conditions!
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, remote keyless central locking, power windows, Kenwood audio system (radio, with single disc CD, plus both USB and MP3 ports), tilt (but not reach) adjustable steering wheel, 'follow-me-home' lights, front fog lights and child-proof rear door locks. There is a choice of seven body colours, including 5 metallics at no extra charge - a nice touch! Just one airbag is standard in the Pik-Up. This sad situation will be addressed during 2008, when two front airbags will be fitted. This 'update' can't come quick enough, as many - including the Next Car team - consider driver and front passenger SRS airbags as the absolute minimum for front seat occupant safety.
The unusual weather conditions endured during our test period meant that the air-conditioning was in continual use to keep the windows clear.
Notably absent were power mirrors - fine for the driver's side, but a bit of a stretch to reach the passenger side adjustment stalk. Narrow side steps are also provided, although they are not as functional as the wider after-market types.
The Mahindra provides a 3 year/100,000 km warranty and this includes free roadside assistance for the 12 months.
We liked the Mahindra Pik-Up. It's a no-nonsense 'workhorse' with enough performance and creature comforts to satisfy many buyers of this type of vehicle. At the asking price it represents excellent value for money and could become a serious competitor in this key market segment. We expect to see increasing numbers of them on Aussie roads!
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