This is my first review on oppositelock. I am from India, and although I have learnt english at school, I was always a laggard in languages (I don't even know my mother tongue very well!). So please do pardon any errors in grammar, syntax, spelling etc.
The following review may sound a little biased, but then you will know why soon enough. I will try my best to integrate the standard oppo-type reviews in this one as well. Also, at some points, my writing may go a little off-topic, but I will be doing that purposely, so as to make you all understand why I fell in love with this car.
Most of the pics are from google search and certain auto forums. So, full credits to whoever has the rights to those pics. I have put in pics of my own car in between as well.
Love is strange.
I am not a car fanatic per say, but I like cars, and I always had a very keen intuition when it comes to cars. In fact, I never knew there was a world of car forums, oppositelock/jalopnik etc. until just 3 months back! I have learnt whatever I know about cars on my own trusting my own instincts. It was tough in the beginning, since I had no guidance, no money to spare on cars, and to top it all off; my interest was frowned upon by my family.
However, I have always remembered cars that I love. They hold a special place in my memory. I have travelled the west pretty extensively, and through my observations and experience I realized one thing: there is a lot I have to learn.
So let's get on with how come I fell in love with this car called as Mahindra Quanto:
My family's association with Mahindra started out about 4 years back. We needed a UV which was cheap and reliable. Nothing else. There were only 2 companies to choose from then: Mahindra and Tata. For all practical purposes, this is still the scenario today. Spec by spec, the Tata was a better car in all ways, and I was hard pressed to choose the Mahindra. The Tata U.V. (utility vehicle) was a tad bit more expensive, but we could stretch if need be. The car would be driven only by our drivers, so I asked my family driver to test drive both the cars, and we will buy whichever he likes. My driver liked the Mahindra U.V., and the dealer gave us a good deal and I couldn't care less. 2 months later, and our driver crashed my primary car. I now had only the Chevrolet Spark (more popularly known as Daewoo Matiz in some parts of the world) with me, and I had to take some of our clients out to dinner. The Mahindra U.V. (which is known as Bolero Camper btw) was standing idly nearby, and I had no option but to ask my friend to ferry my clients in the spark whilst I follow them in the bolero with some of my other associates. Clearly, that was a turning point of my life. I fell in love with a second car in my life. This is how the bolero camper looks like:
It will transport you back to an entirely different era. Bare bones, basic, unsafe but honest car. Just look at the door hinge in the interior pic. It's just a small strap! Yes.. that's how basic it really is. No a/c, 4 speed manual gearbox without a synchromesh (I didn't know they still manufactured these till I drove it), brakes are only 'on paper', appalling side view mirrors, and one historical engine and suspension.
I did say love is strange. I did get a chance to drive the Tata U.V. after that, but frankly, I didn't get seduced by it's charm (yes.. it does have it's own charm.. a story for another day).
My love affair with Mahindra had started. Post this single drive, I started following all Mahindra and Tata news in the media.
2. The Present
How things change in just 4 years! The bolero U.V. had covered upwards of 120,000 miles (high by Indian standards) which were largely niggle free. However, due to certain developments, we had to buy a new car, and a 'proper' car this time; not a U.V.. We needed a diesel, since our running was on the higher side. The problem was that since this past year, the price difference between petrol and diesel had skyrocketed (petrol was pricier than diesel by INR 15-20, depending on where you live). This led to a sudden spurt in demand for diesel cars, and every auto manufacturer started levying a hefty premium for their diesel models. This meant that a lot of vehicles were out of our budget.
My requirements were simple. A car with:
- good ground clearance (4wd/AWD is not necessary)
- ability to withstand outstanding abuse from me and my drivers.
- easy aftermarket parts support.
- relatively cheap for running repairs.
I narrowed down my options (as per my requirements). The options:
a) Mahindra Bolero: The bolero sells in many different body styles here. This one was a SUV, which was rejected by my father since he wanted a change.
b) Ford Ecosport: Huge demand for this car in India (with some variants having insane waiting periods). Was available for immediate delivery for a premium (yes.. dealers are the same everywhere), and frankly I would have paid the premium too had it not been the fact that the car wouldn't survive in the hands of my drivers for even a year!
c) Tata Sumo: I have a soft spot for this car in my heart and this was my choice. It is an honest workhorse and one of the few reliable Tata's in the market today. A very decent car as well.
This time, however, I was more informed. I did my homework (read —> research on car forums, and various other websites), and was set on the Tata Sumo. Problem was... my father steadfastly refused to entertain a Tata in our home (we had the Tata Indica a couple of years back, which was sold as the City Rover in Britain.. it was a terrible experience for us). Tata cars have a perception of poor quality control in the minds of enthusiasts. Think of it as the citroen cars of 2000's. The drive-train is solid; rest is well....
So off we (I and dad) went to different dealerships to get a quote.
That evening, my father mentioned that he liked the Quanto which he saw at the Mahindra dealership.
I had totally forgotten about this car! This car has been launched over a year back and was a market dud. Off I went to do a little more research. It satisfied all our requirements on paper at least.. so gave the green signal to my dad about the car. Next day, me and my dad pitched 2 dealers against each other and finalized the deal in 4 hours :) No test drives, no pre-delivery inspections.. nothing. Paid the amount next day, and got the car after 5 days (as per our request).
3. The Car
Now, till now, I have always associated Mahindra with tractors and U.V.'s. I have seen their vehicles and travelled in some of them extensively. So, my hopes were pretty low.
Step into the Quanto and you will realize just how much Mahindra as a car manufacturer has progressed; from a tractor and jeep maker to U.V. maker to finally a car maker.
The Quanto is actually based on the platform of Mahindra's people mover called as 'Xylo'. Here are some pics of the Xylo from googling:
This car as you can see is a people mover, which competes with the segment leader Toyota Innova, and fails miserably doing so.
The Quanto is for a lack of better word.. is a 'mini xylo'. I have bought the base variant of the car (called as C2 variant):
a) The Exteriors:
The car looks nice in person, and I like the looks. It is indeed a mini version of it's bigger brother 'Xylo', but don't let the word 'mini' fool you. It is still a big car by the standards of most countries. These are the pics from google and certain auto-forums:
And here is how my car looks like:
The C2 variant doesn't come factory fitted with fog lamps; my car has it since it was a part of the deal when I bought the car.
It is a copy paste job from it's bigger brother once again. It is plastic-plastic everywhere (which btw is very common on most cars sold here), and in a tacky shade as well! I like it.
The car has a HUGE greenhouse. I remember laughing at one of the reviewer's comments when he said, that the middle row passenger window was bigger than the one at his home.. well, I had to eat my words when I saw it in person. It is marketed as 5+2 seater by the company. I view it as a 5 seater with a huge boot. I removed the rear most jump seats, and converted it to a boot. Otherwise, even the more healthy people will not complain for lack of space in this car. Things to note:
- The middle row seat is completely inflexible which kills the versatility of this car. One of the main reasons I removed the rear most jumper seats.
- The middle row is not very comfortable for long drives (due to poor design), and you do sit at slightly higher position than the driver.
The Quanto's interiors from google:
This switch is for disabling what Mahindra calls as 'micro-hybrid' technology. It is a fancy name for engine start-stop system
The jump seats which I have removed. These can folded as well if necessary:
This is how my car's interiors look like. Spartan. There is no better word for it:
The rear most jump seats which have been removed. The seats have been covered with fake leather (a gaudy colour, which I hate)
The front cabin. Just note how spartan it is. That's a Suzuki Swift right in front:)
The view from the middle row.
A comparo with the old Honda City. Just notice the ground clearance, and the puny tyres which the car comes shod with. I did do a trial of upsizing, but frankly, the difference didn't justify the cost associated with it. Tyres are very very expensive over here.
Notice the laminated flooring. This is also done (poor finish btw) by the dealer as part of the deal.
The driver view. The steering wheel is covered with el-cheapo cover, and a reverse camera screen is seen just in front of it.
The delivery day pic:)
c) The Heart
This car is powered by Mahindra's first 3 cylinder 1.5 litre motor which develops 240Nm torque and just under 100bhp. It is a twin scroll turbo setup which moves this 1.6 tonne+ metal thing from 0-62 mph in 17.8 seconds. Not particularly fast, but then you have to drive this car to believe it. This motor is one of the main reasons I love the car.
As you can see from the pic above, the engine bay is filled by this engine. It is big for a 1.5 litre engine. Mahindra's make fabulous diesel engines and this one is no exception. Start the car, and the entire car shakes as the engine purs to life. If you have ever experienced a 3 cylinder motor, then you are in for a surprise when you hear this one. It's different from any other 3 cylinder motor I have ever come across. Refined, quiet, smooth, efficient, and powerful. It will haul your ass and a lot more without any apparent strain. For a 1.6 tonne+ car, the fuel efficiency figures from this 1.5 litre motor are even more surprising. The claimed figures are 40mpg, but other owners are reporting more. I get around 30-35mpg for the conditions in which the car is driven around in. Pretty good by any standards. The power delivery is very linear and overall it is a pleasure to drive this engine. Maintain the rpm's at ~2000 rpm, and you will be hard-pressed to hear the engine. Of course, like most diesel engines, this one doesn't like to be revved. You need to ride the torque to really enjoy it. The power delivery is very linear. Turbo lag is also well controlled, and turbo spools up from ~1500 rpm's.
d) The Drive
You sit up high like a typical SUV, and lord over the other mortals. The steering is dead, but then you won't care since you will be busy bullying your way through the crowd. This a sub-4 meter SUV(?), which makes it an absolute joy to maneuver through traffic. India has recently been going through a fad of sub-4 meter cars (they come into a different tax slab), and the quanto is one such product due to this law.
The gears slot well into their respective gates, but the gear lever does transmit drive-terrain vibrations when using it.
The suspension is a topic of controversy. Most of the enthusiasts in India hate this thing for it's ride quality. The suspension setup is just too bad according to most. They say it rolls too much, and that the rear seats are very uncomfortable.
Personally, I find the setup to my liking. Make no mistake.. Mahindra cars aren't known to have a good suspension tune, and I will wholeheartedly agree on this. You drive most of their older cars, and most of your passengers will be puking by the time you reach your destination.
The brakes just do the job. They aren't the best in the business, but the pedal feedback is surprisingly reasonable. Otherwise, I would advise anyone not to exceed 80 kmph (or just over 50mph) on Indian roads, which frankly is a lot. The cars here rarely exceed 30 mph in the cities and towns.
The Quanto's suspension is not going to win any awards; far from it infact. The competitors offer a better comfort levels for your passengers. However, the quanto has a trump card. The suspension can withstand abuse like none other. The company has designed the suspension to handle load of 7+ people (there is a note on the tyre recommendation chart for 7+ people even though on paper it can transport only 7). This is the second reason I love the car so much. If you have ever come to India, and seen the kind of road conditions which most people face here, you will realize what a boon a tough suspension really is. I don't have to slow down for any bad patch of road anymore. Also, unlike the other Mahindra's, this one doesn't have much body roll for such a tall car. None of my passengers have puked till now:) However, the front seats are the place to be in this car. The middle row seat is uncomfortable by design (the fact that you cannot change the angle without a spanner makes it also more difficult place to be in), and the rear most seats are reported to be uncomfortable since you sit right on the tyres (this is as per various reports. As you can see, my car has none, so I have no first hand experience of this).
I have had debates on this subject with my enthusiast friends who argue that the Toyota Innova and Renault Duster (ya.. I know it is a Dacia, but it is sold here as a Renault) can also withstand the abuse I put it through, and it might be true to some extent; but the toyota is very expensive (heck for the price difference between the base models, I could overhaul the quanto's suspension maybe 3-4 times and still have some spare cash in hand), and the renault is rejected for sole reason that the parts are not available aftermarket and are more expensive as well.
Fun fact: if you were to lug the engine, at around 1800rpm, the entire drive-terrain shakes every where. This is a trait very typical to the Mahindra cars.
There is none. The engine has a very weird sound which is heard only if you are standing next to it, and the fact is, unless you are revving the nuts off this engine; you will never even notice it is running. At higher rpm's it is very difficult for me to describe the engine sound. There is the typical 3 cylinder hum, but it is well muted in this car. Hat's off to the NVH levels. Beautiful!
e) Quirks and things only an owner can tell you about:
- The fit and finish, both on the inside and outside leave a lot to be desired about.
- Every Mahindra comes with some sounds which are unique to a specific car. I am gifted with driver seat squeaks. I am thankful..
- No rattles! This is a something which is commendable for a mahindra.
- Headlamps are poor.
- The fog lamps are rubbish. I knew that even before buying them. Why did I buy it then? Simple; to satisfy my driver's psychologically. I don't need fog lamps over in this part of the country.
- A rear view camera is a must for this car. You can be sure as to miss children and bikes easily. The A-pillar is also a bit too thick for my liking.
- Safety? Well.. the top end version does come with 2 airbags, ABS+EBD, and Mahindra does say that this car has crumple zones... but I'd still be vary. Mahindra cars are not really know for their safety (both for the passengers and the person/car/obstacle who is going to be hit.. c'mon, if one of their smaller vehicles is weighing 1.6 tonnes, then you can imagine the rest of their range:-D).
- If you were to buy a Mahindra, here is a tip. Just steer away from the variants which are loaded with gizmos. Mahindra cars which are fitted with electronics are just not reliable. They will give you headaches constantly.
- Fun fact: Even though Mahindra is a huge conglomerate with varied interests; they certainly take advise on naming their cars from a numerologist. All their cars end in the letter 'O'. E.g. Quant'o', Xyl'o', Boler'o', Xuv5o'o' (not five hundred.. 5 'o' 'o').
Like most Indians, I have put up cheap chinese aftermarket stuff in the car. Cheap steering cover, cheap floor mats, cheap seat covers, and cheap reverse camera with sensors. I am not a cheapskate. The aftermarket stuff have only two objectives. Functionality and durability. The cheap chinese products do the job.
So what is it that I love so much about this car? It's been 4 months since I have this car now, and just from looking at it, you can tell it's been through at least a couple of years worth of abuse. Dents, dings, scratches, broken mirrors, cracked bumpers etc... you get the picture. Just the other day I had to give the car to a professional interior cleaner to remove the dirt, and he charged me extra citing the amount of dirt he had to remove!
- It is a simpleton. There is the engine, the gearbox, the tyres, the body, and the brakes.
- Running repairs are cheap. I have to replace headlights, outside rear view mirrors, and other small stuff very frequently since all these things break very very very frequently due to traffic conditions here. If the same were to happen to a toyota, then I would be looking at huge repair bills (toyota parts are expensive in India).
- I just love to glide over all the road imperfections, without having to worry about my suspension life. Rough rural roads can now be traversed without having to slow down.
- The engine!
- The doors have to be shut with some force. Very very nice! Why? Well because, you see, my drivers are trained on those trucks you see on Indian roads; and they do tend to close the doors with considerable force.
- Easy availability of parts in the after-market. This is something which is a must for me since I service the cars at independent garages only, and for all practical purposes, genuine parts of only Tata and Mahindra are available aftermarket (there are some grey channels for other automakers, but you have to know the right people for that. Spurious spares are a very common issue here).
- The fact that I can lord over people whenever I am driving. People give way to this car. They cannot differentiate it from it's elder brother from the rear view mirror.
Didn't I tell you that love is a strange thing?
Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed!