Mahindra, a company known for UVs and SUVs is making its first big swing at the hatchback market with a UV itself! To call the Quanto a UV is just part of the deal. It's also a mini MPV and SUV rolled into one, or at least that's what the attempt has been. But is it a market that's waiting to be created? After all Mahindra have always used flanking as a strategy to get past its competitors and the Quanto is just that.
At first, it's hard to say whether the Quanto is a looker or not. Up to the C-pillar, the Quanto is very much a Xylo, the vehicle on which it is based. There is very little to distinguish the two, except probably that the side-strips give the game away. That's when you look beyond it and realise that Mahindra have re-engineered it to fit into the sub 4-metre category, to avail the excise duty benefit. The rear windows are more like quarter glasses, though these can be opened a bit ajar, ala the Toyota Qualis. The tail lamps are new and are place higher up while the use of black plastic strips along the pillars helps mask its mass. The rear tail gate is new and what you get with it is a mounted spare wheel to add to the pseudo-macho appeal of the vehicle. Look closer and you will also notice a rear step, which becomes amply clear why Mahindra have offered it once you open the tail gate. Inside, you get two side-facing jump seats to make it a sort of seven-seater, though strictly it's best for kids or decent sized adults. We, though would recommend it only in cases of emergency since they don't come equipped with seatbelts.
On the inside the mini-Xylo aka Quanto is pretty much the same affair. The dash, controls and front seats are pretty much from the Xylo. The Quanto is offered in four trims - C2, C4, C6 and C8 with the last trim offering both twin airbags and ABS as standard. It also comes equipped with the Xylo's digital display system that tells you the outside temperature, distance to zero and other important nuggets of information. The steering boss though is borrowed from the Scorpio and the dash and seat trim are in a new colour, which we find a bit out-of-sync with the rest of the car. The second row seems to have a new seat setup that's more upright and feels more like a bench rather than a comfortable sofa. The seat squab and back rest are narrower and of a harder material, which is fine on long journeys but on shorter trips it's a bit uncomfortable. There's also no provision of a central arm-rest in the top-end C8 trim that we test-drove. You also don't get twin-row air-conditioning like the higher variants of the Xylo and the air-con now gets an electric fan instead of a viscous one. The cooling is still good in the car, despite its large glass area.
What makes the Quanto also get the excise duty benefit is what's under the hood. A 1.5-litre, twin scroll turbo common-rail diesel engine that produces 100 bhp and 24.5 kgm of peak torque. On paper, these figures sound very good, though the Quanto in reality isn't a tyre-scorcher. It's designed more for driveability and efficiency (Mahindra claims an ARAI figure of 17.21 kpl), which becomes apparent the moment you start driving. The clutch action is light, but there is some lag as you get off the line and does test your patience a bit. But once you start moving things get better. The in-gear performance seems sprightly, but there is little by way of top-end. The reason why is that the peak power comes in at 3750 rpm, which means you do not have much revs to play with. Keep the car in the right gear at the right speed and it will reward you with brisk pace. What's more, Mahindra's engineers have done a fabulous job of keeping NVH in control, for what is essentially a three-cylinder diesel engine. It actually is better controlled than some four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engines in some premium cars.
With a ground clearance of 180 mm and the front and rear track staying identical, Mahindra's engineers did have a job at hand to make the Quanto handle better. After all, the Xylo is still a pretty tall car and the Quanto is aimed at the hatchback buyers. It gets 205/65 R15 tyres all around, a lower profile that helps in reducing the ground clearance a bit. Mahindra have incorporated dampers at the rear in the Quanto, the rest of the suspension staying identical to the Xylo. It handles neatly and there is ample grip on offer, though there is some body roll.
The Quanto on the whole is a big step in Mahindra's repertoire of vehicles, one that is aimed at improving volumes. It could be slightly better finished on the inside with better quality plastics et al and the engine could be a bit more punchy at the top, but that's not what the Quanto is designed to be. It's a sensible, practical vehicle from an Indian standpoint and that's what it does very well. There should be enough people ready to lap it up, we think.
To get a detailed driving impression and road test with the full story behind the Quanto as well as Mahindra's future small car strategy, pick up the October issue of BS Motoring, out on stands soon