Mahindra’s value for money Scorpio

A surprising thing happened while I had the new seven-seater Mahindra Scorpio in my possession for a few days recently. 

Instead of the usual derogatory comments made by brand name vehicle drivers about the Indian import, the feedback was positive on both the looks and quality of the new arrival.

GOOD VALUE: The new Mahindra Scorpio has received styling updates to the front and rear Picture: ANDREW STONE
GOOD VALUE: The new Mahindra Scorpio has received styling updates to the front and rear Picture: ANDREW STONE

This bodes well for Mahindra South Africa following a slump in new car sales last month. There’s no doubt South African consumers are feeling the economic pinch and as a result “value buys” will start to feature a lot more on the radars of potential buyers.

You certainly don’t get a much better SUV value offering than the Scorpio, which is currently available in two models – a 4×2 which retails for R284000 and a 4×4 model that sells for R300000.

In my opinion it’s worth paying the little extra for the 4×4 because you’ll curse not having it when you need it.

It’s hard to pinpoint any direct competitors against the Mahindra due to its keen pricing, but for most people considering buying one the question usually asked is: do I spend my R300k on a new Scorpio with genuine 4×4 capabilities (including low range) or a second-hand brand name SUV?

A quick search on Autotrader reveals that if you opt for the latter you’ll need to settle for a vehicle that’s four years old or more and has over 100000km on the clock. It will in all probability be out of warranty and you’ll also have to cover the costs of services.

The Scorpio on the other hand comes with a three-year/100000km warranty and a three year/60000km service plan (service intervals are every 10000km).

There is no straight answer and personal preference comes into play; however the Scorpio is certainly worth investigating. It looks good, the interior is well appointed and the ride comfort and handling far better than I had expected.

Motorland East London recently provided Dispatch Motoring with a 4×2 model for the weekend and we were able to put it through its paces on a trip to Thomas River Historical Village.

The village, about 120km from East London along the N6, was “reborn” in 2003 from the remains of an old train station which traces its history back to the 1870s.

The buildings have been restored by owners Jeff and Ann Sansom and in addition to various self-catering accommodation units there’s also a pub and restaurant, games room and motor museum.

Its close proximity to East London has made it a popular weekend getaway and the dirt roads and farm tracks surrounding Thomas River were the perfect testing ground for the SUV.

From the outside, an all-new front and rear styling makes the Scorpio look leaner, more dynamic and even a little bit aggressive. There’s a definite hint of Land Rover Discovery from the side view and it did not look out of place alongside an array of farm bakkies and SUVs parked outside the restaurant.

Improved ride comfort was immediately noticeable on the dirt roads thanks to a widened chassis track for added stability and a cushion suspension for better comfort levels.

Packing space was ample as we removed the third row of seats and loaded our kit into the cavernous luggage space left behind (the second row of seats can be moved forwards or backwards if needed).

Upfront, the slightly cramped driver’s position and dash reminded me of a Land Rover Defender but being a fan of the Defender that didn’t bother me much. The Scorpio comes with a host of features including a 6” touchscreen infotainment centre with bluetooth/CD /DVD/USB/AUX functions and GPS navigation. The screen resolution is not great while the positioning – low down in the centre console – could be improved on.

The test unit was also fitted with beige upholstery and as anyone with kids will tell you, that’s a no-no. Mahindra East London’s Steve Chandler said they were investigating bringing in models with grey or black upholstery, but in the meantime I’d suggest investing in some seat covers.

Powered by a 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine, which produces 88kW and 280Nm torque, the Scorpio won’t win any speed records but I found it adequate for the job at hand.

Claimed fuel consumption is 9.6-litres per 100km.

The four-cylinder powerplant gets two transmission options, a smooth changing five-speed manual gearbox and a six-speed automatic gearbox, although the latter won’t be available in SA until early next year.

Drum brakes have been fitted to the rear – probably in an effort to keep costs down – while disc brakes are found upfront. Safety features include ABS, a collapsible steering column, tyre pressure monitoring system, side impact beams, driver and passenger airbags and parking sensors.

Initially sceptical of the new Scorpio, the no-nonsense SUV won me over as the weekend progressed to the point where I felt quite at home behind the wheel. Given a budget of R300000 and the choice of opting for the Mahindra or a high mileage brand SUV, I think the Scorpio did enough to convince me on how to part with my money.