Karoo to Karoo

Gecko Rock Lodge is a very special place if you are the outdoorsy type. 

The lodge is hidden away in a valley of its own in the Central Karoo near Touwsriver. Nestled in the Nougaskloof Valley is Gecko Rock Private Nature Reserve complete with three trails, cottages, cabins and two 8-bed houses as well as two campsites.

Echo Camp at Gecko Lodge

We stayed in the very rustic Echo Valley campsite. For amenities it offers a hot shower, toilet and a kitchen area. That’s it. No power, water, mobile phone signal. Just you and nature.

The trails on offer range from a pleasant drive which you could manage with a softroader to the very challenging 4×4 Seattle trail, best tackled with more than one vehicle and with a guide if you are not experienced.

Gecko Rock also offers a number of walking and MTB trails.

We took the longer route via Bonnievale, as I wanted to buy wine from the cellars and cheese from Mooivallei Dairy which makes the most sublime mature Gouda. This route is 250 km but budget 4 hours as you will stop to admire the views, especially at Langdam.

Mahindra S11 Karoo

The Mahindra Karoo is an excellent choice in this context. Its a comfortable cruiser with the little luxuries you want on a longish trip.

Mahindra’s double cab 4×4 bakkie in S11 trim is badged Karoo and it fits the vehicle.

I found the S11 pleasant to drive and very capable in the bush. It is a truck, built to work in tough conditions, but the rough edges have been softened. It is no Amarok or Ranger when it comes to handling or interior design but it is very functional with a high level of standard equipment at the price. Nifty little luxuries like follow me home lights, light sensing headlamps, rain sensing wipers and start/stop function are all standard on the S11.

Mahindra Pik Up Securideck

The bakkie we drove came with a rubberised loadbay and a rollertop cover, which is neither rain or dust proof but does provide good security.

It is well equipped with front fog lights, dual projector headlamps, heated rear window and more.

The leather covered steering wheel has cruise control and audio function controls.

The roomy cabin has got a touchscreen infotainment centre, integrated audio system with USB, Aux and Bluetooth as well as Satnav and a rear camera. It has a proper climate control system, trip computer and electric windows. I thought the door handles were a little flimsy and it just does not have the storage space of the newer bakkies. I also missed a grab handle on the A pillar for the front passenger.

The S11 has nine safety features including ABS and EBD, two airbags and collapsing steering column.

The steering is a little mushy at speed but once you leave the tar its just fine although it is a challenge to park.

Expect fuel consumption to be just under 10L/ 100 km.

The Mahindra S11 automatic, especially in Karoo guise, is a successful development and enhancement of the original Pik-Up. The 2.2 turbodiesel and the six-speed auto box work well together delivering just what you need and lifting the bakkie to a new level.

The S10 and S11 trim bakkies are really good value for money. The S10 costs R394 499, while the S11 as tested here costs R429 900.

The warranty is for 4 years or 120 000 km and the service plan is for 5 years or 90 000 km.

If for some reason you don’t like the Karoo take a look at the GWM Steed and Nissan NP 300 (Hardbody).

Mahindra PikUp S11 Automatic 4×4

PikUp. Tough. Truck. But now a bit more than that.

Mahindra PikUp

The S11 Double Cab offers a six speed automatic box, climate control, power windows, tiltable power steering, central locking, touch screen infotainment centre with Bluetooth, USB and AUX, steering-mounted audio & cruise controls and even puddle lamps.

Clearly we are still talking truck here, sure it has most of the comfort amenities you could want and has a really pleasant cabin, but it drives like the robust truck it is under the refreshed more stylish skin. Its not unpleasant to drive but it is not a Ranger or Amarok. Having said that it will go where any of the other bakkies dare venture. I drove the automatic in really soft dune sand with no problems at all and no need to engage low range.

Safety provision is good with all the basic measures included.

Little luxury items include rain-sensing windscreen wipers, rear camera, light-sensing and follow me home headlamps with daytime running lights.

The mHawk 2.2L turbo common rail engine produces 103 kW and 320 Nm with a claimed consumption of under 8L/100km (but work on 9L/100km). The rear mechanical diff lock is automated and low range is engaged using a rotary knob. Braked towing capacity of 2.5 ton, while unbraked is 750kg. The turning circle is a bit wide for the city at 6.7 m. The ground clearance of 210mm is not as bad as it looks because the wheels are not as far apart as some other bakkies.

The range starts at R316 499 for the S6 4×2 workhorse right up to the leisure orientated S11 4×4 Karoo at R429 999. We drove the S11 4×4 Automatic at R414 999. It is just plain good value for money. Yes, it has a lazy turning circle and yes a woman in high heels will have fun mounting the cabin (for a lack of suitable grab handle) and yes it looks a little archaic from the side and the cabin is a little narrow, but none of these are deal breakers.

The Karoo models are unique to South Africa and do give you a leisure bakkie with a real workhorse in its heart. A bit like an Isuzu – just not quite as refined.

On the open road, whether tar or gravel, the PikUp cruises happily and frugally at the legal limit. Above the legal limit you will need a bit of a downhill and preferably a tailwind to get to the 155km/h top speed.

The seats are comfortable, aircon works well, progress is effortless and roadholding is normal by bakkie standards and much improved over the versions of a few years ago. Off-road the “new” mHawk 2.2 turbodiesel working through the Aisin six-speed together with the automatic Eaton rear diff-lock produces the goods.

The warranty and roadside assistance plan is for 4 years or 120 000km while the included service plan is for 5 years or 90 000km.

The alternatives include the Steed 5 and 6, Nissan NP300 and JMC Vigus. I also like the underrated Steed 5, but only with the 2.0L VVT engine.

Mahindra is a big Indian vehicle manufacturer which since 2018 has a local assembly plant at the Dube Tradeport near Durban where the PikUp is assembled so spares should be relatively cheap and quick to source.

First published in Stellenboschnews.com.

Mahindra XUV 300

Mahindra has been coming on in leaps and bounds. Together with Haval I would not be too surprised if they are big players in the SUV field in three years time.

South Africa is the first international market outside of India to launch the XUV300, a small SUV with a roomy interior for its market segment. Mahindra’s compact SUV is the KUV 100.

Mahindra XUV 300

“The XUV300 was launched in India in February 2019 and has already generated over 26 000 bookings in this hotly contested market, which is roughly equal to the total size of the compact SUV market in South Africa,” says Rajesh Gupta, CEO of Mahindra South Africa.
“South Africans love the combination of a high-driving position, bold styling and functionality that SUVs offer and the XUV300 offers this in a bold and dynamic package with a list of features and specifications that are not offered as standard on many vehicles in this segment.” says Mr Gupta.

There are two trim levels and two engine options.
The first is a new three-cylinder 1.2 litre turbo-petrol engine, which delivers 81 kW at 5 000 r/min and a healthy 200 Nm of torque between 2 000 r/min and 3 500 r/min.
The second engine option is a brand-new four-cylinder 1.5 litre turbo-diesel engine that delivers 85.8 kW at 3 750 r/min and 300 Nm in a flat band between 1 500 r/min and 2 500 r/min.
There is no automatic transmission, just a smooth very easy to use six-speed manual box.

XUV300 is available with two trim levels, the standard W6 and fancier W8.

The W6, or basic, trim level offers air conditioning, electric windows, power steering, black fabric trim, electrically adjustable side mirrors and central locking.

Mahindra XUV 300 interior

The W8 includes a second USB charging point, an additional information screen between the colour-customisable LED-lit instrument cluster and electric windows with express up- and down function with anti-pinch technology. There is a glass tilt-and-slide sunroof, also with anti-pinch technology, cruise control and an integrated voice command system with steering-mounted controls.
The infotainment system has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration on the W8 and has in-built turn-by-turn navigation with regional maps as standard across the range. The system also allows the driver to pre-set many of the vehicle functions, including the background display and, on the W8, the colour of the LED backlit instrument panel.
For the W8, Mahindra has replaced the fabric seats with its light leatherette upholstery which serves to give the impression of airiness and space.

Driving aids include a tyre pressure warning system, front and rear parking sensors, a reverse parking camera with parking assistance and automatic rain-sensing wipers.
There is a glass tilt-and-slide sunroof, also with anti-pinch technology, cruise control and an integrated voice command system with steering-mounted controls.
Space utilisation is very good with good headroom and fair legroom at the back. Seating is firm but good.

You may be asking yourself how it drives.
The XUV is a pleasure to drive. The diesel produces a not unpleasant throaty roar under acceleration but is quiet while cruising. There is more than enough power and torque on tap. I can describe the car as zippy in town and it has good acceleration for overtaking. Body roll is under control. Mahindra has ticked all the boxes, as fuel consumption is also good at around 6L/100km in general use and around 5L/100km on the open road.
The XUV300 is easy to park and even has a rear camera and park assist. There are three steering settings from light to normal to sport mode, which I preferred.

I found two little negatives. The boot is a bit on the small side and some of the fit and finish needs more attention, but there were no rattles or squeaks.

This car should be on your test list if you are looking for a compact SUV.

Competition in the compact SUV field is big. The best known are the Ford EcoSport, Suzuki Vitara, Mazda CX-3, Renault Duster and Captur, Toyota Rush, Nissan Juke, Honda BR-V and Peugeot 2008.

All XUV300s have a 5-year / 150 000 km warranty and a standard 5-year / 90 000 km service plan.

The range is as follws: W6 1.2Petrol: R 249 999, W6 1.5 Diesel: R 274 999, W8 1.2Petrol: R 304 999, W8 1.5 Diesel: R 324 999.

Mahindra KUV 100 Nxt review

Mahindra KUV100 NXT

Small crossovers are becoming all the rage in town. There still only one real small off-road SUV, the Suzuki Jimny. All the others are on-road cars.

Just under, or around R200k you actually get a few choices. Alternatives include the Suzuki Ignis (R180k), Honda BR-V (R249k), Renault Sandero (171 900), Haval H1 (R177) and the Mahindra KUV 100 starting at R160k. My pick of the bunch is either Sandero or Ignis.

Autotrader says the KUV 100 “cleverly sidesteps the pothole of trying to compete against the exceptionally popular Polo Vivo or similar – instead, it aims to offer buyers the lowest-priced new cross-over SUV on the market. “
Mahindra’s KUV is bigger inside than you think, excluding the tiny boot which has a very high sill. In short, it has the cabin space of a small SUV-size vehicle, but the length of a hatch.

Mahindra have been building jeep-like vehicles and bakkies for many years and do know what they are doing. The little three-cylinder 1,2 mFalcon D75 turbo-diesel engine produces 57 kW and 190 Nm. The car feels gutsy and once the turbo kicks in, has lots of go. The gearbox and clutch combine well with the engine and are more than adequate for the job on hand.

Mahindra KUV 100 NXT

The steering is quite light and more than a little vague, but you can turn on a tickey.
In the cabin you quickly see where they saved money. I found the seats a little thin and almost flimsy.
The centre console is a large hang-down panel, with 3 rotary controls for the aircon. The gear lever is on the console next to the steering wheel, within easy reach and with short shifts.

The parking brake is really old-school and like bakkies of twenty years ago, you pull a handle and twist to engage. The audio switch is small and fiddly, and the centre controls screen is small, flanked by buttons which have the set menu access like Info and Phone, and 4 inner buttons which correspond to the current screen menu displayed.

There are steering-mounted controls for audio and Bluetooth phone, and a USB port on the upper console.
The Mahindra KUV100 comes in 3 spec level options: K4+, K6+ and K8.
All KUV100 Nxt models ship standard with dual front airbags and ABS, with K6+ and K8 variants adding EBD, automatic door locks and an alarm.

Although there is an ECO button it is best ignored. Keep the KUV in PWR mode, which is normal power anyway. Otherwise it is super pap.
You can switch the stop/start mode off with a button to the right of the steering wheel marked ESS.

The model we drove was the top of the range Mahindra KUV100 Nxt K8 Diesel at R219 999.
We have not driven the petrol version, but can say the diesel is a joy. Expect around 5 L/100km in mixed driving.

This car is not meant for long-haul highway driving, off-road excursions are large framed people.
Expect a cabin facelift in 2019. The centre panel will be upgraded.

A three-year/100 000 km warranty comes standard, while K6+ and K8 models also feature a three-year/50 000 km service plan.

Originally published in AutoSold.