Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Climbing through the ranks

This year, Indian motor giant Mahindra celebrates two decades of operating in South Africa and – much to the surprise of many, including ANTON WILLEMSE, the brand continuously impresses with well-specced, well-priced and good quality products. With a strong onslaught on the commercial bakkie market, it has established itself as the brand for the working man – but with the new Scorpio-N, it is looking to rebrand itself as a proper player in the large SUV market.

The Mahindra Scorpio is a legend in its home market, having sold almost 800 000 units since 2002. While nowhere near those numbers, it has gained somewhat of a cult following in South Africa too, with around 6 000 units sold locally since its initial introduction.

Thanks to its rugged and utilitarian nature, it has been dubbed as the poor man‘s Land Cruiser and its owners are always full of praise for its performance and off-road prowess. Although I have always liked the Scorpio, I was a tad uncertain if it would stack up to the praise received from the market, and as such I was rearing to get behind the wheel of the Mahindra Scorpio-N – in a sexy red body colour, guaranteed to attract attention.

An all-new look

The previous generation Scorpio’s look was – let’s say – an acquired taste. Having said that, it was never set to turn heads with its styling, but rather with its work ethic and performance. The new version is still a hard worker – but with an all-new, rather appealing look.

Thanks to some significant improvements, the Mahindra Scorpio-N’s styling is modern yet retro. Strong angular headlights complement its aggressive grille, giving it a rather masculine front that reminds me of the 4×4’s of the early 2000s. I certainly found myself looking back in admiration and at one point, parked next to the new Toyota Prado, I was convinced there was a family resemblance!

Comfort and tech

Moving into the cabin, the modernisation continues with leather cladding (quite a high-end finish, considering the price bracket the Mahindra plays in) – certainly a welcome touch compared to the previous generation.

Complementing the rather plush interior is the high-level – yet very functional – tech in the new Scorpio-N. The first thing that draws your attention is a decent sized (20.3cm) infotainment system that – as is the norm nowadays – is fully compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That said, I struggled with the Apple CarPlay and couldn’t connect my phone once during my road test. However, the Bluetooth and the Mahindra’s software were very user-friendly thanks to an intuitive interface.

Along with the impressive infotainment system, the Mahindra also features a wireless charging pad, USB ports front and rear, and potent climate control, most likely to combat the equatorial heat of its home country. The sound system was booming thanks to the high-end Sony system, cementing the Mahindra Scorpio-N as more of a luxury contender.

As for comfort and space, the Mahindra is up there with its competitors, but it does have some restraints regarding storage for bottled goods and general clutter. The ride quality, however, made up for these minor niggles, and on our longdistance test, the Mahindra soaked up the miles with ease. Our passengers in the back had no complaints – in fact, they commented on the smooth ride and ample leg and headroom.

Performance

As mentioned, the Mahindra is near perfect for long distances – not only because of the excellent ride comfort but also because of its silky-smooth powertrain. Under the bonnet lies an updated version of Mahindra’s well-proven mHawk 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel, which produces 129kW and 400Nm (mated with a six-speed automatic transmission).

This pairing offers great smoothness with more than enough punch. The Scorpio-N gets up to highway speed with ease, and overtaking was a breeze – add to that a frugal 7.2 litres/100km (on a 650km road trip with combined highway, country and gravel roads), and you would be foolish not to consider it when in the market for a new SUV.

The verdict

Mahindra is one of the fastest-growing brands in the country and has proven itself to be a great contender in the LCV market. With the all-new and improved Scorpio-N, it is expanding this onslaught into the large SUV market.

Will it be a Fortuner killer? Probably not. Is it perfect? Also, no. But it can be a terrific product for those adventure curious families who can’t quite reach those financial heights that the Everest and the Fortuner demand.

Similar to the previous shape, the Mahindra Scorpio-N is a great affordable option in this segment – but unlike the previous shape, the Scorpio-N offers that hint of coolness that makes it a more attractive purchase for those looking for the family’s first overlander.

Model line-up and pricing

  • Scorpio-N 2.2D Z4 6AT 4×2: R477 199
  • Scorpio-N 2.2D Z8 6AT 4×2: R523 199
  • Scorpio-N 2.2D Z8 6AT 4×4: R573 199
  • Scorpio-N 2.2D Z8L 6AT 4×4: R608 199
  • Scorpio-N 2.2D 8 4X4 Adventure 6AT 4×4: R644 499

* All new Scorpio-N derivatives are sold with a 5-year/100 000km service plan and a 5-year/150 000km warranty.

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