Prior to this review, I hadn’t seen many Mahindra Pik-Up utes around the city. In country towns, they’re no rarity. A run to the New England area surprised me, as I saw two in Tenterfield alone. Dirty, unwashed, with tools of trade and drums of chemicals in one, a stock crate in the other, it was fairly obvious that land owners had seen the great value for money in these Pik-Up utes. It made me feel a big smug to think we had the Trek camper trailer on the back of my loan car and were heading bush for a couple of days of fishing.
So what’s the Mahindra story? Manufacturers of vast arrays of industrial and farm machinery, the Indian manufacturer has earned kudos as the number one tractor company in the world. There were also motor vehicles – back in 1947, the first Willys Jeep rolled off their assembly line. It’s hardly surprising that in 2005, Mahindra opened their doors in Brisbane as Mahindra Australia with the first Pik-Up one tonne ute launched in 2007. Other vehicles have followed their 2-4 door Pik-Up light truck like the Genio ute and popular seven seater XUV500, an AWD people mover.
I signed the dotted line for the 2 door Pik-Up, but there’s also a four door version as well. The Red Terror, as I called it, had a big steel tray at the rear, 2.45m long and 1.9m wide, which meant I could store the ice box and some other gear with ease. There was a surprisingly large storage area behind the driver and passenger seats for rod tubes.
Seated on the Mahindra’s well-padded seat, I was amazed at the visibility. This ute is very tall in regard to seating and driving position, but not hard to step into at all. I reckoned that the last time I had this sort of visibility on the road was when I rode my Yamaha 1100cc road bike. There was absolutely nothing to impede side or rear vision, and when punting about the city at times, this was a blessing.
Many of today’s utes wagons and SUVs have serious visibility problems, which are par for the course, hence the wide spread of vehicle proximity warning systems on the more upmarket models. By contrast, the humble Mahindra was a refreshing change.
For a modest $32,990 which included a tow bar, bull bar, powder coated steel tray, snorkel, mag wheels and blue tooth connectivity, the 2 door Mahindra has got to be one of the best value for money utes in Australia. While the interior is hose-it-out standard with plenty of scrub clean plastic in sight, there are still some pleasantries to be found inside.
Pleasantries started with the seats. Yep, all cars have them, but let me advise you confidentially – as I sit on plenty – they’re not always comfortable, despite what makers claim. Short runs are fine, but longer ones can be a true test of design. For the record, the Kampey back has been battered into oblivion by far too much motorcycle riding as a young bloke (with two speeds: stopped or flat out) and by a lot of boating in the last four decades. What starts off as a comfortable drive, often ends up being a real pain in the backside.
Even electrically adjusted seating can cause problems, yet the Mahindra treated me to one of the most comfortable driving positions I’ve enjoyed. When I stopped the ute for fuel at Wallangarra, I didn’t need to slide out gently and then slowly stretch to see if my legs were still working. I simply moved out and went briskly about the refuelling. Brilliant!
On the highway with the camper locked onto the tow bar, the Red Terror was a very friendly critter, with just a few bumps and jiggles finding their up into the main cabin area – not so much on the really good bitumen surface, but noticeable on neglected sections. Steering, driving position, and general ergonomics were fine. Even though I seemed to be sitting fairly close to the door, it was something I was soon accustomed to. In the vernacular, it was no biggie! The ute cornered and handled surprisingly well, and that upright high seating stance was a treat.
The Mahindra Pik-Up’s engine, derived in conjunction with well known AVL of Austria (specialists in engine development) is a four cylinder fuel injected 2.2L diesel engine with four valves per cylinder. While it can never claim line honours for best of class power, with its modest output of 88kW of power and 280Nm of torque, it still did the job – and fairly easily at that.
All Pik-Ups come with manual gearboxes. Yes, I had to change down a gear to climb Cunninghams Gap, but otherwise, the engine things capably in its stride, easily able to sit on 100kph while towing with very little engine noise under way, which was surprising given the Mahindra’s budget-based styling and overall presentation. Gear changes required some deliberate pauses between cogs, but were soon mastered. The clutch had ample feel about it and was quite light. I calculated a fuel consumption of 10.1L/100km while towing, which is pretty good in my book.
On the back roads leading to the fishing areas, the Mahindra really shone with the double wishbone front suspension and rear leaf springs keeping the ute nicely in line and I was surprised to find – later - that it was in the serious off road mode that the Mahindra really shone. There’s four wheel drive and low range capability via a switch operated Borg Warner transfer case with the 4 x 4 system permanently linked to an Eaton diff lock which, unlike other diff locks that need manual engagement, is always ready to react to wheel slip and deliver power to a wheel or wheels needing it.
The diff lock system gave the Mahindra a huge advantage in the rough and rutted going and although the vehicle does not have a huge ground clearance the lack of front or rear over hang makes it superbly capable to climb, clamber or jump over obstacles that would make the going hard for some contemporaries. It always comes down to horses for courses doesn’t it!
The Mahindra Pik-Up is never going to win a beauty contest, but it’s very functional if somewhat funky looking, due to its tall cabin. It comes with some fruit in the bowl, so to speak, with central locking, electric windows, cruise control, air conditioning, tilt steering adjustment, stereo (with MP3, SD and USB), 12V charging points and load adjustable headlights. Towing capacity is 2.5t braked and 750kg unbraked, so plenty of boat owners or caravan/camper trailer owners will find the ute great at work through the week, and just as useful on the weekend.
This ute is not going to appeal to everyone, only those among us who want to save serious money on their work horse and fun time truck, and are willing to accept the Pik-Up for what it is. That’s an honest, no fuss, work horse, that has outstanding off road capability. Don’t forget it comes in four door models as well. Warranty is three years or 100,000km. To locate a Mahindra dealer, ring (07) 3213 1211, or email --e-mail address hidden--
Yes, that’s a gear lever there. The Pik-Up is a five-speed manual.
Main dials on the Pik-Up were clustered neatly together for ease of reference.
A decent radio is part of the Mahindra package.
The Mahindra Pik-Up at work, camper trailer in tow.
You can’t judge a book by its cover and you can’t judge the comfort of these seats unless you sit in them.
The amount of legroom around the Mahindra’s seating is awesome.
The Mahindra Pik-Up’s dash layout mixes form and function quite well, given its budget price.
The author got there in comfort – a five hour drive and the old back was none the worse for the experience.
The Mahindra’s engine isn’t the most powerful diesel under a work ute’s bonnet these days, but it certainly does its job with ease.
An optional extra snorkel makes sense on a ute designed for off road work.
Parked beside cod water the Mahindra does not look the slightest bit out of place.Reads: 797