Mahindra has just upstaged the ute market by producing a new approach to space, comfort and practicality.
If you line up all the current crop of new ute designs, minus their individual badge identification, picking the manufacturer of each individual make and model is actually not an easy task.
Such is the commonality of overall appearance, that, barring a few minor design cues such as the uplift “eyebrow” swoop at the outer edges of the Navara bonnet, the “J-curve” rear of the Triton or the F-Series tough guy image of the Ranger, they all pretty much look the same. The “Trout Snout” of the new HiLux ranks as being the ugliest of them all, and the Triton is probably the best looking, but to the casual onlooker there’s little to distinguish one from another.
The same lack of individuality applies within each cabin. Those with higher ground clearance are often more difficult to clamber aboard, but, once inside, the rear seat squabs of the dual-cab versions are usually too low to the floor, the door openings often too small to assist driver and passenger access, and, despite their greater roof height from the ground, it’s still possible for a tall person to crack their head on the top of the door frame.
And now for something completely different.
Indian automaker, Mahindra, has upgraded the design of its Genio ute and cab/chassis range for 2016, improving the overall frontal design while really stepping up the appeal of the cabin interior.
Best described as slightly boxy in appearance, the ute cabin offers what Delivery Magazine considers to be class-leading spaciousness within compact dimensions.
Fit for purpose is an attribute to which the Genio can clearly lay claim. The upright and boxy cabin is built that way so that it can slot in the four-cylinder, 2.2-litre “HAWK” diesel engine under the bonnet without much intrusion into the driver and passenger space.
With wider and higher door openings, and without requiring a leap skywards to enter because of overly excessive ground clearance, the interior of the new Genio immediately impresses for its shoulder and leg space, combined with headroom that is more than sufficient to accommodate the tallest Akubra in town.
As one tradie interviewed about driving the Genio commented: “It’s like sitting in a big armchair. The exterior styling may not the most attractive, but the interior space is way better than the competition. It’s a real surprise.”
The rear seat width is best for two passengers, with the centre occasional seat space limited to just a centre lap belt. The high seat base is good for those of the long-legged variety, with storage space under the rear bench seat capable of housing boots or waterproof gear. There’s also a handy slide-out drawer under the driver’s seat.
Mahindra has avoided following the designs of the latest European and Japanese utes that have aimed to make their vehicles appear larger and, consequently, more “macho”. This Alpha Male testosterone approach also comes with a much higher price tag that in some cases exceeds the $60,000 mark. Meanwhile, Mahindra has kept to the basic requirement of a ute as being a working vehicle, on sale at a third of the price.
Mahindra has brought back the focus for ute buying to that of practicality. Genio offers sufficient power and performance with an impressive payload for those buyers that want a comfortable work vehicle at a sensible and affordable price.
Available in both single-cab and dual-cab variants and in 2WD and 4WD, each model is powered by the same 2.2-litre, four-cylinder diesel with variable geometry turbocharger that produces 88 kW (120 bhp) at 4,000 rpm with peak torque of 280 Nm rated through from 1,800 to 2,800 rpm. Gear changing comes only in the form of a five-speed manual transmission, it runs on 215/70R15 tyres on alloy rims and it offers a fuel tank capacity of 75 litres.
The Genio weighs in with a kerb weight for the 2WD single-cab of 1,720kg, adds a further 100 kg for 4WD and then moves up to 1,880 kg for the dual-cab 2WD, plus a further 100 kg for 4WD.
With a power/weight ratio of 51 kW/1000 kg and a torque rating of 163 Nm/1000 kg, the common-rail, direct-injection engine doesn’t match the performance levels of the premium brands, where Ford’s 2.2-litre and Nissan’s 2.3-litre diesels produce significantly higher outcomes.
But when purchase price comes into the equation the average buyer might like to forgo being the leader of the traffic light Grands Prix. The drive-away price of the Genio dual-cab 2WD as tested with Triple MMM alloy tray was $24,490, to which was added an optional ladder rack, alloy wheels, tow pack, and Bluetooth phone connection bringing the full retail drive-away cost up to $28,990.
Pricing really does need to be looked at closely here. A tradie’s ute is going to be spending most of its working life parked on-site. It’s a different equation for those looking to buy an upmarket, high spec’ model on which to load trail bikes and camping gear at weekends and head for the bush.
As mentioned, the seating is spacious and comfortable and there’s massive headroom, presumably a result of providing turban space for the Genio’s home market. If there is any criticism it’s for a slightly tinny feel to the sheet metal and plastic trim that is not on equal terms with the Japanese equivalent.
The single-cab, base model 4×2 cab/chassis, including tray, has a drive-away price of $19,990, with the 4WD driveline adding a further $3,500. The drive-away price structures for the 4×2 dual-cab/chassis and ute models are identical at $24,990, plus the $3500 upgrade to 4WD.
When it comes to payload the Genio offers a full 1260 kg for the single-cab in 2WD form and 1100 kg for the dual-cab, dropping 100 kg for each model if the 4WD driveline is selected. The tow weight capacity for a braked trailer is restricted to a maximum of 1800 kg.
As mentioned, the single cab/chassis versions come with a high-quality alloy tray from Queensland manufacturer’s Triple MMM, with tray dimensions of 2700 x 1700 for the single-cab and 1980 mm length x 1850 mm in width for the double cab. The removable drop-sides and tailgate are 250 mm in height.
With a combined fuel consumption figure of 8.6 l/100 km the five-speed manual transmission matched to the 2.2-litre diesel four-cylinder provides sufficient performance levels for any tradie operating in town. On the open road it’s a relatively relaxed ride through to the legal maximum.
Driving the Genio in both unladen and laden form is a really pleasant experience. The engine and five-speed gearbox handle the variety of loads in the tray easily and it never feels underpowered. It’s quiet when on-road and the engine noise is well muted.
In line with normal conventional ute suspension systems, Genio uses a double wishbone, front independent design with coil springs, while at the back the semi-elliptical multi-leaf springs handle the job of preventing axle tramp in light load running. Brakes are disc front and drum rear.
The fitment of 15-inch rims and tyres means a low tray deck height of 910 mm unladen, and with a full load of hay and stock feed load in place the dual-cab tray deck height dropped just 40 mm. On-road handling was not affected with the variety of loading.
Don’t expect much of a variation in ground clearance between the 2WD and the 4WD versions. The aim here is that all-wheel-drive will be used to maintain traction in standard situations rather than in extreme off-road locations. Given that the worst circumstances a typical tradie will encounter might be a sloping, wet grassy paddock, the Genio will accomplish its job without getting bogged or suffering loss of traction.
From a safety perspective there are SRS airbags for the driver and front passenger, side intrusion beams in the door construction, crash protection and crumple zones incorporated in the design, a collapsible steering column, ESP and ABS braking. Air conditioning, power steering, central locking, power windows and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel are standard, and the Bluetooth phone link operates through a push-button control on the dashboard.
As mentioned at the start of this evaluation, the market for the Genio is amongst those that want a vehicle fit for purpose at an affordable price. Service intervals are every 10,000 km.
Many tradies and small businesses have been burnt by the experience of buying Chinese products such as Great Wall and JAC that were poorly supported when it came to parts supply and brand support, with ultra-low, or non-existent resale value compounding the problem.
The Mahindra operation in Australia is backed by the manufacturer itself and is a far stronger choice when it comes to purchase, parts supply and product support.