Mahindra’s latest Genio is a highly competent competitor in the Aussie ute market
The Australian ute buyer has come to terms with the demise of the traditional Falcon and Commodore ute variants, and, apart from those intent on living the V8 dream, when it comes to replacement it’s time to look further afield.
If you are in the market for a ute that’s going to work for its living, rather than pretend to be a dual purpose SUV, there are a couple of other alternatives, and they hail not from Asia, but from India.
Tata and Mahindra are both major manufacturers that are well established in their Indian homeland, even though to Australian buyers they are relatively unknown. Both makers have utes available throughout Australia and the designs signal a return to the original intentions of buying a ute as a workhorse.
This month we are revisiting the Mahindra Genio in greater detail, after it participated in our annual Delivery Magazine Ute of the Year contest, as reported in our last issue.
What makes the Mahindra Genio really interesting is that when compared to the best of the higher priced competition of Japanese heritage it outperformed the expectations of each of our judges and held its own in terms of appeal.
For 2016, Mahindra has improved the overall frontal design of the Genio, while really stepping up the appeal of the cabin interior of both the single and dual-cab variants. Trim levels are pretty much identical between each model and buyers can choose between 4×2 and 4×4 versions either fitted with an Australian-made tray from Triple MMM or supplied as a cab/chassis for individual body fitment.
With wider and higher door openings, access to the cabin is an easy entry, rather than having to clamber up from a side step. The interior 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 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, “Hawk” diesel with variable geometry turbocharger that produces 88 kW (120 bhp) at 4000 rpm with peak torque of 280 Nm rated through from 1800 to 2800 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 kerb weight for the 2WD single-cab is 1720 kg, adding a further 100 kg for 4WD, and then moves up to 1880 kg for the dual-cab 2WD, plus a further 100 kg for 4WD.
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. As mentioned, the seating is spacious and comfortable and there’s massive headroom. 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 $20,990, with the 4WD driveline adding a further $3500. The drive-away price structure for the 4×2 dual-cab/chassis is $26,990 plus a $2000 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. Tray dimensions are 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. The tow weight capacity for a braked trailer is restricted to a maximum of 1800 kg.
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 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.
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.
Motoring journalist Stuart Martin said:
“The surprise packet of the group, the Mahindra yielded a pleasant ride and determined power plant, completing the rough bitumen section with unexpected aplomb. Cabin space for leg and head was among the best of the competitive set. Even with some accessories – the tray, floor mats, a nudge bar, Bluetooth and a towbar among them – the Genio slipped in under $30,000, which makes it a lot of crew-cab ute for the money.”
As Delivery staffer Rob Randazzo discovered:
“One of the biggest surprises of the pack was the Mahindra Genio. This little dual-cab/chassis was never going to be a winner, but the exclamation from most drivers was: “Well, I didn’t expect that!”
“It is not a pretty ute, but it is extremely roomy and the 2.2-litre 88 kW/280 Nm diesel engine coupled to a great five-speed manual gearbox carried its 400 kg test load (payload is 1100 kg) around the loop with unexpected agility.”
Kurt Grossrieder, national fleet and equipment manager of TNT commented:
“The little Mahindra Genio? I felt it was almost in its own category, and I was impressed. The cabin was roomy, well laid-out and well appointed. A real surprise package.”
Terry Bickerton, national manager fleet – Australia Post and StarTrack:
“The Mahindra was so much better than I expected it to be, especially since it has looks only its mother could love. It’s certainly not on par with any of the Japanese vehicles but, gee, considering where it’s come from and how it’s been built, it’s very good.”