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Mahindra’s Genio is surprisingly different from the competition

As India starts to make its presence known in the Australian automotive market, it’s time to delve into the background of companies such as Mahindra. Having manufactured utes since 1947 when it made the Willys Jeep under licence, Mahindra today produces a wide range of vehicles covering motorcycles, passenger cars, utes, SUVs and commercial vehicles.

In a world where most utes bear a remarkable similarity in appearance with each other, it’s rather pleasant to find one company that has started from scratch and designed a product that stands out from the crowd.

At $19,990, the Mahindra Genio 2WD single cab comes complete with an alloy tray, all ready to start work. On paper it’s got the appeal that comes with a relatively large tray, a capable four-cylinder diesel engine and a cabin with plenty of interior space. And it has one attribute that not many others can claim; it has what we can best describe as turban room.

It’s something that we at Delivery Magazine have never really contemplated before. But for a vehicle designed and built in India, there’s obviously a requirement to ensure that a driver or passenger wearing a turban is not going to suffer from having their head squashed into the roof lining.

Buyers of the Genio can be assured of what is a quite spectacular amount of headroom. Perhaps not as much as the original London Taxi had to provide, where, historically, it was necessary for a passenger to be able to wear a top hat. But, nonetheless, Australian buyers can confidently expect to be able to wear a turban, or certainly an Akubra.

The cab design is strikingly different in that the ute has a snub nose and a short distance from windscreen to bumper. The bonnet slopes steeply downwards, and, consequently, vision to the front is extremely good.Mahindra-Genio_12

At first sight, the short stubby nose suggests that here is a ute with a transverse east/west mounted engine driving the front wheels. That’s actually not the case though, as this driveline is definitely north/south oriented. It achieves enough space under the bonnet to accommodate the engine because the cab, especially for a 2WD, is mounted quite high off the chassis.

The cab interior is surprisingly spacious, with confortable twin bucket seats that provide good support and come with fold down centre armrests. As mentioned, there’s more than enough headroom, but there’s also enough leg room and width for larger than average people. Each seat has storage underneath and there are cup or bottle holders in each door, plus two more in the centre console and a further one at the rear of the console.

The jack lives behind the seats on the floor section, and thanks to the sensible positioning of the bulkhead there is more storage space behind the seats. A rather nice touch is the inclusion of a first-aid kit and a spare set of headlamp globes.

Mahindra is growing its automotive business by establishing joint ventures with leading international companies. The four-cylinder diesel engine used in the Genio is from the mHawk family and results from a joint venture between Mahindra and Australian diesel powertrain specialists AVL, the world’s largest private and independent company for the development of powertrain systems.

In 2011 Mahindra acquired South Korean automaker SsangYong, and in the higher weight categories of commercial vehicles Mahindra continues a joint venture with Navistar that was established earlier in 2005.

Commercial vehicle manufacturing operations are centred at Chakan, near Pune, in a purpose-built factory employing over 800 technicians and covering over 700 acres. If you include the company’s other manufacturing plants, Mahindra has a total automotive production capacity of 3.2 million vehicles per year.

The four-cylinder mHawk diesel engine is also built at Mahindra’s Chakan plant. It’s a strong performer, which produces 88 kW at 4,000 rpm. Peak torque of 280 Nm is rated from 1,800 through to 2,800 rpm and it drives through a five-speed manual gearbox.

Mahindra-Genio_9The mHawk is a strong performer and it delivers its power and torque smoothly through the engine operating range. The ratio matching between the engine and the five-speed manual transmission is well thought through, with 110 km/h achieved at 2,800 rpm, right on the top of the torque output. At this cruise speed the engine remains responsive and yet quiet, especially when it comes to interior noise levels in the cabin.

In other on-road speeds the Genio achieves 80 km/h in 4th at 2,500 rpm, and in 5th gear at 2,000 rpm. At 100 km/h the engine rpm in 5th is 2,500 rpm, and 4th at 3,000 rpm. At 110 km/h it’s 2,800 rpm in 5th and 3,600 rpm in 4th. The fuel economy rated figures are 8.6 l/100 km (combined), 10.2 l/100 km (urban) and 7.7 l/100 km (extra urban). The exhaust emissions level for a combined distance trip is 228 g/km of CO2.

As far as the suspension goes the Genio is sprung on the hard side of comfortable, probably to compensate for the payload of 1.2 tonnes. It uses independent coil springs on the front with a double wishbone set-up, while at the rear it’s the standard fare of progressively rated multi-leaf semi-elliptical springs with double acting shock absorbers. The braking system is disc/front and drum/rear.

The tray size for the single-cab version is really very good, with dimensions of 2,700 (l) x 1,777 (w) with a height of 490 mm. It’s positioned well in relation to the rear axle location to give enough deck length ahead of the axle.

In the double-cab version the tray diminishes in length to 1,950, with the cab extending almost to the rear axle, which imposes its own limitations on payload position, with the maximum official rating being a reduction of just 100 kg to 1,100 kg.

From a safety perspective, the Genio comes with driver and front-passenger SRS airbags, steel bar reinforcement in the doors and crumple zones designed into the body structure. ABS is standard. Theft must be relatively prevalent in India as the Genio comes with a comprehensive immobiliser system with separate alarms. This will certainly draw attention to the vehicle if you press the wrong button on the key fob while trying to open the doors.Mahindra-Genio_8

The interior package is surprisingly comprehensive, with power-assisted steering, mirrors and windows, a 2-Din stereo with MP3/CD/SD and USB links, and a rear window demister. The crew-cab version also adds a digital drive assist system version (DDAS) that is basically an electronic trip meter, average speed, temperature and humidity, and fuel consumption readout.

Cruise control is standard and, like the switching of the radio volume and station selection, is via buttons on the steering wheel.

Delivery hasn’t evaluated either the crew-cab or the 4WD version, but, in terms of the single-cab 2WD, our impression is certainly not what we were expecting. The Genio starts off by looking stumpy, but its appearance actually grows on you. In terms of interior spaciousness, comfort, noise levels and ergonomics, it’s actually very good.

The engine and transmission is an excellent match, and as far as performance goes it remains responsive right up to legal maximum cruise speed. The tray is larger than most in this category, and, with a turning radius of 6.15 m, it is more manoeuvrable than others in this category.

While the price makes the Genio interesting, it’s the fit and finish of the assembly that makes this Mahindra stand out from other low-cost imports. The Indian motor industry may have a relatively short history, but its products are way ahead of the Chinese alternatives.

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