BUYERS GUIDE - UTES & CAB CHASSIS MEDIUM
The latest Mahindra Pik-Up might look a little strange to some people, but it works well and is very economical.
‘Never judge a book by its cover’ our parents urged us as children and the old saw applies to the Mahindra Pik-Up.
This work vehicle’s quirky exterior hides a roomy interior, a state of the art engine, a slick transmission and the first application in this market of Eaton’s mechanically locking differential (MLD).
For 2012 Mahindra retained the strong chassis, axles and torsion-bar-front and leaf-rear suspension that were introduced here in 2007, but gave the 2.2-litre diesel a variable geometry turbocharger and intercooler, feeding air into cylinders with Bosch common rail squirters that atomised fuel at 1600 bar injection pressure.
The result was Euro IV compliance and output of 90kW at 4000rpm, with peak torque of 270Nm in the 1600-2800rpm band.
In place of the original limited-slip rear differential was an Eaton MLD self-locker – not a Detroit Locker or NoSpin – that operated without driver intervention and without the driveline ‘wiggles’ commonly felt with automatically locking diffs.
The 2007 model suffered from quite flimsy door panels that bowed-out at highway speeds, creating wind howl and making occupants fear for their safety, but the 2012 and 2016 machines’ bodywork seemed better built. The former garish interior colours were replaced with much more serviceable dark fabric.
The Pik-Up retained an older-style roof pressing, complete with gutters, making clamp-style roof racks easy to fit.
The 2016 RRP of $27,990 for the Mahindra Pik-Up 4×4 crew-cab was around 20 grand cheaper than the competition and came fully loaded: cruise control with steering wheel buttons; steering wheel audio controls; power mirrors and windows; remote central locking; dual-power air conditioning; sound system with USB and auxiliary jack; armrests on both front seats; ABS disc/drum brakes; twin airbags; sill protection bars and aluminium 16-inch wheels.
The Mahindra Pik-Up also had large cup holders, two 12V power outlets and aircon grilles in the back seat.
The high-roof design wasn’t pretty, but meant that there was ample leg-room front and rear, and the seats could accommodate big blokes who were wearing hard hats. If there were only two passengers in the back seat they shared a broad centre arm rest that folded down from the seat back. The high roof line made entry and exit easy.
Downsides of the interior were plastic trim that looked tacky and didn’t fit very well, and only a lap belt for the centre rear seat occupant.
In early 2018 the Pik-Up grille, headlights,
bonnet and fog lamps were redesigned and daylight running lamps and cornering lights were added to the top-shelf S10 models.
S10 Double Cab models also picked up remote central locking, cruise control, a 120mm touch screen display with satellite navigation, reversing camera and a multifunction steering wheel.
Automatic climate control was also added to S10 variants.
In August 2018 the S10 equipment level was made available in the single-cab 4×4 model, for a drive-away price of only $28,990.
Head rests and three-point lap sash seat belts were fitted to all seats, along with two ISOFIX anchors in the rear seat and three top-tether points in all double cab models. Front seats in S10 models scored folding armrests.
An updated 2.2-litre, four-cylinder mHawk engine with variable geometry turbocharger produced a claimed 103kW of power and 330Nm of torque in the 1600-2800rpm band, providing a much needed performance boost for the PikUp.
A six-speed manual gearbox with low range transfer case was the upgraded transmission choice and an Eaton MLD (Mechanical Locking Differential) stayed
standard across the range.
Pricing remained very keen: from $26,990 to $31,990, drive away. The steel-tray-back S10 was $34,990.
The Black mHawk Pikup Limited Edition model was released in April 2019, featuring 17-inch black wheels, black alloy sports bar, black side steps, black flares and factory black bulbar. Pricing started from just $38,990.
On and Off-road
We spent three weeks with a 2012 Mahindra Pik-Up test vehicle and came away impressed with the machine.
In mid-2016 we took a 450kg-loaded short-cab model for a test over muddy trails, bush paddocks and beach sand.
This vehicle was tricked up by TJM with an aluminium bar and some Big Red driving lights that transformed its appearance. The wierd grille disappeared from view.
In early 2018 we tested a short cab, base-model Pik-Up tray back and an S10 crew cab found both vehicles progressive improvements over their predecessors.
Performance was better and gearing more highway-friendly, but there were no off-road compromises.
The short cab test vehicle was the white tray-back in the photograph below and was fitted with a hammer-finish steel ‘roo bar and fibreglass snorkel. The bar looked the goods and the snorkel functioned well, but rattled on the roof gutter. It needed a top tether as part of the fitting kit.
The Mahindra’s stand-out assets are obviously the low price and three-year warranty with seven-day road side assistance, but we also discovered that the Mahindra Pik-Up had very good economy.
We put several tanks of fuel through the dual-cab machine and returned figures of 7.85-8.0L/100km, giving it a 900+km range between fills. The short cab had a tougher test regime and used 9.0L/100km.
The much better-performing 2018 model returned an impressive 9.2L/100km.
The Mahindra rode and handled well on reasonably smooth bitumen and dirt roads, but reacted to ruts and corrugations with bump-steer at both ends and a hard-riding rear suspension. Better dampers are needed at both ends.
The plus side is that the rear springs and axle are dimensioned for Indian-style overloading and look quite capable of carrying a lot more than the rated one-tonne payload.
Off-road we found the gearing ideal, but the firm suspension didn’t allow enough flex for jerk-free progress over rock shelves.
The pre-2018 five-speed box worked with two-finger effort and combined well with a light clutch that had a positive friction point. The 2018 six-speed was even better and combined beautifully with the upgraded engine’s increased power and torque.
The part-loaded vehicles could be idled off the mark on the flat, but needed some wellie to help with hill starts.
Although its chassis and suspension could handle more the Mahindra PikUp is rated to haul a 2.5-tonnes trailer.
The Eaton MLD worked brilliantly on and off road, eliminating rear axle wheel spin on tight, wet corners when in two-wheel-drive and in all off-road conditions.
The design of the MLD prevents lock engagement above 30km/h, so there are no handling issues at highway speeds.
The diesel had a tell-tale rattle at idle, but was quiet through the rev range and interior noise levels were commendably low. The seats proved supportive and comfortable during long driving stints and we loved the folding arm rests.
The only downside was some switchgear that worked erratically – the driver’s side power window on the 2018 S10 sometimes went up and down when asked simply to go up and the cruise control ‘set’ didn’t sometimes.
The Mahindra’s off-road achilles heel is the low ground clearance at the front end.
We reckon that the front torsion bars could be tweaked up a bt, for a possible 30mm ground clearance improvement.
In summary, the Mahindra Pik-Up is a basement-priced machine that has all the expected ‘fruit’ and then some, plus reasonable performance, with excellent
economy. Warranty is generous.
The latest Mahindra PikUp was the company’s fourth effort in this market and by far the best to date.
The PikUp was a giant leap from the Jeep-like, open four-seater Mahindras that were imported here in the early 1990s. Had they been sold as non-road-registerable, light tractors the Mahindras would have appealed to farmers, because in low range they’d go virtually anywhere.
A through-driving rear diff centre meant that fitting a splined three-way to the back was easy. However, as a road vehicle the Mahindra was a shocker and the imports ceased quickly. Interestingly Mahindra tractors are being imported and are reportedly selling quite well.
The first PikUp model that was introduced here in 2007 was quite a different vehicle from its Jeep-style predecessor, combining reasonable road manners with strong off road and load carrying abilities.
A four-cylinder turbo-diesel with 79kW and 247Nm didn’t compete head to head with more powerful Japanese fours, but overall gearing of 42.7:1 through a Borg Warner transfer case compared favourably with the Land Cruiser 70 Series’ 44:1, meaning that it crawled at the same low speed in off-road conditions. The PikUp’s limited slip rear differential was bigger than the Toyota’s and gripped much better.
Most utes need some after-market suspension rework and the Mahindra PikUp is no exception. Ground clearance at the front end is marginal for off-road work.
Under-bonnet, everything is where it should be: easily reached fuel filter and primer pump, and alternator positioned high-up in the engine bay for water protection. There’s an air cleaner restriction indicator and space for a small auxiliary battery beside the huge starting volt box.
Under the chassis there are steel protection plates for the transmissions and a stone deflector in front of the fuel tank. The sump guard plate as fitted to post-2012 models is needed on early Mahindras, as is a better way of running the exhaust pipe over the chassis rail: the engine sump and the exhaust pipe are vulnerable.
The Mahindra Group employs 117,000 people in 100 countries and turned over $12.5 billion in 2010. The Group rates in the Forbes Global 2000 top company list and Dun & Bradstreet listed the Mahindra Group as the leading automotive company in India’s top 500 companies. It’s also currently the only automobile manufacturer in the top 10 in India’s Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index.
Mahindra Group is made up of companies involved in automotive, aerospace, agricultural, defence, energy, industrial, logistics, consulting, real estate and steel industries. The Group also has a controlling interest in SsangYong Motor Company in Korea.
Mahindra Automotive Australia is a joint venture between Mahindra and Australian-based distributor Pacific TMI. The company now has 30 dealers in rural and metro locations in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, SA and WA.