Nikhil Bhatia drives the Xylo-influenced Mahindra Quanto, an SUV that is small on the outside but spacious on the inside

If anything, the success of the Renault Duster has proved there’s a sizeable market for small SUVs in India. To cash in on this demand, Mahindra has just introduced its own mini-SUV named the Quanto.

The Quanto is based on the Mahindra Xylo MPV and the two are near identical right up to the C-pillar. Thereafter, the Quanto and Xylo look very different thanks to the mini-SUVs minimal rear overhang, tiny quarter glass and D-pillar. Even the tail gate is different which on the Quanto comes mounted with the spare wheel. Viewed in profile, you’ll also find the Quanto’s tail ends rather abruptly but there’s a reason for this. Indian excise norms consider any car with a length under four mt. as a ‘small car’ and it was this length target the Quanto was built to. Remember small cars are taxed at a lower 12 per cent rate of excise so the savings in costs for Mahindra were quite sizeable. The fact that the Quanto shares most of its components with the Xylo only made the business case for the mini-SUV stronger.

Just like the exteriors, there is a lot of Xylo in the Quanto’s cabin too. The dashboard is a straight lift from the Xylo’s though it comes sheathed in lighter beige plastics. Again, as on the Xylo, the comfy driver’s perch gives a commanding view of the road while the massive windows help all-round visibility. You also get plenty of kit on the top-end C8 variant including power windows, two airbags, music player with MP3 and aux connectivity and a reverse parking sensor. There’s also Mahindra’s Digital Drive Assist System atop the centre console that displays useful information like distance-to-empty and average fuel economy.

With the Quanto sharing the Xylo’s 2760mm wheelbase, space in the middle row is impressive for a car that is not longer than your average premium hatchback. There is lots of space in the cabin and the middle row seat is also wide enough to seat three in comfort. The slim and non-adjustable backrest is a tad too upright but that’s a compromise Mahindra had to make to equip the Quanto with two jump seats in the back. Yes, despite its small size the Quanto is a seven-seater! Space in the back is really tight and the pair of side-facing seats are suitable only for small children. But these seats can be folded and with them out of the way there is decent luggage space in the back.

Length requirements apart, the Quanto had to come with a sub-1.5-litre diesel engine to qualify for excise benefits on small cars. The engine in question is the new 1493cc motor — the mCR100 that is actually a downsized three-cylinder version of Mahindra’s existing 2.2-litre mHawk diesel engine. This engine uses a two-stage turbo and an intercooler to output fairly impressive power and torque figures of 98.6bhp and 24.5kgm.

With a relatively quiet idle and well-contained vibrations, we found refinement on this three-cylinder motor to be quite impressive. Even on the move, that typical three-cylinder thrum didn’t become intrusive until we revved the engine hard. However, this isn’t an engine you’d rev hard anyway. Power seriously tapers off post 3500rpm and even on full throttle it doesn’t gather much pace. At slower speeds though we found power delivery to be linear which should help in city driving. There’s decent pull between 1500rpm and 3500rpm so this is a car that will amble well through traffic but could find itself out of its comfort zone on the highway.

The Quanto shares its suspension hardware with the Xylo and uses the same combination of double wishbones up front and a five-link set-up at the rear. While a smaller body should have resulted in greater rigidity and tidier handling, the Quanto has inherited much of the Xylo’s dynamics. It feels slow to change direction, its hydraulically assisted power steering isn’t particularly fast (but is light enough at typical city speeds) and ride quality feels unsettled for the most part.

In the final analysis, the Quanto still makes for a very interesting product. Its oddball styling may not be to everyone’s taste but the fact that it is small on the outside yet very spacious on the inside (at least for the first two rows) will be a clincher for many. Then there is the added flexibility the last two seats bring with them. Its engine is also nicely refined for a three-cylinder unit, has sufficient power for city use and with an ARAI-tested figure of 17.21kpl promises to be fuel efficient too.

But with prices ranging from Rs. 5.82 lakh for the base C2 model to Rs. 7.36 lakh for the top-spec C8 variant (ex-showroom, Thane), the Quanto has keen pricing on its side and could make an interesting alternative to the premium hatchbacks on sale today.