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As a seven-seat crossover for around Rs 20 lakh, the Mahindra XUV5OO has enjoyed a largely unchallenged stint so far. But now Tata has arrived with a rival which is all set to change that

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In this two-part feature story, the Hexa may have spent a lot of its energy fighting it out with the Innova Crysta for the ultimate MPV title, but that doesn’t mean the Tata has run out of ammo. It still has another weapon in its arsenal, called the Super Drive Modes. Available only on the 4x4 MT variant, it comes with four preset modes – Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Rough Road. More on that in a bit. Let’s get onto the other side where the XUV5OO awaits to defend its title.

Compared to the Hexa, the XUV5OO AWD is old – it received a mild facelift in 2015 and has really started showing its age. However, it’s still a popular, full-size, seven-seater SUV and comes with an AWD option with both manual and auto variants. Since the Hexa only gets a 4x4 MT, what we have here is the XUV5OO in the AWD MT avatar. Both these SUVs come with basic off-road tools which means no low-range transfer case so don’t expect either of these to get you deep into the jungle.

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There’s also a fundamental difference between the two systems. While the XUV5OO’s AWD system transfers equal torque to all four wheels, it only sends power to the rear depending on the driving conditions. In the Hexa though, while the car’s ESP manages power to the wheels in ‘Auto’, it also can engage four-wheel drive. It features on-demand torque where power can be sent to all four wheels individually. This is more noticeable in ‘Rough Road’ mode than in ‘Auto’ as more power can be sent to the front.

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While both these SUVs are quite limited off the road, it’s the Tata that feels the better equipped should you decide to venture out into the wild. The hill descent option works better and so does the Rough Road mode. In comparison, we found the XUV’s AWD system to be a tad bit weaker in the same driving conditions. However, going by Indian standards, these SUVs are most likely to spend most of their active days being driven in the city or out on the highway and it is in such conditions that these two trade equal blows.

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Let’s begin with the XUV5OO. Its mechanicals may be close to five years old, but out in the real world, it still feels the better of the two. The 2.2-litre mHawk motor is always eager to build up momentum and driveability is second to none. We especially love the low-end punch which does elevate the Tata’s shortcomings in this department. Not to suggest the Hexa lacks performance, it does a fine job of cruising duties down the highway. It’s the lower-end of the rev band where the Tata loses out to the Mahindra. Also, a heavy steering wheel and clutch action, and long and notchy throws for the gear stick make the Hexa a little cumbersome to drive in urban conditions.

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However, the Hexa claws its way back into the contest with its excellent ride and handling capabilities. It can gobble up potholes for breakfast and is light years ahead of the Mahindra in this regard. The XUV continues to be softly sprung and while it handles road irregularities just fine, there’s too much body roll and vertical movements, be it at city or highway speeds. The XUV doesn’t feel as confident as the Hexa around corners, and that light steering doesn’t offer enough feedback at triple digit speeds. The advantage it holds in the city due to its lighter controls is easily lost once you hit the highways and that’s where the Hexa outshines the 5OO by a big margin.

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Also in terms of interior look and feel, the XUV feels spartan with all the hard plastics and patchy fit and finish it comes with, something you don’t expect from a Rs 20-plus-lakh SUV. For that money, the Hexa feels properly premium with soft-touch surfaces and leather trim dominating the cabin. As for legroom, Hexa being the longer of the two, obviously has more space and offers better seating comfort for all three rows.

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Where the XUV makes some ground is in the features department, something that has traditionally been Mahindra’s forte. The basic creature comforts are ?common in both the SUVs, but things like a sun roof, electrically adjustable driver seat and push Start/Stop button are some of the things that the Hexa misses out on. The small infotainment screen also doesn’t go too well with the SUV’s XXL size, thankfully its functionality isn’t worrisome.

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For a product that doesn’t hold any price advantage, the XUV5OO doesn’t come across as anything special. Yes, driveability is the Hexa’s weakest link, but it isn’t as annoying as the XUV’s shortcomings in ride and handling, cabin quality and lack of off-road tools. At the end, Mahindra’s flagship has a lot of catching up to do as Tata has managed to get most things right with its heavily revised flagship. The Hexa may not look like an outright SUV, but it’s got the means to outdo its competition at their own game and that’s what makes the Hexa unique.

Words: Devesh Shobha / photography: Himanshu Pandya

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TATA Hexa XT
Engine: 4cyl, 2179cc, turbo-diesel, 154bhp, 400Nm, 6-speed manual, 4x4
Fuel tank: 60 litres, Wheelbase: 2850mm, LxWxH: 4788mmx1903mmx1791mm
Kerb weight: 2280kg
Ground clearance: 200mm
Price: Rs 21.67 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Pros: Cabin quality, fit and finish, ride comfort, space, 4x4 mode
Cons: Low-end driveability
Rating: 7/10

XUV5OO mHawk 140
Engine: 4cyl, 2179cc, turbo-diesel, 140bhp, 330Nm, 6-speed manual, AWD
Fuel tank: 70 litres, Wheelbase: 2700mm, LxWxH: 4585mmx1890mmx1785mm
Kerb weight: 1785kg
Ground clearance: 200mm
Price: Rs 21.61 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)
Pros: Driveability, space
Cons: Lacklustre cabin, quality, AWD system
Rating: 6/10

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