If there ever was a magic number for the new generation it’s got to be ‘4’. The mantra today is most definitely about squeezing out the most that you can from a limited size whether it’s your workforce, your cellphone or your car’s engine. With the 4-metre length criteria set by the Indian government for a hefty relief in excise duties in place almost half a decade ago, everyone is now scrambling to fit into that space.
But these aren’t vehicles that have an ambition to be small – these are cars that deliver big, but want to squeeze out that much more from the regulations and quite literally at that. So you’ve got sedans that are chopping their boots smaller and hatches that are extending themselves to within millimetres of the magic length value. But now, there are also MPVs that are looking to fit in and depending on how well that bit is taken care of, it could either be brilliant or a disaster. The Quanto is exactly such kind of a car and at the outset opinion seems divided on whether it is a mutated tall boy hatch or a big people mover that’s been given the longitudinal squeeze. To clear the air though, it’s neither.
When it comes to segmenting and categorising the Quanto, it’s a tough job and so we didn’t really bother much with the massive hatchback moniker or even the mini-SUV tag that Mahindra has bestowed upon its latest creation. It isn’t really Mahindra’s fault either that they’re calling this a small Sports Ute – the Niagara of nonsense that passes by in our country in the name of sportiness is probably unmatched considering that everything from a fancy paint job to a ‘NOS’ sticker on the flanks makes a vehicle ‘sporty’.
But what the Quanto really does is carve out a niche segment of its own and identifies the need of a population that has been ever been on the lookout for a car that is small on the outside but cavernous within. To actually go ahead and displace a quarter of the Xylo from the rear to make such a vehicle available to the masses is most definitely gutsy but not really too much of a gamble going by the number of Quantos already out on Indian roads today.
The only hitch with the whole masterplan that can be identified is whether the Quanto can cut it on an emotional level with the hatchback buyer given its rather utilitarian roots. Then there’s also that issue of it having been homologated as a seven-seater – how useful are those fold-away benches at the back? These are questions that had been haunting us ever since the Bossman drove the Quanto just as it was launched and that’s exactly what we set out to put straight.
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It’s been a no brainer now that you really think about it. So what if there’s a restriction on the length of a car to get that excise duty advantage – there’s nothing in the rule book that defines the height limit, right? Move over tall boy, you’re being stunted by the Quanto’s sky-high roofline! It’s big, but Mahindra has done a great job in giving it an identity that is in line with the Xylo’s styling, yet makes a mark for itself in the visual department. There’s not much to mention on the front, but it’s the rear that really sets the Quanto apart with its tailgate-mounted spare wheel that gets a swanky plastic shroud.
Then there are those minuscule tail lamps that neatly integrate with the black cladding of the D-pillar. The rest of the Quanto is pretty uneventful in design terms but that’s alright because it does what it set out to do – intimidate. If you consider just the proportions on the Quanto and with no reference to really measure its size against, it actually doesn’t look too different than a tall boy hatch and that is the brilliance of the car’s design – it manages to give its buyer something really big yet visually acceptable, or pleasing even! Compare the Quanto number-to-number with the car it’s been derived from and you’ll actually notice that there is no change in the wheelbase – 2760mm, or the ground clearance – 180mm. So then it’s pretty clear that all Mahindra had to do was to discard a quarter of the Xylo from the rear to come up with the Quanto – probably something that was planned all along.
The shapes on the interior are straight off the Xylo too – though the Quanto is a good example of how playing with a little bit of colour and finish can completely transform a cabin. It’s like having put the Xylo’s cabin through an episode of extreme makeover to make it into this vibrant, young space which discards all that rather shoddy fake wood finish on the bigger MPV. The seats are exactly the same too – the same plush comfort on the front, but move to the rear bench and things start to change. Since the wheelbase is the same as on the Xylo, there’s absolutely no problem with roominess there and yes, this is still a vehicle for ‘happy legs’.
But the reduction in length and the fact that Mahindra still chose to plonk in two foldable seats in a third row means that the seat back on the second row has been made a lot more upright than it is on the Xylo – and trust us, that is not a good position to be sitting in, especially on long drives. As long as you’re driving around for short distances though, it should be okay for the guys in the back. The third row on the other hand, takes it to the extreme. You’d fit in there only if you’re petite and that’s not an exaggeration. First off, there’s barely any shoulder room thanks to mid-bench seat back on one side and the grab rail on the other.
Then the tailgate slants inward toward the roof enough to make you have to tilt your head to avoid ending up with a huge gash every time the Quanto goes over a bump. And if you’ve got another unlucky soul sitting in the jump seat opposite you, get ready for some knee banging. We’d much rather prefer if that row wasn’t there at all – it would have helped get a little more comfort from the bench as well as freed up more vertical space for luggage in the boot, which is in fact adequate, but you know how everyone just wants that much more.
MAHINDRA QUANTO INTERIORS
The other place where the Quanto is a quarter down on the Xylo is in the engine bay. The Quanto makes do with a cylinder less on the Xylo’s four-pot with capacity going down to 1493cc. What that has led to is the world’s first 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine with a twin-stage turbo and that’s actually important because while other hatchbacks will make do with about 80-85PS, what you get with the Quanto is over 100PS!
Torque is a massive 240Nm as well and despite its 1800-odd kg kerb weight, makes for decent performance. What’s more important is that this engine will chug along through that 5-speed manual transmission in third gear all day long which in turn has its advantages in the fuel economy department. Our test cycle returned an overall efficiency of around 15kmpl – quite respectable considering the entire package the Quanto offers. And then there are those 15” wheels shod with 205/65 tyres that impart the car with great ability to soak up bumps. Having lost a little weight on the rear though means that the Quanto isn’t as planted as the Xylo is (if you can call it that), but no one’s going racing here with this kind of car, so all’s good there too.
We had been keeping an eye on the mini Xylo as it was called when it was camouflaged and under testing around Pune. To be honest, at that point it seemed a little queer and hugely disproportionate but the final product is actually pretty impressive if you really understand what the Quanto stands for. It’s not for everyone though and people looking for the refinement and poise of a hatchback will be hugely disappointed. But that’s a trade-off that many will be willing to and are in fact already making for the added space that the Quanto brings. Everything considered it does make sense to finally categorise this Rs 7.57 lakh vehicle (ex-showroom, Delhi).
It’s not a hatchback. It’s not an SUV. It’s not an MPV in the true sense either. What the Quanto is then, is a lifestyle vehicle – one that fits into its very own niche within the sub 4-metre brigade, and if that niche matches what you’re looking for, the Quanto seems just about perfect.
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