From the U321 to the Mahindra Marazzo
It would be the vehicle that would see the debut of Mahindra’s new 1.5-litre BS VI ready diesel engine. It would have a lot of space and would be packed to the gills with upmarket creature comforts. A lot was known about Mahindra’s all new MPV, code named U321. We also knew it would take on the much established Toyota Innova Crysta, the Tata Hexa and the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga to some extent and would also serve as a replacement for those who continue to use the old Innova as their workhorse. Yet, a lot remained a mystery. Chief among them, its name, what it would look like and how it would be to drive. Part of this mystery was revealed when Mahindra announced to the world, not without pride, that the production version of the U321 would be called the Mahindra Marazzo.
“Our sources suggest that the pricing might be somewhat similar to what the old Innova was commanding before things at Toyota Crysta-lised”
A morphosis of the Basque word ‘marrazo’, which means shark, the name was meant to connect the new MPV with the fearsome predator of the deep. After all, it was said at the press conference by the company’s top bosses, the design of the vehicle too was inspired by the shape of a shark. A fancy audio-visual with funky graphics of a shark swimming in a virtual blue blended with individual elements from the U321 that resonated with the parts of a shark. Like the teeth like grille or the tail fin like tail lamp design. At a fairly large gathering of the media in Mumbai where the company announced the U321’s name, a beaming Dr Pawan Goenka, managing director of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, “The shark inspired styling of the Marazzo symbolises the next generation of Mahindra vehicles.”
The shape of it
The shape of a vehicle is supposed to convey its purpose. So you have a low slung, squat look for a sportscar, a three-box look for a sedan, a two-box tall look for an SUV and the shape you see in these photos for an MPV. It isn’t exactly the shape that an Ed Sheeran would be crooning about but the Mahindra Marazzo’s silhouette tells us a few things straight off the bat. First, this a vehicle of practicality and in that sense it remains true to Mahindra’s core proposition of creating vehicles that are high on functional value even when they are created for the enthusiast. Second, there is something new happening at Mahindra. For in the Mahindra Marazzo, you don’t see the cardboard box styling of the TUV 300 or the Xylo before it. Nor do you see the polarising properties of the KUV 100’s styling.
“The shark inspired styling of the Marazzo symbolises the next generation of Mahindra vehicles”
In fact, the Marazzo looks nothing like any other Mahindra vehicle for it simply doesn’t have any SUV DNA at all. This is a no nonsense, properly designed MPV with the classic MPV silhouette. In fact, the shape, even though much has been done to distinguish it from the average MPV on the road including a Porsche Boxster like crease (done backwards here) on the doors, is faintly reminiscent of the silhouette of the old Innova. Which is both a blessing, as well as not. Blessing, because it’s a shape that has worked well in the past and is likely to work again. Not, because that shape would appeal to a slightly older audience and has no youthful appeal about it.
Designed cleverly by Italy’s Pininfarina working in collaboration with the Mahindra Design Centre back home, it’s difficult to imagine the Mahindra Marazzo being bigger than the company’s own Scorpio. Yet it is the MPV that is the larger of the two. From nose to its shark like tail, the Mahindra Marazzo measures 4585mm, which is identical to the XUV 500’s length, and is 1866mm wide. Compare this to the Scorpio’s 4456mm length and 1820mm width.
Blame it on the platform
At the base of the Mahindra Marazzo is an all new platform. Not some new age fancy monocoque as most of us would have assumed, but an old school body on ladder construction. In fact, this is the world’s first body on frame platform to feature front wheel drive and is a development that is patented by Mahindra. The development of the platform itself was done jointly by Mahindra’s North American Technical Centre in Detroit and the Mahindra Research Valley in Chennai, led from the front by Keith Takasawa, VP of product development.
At the technical presentation before the actual drive of the vehicle, Takasawa enlightened us about the myriad advantages of this unique platform. Thanks to this type of construction, the Mahindra Marazzo could be made roomier than the Innova Crysta, its principal rival, and yet be 150mm shorter. A distinct advantage in a scenario where urban road space per vehicle is steadily shrinking. Because the body on frame has been constructed to meet Indian safety norms at present, even though the company said it can be beefed up to meet global crash regulations, it is lighter and has the best footprint to weight ratio and weighs well under two tonnes in spite of it size. This would definitely boost fuel economy. Another plus.
Probed further however, Takasawa and his team did tell us the primary reasoning behind the body on frame construction. Ruggedness. The team’s research and market analysis led them to the conclusion that the MPV customer, especially in India, wants his ute to be rugged and a body on frame construction would lead to a more rugged vehicle than one built on a monocoque frame. It seems like a strange argument given that the company’s flagship SUV, the XUV 500, is actually built on a monocoque. Which leads us to the conclusion that the reasons for developing a body on frame platform must be economic even though the company isn’t really saying so.
As for the front wheel drive, well that helps packaging. With an FWD configuration Mahindra’s engineers could develop a vehicle with a flat floor and push the whole powertrain package further up front to release more space in the cabin. Now, that is an argument that makes perfect sense.
For inside the Mahindra Marazzo, there’s just acres and acres of room. There’s plenty of legroom at the front, in the middle row and even in the final row of the seven-seater version we were assigned. There is going to be a lower spec eight-seater too of course with a 70:30 split bench in place of the captain seats in the middle row. Getting in and out of the Mahindra Marazzo is also super easy with the vehicle sporting phenomenally wide doors. Even scrambling into the third row is done with less embarrassment than you would in other vehicles of this class.
Contrary to the exterior styling that would appeal to an older audience, the inside of the Mahindra Marazzo feels youthful. The dash sports a brand new design and is definitely refreshing. And the liberal use of purple in all the ambient lighting lends a funky appeal to the Mahindra Marazzo’s cabin. The large 7-inch touchscreen that dominates the otherwise clean dash is similar to the units found in the Scorpio and the XUV 500. It’s easy to use and the screen is quite responsive too. There are some interesting read outs too, including an EcoSense function that analyses your driving and gives you a score on how eco-friendly your driving has been. And of course there is Android Auto with all its benefits. Strangely, Apple CarPlay has been given a miss. A big miss in our books. What we do like however is the 4.2-inch TFT screen, for the trip computer read outs, nestled between the twin pod instrumentation. The trip computer itself has a variety of information including a reminder for birthdays and anniversaries. Not very helpful unless you’re incredibly forgetful. But you don’t get settings for individual driver profiles. Nor does the turn by turn indication of the sat nav work with Android Auto’s Google Maps. We also liked the innovative new rear AC vents that allow for both direct cooling as well as diffused cooling, an industry first feature. Of course the roof mounted unit puts paid to any hopes of a sunroof but quite frankly, we’d rather have the vent with the direct/diffuser function than a sunroof that we’d be loathe to use through our harsh summers.
What is noteworthy however is the improvement in overall feel of quality. In fact, we would stick our necks out and say this is the best cabin quality we’ve seen in a Mahindra yet. From the quality of materials used to their fit and finish, eveything is a step or maybe two up over what we’ve seen before. It still doesn’t feel as premium as the interiors of the Toyota but it’s certainly better than before.
An all new heart
Under the short slightly contoured bonnet of the Mahindra Marazzo debuts the company’s spanking new BS VI ready 1.5-litre diesel engine. Designated D15, the 1497cc four-cylinder turbocharged unit produces 119bhp at 4000rpm and a hefty 300Nm of twist from 1500-2000rpm. Now if you thought peak torque at a thousand and a half revs was great for driveability, digest this. The engine produces 90 per cent of this torque by the time the crankshaft is turning 1300 times every minute. This means, there’s very little lag and there is shove practically from the moment the vehicle has started rolling.
This all new unit features an aluminium cylinder block and oil sump to save weight. Its architecture too is better suited for its transverse layout in the Marazzo. Currently however you’ll only get this with a six-speed manual and while the Mahindra team that was at hand seemed very receptive to our suggestions of an automatic, the option won’t be available immediately. Which isn’t going to help Mahindra given the current upsurge in demand for automatic transmissions in virtually all classes of passenger vehicles.
How well does it swim?
The first thing that strikes you is the level of refinement that Mahindra has achieved with the D15 that powers the Mahindra Marazzo. It is genuinely quiet and Takasawa and his team’s explanation of cutting down noise at the source instead of trying to damp it out of the cabin, rings true. And the engine does have a lot of grunt right at the bottom of its rev range. So you won’t find yourself working through the gearbox as you cut across the city or need to get past that slow moving truck on the expressway. A simple dab of the right foot will do. On Mahindra’s test track at its vehicle manufacturing facility in Chakan, we could accelerate cleanly from as low as 60kmph with the transmission stuck in sixth. Of course, there’s nothing much happening at the top but then the Marazzo was not created to slay laptimes. It’s meant to be a workhorse to most and a slightly showy workhorse for others. But a workhorse nonetheless. This isn’t a thoroughbred and has no aspirations to be one.
That shows in its dynamics too. Even though the test track hardly threw up any challenges that would really unsettle or challenge the Mahindra Marazzo’s handling, the MPV seemed composed through the banked turns at either end of the track. Even when you push it a little harder than you should it is forgiving and will allow you enough leeway to not scare you. That said, there’s still a fair amount of body roll and the craft will lean heavily on its side if you are enthusiastic with the steering wheel.
Again, on the ride quality front, it would be unfair to pass a judgement without taking it out into the real world of potholes and rutted roads but early indicators show that the Mahindra Marazzo should be sorted on that front. The few rumblers at the test track were absorbed without blinking by the MPV’s suspension. No matter how many times we went over them or at what speed.
So on the whole, the Mahindra Marazzo packs in enough teeth to be able to bite a chunk out of the Innova Crysta’s pie. As a matter of fact, it will also bite off some of the pie from the Maruti Suzuki Ertiga too because the Mahindra MPV will probably sit between these two MPV options. Provided of course Mahindra play the pricing game right. Given its track record however, it is unlikely that the company will get it wrong on those vital numbers. In fact our sources suggest that the pricing might be somewhat similar to what the old Innova was commanding before things at Toyota Crysta-lised. Around Rs 9 lakh at the first rung of the Mahindra Marazzo ladder and around Rs 16 lakh for the top step. If that happens then the Mahindra Marazzo should be a compelling option for those who want and need a practical MPV with a degree of upmarket aspirational value but not necessarily for the kind of money that Toyota wants for its Innova Crysta.
Catch the video review of the Mahindra Marazzo right here ⬇