Mahindra South Africa is currently enjoying nice run on the sale charts, with over 1 100 consistent monthly units sold of its growing range. That puts it in the top 15 manufacturers in the country, two decades after it officially entered. These are top achievements and Mahindra SA is now one of the global company‚Äôs most important international outlets. So the new XUV700 enters the fray in fertile ground, ready to assert itself in the burgeoning family leisure SUV segment.

This is actually a very busy segment. Think about not only the established brands but also the new Chinese models being launched every other month. While the XUV500 that the XUV700 is replacing was miles ahead in the Mahindra stable, over time its weaknesses were exposed by newer products and lack of updates on its own part. The XUV700 is here to improve the entire situation.

Some resemblance to the XUV500 is there for continuity. Otherwise this is an all-new design, judging from the new front end that features the Mahindra front grille with badge, a C-shaped LED lights cluster, a flowing side profile with metal lower window frames for that premium feel, and a large rear lights cluster. A neat feature are the hidden door handles that pop out like fish gills when the car is unlocked, packing away again as it moves.

We had the range-topping AX7 L model for our test period, which also has a panoramic sunroof in its package. The XUV700 is spacious inside, giving an air of plenty of light, as well as comfort from the leather seats. Driver and front passenger get electrically adjustable seats. Finish on the visible surfaces is courtesy of a combination of materials, including hard and soft plastics, metal alloys and piano black. It all looks solid, with nothing giving any hints of inferior quality.

A large 52 cm screen stretches from behind the leather-covered multifunction steering wheel into the dashboard area. Sony supplied a 12-speaker 3D sound system for the infotainment system, which provides good, not necessarily great sound quality. The infotainment system itself works fine, controls Bluetooth, Apple Carplay, Android Auto and others. However, there is no satellite navigation in the package, but it can be reflected on the screen via your smart phone. Smaller or shorter drivers will also have slight difficulty reaching some of the screen functions due to its length.

With seating capacity for 7 passengers, the AX7 L model is ideal for transporting bigger families, although there is always the usual compromise between loading space and seating space. Folding the third row seats is simple and easy enough.

The advent of the new 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine had me a little concerned, because the old XUV500 was fitted with a really super diesel motor that was strong on torque and frugal too. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the 149kW, 380Nm motor could go for over 550km under normal driving circumstances. That 6-speed automatic transmission is smooth and partners well with this new mStallion engine. Some slight hesitation is experienced at take-off but is normal lag.

Mahindra did not skimp on safety features, with a raft of them ensuring peace of mind for all occupants. They include Adaptive Cruise Control, Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Departure Warning and others. There are also 7 airbags and a 360-degree camera view.

The XUV700 has a lot going for it, especially if you compare it to the XUV500. Most of its features have been highlighted previously. However, the biggest challenge it faces is the advent of Chinese competitors which come with long lists of features at what appears to be reasonable prices. The XUV500 only had the historical brands to deal with.

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