The common feature of cars such as Maruti Swift Dzire, Honda Amaze and Tata Indigo is that all are based on their hatchback models. And that is the route most companies have taken in an effort to give a compact sedan (under 4 metres in length to avail of lower excise duty benefits) to their customers at a slightly higher cost. After all, the Indian market is gradually moving on to bigger cars. But Mahindra, it seems, loves chopping off. After it chopped off the Xylo to create the Quanto, it has now put the Verito (originally the Renault Logan) under the axe to create the Verito Vibe.
Now, the Verito Vibe, though it looks like one, isnt a hatchback in the true sense of the word. Instead, it is a hatchback-like, three-box body style with a boot separate from the passenger compartment, similar to sedans. This is apparent once you look at the Vibes side profile, where the rear seems out of sync with the rest of the car. But the rear design is quite showy and is dominated by large pillar-mounted tail-lights that look sporty and really impressive at night. But the downside is that the rear glass is fixed and doesnt open with the boot (probably to keep costs low). This means that while the boot space is an impressive 330 litres, the access is via a narrow opening, which doesnt allow you to load big bags or suitcases. Then, the minimum loading height is also on the higher side, so placing heavy bags in the boot is inconvenient. Again, because the rear seats dont flip forward, this dents the usefulness of the large boot. The rear glass doesnt get a wash-wipe either.
The upside is that the Vibe looks different, quite different, from almost all the hatchbacks on Indian roads. While the large 185/70 R14 tubeless tyres give it a raised stance, add-ons such as the carbon-finished front grille, ski racks, smoked-glass headlamps and bold wheel arches try to hide the basic boxy design of the car. In fact, I took the car outside Delhi and it was an object of desire in all the nearby small towns, where, presumably, people look for value.
The Vibe gets a huge cabin and this means sufficient room for five, full-sized persons. The rear seats are particularly wide enough and three people can comfortably sit at the rear; there is ample legroom also. In fact, there are three head restraints at the rear. The front seats, too, are generous and long drives are very comfortable on the Vibe. Frankly, asking for more headroom, legroom and shoulder room from a car this size would be a crime! But there are some gripes; for instance, the centre instrumentation console sits a bit low, so in order to operate the music system or air-conditioning, one has to briefly take eyes off the road. Then, there are no steering-mounted controls. Lastly, the steering wheel is not height-adjustable, so taller people will take some getting used to the drive. Overall plastic quality, again, is not as good as you get in, say, the Hyundais or Marutis.
Under the hood of the Vibe is the same proven and fuel efficient 1.5 litre dCi diesel engine by Renault thats been powering the Verito. Although it produces a little over 60 bhp, the engine is torquey and pulls comfortably in a linear fashion from as low as 1200 rpm, resulting in very good real-world driveability. But the engine isnt really excitingthe Vibe goes from 0-100 kmph in about 16 seconds. Although the motor is a bit noisy, Mahindra has managed to keep the cabin well insulated from outside noise. The car handles well and the steering is not too light, which means that the cars high speed manners are very good, but a heavy steering means parking the car takes some getting used to. But the best thing about the car is its frugalityit has an ARAI-certified fuel-efficiency of 20.8 kmpl, and a 50-litre tank means you get an amazing range of over 800 km in real-world conditions.
A starting price of R5.63 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) for a diesel car that is spacious and practical means good value. What the Vibe lacks in modern design and looks, it kind of makes up in utility. Mahindras first effort at a small car is, in fact, well suited for Indian road conditions and a Mahindra badge also means low running and maintenance costs. The Vibe is for the one who wants an affordable small car that can carry five in comfort, and who doesnt really care for something more.