The Thar RWD offers a left-field alternative to sub-compact SUVs. How much of a compromise is it as your family SUV?
While the first-generation Mahindra Thar created quite a cult following for itself, the current-generation SUV has widened its fanbase from the offroading and overlanding community to just about everyone. The Thar RWD makes the lifestyle SUV more accessible and how! And it’s not just dropping the 4WD tech that results in the price drop. It now gets a smaller 1.5 diesel engine option that, with the Thar’s sub-four metre length, qualifies for the sub-four metre SUV tax bracket. The result. The new base model Thar (1.5-litre diesel, MT, RWD) retails for a whopping 4.17 lakh rupees less than the Thar AX 4WD MT variant. While the petrol Thar RWD we are driving, does not qualify for this cut given its larger 2.0-litre motor, it is still a sizeable 2.33 lakh rupees less than the corresponding Thar 4WD petrol AT variant. The Thar RWD then sits in the realm of the most popular sub-compact SUVs like the Hyundai Venue and Kia Sonet. Now the question here is not if there is a compromise in opting for the Thar over these sub-compact SUVs as your daily driver; it is how much of a compromise are you looking at. Let’s delve into it.
A major chunk of the Thar’s appeal lies in the way it looks and thankfully the RWD variants look identical to the 4WD ones except for single-tone bumpers and a missing 4X4 badge. All Thar variants get two new paint options: Blazing Bronze and Everest White and I feel you should get it in any other colour than black unless you plan to slap on oversized chrome rims. On that topic, I personally feel a stock Thar in red looks quite appealing and the only thing I’d change would be the overdone grille.
The robust cabin is in line with the tough looking exterior and gets features such as a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The screen also includes an off-road display which shows the incline angle, steering angle and compass direction. The Thar misses out on a reversing camera, a glaring omission given the limited rear visibility courtesy of the large wheel mounted on the tailgate. Safety features include a roll-cage, dual airbags, ESP, ABS with EBD, hill hold assist and ISOFIX mounts.
You do have to climb up to access the tall cabin and it is even more challenging to get into the rear seats. The front seat folds easily to allow access to the rear seat but I reckon, a grab handle on the A-pillar would make ingress-egress easier. The Thar RWD gets an additional cubby hole in place of the now missing 4X4 lever. However, it misses out on driver armrests. Also, you have to contend with the limited footwell space and the resultant lack of a dead pedal. The rear seat is large enough for two adults but could have done with cup holders or armrests near the windows. Also, boot space is limited though you can fold the rear seats to liberate more cargo space.
The new 1.5-litre diesel motor in the Thar might be low on cubic capacity but offers the same torque output as the 2.2-litre mHawk motor on the 4WD variant. It delivers 117PS (13PS less than the 4WD) and 300Nm of which 55 percent torque is claimed to be accessible from just above idling rpm. We however drove the Thar RWD petrol variant and would reserve judgement for when we drive it later.
The RWD petrol variant continues to use the mStallion 150 TDGi motor from the 4WD. This motor delivers 152PS and 320Nm and comes mated to a sixspeed automatic gearbox (no manual transmission unlike the Thar 4WD). This petrol motor loves to be revved and impresses with its refinement and punchy performance. That said, this is not a fuel efficient engine despite its RWD layout as it is a larger motor and has to push an SUV weighing close to 2.5 tonnes. It does get auto-start stop but it feels more of a hindrance to use in traffic and you will end up disabling it most of the time.
The automatic gearbox is a tad slow to shift but is smooth and intuitive enough to be driven with ease in the city. The Thar’s other bugbear is its bouncy ride quality which takes getting used to, especially in the city. It handles well, offering good stability on the highway and in corners though you do need to get used to the substantial body roll. It brakes well for its size and without drama as well.
Even in RWD avatar, the Mahindra Thar offers a true-blue SUV experience. The high driving position, rugged feel, ability to tackle rough roads massive street presence. This is simply something similarly-priced Korean compact SUVs cannot match. It will even go further off the road with minimal fuss. Even without 4WD, it retains the Thar genes and feels special. The significant price savings is the icing on top.