If you’re looking to buy an off-road workhorse but don’t want to upset the bank manager, this new arrival is worth a look. Get it out into the back blocks, quarry or construction site and it will do you proud.
When I was writing the 2014 Prado test last month I saw a review that criticised the Toyota for being “agricultural”. Now, I don’t think that’s necessarily a negative thing when it comes to off-road vehicles – especially if you actually work in agriculture. The new Mahindra Pik-Up was designed to be agricultural, was built to be agricultural, and is aimed squarely at farmers, forestry contractors and the like who, to put it simply, will find it does what they require of it off-road. Sure it won’t set the design world alight, replace your Amarok or compete in a winch challenge, but it is totally fit for purpose in rural New Zealand.
It isn’t fancy and doesn’t pretend to be. Nor does it need to be. It’s how Mahindra manages to basically give the thing away. For around half the price of this country’s bigger ute brands you can get your hands on a well thought out vehicle that’s happy working in the rough. You probably won’t consider it in place of a Hilux or Ranger, but, to briefly compare apples with bananas, it hasn’t got the comfort, finesse, features or on-road performance of those big sellers. Still, that’s not where it’s aimed, and once you start thinking of it as a runabout to replace the old Series III Land Rover or 40 Series Land Cruiser you’ll appreciate it for what it is. It will happily rival the new Chinese and Korean-built product that has recently become more readily accepted in New Zealand.
We headed out to our good friend Duncan Munro’s Clevedon farm, one of our regular locations, for a day of testing, and it coped well with all the terrain we threw at it – from steep, lumpy hills to tight, winding forest tracks and rough climbs the vehicle proved itself as a means to an end. To be fair, we only tested it in dry conditions but I wouldn’t mind betting it would cope well in mud with the addition of appropriate tyres.
Four-wheel drive selection is via a dial near the handbrake and goes through a BorgWarner transfer case. The set-up is an intriguing and efficient one: the Pik-Up has a proven Eaton mechanical automatic locking diff in the rear axle and auto-engaging front hubs. Some argue the automatic nature of these features isn’t ideal, as hubs and lockers can unlock when you don’t want them to and vice versa, so it’s something to be aware of. Manual systems can offer some drivers more control, while for others, who are perhaps not looking for an extreme off-road plaything, the automatic system means less to think about. Our dry terrain test proved the set-up is effective and soaks up virtually every task a farmer would throw at it. Again, we only drove it in dry conditions. The standard inclusion of that Eaton locking diff is a good move on Mahindra’s part and means the Pik-Up can go where some competitors can’t. Something to note is the vulnerability of those hub covers: they’re quite pronounced and could get knocked.
Power and torque aren’t flash on paper, with 88kW and 280Nm obviously a little low these days – the comparable Great Wall V200 Dual Cab develops 105kW and 310Nm from its 2-litre engine, while the SangYong Actyon WorkMate offers 114kW and 360Nm from its 2-litre. The thing is, though, you’d be surprised to read the Pik-Up’s figures after driving it, as it offers plenty of responsive punch. There’s something about its willing Austrian-built AVL engine with Bosch second generation common rail that inspires confidence – designed for military use it feels well-engineered and is smooth and taut across the rev range. It really is a good unit and I was impressed if not exactly excited. But do you need to be excited by a working tool? Probably not, as its main job is to transport you, your dogs, a few sheep, a thermos flask and a few biscuits to where you need to go. And in the Pik-Up this is well taken care of.