India is traveling, by road, more than ever before. In fact, as per a recent survey conducted by an independent organization, the toll tax collection on 4 lane expressways from personal 4 wheelers has doubled over the past 3 years.
As more and more people prefer road travel for medium distances, especially with families and luggage, the SUV market in the country too is booming and every manufacturer worth his salt is trying to get his piece of the SUV cake. 2011 saw the launch of many SUVs/MUVs in the market, the most significant being the Mahindra XUV 500 which ran away with most of the auto awards in the country, comfortably. However, one launch that has constantly generated interest amongst all, apart from the XUV, is the Force One from Force Motors. Let us see how they fare against each other.
Driving and handling
Both the XUV and the Force One sport 2.2 liter common rail diesels under their hoods belting out, what is now a segment standard, 140 bhp. Torque figures too are similar at 321 vs. 330 nm of turning force beginning at 1600 rpm.
On the move however, the XUV feels light and sporty due to its 6 speed transmission with well spaced gear ratios compared to the Force One’s traditional 5 speeder combined with its higher kerb weight. Gearshift quality again is a different ball game. While the cable operated gearbox of the XUV has some scope of improvement, the tall gear lever of the Force One and its long throws leave a lot to be desired. Gears slot precisely on both the vehicles. On the move the XUV’s super silent engine is highly commendable compared to the slightly audible Force One in comparison.
The XUV, in spite of being equipped with disc brakes on all 4 wheels and ABS-EBD, doesn’t feel as confident as the Force One when it comes to straight line braking. The XUV’s brakes feel spongy while the Force One brakes feel sure, confident and strong to use. Braking distances though, are lesser on the XUV due to the gizmos it sports and its lighter weight and consequent inertia. Also see:Mahindra XUV500 W8 Video Review!
The XUV and the Force One are as different as chalk and cheese, when it comes to their construction, technology and age. The XUV firmly belongs to 2011 technologically while the Force One is from the 90s’. While the XUV is a modern monocoque with a pretty light body, the Force One is the quintessential SUV built on a ladder frame chassis and yet, it manages to put up a decent fight against the XUV which is commendable. Driving the Force One is a wee bit heavier than the XUV but that is predominantly due to its length more than anything else. In fact, in our urban confines, both of them feel almost equally easy to chuck in and out of spaces, once you get the hang of them. The Force One’s steering feels just right in city speeds and could do with more feedback on the highways while the XUV’s steering feels feather light, a tad too light in the city but just right on the highway, most of the time. Also read: Force One Expert Review.
In the city, both the vehicles, the XUV due to its bigger tires and lighter weight and the F-1 due to its superbly engineered suspension and weight, soak up speed breakers, potholes and the like with ease, however, the Force One feels more at ease when coming out of a bump compared to the XUV. On the highway, while the Force One is comfortable till speeds of 125kmph in changing lanes, turning and the like, the XUV feels controllable at speeds in excess of 150kmph. This is mainly due to its stiffer construction by the virtue of being a monococque, more electricals playing with the vehicle’s dynamics and most of all, a more aerodynamic shape and hence lesser wind resistance.
Overall, while the average user will not have much to differentiate, for the Bombay-Pune expressway user, the XUV betters the competition.
Space and comfort
Both the vehicles are almost equally spacious in the front and middle rows. The driver foot well of the Force One, for some reason though, feels smaller than ideal but it is not something one cannot get used to however, it is the XUV that wins in the ergonomics front due to its telescopic and tilt steering (the Force One has telescopic only), better placed buttons and pedals and most of all, a very good H point which results in the driver getting comfortable pretty immediately behind the wheel. M&M has indeed learnt a lot from the iffy driving position that plagues the Scorpio. There is one more drawback on the Force One’s steering.
Even at its lowest height, the rim of the steering is above the rim of the dashboard making the adjustment very limited and could result in visibility issues in short drivers. Though it might sound surprising, when on the move, I found the centre console buttons slightly easier to control on the Force One compared to the XUV due to their size and placement.
The middle row, though spacious on both vehicles, even when the front seats are pushed all the way back, is pretty different. You see, the XUV boasts of completely flat floor which makes it very easy for the middle passenger while the Force One has a slight hump in the middle. Also, the centre arm rest on the XUV better integrates onto the seat back than that of the Force One. One disappointing similarity on both the middle rows is the short width of the bench. This and I’ve said this earlier, seems to be the new mantra for liberating middle row space but is not a good one. You see, a shorter bench results in lack of under thigh support which is a significant irritant on long drives. Both middle rows recline and slide and hence make for decent comfortable places to be in.
It is the last row here which is the game changer for those looking for a 7 seater. The Force One, due to its length, can accommodate people much more comfortably than the XUV in the last row and yet has space for a couple of big bags while with all the seats up, the most the XUV can accommodate, is a laptop bag or two.
While the occupants might end up being more comfortable in the Force One, especially when fully loaded, its interior fit and finish leaves a lot to be desired. Plastics, door trims, dashboard edges, power window motors, ac louvers, arm rests, everything needs to be improved, by a significant margin, to be able to match the XUV’s premium feel. Yes, the XUV too has its rough edges like the center console which reflects so badly on the windscreen that you want to tear it out, the felt lining in the armrest box that feels like it has been picked up from a Mahindra Pickup, the sounds the plastic lids make when they are shut, but the list is short. In fact, while the XUV’s ac is a chiller, the Force One’s ac not only needs a compressor upgrade but also better airflow motors and channeling to make it effective across all rows.
We have to give it to the XUV here.
While looks are very subjective, it the XUV which draws more eyeballs, be it at traffic lights, or at the hotel porch where you get a bigger salaam from the valet when you emerge from the XUV. You see, the Force One is the older cousin of the Endeavor and it shows. The front has an overdose of chrome to hide its age, the side profile shows straight cut window glasses that belong to a bygone era and the rear is simply too garish with those huge tail lamps that simply look oversized. Overall the Force One is not a bad looker when compared to say, the Xylo, the Safari Storme or the Scorpio but the XUV is like the new age Abercrombie and Fitch wearing college lad while the Force One is like Dharamendra of Sholay.
This is a no contest. The XUV not only beats the Force One to pulp but also most SUVs below the Rs. 30 lakh bracket to nothing when it comes to features. While the Force One lacks basic safety features like ABS, airbags and an integrated sound system, the XUV’s feature list is long enough to cover the Rajpath, all the way from the Parliament to the India Gate. 6 speed gearbox, all 4 disc brakes, 6 airbags, on demand AWD, Daytime running lights, turning headlamps, automatic wipers, lights, 17” tires, integrated touch screen sound system, GPS, TPMS, leather seats, funky instrument binnacle, freezer box, parking sensors….Phew, this never ends.
Price, mileage, overall VFM
Though both the vehicles are powered by identical engines when it comes to cubic capacity and output values, the Force One is heavier, making it the thirstier of the two, by around 15%. While we were able to achieve a best FE of 16 plus kmpl with sedate 6th gear cruising on the XUV, the Force One did not go beyond 14 kmpl. Our worst figures, recorded during our pedal to metal tests too put the XUV ahead of the Force One at 11 kmpl vs. 10 kmpl for the Force One. On normal city duties, users can expect the XUV to drive around 13 kilometers to the litre while the Force One will do 10. On the highway, at speeds hovering around the 120kmpl mark, the XUV can be expected to return 14 kmpl while the Force One, around 12 kmpl.
The Force One retails for Rs. 11.4 lakh ex-showroom Bangalore which puts it bang into the XUV W6 territory, and hence makes it all the more expensive than it is. The XUV, even in the W6 variant, is loaded with many cosmetic and more importantly, safety features like ABS and airbags, which we sincerely believe are necessary for a vehicle which will be used on the highway frequently. Add to that the dismal fit and finish, especially on the inside, of the Force One, the XUV feels so much more car, per car. Yes, the XUV still has some of that skittish handling on an undulating road, a few rough edges and a waiting period as long as its feature list but they are things one has to live with.
What’s our verdict?
You knew it all along and so did we, that the XUV, which is a game changer across all segments right from Rs. 10 lakh-Rs. 20 lakh would win this comparo but then, we did not expect the Force One to stand up so strongly against the mighty XUV in a few very important areas like ride and handling, braking sans the ABS factored in, and most of all, in the performance stakes. While the XUV is a clear winner in the comparo, the Force One with its rock solid mechanicals, greater passenger and luggage space, old school toughness and ability to take abuse, will certainly make a strong case for itself once its interiors are improved, service network expanded, more safety features incorporated and most importantly, a genuine price correction offered.