This is a good time for compact SUVs, not the expensive high-end models but the sub-four metre compact ones. In the last few years, India has seen plenty of them taking over the roads. It all began with Ford setting the trend with the dynamic EcoSport in 2012 and Vitara Brezza of Maruti Suzuki making it a hot segment four years later. Following suit, Hyundai Motor Company introduced the Venue, a trimmed-down version of the Creta but with some added features.

Safe and strong Nexon was the next in line, joining the party in 2018 representing Tata Motors. While new-face Kia Motors will claim its space in the segment, with the Sonet set to hit the streets in September, Toyota will soon bring in the re-badged Brezza under the moniker of Urban Cruiser.

The Thar and the XUV300 ensured Mahindra and Mahindra was not left out of the league. While the XUV300 has been a real competitor in the segment, the Thar, an upgraded version of the earlier Jeep, did not quite make the cut, despite performing decently on the rugged Indian terrains. If it did not make quite the impression as an urban SVU earlier, it sure will this time, come October. Mahindra unveiled the model on August 15 and claimed the new avatar will be much more capable than the one it replaces.

On the outside, the SVU looks like a baby Wrangler, with Mahindra stealing the style and design almost bumper to bumper. But it doesn’t have the same appeal inside and definitely seems a budget car aimed at SVU enthusiasts not lucky to have the heavy pockets to own one. It is the best budget off-roading option for Indian buyers and is surely going to cause a ripple among the fans.

The overall profile, including the headlights and grille, mimics the Wrangler. That’s obvious enough and it is no sin unless Jeep takes objection to it. Inside is where the SUVs venture down different roads and Thar miserably falls short on it.

While the Wrangler boasts a comfy cabin and spacious rear seats even at its most affordable trim, the Thar comes with a lot of gray plastic crammed into the interior. Most of us prefer budget cars and it is not always bad considering our buying power. But barring the figure-hugging front seats and a slightly upgraded dashboard, there’s nothing particularly attractive about this interior.

Sitting ahead of the driver’s seat is an analogue gauge and a small information screen, and to the left, a 7.0-inch infotainment screen. The overall interior is a far cry from the Wrangler particularly the controls that seem pretty straightforward. The boot is congested and will not be enough to carry bigger baggage for an off-road experience with your family.

Under the hood, the Wrangler look-alike will be available with multiple engine and gearbox options, including a petrol engine and an option of an automatic gearbox. The Thar brings in a new 152hp, 320Nm, 2.0-litre ‘mStallion’ petrol engine that gets a 6-speed manual gearbox as standard and the option of a 6-speed automatic. The diesel engine is a 132hp, 300Nm, 2.2-litre mHawk unit, which will be available with a 6-speed manual gearbox as well an Aisin-sourced 6-speed torque converter automatic.