We have a soft corner for a manufacturer like the ICML because it reminds us of the David versus Goliath story. Pitching the Rhino, the first passenger car build by ICML which is better known for its tractor business against the likes of Chevrolet, Tata and Mahindra is an unfair bout. Unfair because fighters should only scrap opponents of equal size and the Rhino taking on the Innova or even the Bolero is everything but an equal and fair fight and is a classic mismatch. But that’s why we and many others like the Rhino and ICML because they represent belief and the ‘can do spirit’. With prices starting from 6,25,957 to Rs 7,19,000 ex-showroom New Delhi is the Rhino a serious contender in the peoples carrier segment?


The Rhino entered the Indian market shortly after the production of the Toyota Qualis had stopped. For ICML its best chances lie if the Rhino is able to be considered a serious replacement to the Japanese MUV.

Design

jpg/201111/icml-rhino-1.jpg

The Rhino’s limited success has been restricted to the rural market and its boxy shape has got something to do with that. At the front is a cheap looking shiny radiator grille flanked by the oddly shaped headlights with twin-pod effect. The bumper has a big air dam with fog lamps and the stance of the Rhino isn’t purposeful enough. The 15inch alloys are available on the top of the line variant and after the facelift in 2010 the Rhino also gets optional chrome door handles and new outside rear view mirrors with integrated turn indicators. The roof rails, the two tone paint job and the spoiler at the rear manage to make this MUV look slightly better.

Interior

jpg/201111/icml-rhino-3.jpg

The interiors look much better than the exteriors but it’s is easier to find gold in a coal mine than to find quality materials in a Rhino. However, the dashboard, center console and the three spoke steering wheel look well put together. One of the strength’s of the Qualis was its build quality which made it last for years but the Rhino isn’t as well made. After a few years of rough use we expect the cabin to start squeaking.

The dashboard in two tone with round air vents, there is also use of fake wood trim surrounding the center console and the styling of the cabin is better than the Chevrolet Tavera. Ergonomics though could have been better, especially for the air-con controls and the music system which are hard to reach. The steering wheel position makes it uncomfortable to hold it.

Engines and performance

jpg/201111/icml-rhino-2.jpg

ICML engineers went through a few engine options which they though fit the best with the Rhino. The first motor came from Isuzu which was low on power developing only 75PS. ICML then replaced it with a new more powerful unit from Rover which produced 100PS. The current 2-litre engine is also a Rover and it produces 121PS@4000rpm and 285Nm@1750rpm. With this Rover derived engine achieving its maximum power at high revs, the MUV feels more comfortable on the open road than in the city. ICML tried to improve this by making the first three ratios of the gearbox shorter and left the last two longer. 100kmph is reached in 16seconds. Turbo lag isn’t bad and the engine is at its best at over 1750rpm. The diesel engine is pretty efficient delivering an ARAI claimed15kmpl and the engine has a top speed of 160kmph.

Ride

jpg/201111/icml-rhino.jpg

At the front is independent double wishbone with torsion bar and at the rear are semi-elliptical leaf springs with telescopic shock absorbers. The suspension was designed to be soft than firm. The Rhino’s suspensions have received inputs for Lotus UK which has resulted in a plush ride and satisfactory handling. The 1855mm ground clearance translates into accentuated body roll and with the Rhino you can’t go into corners in an aggressive manner. The steering doesn’t offer good feedback and ICML should consider introducing ABS.

Competitors

The Mahindra Bolero has better interiors and comfortable seats. It’s also available with 7 seats configuration and despite the refined engine, the performance and the efficiency are disappointing. The Tata Safari is equipped with a stronger engine and offers good performance and ride quality. Interior space is good but handling and build quality aren’t good. The Chevrolet Tavera is an old looking MUV. Ride quality is decent and so is the interior space.

Verdict

The ICML Rhino is a practical MUV with reasonably good build quality. The interiors are spacious but plastic quality feels and look cheap. The Rover derived engine is refined, efficient and the performance too is good. The Lotus aided suspension setup offers good ride and the handling for a MUV is not that bad. The Rhino has definitely improved since it was first launched but it still suffers from an image problem and ICML needs to do some work on it before urban India starts to accept it.

Quotes

Carzy: “ICML Rhino RX Delite back out on certain potential aspects. The MUV is available only in diesel variant. No ABS (Antilock Braking System) and airbags available, which puts a question mark on the safety of this vehicle. Awkwardly placed accelerator and uncomfortable steering wheel, feels like driving a tractor. Not ideal for long journeys. The utility vehicles poor performance is the biggest set backs as utility vehicles are built to perform.”