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Review: Ashok Leyland Stile
Driven October 2013
Mumbai’s most crucial lifeline are the local trains. The second most crucial lifeline are the BEST intracity buses. For years they have been carrying a badge that has an L in between a spinning circle. Ashok Leyland, one of India’s better commercial vehicles manufacturer and a house-hold name in Mumbai thanks to the double-decker local buses now gives you the Ashok Leyland Stile. The first passenger vehicle in India to wear the Leyland badge.
It’s nothing more than a twin of the Nissan Evalia. It has the same 1.5-litre diesel engine, but it's slightly detuned to produce 75bhp of power as compared to Evalia's 85bhp. The Stile has the same five-speed transmission, and the same amount of space inside the cabin. The difference begins with the headlights, the grille and some less-pronounced lines on the bonnet, which isn’t much. But what’s significant is the lack of a whole lot of features inside. Forget airbags and ABS. This car won’t even come with a music system, a tachometer or adjustable side mirrors. The only luxuries are air-conditioning, with separate vents for rear passengers, power steering and power windows. And even with the power windows, the driver cannot operate the front passenger’s power window. While we are at windows, what the Stile gets over its Nissan twin are sliding windows for the middle row seats.
Cabin-noise wasn’t a strong point in the Evalia. Nor is it one in the Stile. What it benefits from is the very versatile and torque-laden engine from the Evalia. At fifth gear, the Stile easily pulls from 40kph all the way to an indicated 150kph. In fact, this car can tackle routine speed-breakers in third gear. Perfect for lazy taxi drivers who abhor shifting cogs. Ride quality is very good and this mighty van is extremely maneuverable thanks to the tiny turning radius of 5.2 metres. It can take U-turns that even tiny hatches like the Fiat Punto can’t.
The driver’s seat only adjusts for reach and not height, and the steering doesn’t have any adjustment either. However, the driving position is extremely comfortable, despite the lack of adjustment options. And with the huge windshield and side windows, all-round visibility is excellent.
The Stile will be launched in October and is expected to be a lakh cheaper than the Nissan Evalia. Do we like it better? Well, with a lower sticker price, the Stile should make sense for cab companies for whom the Toyota Innova has gone well out of reach. Air-conditioning is strong, ride quality is comfortable, and it’s a machine that can easily carry seven to eight people. Of course, that depends on whether you opt for the seven-seat version with captain seats in the middle or the eight-seat version with bench seats in the middle.
Moreover, we can perfectly understand going easy on features if the car is going to be priced low. But one feature we would never skip is anti-lock brakes. The Stile takes about 36 metres to come to a halt from 80kph. Which is a lot. And if you just slam on the brakes, the wheels simply lock up and the rear threatens to lose composure. Not something you want in an emergency.
Dynamically, there isn’t much to complain about apart from the road and wind noise. It’s a tall car and we don’t expect it to be a corner-carving enthusiast. The Stile fulfills the brief of being a comfortable people-mover. But we would have given it ABS. However, the pricing is attractive considering it's cheaper than the Nissan Evalia and the Mahindra Xylo. Should work fine if you own a fleet of taxis.
1461cc, 4-cyl turbo diesel, 75bhp at 3300rpm, 185Nm at 1700-2750rpm, 5-speed M, FWD, 0-100kph: 18.17s, 30-50kph (3rd): 3.85s, 30-50kph (4th): 7.13s, 50-70kph (5th): 8.16s, 80-0kph: 3.18s and 36.21meters
Nissan Evalia twin is uglier. But proves to be a solid people mover.