I remember my childhood wherein every other big truck I saw was named as Ashok Leyland. I used to think that this is definitely a weird name for a truck but then way back then, it was more about the “gaonwalahs” and hence I was sure that this was due to the fact that this people may be owning the vehicles and hence the name for the same. It was only when I started going to college did I understood that this was actually the name of a company and it was definitely not owned by one of the locals. When Ashok Leyland recently announced that they are bringing in a Light Commercial Vehicle or rather LCV, it was a bit shocking. A bit of history about Ashok Leyland as a company before I proceed any further. This company was founded just a year after India attained freedom. In a bid to commercialize the Indian market, India’ then PM Jawarharlal Nehru had talks with Raghunandan Saran, who was one of the leading industrialists in India, to start something in the automotive sector. Mr Saran was the one who started Ashok Motors and earlier on, the company was primarily into getting Austin cars into India. Circa, they are the majors in India as regards the manufacturing of the trucks ranging from 7.5 tonnes to even 50 tonnes. The pressing need for a vehicle below the 7.5 tonnes mark is what caused the company to bring about the Ashok Leyland Dost in India. The company did finally realize that the major volumes raker would be the category in the 1.25 tonnes segment. Here is a review of the Ashok Leyland Dost LCV.
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Frankly speaking, this one doesn’t have the cutting edge styling like the others in its class. I am being told that this vehicle has been designed inhouse by the designers from Ashok Leyland as also Nissan. Now, Nissan has been instrumental in developing this vehicle along with the likes of the Ashok Leyland. As of now, this product is an India specific thing only. The brief given to the designers was that this vehicle should have a footprint like the Tata Ace and space like the Mahindra Bolero pickup. Just like the way the other Ashok Leyland products are designed, even this one stresses on a simplistic approach. There is no front grille and in its place, the metal has been pressed so as to resemble a garland. Like the Fluidic Verna’s fog lamps, there are turn indicators for the Dost, which are L shaped. These are embedded into the head lamp cluster, which by the way are clear lens units. There are two small fog lamps towards the lower part of the bumper. The 14 inch wheels boast of a 185 section tubeless radials. Ashok Leyland would be also offering alloy wheels as an accessory for this LCV. The rear profile is nothing much to talk about and has got the typical LCV tail lamps along with the spare wheel under the body configuration.
The way Mahindra engineers conceived the Mahindra Xylo with its space maximum concept, the same way; Nissan engineers had a thought for the Ashok Leyland Dost LCV in India. The interiors are very spacious and though I have seen the Tata Ace and had checked out its interiors dimensions, this one takes the piece of cake with its space quotient. The interiors, just like the Ace are a mix of both beige and gray, with the lower portion of the dashboard being done in beige. The plastics used inside the cabin were pretty much impressive and it was only that the exteriors were a big letdown that I somehow expected the interiors to also follow in the same fashion. How wrong could I be? A segment first is the presence of a basic airconditioner. The steering wheel is a big unit, typical of LCVs and this again points out that not much has changed. Good all around visibility is for given in this LCV and also the fact that the seats are also very comfortable. Above the engine cover, there is also an extra seat placed which ensures that the driver, if he wants, he can recline and take rest. The overall pattern is that function takes over form and this is a rarity in the LCV segment. The rated payload for this LCV is 1.25 tonnes.
Handling and ride quality
The Dost comes with power steering on the top end version, certainly a luxury as far as LCVs are concerned. Like the interiors, even the chassis has been more tuned towards driver and passenger comfort. The Dost LCV gets a softer suspension than its peers. Also, unlike its competition, the Dost features a pretty much complex suspension system. Instead of the regular leaf spring suspension system, this one comes with a double wishbone which is independent with a transverse leaf spring in the front. At the rear, there are leaf springs provided. Ashok Leyland officials say that this one offers the best of both worlds namely a good ride quality and decent handling. Even though it sports a 3 cylinder diesel engine, the engine is very quiet and even cold start-ups don’t yield much of a noise. Going by its looks, this LCV has got the low weight ratio going for it as well. It has got a kerb weight of 1250 kgs. The kind of potholes that I had to encounter ensured that the suspension of the Dost was put through its paces. Needless to say, it came out unscathed. The handling was also definitely not soggy and certainly the words by Ashok Leyland engineers seem to be true about the suspension of this LCV. The Dost that I had at my disposal had a power steering setup and hence maneuvering it around the town was not at all difficult. The turning radius is said to be just 4.8 meters.
Engine, performance and fuel efficiency
The Dost, as is the requirement for the Indian LCV scene, comes with a 1.5 liter diesel engine which has got 3 cylinders. This 3 pot motor produces 53 Bhp of power at 3300 rpm while the maximum torque of 150 Nm comes in as low as 1600 rpm. A nice 5 speed manual gearbox complements the tuned for driveability engine. Even when the vehicle was fully laden with our test equipment, the engine seemed sprightly enough for more. All this while the airconditioner was on. 0-100 kmph comes up in 18.5 seconds. Yes, this vehicle did cross 100 kmph. The top speed that I could achieve was 131 kmph after which the engine started sounding trashy enough. This LCV can cruise all day long at 100 kmph without any sort of strain to the powertrain. The fuel efficiency that I could see in the multi information display was a cool 14.3 kmpl. The fuel efficiency would be one factor that small time operators would definitely have in mind as a priority. There is no ABS equipped variant to go with and the Dost LCV does step off its line when braked hard. However, when fully laden, some sort of sembelance does creep in and it is far more stable. There are no airbags on offer as well, however, the front bumper has got a bull bar inside it and this should help somewhat.
The Ashok Leyland Dost LCV has come in at just the right time. The LCV buyer right now has upto 16 LCVs to choose from and this is not a bad thing. Ashok Leyland have built quite a reputation for themselves in the market with their trucks and dumpers and the Dost is just the right way to showcase their engineering prowess in the lower down segment. LCVs are an alternative to all those bullock carts and mopeds which villagers use to carry around their goods. There is more in the pipeline from the Nissan-Ashok Leyland combination and this means that the Dost platform is being seriously considered as a game changer in its segment. There are 3 variants of this LCV and the base one would come without AC and power steering, the middle variant makes do with power steering while the top end version boasts of power steering and AC along with fabric seats. The Ashok Leyland Dost price in India starts from Rs 3.79 lakhs while the top end variant goes for Rs 4.39 lakhs. These prices are ex-show room, Chennai. The pricing could have been a bit on the lower side; however, considering the things, this one should hit the nail right on the head. Nissan and the Hinduja Group (owners of the Ashok Leyland collaboration) have got 37 new show rooms marketing only the Dost LCV.