Most people don’t aspire to have an Ashok Leyland parked in their garage. Knowing this, Ashok Leyland’s first passenger vehicle, the Stile, is unabashedly courting taxi and fleet operators. So why are we driving one? Because you and I could buy a Stile for personal use if we wish. All you need is the address of one of its far-flung showrooms and plan the long hike there. But will it be worth the trouble?
Clearly, the Stile’s main draw isn’t its styling. Its slabby sides and workhorse aura will be a tripping point for most families. However, the longer grille, restyled bumpers and prominent double-barrel headlamps give it vital road presence. The 15-inch alloy wheels, offered as an option on the mid-level LS and top-end LX variant, do their bit to add a touch of style. The tread pattern of the 185/65 R15 JK Vectras also increases the Stile’s appeal when compared to the standard LT tyres. Also, we can’t help but praise the soft-satin finish used for the logos.
On the inside, the Stile is quite basic. Only the top-end LX variant boasts of fabric seats and chrome finish for the centre console, although central locking is offered from the mid-level variant. The music system, reversing camera and safety features such as ABS, EBD and airbags have been scratched off the equipment list altogether.
Space, though, is available in plenty. The second row has sliding windows, which are of little use, but the sliding captain seats are very handy – they open up enough legroom to comfortably accommodate adults at the back. However, the Stile does without air-con vents for the third row of seats. The large, flat tailgate flips open to reveal a healthy-sized boot even with all three rows up. The flexibility of carrying big or large quantities of luggage is limited as the third row is bolted to the floor.
The Stile’s front wheels are driven by a detuned version of Renault’s 85bhp 1.5-litre K9K diesel motor. The engine, despite losing 11bhp of power and 1.54kgm of torque, is effortless at low to mid speeds and has adequate responsiveness even at higher rpms. Ashok Leyland claims to have remapped the ECU to deliver the best possible fuel efficiency even in the harshest of driving conditions. To further this objective, the 4th and 5th gears are overdriven on the Stile. Driving this people carrier is no chore either. The steering is well-weighted and direct, the clutch pedal is light, the view from the driver’s seat is commanding and its U-turns are tightly executed. However, reversing will require some care.
On the whole, the Stile is comfortable to be in. The suspension impresses over rough sections, and dishes out composed dynamics at speed. However, the simple leaf spring suspension at the rear gives it some amount of body movement as it surfs along at highway speeds.
What tips the balance in the Stile’s favour? The base LE variant of the Stile undercuts the base Evalia by Rs 1.75 lakh, while the top-end LX variant is priced at Rs 9.5 lakh. The Stile isn’t cheap and considering the equipment that’s missing, you wonder whether Ashok Leyland could have offered a better price for the LX. However, the Stile offers families a robustly engineered, spacious, competent and no-frills MPV at a reasonable price tag. For some, that will be enough.