Home » This Little Indian Van Costs $4,300 And Could Easily Be A Daily Driver For Lots Of Americans

This Little Indian Van Costs $4,300 And Could Easily Be A Daily Driver For Lots Of Americans

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It’s been a good while since I checked in to see what was going on in the world of inexpensive and tiny Indian vans and trucks. These are a category of vehicle that I have profound respect for, because they may have the greatest ratio of price:usefulness and the least amount of bullshit of almost any vehicles on the planet. A long time ago back at the Old Site I went out to India to drive many things, including one of these kinds of little vans, a Mahindra Maxximo. Alarmingly, that was ten years ago! So let’s take a look at what sort of little workhorse vans Mahindra offers today: the Mahindra Jeeto.

Jeetofield

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

As I describe this little van to you here and wax on about how something like this should be a viable transportation option here in America, I know for many of you the tiny size and low power might make you assume that this thing is some sort of fragile toy. That would be a mistake. Based on my experience driving the Maxximo and other Indian vehicles and seeing the way these machines are used, abused, wildly overloaded, and the conditions of their mechanical lives, I can very confidently tell you that, in my experience, Indian vehicles are decidedly Not Crap. At all. They’re tough as hell, are designed knowing they’ll be constantly pushed past their limits, and, as one Indian engineer explained to me, will likely be serviced by “a guy with a hammer standing in a hole.”

Jeeto Side

So, with that endorsement in mind, let’s look at what a modern, tiny Indian van is like. This Mahindra is one of the cheaper ones – it costs ₹3.56 lakh, where a lakh is 100,000 rupees, so that comes to right about $4,291 in American freedombucks. Sure, the old $2,500-ish Tata Nano is no more, but dirt-cheap brand-new Indian cars do still exist. So what do you get for your $4,300, which is, it’s worth noting, about 1/4 the cost of the cheapest cars you can get in America today, which start at about $16,000.

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You don’t get a lot of power: the one-cylinder 625cc motor only makes 16 horsepower, but it does make 28 foot-pounds of torque, at least. I’m also pretty sure this thing doesn’t weigh all that much, so my guess is that it won’t feel all that slow. Of course, keep in mind I’m used to low-hp cars and have used a 1.1 hp vehicle extensively, so my brain may be irretrievably altered. Or damaged.

This thing is said to get about 61 mpg, so that’s the other plus of a tiny diesel engine.

I think the look of the Jeeto is an improvement on the Maxximo, especially the front end, with a face that has given up the absurd pretense of looking aggressive and now looks friendly and willing, a much better visage for a small, useful van.

Jeeto Maxximo

The overall proportions are much improved as well, with much less front overhang and a better relation to the small wheels. The Maxximo had a more cab-over seating position, where the Jeeto pushes the front seats back just behind the front axle, I assume for safety reasons. They’re both still rear-engine/rear drive designs, and both incorporate the cost-saving yet somehow appealing feature of plastic/canvas roll-up side and rear windows. The Jeeto design overall feels much more appealing and attractive. Comparing these two little vans is a great example of how much a design can be changed and improved on the same basic platform design.

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Jeeto Rear

The rear doors are now conventional swing-out doors instead of a sliding door, making for a more car-like experience, and the interior, while clearly pretty austere, I’m sure is comfortable enough. It seats five, and it looks like there’s even a jump seat option:

Interior

There’s cargo room behind that back seat, and I think there’s ways to fold or remove that rear seat as well, which would give a lot of cargo room. Plus, the rear has a swing-down tailgate design, which, combined with that roll-up rear window, would likely be good for hauling odd-shaped and tall things, like a taxidermied ostrich or a lawnmower or something.

Cargorear

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I get that these aren’t remotely as safe as mainstream cars. I know. And the top speed of this thing is likely, oh, maybe 45 to 50 mph or so. It’s not a highway cruiser, of course. But, for a lot of people, something like this could handle the vast majority of their daily driving needs, while being cheap to run and maintain and repair and all that. Plus, there’s a lot of people right now, especially in more rural areas, discovering the joys of Kei-class tiny Japanese trucks and vans and learning how they can do so many jobs that you just don’t need a huge full-sized pickup truck to do. And all of those have to be 25 years old, legally. And those can often cost lots more than $4,300.

So why shouldn’t there be some options for new useful little workhorse vans? A cheap and rugged little work commuter or farm vehicle category could be great! Maybe they can’t go on highways, and are limited to 45 mph, and you get a stern lecture about how unsafe they can be and they show you some scary driver’s ed-style car crash films before you can buy one?

Cars are absurdly expensive now. Both to buy and to maintain, generally. A 61 mpg cheap-as-dirt little van that gets your ass to and from work and runs you on errands and you can take it on the backroads to go camping or whatever feels like a pretty good thing to me.

The chances of this making it to America like this are just a bit better than manticores becoming the new most popular pet in America, so I can’t in good faith counsel breath-holding. But I can dream these humble little cheap car dreams.

 

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ScottyB
ScottyB
10 months ago

I’m hoping this guy is India’s answer to David Leisure.

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