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
11 months ago

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

Paul Kett
Paul Kett
11 months ago

A vehicle named after a snack food with cheese colored seats! What’s not to like?

Tsorel
Tsorel
11 months ago

This is safer than a scooter or motorcycle and anyone can buy those in the US. If we did have a “less safe vehicle” classification that had different licensing requirements this would be an actual free country and we would see these everywhere.

86-GL
86-GL
11 months ago
Reply to  Tsorel

There are various local classifications that allow a variety of non-car motorized vehicles on the road all around North America- ATVs, SxS, low speed vehicles, golfcarts, farm equipment, three-wheeled motorcycles, on and on.

These vehicles just have special limitations or licences because they do not meet the current requirements of a car.

Someone could literally import this, sell it as a SxS like the Mahindra Roxor, and drive it around town in plenty of places.

You could buy a Roxor today! Don’t let your dreams be dreams.

Highland Green Miata
Highland Green Miata
11 months ago

Taxidermied Ostrich? What about birdcage on a stand!?!?! Everyone knows you must show a birdcage in the cargo volume!

Ron888
Ron888
11 months ago

How much HP?! I love tiny cars but thats getting too low even for me

Last edited 11 months ago by Ron888
Drh3b
Drh3b
11 months ago

My problem with these would be the top speed, I would want something that can go at least 80 since I use the freeway to get to work, and the safety, which you just mentioned. I was just in an accident with a 15 year old Accord where someone flew through a 4 way stop and hit the left front fender. I received a broken knee that will put me out of work for 6 months. I shudder to think how much worse this would have been in this little truck.

The_Daft
The_Daft
11 months ago

How is the Jeeto’s mascot not some kind of clown? Jester Jeeto is the hero we all need

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
11 months ago
Reply to  The_Daft

Yeah! Like Bozo…
“You’re hung up on some clown from the 60’s, man!”

Chris Hoffpauir
Chris Hoffpauir
11 months ago

I can’t help noticing the Jeeto Man’s passing resemblance to the Late Great Israeli actor Topol. This inspires a new ad campaign:

“If I were a rich man, I still wouldn’t pay more for a minivan!”

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
11 months ago

Recently I learned that when he played Tevye he was younger than I am now and I turn forty later this year.

Chris D
Chris D
11 months ago

The face of Jeeto Man is quite creepy. Would you let him date your daughter? Would you be comfortable if he lived next door? Would you buy a car from him?

Chris D
Chris D
11 months ago
Reply to  Chris D

He seems to be saying, “I want this tinny little van to kill YOU!”

Logan King
Logan King
11 months ago

At least if I was importing a Kei car I can pretend that there’s a chance I’d survive an accident with anything larger than a cyclist. Those at least have seatbelts and airbags.

Last edited 11 months ago by Logan King
Lokki
Lokki
11 months ago

I see your Jeeto and raise you an F-250 with a bull-bar. The only way you live through that is if the truck is lifted enough that the Jeeto goes right under it.

SYKO Simmons
SYKO Simmons
11 months ago

I think something will cave soon enough that we’ll have cheaper smaller cars like this roaming our streets. ALOT of states now let SOSE BY SIDES get tagged and are road legal ( no highway use 55 and up). Honestly can’t imagine why they would allow a side by side to be road legal over one of these. I know they have roll cages and I’ve been in them when flipping…but they crush pretty easily. And don’t really have any forward or rearward bumpers either.

Anoos
Anoos
11 months ago

Torch, I think you may have broken yourself with the ChangLi.

My lawn mower is literally more powerful than this van, and I would be surprised if it could scoot itself to anywhere near 45mph hauling anything more than a small driver.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
11 months ago

I would just love to see Jared Leto in a Jeeto 😉

niceladybadjeep
niceladybadjeep
11 months ago

Hey Torch, surprised you didn’t mention that headlight detailing. The recessed lens and softened bonnet cutout is nice.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
11 months ago

This seems like a halfway point between a Tuk Tuk and a kei truck and I’d sooner spend a few dollars more and drive a Subaru Sambar which BTW is an Indian soup. At least I would if Oregon still issued plates to kei trucks. For driving around town and fetching garden stuff I’d be fine. My pickup is most useful with long loads and trailers

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
11 months ago

I know I shouldn’t, but I want one. Not for daily duties, that’s what my r53 is for, but to take my great dane and my wolfhound to the park with their heads hanging out.

415s30
415s30
11 months ago

Nice coffin

Methane generator
Methane generator
11 months ago

I admire this for its simplicity. Also how it looks like someone took a pair of these and glued them on top of a dumpster and went Hey Presto! F160!

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
11 months ago

Ya know, I get it… but also… that thing is a total death trap. It’s like they designed a car for a disposable population of peasants; any small accident will likely kill everyone inside.

I think these have their place, just not on public roads with giant SUVs and CUVs driven by inattentive morons.

Methane generator
Methane generator
11 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

No, it’s designed for roads without giant SUVs and CUVs driven by a disposable population of peasants.

86-GL
86-GL
11 months ago

You realize they have plenty of heavy trucks and buses right? And while it may be slightly less common, there are still many Euro and American-sized sedans, vans and SUVs on the road driven by wealthier people.Not that any of that matters- a late model Honda Fit will still cut a car like this in two.

Forget about other cars for a moment- Simply crashing into a stationary object at moderate speeds is enough to kill in a car with no safety features. It’s mind boggling how easily people in the 50s and 60s died from minor car accidents that you’d walk away from today.

Someone on here (I believe) was sharing a tragic story of two parents who died in a collision that wasn’t even hard enough to wake their child sleeping in the back seat. I can’t remember where I read it, but it stuck with me. I seriously hope the stringent new fuel economy regulations start to eat away at the number of large vehicles on the road for the sake of bicycles and pedestrians, but a land of unregulated microcars is not the utopia anyone wants.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bh4se9YMV3A

Mantis Toboggan, MD
Mantis Toboggan, MD
11 months ago
Reply to  86-GL

It’s at least got to have a collapsible steering column, right? I think that was mandated in the US even before pollution controls.

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
11 months ago

I don’t buy that. This + tree = death. This plus another one, head one, = death. Roll over? Death. These things are death traps.

Ian Cox
Ian Cox
11 months ago
Reply to  ADDvanced

Less of a death trap than a motorcycle. That’s good enough for me.

40 years ago no one was evening wearing a seatbelt.

86-GL
86-GL
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Cox

Yeah but on a motorcycle you’re wearing a helmet, and tend to fly clear of the wreck. Very often just the human body vs. environment, and good safely gear seriously improves your chances. Not ideal, but there are a lot of ways to get lucky. Most motorcyclists lay a bike down at some point and live to tell the tale.

The same collision while trapped without safety gear inside a steel cage is a different story. Go watch the scene in ‘Death Proof’ where Kurt Russel kills his first victim and get back to me.

Human skull + windshield + inertia = dead.

Last edited 11 months ago by 86-GL
Chris D
Chris D
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Cox

Actually, in 1983, seatbelts were very much in use. They became ubiquitous two decades before that.

Cal67
Cal67
11 months ago

If you want to import a car from India, make it one like this:
https://gaadiwaadi.com/this-customised-premier-padmini-is-a-certain-work-of-art/

LTDScott
LTDScott
11 months ago

They need to build a fastback version called the Jorito.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
11 months ago

They need to sell it here. People can’t afford new cars anymore

Methane generator
Methane generator
11 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

Fuck, people can’t afford used cars any more.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
11 months ago

“Fuck, people can’t afford used cars any more”

Someone can.

Anoos
Anoos
11 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

That never stops people from signing the loan papers.

Unclesam
Unclesam
11 months ago
Reply to  Anoos

If you need a car to work, sometimes you have to just sign the papers even knowing you can’t really afford it long-term

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
11 months ago

Mitsubishi Mirage has joined the chat…

Clark B
Clark B
11 months ago

I was thinking something along those lines too. The Mirage is the closest thing we get to that here in the States. And even it is overpriced for what you get, especially given how long they’ve been making it. Around here they’re priced the same as a Versa, and you get a lot more car with the Versa.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

While trying to read this story with the site crashing like a Tesla at an Emergency Vehicle convention i got the gist. Yes perfect vehicle for across the USA. Basically I was tginking every store in the USA should have 1 or more of these scooters for obese people to shop. But then i read diesel! You cannot operate a diesel or gasoline vehicle indoors. Jason you should know this. It would kill everybody.

Methane generator
Methane generator
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

and that’s bad how, exactly?

Chris D
Chris D
11 months ago

This thing is made for a land with terribly overcrowded roads where no one can drive over twenty miles an hour. With the world’s largest population, it seems that India’s penny-pinching vehicle manufacturers are not worried about losing a few due to a tin box without even lap belts. This is the definition of poverty-spec.
It’s interesting and unique, but would have been cutting-edge about ninety years ago.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
11 months ago

Personally, I’d be happy with something like the Tata Altroz, which lists for $7900 in India, not sure how much the price would increase if you brought it up to US regulations – if it doubled, no point trying at $16k, but it it could be done for more like $10,000-12,000, sure

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