Ashok Leyland’s Dost is a true friend; befitting the name it has and projects the behaviour it is expected to. The idea of driving a pick-up truck can be quite frightening because it can be at the other end of the spectrum when compared to the feel that a mid size sedan can give you.
Incidentally this pick-up truck is an exception to the rule. This Dost is designed to whisk away the ghost called 'fatigue' which is very common with the drivers whose profession involves driving commercial vehicles. The way in which this is achieved by Ashok Leyland is an ideal example set for the rest of the competition in the commercial vehicle production.
The moment you set your foot in the spacious driver’s cabin of this small truck you are greeted by a very friendly cabin akin to a complete band of service bearers in a good hospitality joint. The adjustable (sliding rail, backrest) driver seats are well contoured and covered in good fabric. Packed into a wider 1.4m cabin is a driver friendly dual tone dashboard that impresses no less than the base variant equipment levels of your family car with air-conditioning vents peeping straight at you.
There is also the toll slip holder to hold the small paper handed out by the toll collectors which are rampant on Indian highways, and of course the coin holder which is of no use today because people in India don’t return the change to you. Of course there is an occasional Cadbury Éclair which one prefers to consume.
Equipped with a state-of-the-art 55hp, 3-cylinder, 1.5-litre TDCR engine, the Dost is tuned for fuel economy as well as the driveability and gradeability required for Indian roads. The Dost’s practicality is further increased by its tight turning circle radius of just 4.8m, designed to easily negotiate both congested city roads and narrow rural lanes.
Once you are well settled in the cabin the mini truck can whisk you up on the road, and the compact LCV’s 1500cc TDCI engine keeps you going steadily through all ups and downs; courtesy the full synchromesh five speed gearbox. With the loading capacity of 1.25 tonnes braking is not only of paramount importance but needs to be predictable as well. This is achieved by the brakes with LSPV (load sensing proportioning valve) with a typical front disc and rear drum combination.
While steering feel is not something hat is looked at in commercial vehicles, the Dost pleasantly surprised us on this front as well. The feel on the steering is very positive in spite of 1.25 tonnes of load at the back. It feels quite safe and the rear tail does not threaten to slide out or give a floating feeling up front. This kind of treatment comes rarely in a vehicle of this character and price range.
Coming to manoeuvrability, it has a stunning turning circle radius of 4.8 metres which means you can operate on most congested routes inside the city and non approachable roads in the mofussil area. Ground clearance is 177mm and as a result most of he tall speed-breakers are handled with ease. Talking of rural roads, the transverse leaf suspension up front and inline leafs at the back will give you a consistent ride over a very very long period and save on service costs as well. The handling is unlike any truck with the grippy radial tyres also adding to it.
Coming to the load lugging ability, the 29 per cent gradeability with the load is worth mentioning. We did drive up and down a hill with no roads and it was a unique experience for the Ashok Leyland executive who was with us when we tested the vehicle. He couldn’t believe his eyes that the Dost could carry out this kind of party trick.
While there are clear traces of a driver comfort and convenience oriented choice of interior equipment on the Dost, what’s interesting or should I say rather impressive when observed carefully are the sort of features that will be offered as standard with all three variants, namely the LE, LS and high end LX model.
Power steering, air-conditioning and windshield washer are features that buyers of the lower trims will sadly lose out on. However, a big salute to the Ashok Leyland team for their uncompromising outlook towards the safety of its passengers on this utility vehicle, which offers ELR seat belts, tubeless tyres and front impact absorption bars as standard across all variants.
Talking about safety, all forward control vehicles have an inherent apprehension for the drivers, that being front end collision. This pick-up has a solid well built cross member to protect you in front end collisions and of course safety belts with emergency locking reactor. I wish the drivers in this country make a conscious effort to wear safety belts and give the precious life a second chance.
To end this long article short this is one mini truck which will make the driver happy, the owner richer and the industry more efficient and productive. Compliments to Ashok Leyland. I hope the infrastructure called roads also gets a chance to accelerate to help vehicles like the Dost to show their ability.
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