In a segment where more stylish MPVs like Maruti Ertiga, Toyota Innova and Mahindra Xylo have been selling in numbers, Nissan has not yet made much headway with its boxy, van like Evalia. But the Renault-Nissan collaboration with Ashok Leyland is intact and the Stile has been made by Nissan as per Ashok Leyland’s specifications.
Dost, an old Nissan vehicle that was re-engineered by Ashok Leyland helped the Indian commercial vehicle maker to improve its sales & service network a little - although it is still based in rural and industrial sub-urban areas. Stile is the company’s first passenger vehicle but is categorised as an LCV (light commercial vehicle) which means that it woos cab service operators more than family MPV buyers.
Both Stile and Evalia have been customised as 7 and 8 seater vehicles in India (blame in on the population?) Elsewhere in the world they are roomy 5 seaters. Offered in three variants here, the Stile gets a monocoque chassis as against many of its body-on-frame rivals. And at 1389 kg kerb weight, it scales at 37 kg less than its cousin Evalia.
Although not many of you will consider this option for an MPV, we decided to test drive the Stile – after all it looks like an ideal people mover at least for taxi or cab service business. And how was the experience? Let’s begin with the ‘style’ check:
The External Impression
The Stile is a rebadged, less loaded version of Nissan Evalia. With a length, height and wheelbase of 4400mm, 1860 mm and 2725 mm respectively, it has exactly the same dimensions as Nissan’s MPV. While build quality is impressive and cost cutting is not quite evident it is again the boxy silhouette that makes it uninspiring for families or personal use. But with a simple black grille, soft curves of the bumper, and the double barrel backswept headlamps, the front has a nice look giving it some road presence. The two ‘barrels’ in the headlamp comprise a single halogen and an indicator light. Cut-outs are given on the bumper for fog lamps but no wiring or preparation has been provided to actually fit in a pair.
The side profile is also a replica of the Evalia but the window line for the rear seat passengers is different. The sliding window has thick black surrounds and is segregated into two by another thin line in between. All variants have puny 14 inch steel wheels with LT 165 as standard but the mid and top level trims get optional 15 inchers with 185/60 R15 tyres.
At the rear you don’t see the chrome treatment and reflectors that Evalia gets on its hatch door. The vertically placed tail lamps are flat and less curvy. On the left side of the boot you see a ‘diet’ badge that indicates the thrifty tune of the 1.5 litre DCi engine.
There is a large spoiler and the number plate has a matte finish. No wash and wipe feature on the big rear windscreen even for the top end version!
Stile’s interiors are pretty banal although the build quality feels solid - the doors close with a firm thud. Ingress for this tall car requires some effort. The gear lever is dashboard mounted and the three-spoke steering wheel is shared with the Evalia. It can only be adjusted for rake. Indeed, for the dashboard architecture, you will see an obvious similarity between the two vehicles. Instrument cluster is quite basic and you only get the speedo, (no tachometer), fuel level indicator, digital clock and tripmeter.
The clutch pedal is quite spaced out to the left and a dead pedal has been provided for driver comfort on long journeys.
In the top end variant LX there is chrome finish for the centre console but features such as music system, parking camera and the safety equipment in form of anti lock braking, EBD, and airbags are not provided at all. The seats are upholstered in fabric and the front captain seats feel little squeaky. There is no height adjustment convenience in any of the trims. Nevertheless, the view from driver’s seat is commanding and rearward visibility is also nice. The manually adjustable ORVMs also offer a good rear view but they can only be adjusted from outside.
Stile gets power (front) window feature on mid and top end variants – there is no control for the passenger’s window on driver’s side. So if you are driving alone, you need to stretch out for the button on the other door to operate its window. Among other comfort features, manual air conditioner comes with all variants and the LX, LS versions have rear air con vents. Central locking is also offered for both of these.
There is sufficient legroom on the second row of captain seats and the backrest can be reclined for comfort. The sliding windows are of limited use. A grab handle is provided to help with ingress/egress. Getting on to (and out of) the third row of bench seats is a task. You have to pull a lever beneath the captain seat to shift it forward and then lift another lever to tilt the seat back in place. While getting out in a jiffy, you can get trapped between the door and the seat.
For storage there is enough space at back with all seats in place. The third row bench seat can be folded to keep some extra bags. However, while the Evalia’s third row can also be lifted off the luggage cove, in Stile it is bolted to the floor. So you do not get a flat floor to load those bigger suitcases.
Few other things -
- None of the doors have pockets and sun visors come sans vanity mirrors
- Dashboard has a sculpted space on front passenger’s side to keep things like newspaper, mobile and it also has a cup holder
- Retracting cup holders are provided on sides of third row seat in LS and LX trims
- There are cubby holes on sides of luggage cove
- For cabin illumination there is only one light above the driver’s seat
- Rear air con blower works fairly well but its fit & finish need improvement
Crux of the Matter
In this vehicle the 1.5 litre DCi engine has been tuned for 74 bhp and 18.8 kgm of torque. In Evalia this is 85 bhp and 20 kgm. Stile’s powertrain has fixed geometry turbo and the unit also powers Renault Scala and Fluence, besides Nissan’s Sunny (in different states of tune).
The Stile is less powerful than Toyota Innova but its front-wheel-drive monocoque chassis gives it an advantage. Its torque to weight ratio is also superior to that of Innova.
As you crank up the engine, it does clatter a lot. And this is persistent at different speeds. Other cars using the 1.5 litre diesel engine feel more refined than the Stile. Cost cutting is quite apparent for cabin insulation.
Power delivery is linear and as this MPV drives away from standstill it makes pleasing progress. The peak torque comes in range of 1750 and 2750 rpm. You can amble around in the city at 50 km/hour in 5th gear. Even though it has lost that 11 bhp of power, the Stile is pretty easy to drive at low and mid speeds and there is ample response as the rpms begin to rise. If not loaded heavily, it rides up steep roads without any grumbling. In fact the best way to drive it is to upshift early and the torque does the rest. Since there is no tachometer, you have to use your own driving intellect to decide upon the upshift timings.
On highways, Stile is just an average performer in the MPV segment that it is positioned in. It is not fast but its acceleration up to 100 km/hour is acceptable. The punch that you need to overtake the vehicles ahead is lacking and working out the gears is important.
The clutch action is satisfactory. It is not very light but does not even make the Stile painful to drive in stop-and-go traffic conditions of the city. The throw of gears is on longer side and the 5 speed ‘box feels little notchy. But it has a car-like feel and is better than that of Toyota Innova.
Stile has an uncommon combination of monocoque chassis with leaf springs at the rear. In interest of ride quality, these are parabolic leaf springs and not the conventional semi-elliptical ones. So the ride is pliant if not cushy at low speeds within the city. On highways, this LCV does not annoy the rear seat passengers with the excessive vertical movement experienced in Scorpio and Xylo. But they will find the high speed ride a little rough. Things can improve if all seven seats of the vehicle are occupied. The third row passengers sitting right over the front axle have a bad time on sharp bumps. If you are seated in the front, you will find the ride firm but smooth.
With a high centre of gravity and raised ground clearance of 180mm, there is fair amount body roll. But for a van like profile, it manages to go around the corners pretty well. And with that ground clearance you won’t even scrape the underbelly of this vehicle.
The steering feels light in the city and weighs up considerably on the highway. It’s an electronic power unit and feedback is limited. The turning radius of 5.2 meter is good to make U turns in the city. You just need to be a little more careful while reversing.
Brakes have a good bite and Stile stops in a straight line from as high as 80 km/hour. But you don’t get ABS even on top end version.
The ARAI rating for this multi-purpose vehicle is 20.7 km/litre - this is much better than Xylo, Innova and Tavera, almost at par with Ertiga (20.99 km/litre) and poorer than Mobilio (24.2 km/litre).
Stile is comfortable to be in and easy to drive in the city. It easily fulfils the purpose for which it has been developed. And what makes it a more popular option than the Evalia is the price difference. But it is not really cheap taking into the account the equipment and safety features that it misses. The 8 seater base trim, LE is priced at Rs 7.49 lakhs (ex showroom Delhi) and 7 seater LS and LX are priced at Rs 8.49 lakhs and 8.99 lakhs respectively (all prices ex showroom Delhi).
On the whole it is an easy to drive, no-frills, full-size spacious MPV with balanced road behaviour and predictable handling.
Style & Substance 3/5
Ride & Handling 3.5/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 3.5/5
Safety & Equipment 3/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 3.5/5
Fuel Efficiency 4/5
Value for Money 3.5/5