The smallest, the Atom, with a 0.88-tonne payload, is powered by a 510cc, single-cylinder 10 hp diesel engine from Greaves Cotton. The main stay is the Across. Available in two variants, HD and 870Di, like the Atom, it is a front-wheel drive design. A transversely located 871cc, 2-cylinder direct-injection 17 hp diesel engine from Greaves Cotton (found on Piaggio Ape Truk earlier) routes power through a 5-speed manual gearbox and a transaxle. The engine is a bit noisy. However, an amount of work on NVH in co-ordination with ARAI according to Pramod Shashtry, General Manager – Sales and Marketing, Nextmotive Pvt. Ltd., has ensured that not much of it filters into the cabin. Vibrations are well contained.
The engine’s location under the seat has ensured that the cabin is spacious, and with an accompanying sense of room. Any difference in power delivery or response over the rear-wheel drive Ace is not noticeable. We drove the Across on the hilly road to Lavasa (see box). The drive would also help to better understand what Avinash claimed, that the front-wheel drive design of the Across and Atom curbs transmission losses and aids packaging. Also ensures good response and superior fuel efficiency. ver the Across and the Atom, the Avia will get ‘power’ brakes and power steering. Supporting the three products are tier suppliers like Gabriel, JK Tyre, Apollo Tyres, Exide, Bosch, Rane Madras and Rane TRW, K G Foam, Pricol etc. Stating that he has put his experience of batch production to work in this project, which he learnt while working on the T70 tank at Chennai, Avinash explained that they had a big debate about the drive orientation. A conclusion was drawn that up to 1,000 kg GVW, it does not make a difference if the vehicle is a front-wheel drive or a rear-wheel drive. “Front-wheel drive improves fuel efficiency. We also looked at the French vans, which are mostly front-wheel drive designs,” said Belgamwar. Homologation of Atom and Avia is yet to take place.
Due to commonality of parts, it should not take long expressed Avinash. All three share the same cabin. The loading trays differ in dimensions, and are, like the cab and chassis, made on the same line. All three, the chassis, cab and tray are made in-house. Nextmotive has invested in laser welding solutions, leveraging its ability to provide BIW solutions to OEMs. While Atom and Across share the frame, except for dimensional changes, the frame of Avia is different. Atom and Across run on 12-inch dia. wheels whereas the Avia runs on 14-inch dia. wheels.
that also market Hero MotoCorp and Eicher products. The Sri Lankan distributor is a Parsi gentleman called Tito. He drove the Across for an amount of time. Only after he was satisfied did he give a plan for 30o units over a period of five to six months. This would amount to 3 per cent market share in a 1,000 unit strong Sri Lankan SCV market. As an SME, to manufacture a vehicle is a brave attempt. To think of making it grow is by no means less challenging. Avinash is keen to see the numbers climb up to 500 units per year. This will amount to five per cent of the market share in Sri Lanka. The next step would be to capture a 10 per cent market share. Stating that the Mahindra Maxximo is giving a tough fight to the Tata Ace in Sri Lanka, Avinash opined that specific application vehicles is what his company is comfortable doing (at the factory level) rather than pursue volumes. The takt time of 30 minutes for each station is indicative of this stratergy.
The first impression is of the vehicle being tall. The ground clearance of Across, at 220 mm, is claimed to be more than that of the market leader Ace. Climbing into the seat, from behind the wheel, the driver is greeted to a good view ahead. The minimalist dashboard with a centrally mounted instrument cluster fails to impress. The inconsistent panel gaps may not matter much to a CV buyer, but will need to be addressed nevertheless. The driving position is high and comfortable, and accompanies a feeling of the cab being roomy and airy. Turn the key and the BS3 direct injection motor wakes up to emit a distinct diesel clatter. It is loud no doubt, though not very intrusive considering the current offerings in the category. First and second cogs are very tall and ensure take-off rather than achieve good speed. Third gear is where some speed is achieved, followed by more speed achieved in the fourth gear. Third and fourth gears offer a good combination of speed and the ability to lug. There was hardly any steam by the time the fifth gear was engaged on a hilly stretch of road. This cog could however help in achieving good efficiency on level roads.
During the drive, the Across came across as a dandy and comfortable SCV. It behaved well over some of the broken roads in the region we subjected it to, displaying a good ability to tackle the undulations without resulting in an utterly inferior ride. It responded well to the inputs, and the fact that it is a front-wheel drive, did not make for a noticeable difference in the way the power was routed to the wheels. The way 40 Nm of torque was put to use. Evoking a feeling of being modern and well-engineered even though there is a need to work upon factors like aesthetics, features, and fit and finish, the first impression was positive. The braking feel, comprising discs at front and drums at the rear, was progressive. The ‘non-powered’ steering felt light and precise, and even at speeds in the region of
50 kmph. The top speed of this SCV is 70 kmph. If the pictures draw a similarity with the Tata Ace, in actual, subtle styling differences make the Across look different.
As mentioned at the onset, the Across looks bigger than it really is, and with an ability to deliver more load. Getting under the skin of the Across reveals that the two – Ace and Across, are quite different even though they are aiming at the same category. Ace has a rear-wheel drive mechanical configuration. Across has a front-wheel drive layout. Powering the Ace is a 16 hp, 702 cc two-cylinder in-direct injection diesel engine positioned longitudinally. The Across’ 17 hp engine is of the direct-injection variety and located transversely. Claimed to have a near 50:50 weight distribution over the two axles, the Across, parked besides the Ace surprisingly does not look as big or burly. It is perhaps the expanse of the windscreen and its curvature that makes it look big. Also, unlike the Ace, turning the key to the off position does not kill the engine of the Across. A lever on the dashboard has to be pulled. It is a distinct reminder of the fact that a direct-injection diesel engine is located under the seats.