Ashok Leyland Jan Bus spotted testing in Chennai

As the buses plying on Indian roads keep improving towards international standards with the arrival of global brands like Volvo and Mercedes-Benz, the Indian commercial-vehicle manufacturers who have traditionally dominated the market are being pulled out of their comfort zones and forced to come up with something indigenous to stay afloat. Ashok Leyland, head-quartered in Chennai and the most traditional and conservative brand of all, is undergoing such a transformation now. The proof of that is what you see in this post.

Ashok Leyland made it to the headlines last year when it unveiled the Jan Bus, which the company claims is the world's first single-step entry, front engine and fully flat floor bus, at the 2012 Auto Expo in New Delhi. In the Jan Bus, Ashok Leyland seems to have found out a niche that none of the global brands have filled in for various reasons. In regular front-engined buses, there is an axle that runs below the passenger compartment transferring the power to the rear wheels. That's why most low floor buses gets rid of this axle by having their engines placed at the rear which invariably increases the cost. Ashok Leyland's Jan Bus bucks the trend, as it qualifies as a low floor bus inspite of having its engine at the front.

Unlike many models that disappear without a trace after the paparazzi of the Auto Show, the Jan Bus project is very much alive and kicking. If ever proof was needed, here it is.

Two Jan Bus prototypes were spotted testing in the busy GST Road in Chennai yesterday hinting that the project is running at a brisk pace. One was an air-conditioned model while the other was a regular model without air-conditioning. From the way in which the buses were driven, it was obvious that the Jan Bus was powerful, quick and agile. They were refined, accelerated quickly, changed lanes at will and, importantly, looked stable while doing so. Ashok Leyland has got the styling right as well, with the Jan Bus featuring a smooth and clean look. The front end, with it's Volvo-inspired headlights look great and the profile features an uncluttered look. The rear could have been slightly better though and the taillights seem to be a tad small for our liking. Large windshields and windows are sure to be well-received by the public, as does the well-appointed seats and driver's cabin that were clearly visible.

The brochure released by Ashok Leyland states that the Jan Bus will be powered by a 6-cylinder 'H Series' engine that's good for 235 HP of power at 2400 rpm and 720 Nm of torque between 1600 to 1800 rpm. This turbocharged, multi-point fuel injected engine runs on CNG and is BS4 compliant. Mated to this is Ashok Leyland's proprietary 'Leymatic' Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) that significantly reduces driver fatigue. If the brochure is to be believed, the interiors of the Jan Bus are sure to impress too, with features like a clutter-free gangway courtesy the cantilever-mounted seats and seat-mounted stanchions, infotainment system for the passengers, full air suspension and a stylish layout with good fit and finish. The seating and door placements are customizable and the Jan Bus can be configured for regular city transportation, Bus Rapid Transit Systems and airport tarmac applications as well.

With the Jan Bus, are we finally looking at a model that's not only going to mount a challenge to global players in India, but also trying to crack open a segment that's hitherto untouched in the global space? We definitely think so and would be surprised if the Jan Bus doesn't succeed.