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Okay, let’s get things clear right from the start. This isn’t a car, even though it has four wheels. It is a quadricycle, that promises you the convenience (and stability) of a car, but comes in at a much more affordable price point. Where does the Bajaj Qute score points, and where does it lose out? Let’s find out!
Travelling in an auto rickshaw may be convenient in small cities for short distances but a car is certainly more comfortable. It offers all-weather protection and better safety than any three-wheeler can promise. That said, in today’s congested cities and chock-a-block traffic, driving a car regularly can be tiresome. This is exactly where the Qute comes in – bridging that gap between a rickshaw and a car with something that attempts to give you the best of both. Sporting four wheels, Bajaj is calling it a quadricycle and is offered in CNG and petrol variants.
Thanks to the Qute’s unique design and unconventional dimensions, it turned eye-balls on the go. It doesn’t look like any other small car, well, because it isn’t. It is far more compact and the dimensions tell you the story. It is 2752mm long, 1312mm wide and 1652mm tall and weighs just 450kg, which means it fits into recently-approved quadricycle category of vehicles. The roof height and narrow width compliment the narrow wheels and the halogen headlamps are a nod to the simplicity of this machine. As the engine is rear mounted, there’s 77-litre storage space upfront. In the petrol variant, there is space under the front seats as well.
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There’s also a roof-mounted carrier, which has a luggage capacity of 40 kilos. The passenger seat can be folded in a 60:40 split and store up to 400 litres of cargo. The Bajaj Qute boasts a mild crease at the shoulder line and prominent slash lower down the doors. At the rear, the engine can be accessed via a lockable flap lower down on the bumper plastic. Also note that there is no provision for a tailgate that opens.
You know how a rickshaw looks and feels like from the inside, right? Well, the Qute is a notch above that. It isn’t particularly fancy on the inside. Let’s not forget that it is a rickshaw on four wheels, it isn’t a car. However, it does have a few things that were the exclusive domain of cars and bigger four wheelers – a steering wheel, an analogue-digital instrument cluster, odometer and fuel gauge. To start with, it does not feel cramped once you take the driver’s seat. The driver’s seat back incline cannot be adjusted, but the seat itself can be pushed forward and back on rails.
Once you are inside the quadricycle, you sit pretty tall and get a very good view of the environment around you. There is no AC but the vents mounted on the A-pillar come in handy when on the highway. It does get quite hot when crawling through traffic, though. Hop onto the passenger’s seat and you’ll be even more comfortable. It will move three people comfortably in city as well as on the highway for short distances as well.
The Bajaj Qute is powered by a 216.6cc, water-cooled DTSi engine that produces 12.8bhp of power and 19.5Nm of torque. The one that we got was a CNG variant that made 10.6bhp of power and 16.1Nm of torque but the Qute is available in three variants, petrol, CNG and LPG. The engine is mated to a 5-speed sequential gearbox, exactly like in a rickshaw or a motorcycle, all you have to do is shift up or down which felt direct but a little long and hard. The clutch felt a little short but light. It felt a tad underpowered while overtaking in city and on the highway as well. Driving it in between 30kmph to 40kmph in third and fourth gear in the city is where the Bajaj Qute felt most comfortable. You don’t need to shift gears with the tractable engine and this is what results in the claimed mileage which is impressive at 45km/kg.
And that is not the only area where it shines. It has been built on a monocoque chassis, has four wheels than a traditional three-wheeler, it has gained more stability as well. However, the braking needs a little more calculation than usual. The Qute runs on 135/70 R12 MRF ZECs which provide decent grip, until the brakes locked under panic braking. It felt a tad harsh on the rough roads but felt supple and planted over small undulations and gave a good experience.
We’d like to stress again on the point that it isn’t a car. So expecting it to perform like a car just because it looks like one doesn’t make any sense. However, when it comes to comparing it to a three-wheeler, it definitely scores more and enhances the overall experience. With a price tag of Rs 2.64 lakh ex-showroom, the Bajaj Qute costs almost as much as the Datsun redi-Go which starts at Rs 2.68 lakh. It cannot match the performance and comfort of a traditional car, but it offers a much better fuel economy. Also, it steps up from traditional three-wheelers by providing more stability and safety, without compromising on convenience.
Words by Vishal Joshi