Pastout – Rajah Motors Kazwa (India’s first ever MPV)

Rajah Motors Kazwa - Front

The story of Kazwa is interesting one that needs to be told, if only for the fact that it is absolutely and completely unconventional. The Kazwa was built by Rajah Motors (now called KMPL – Kajah Motors Private Limited) of Cochin, an enterprise that is owned members of a joint family whose regular business include the assembly of bidis (Kajah Bidi)and the running of Ayurveda  health farm, amongst others.

Being avid automobile enthusiasts, the family was keen to get into manufacture of sportscar through the kit car route in early 90s. The project was shelved after the search for a suitable partner turned up nothing. It was in 1994 that they got hooked on the idea of an MPV for India. They thought it was a good idea for India and that it would sell well. Thus began project Kazwa.

In July 1998, Rajah Group launched India’s first ever MPV called ‘Kazwa’. The name Kazwa was chosen because it sounded like Japanese and hails from a rare breed of camel, which is another MPV in itself! India’s first MPV was constructed at their small facility at Chavakkad near Trichur.

Rajah Motors Kazwa - Interior It’s a tragic story. Rajah ended up making only seven MPVs and none were offered on sale. It’s a full two years before Toyota entered India with the Qualis, whose unprecedented sales would establish MPVs as a viable segment in India. Now, 12 years later, with the MPV market about to explode thanks to the imminent arrival of a few Innova-beaters, I thought it was time to revisit the Kazwa. It’s only appropriate, right?

‘A first gen Renault Espace made by a Beedi manufacturer. Probably went up in smoke’

Kazwa is spacious and 30mm wider than the Innova, especially in the second (of three) rows. Locally sourced, wide and comfortable seats are standard. The Kerala-based car had latest features like power windows, power steering, dual air conditioner, central locking and alloy wheels. Of course, it all looks a little old now, especially the chronologically correct dials look like they have based on those of the Maruti Esteem and steering wheel comes from Opel Astra. The custom-made car has been priced in the range of Rs 6.5 lakh to Rs 7 lakh.

It was powered with Hindustan Isuzu D 2.0-liter 56 hp engine, under the hood. Hindustan Motors was responsible for supplying the engine, gearbox, driveline, suspension, power steering and the braking systems – all bits from Contessa diesel. 72PS – the Kazwa’s peak power – is a respectable number. The large glass area made for excellent visibility to the point where it makes the Innova feel a bit claustrophobic.

Kazwa has the unique chassis. They didn’t resort to the standard ladderframe and chose to do a base sheet steel platform on which the superstructure is built. The fibre glass body panels were then mounted on the steel chassis and Rajah Motors kept an eye on good fit and finish levels. The fibre glass may actually have been a problem for Rajah Motors – the Sipani Dolphin, the other fibre glass failed to do well commercially and the non-steel body panels were often made the scapegoat.

Rajah Motors Kazwa - SideView

That the Rajah family zeroed in astutely on the Renault Espace – the first generation of the fundamental MPV which the family experienced on their trips abroad – is in itself a good sign. That they got their idea from the thought bubble to the actual running car stage is highly impressive. They also did a rather good job of it. From the outside the Kazwa looks like the Espace, but is significantly smaller. The huge quarter glass and three side windows give it a large airy feel. The prominent quarter glass design is still a Renault Espace byword today.

Rajah Motors had the right idea, but I think they weren’t ready for the scale of the operation needed for success. They needed a sales and service network to sell and maintain their cars. This is a daunting task even for well established manufacturers in our vast country. That a small Indian industrial house went this far – they actually held a launch event – is in itself amazing.

Rajah Motors Kazwa - Rear

In hindsight, had the Kazwa succeeded, Rajah Motors would be a household name. You’d see these MPVs, and their later generations on the road today. I think it might even have influenced how Toyota approached the Qualis and then the Innova in India – a successful MPV would have to be part of the benchmarking process.
Check out more pictures below the jump.

Technical Specifications of Rajah Kazwa –

Engine: Diesel, turbocharged
Cylinders: 4 in-line
Installation: Longitudinal, Rear-wheel drive
Valvetrain: 2 valves/cyl, SOHC
Displacement: 1995 cc
Max Power: 70bhp@ 4500 rpm
Max Torque: 16.0kgm@ 2500 rpm
Brakes Front: Discs
           Rear: Drums
Type: Power assisted, hydraulic, diagonally split
Kerb weight: 1470 kg
Wheelbase: 2,610 mm
Fuel economy Overall: 22 kmpl (Sources say as per ARAI, Pune)


Also see – Pastout – Discontinued Tata Sierra


More pictures of Rajah Motors Kazwa – 

Rajah Motors Kazwa - 001       Rajah Motors Kazwa - 002       Rajah Motors Kazwa - 003       Rajah Motors Kazwa - 004