We evaluate numerical simulations of surface ozone mixing ratios over the south Asian region during the pre-monsoon season, employing three different emission inventories in the Weather Research and Forecasting model with Chemistry (WRF-Chem) with the second-generation Regional Acid Deposition Model (RADM2) chemical mechanism: the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research - Hemispheric Transport of Air Pollution (EDGAR-HTAP), the Intercontinental Chemical Transport Experiment phase B (INTEX-B) and the Southeast Asia Composition, Cloud, Climate Coupling Regional Study (SEAC4RS). Evaluation of diurnal variability in modelled ozone compared to observational data from 15 monitoring stations across south Asia shows the model ability to reproduce the clean, rural and polluted urban conditions over this region. In contrast to the diurnal average, the modelled ozone mixing ratios during noontime, i.e. hours of intense photochemistry (11:30-16:30gIST - Indian Standard Time - UTC +5:30), are found to differ among the three inventories. This suggests that evaluations of the modelled ozone limited to 24gh average are insufficient to assess uncertainties associated with ozone buildup. HTAP generally shows 10-30gppbv higher noontime ozone mixing ratios than SEAC4RS and INTEX-B, especially over the north-west Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP), central India and southern India. The HTAP simulation repeated with the alternative Model for Ozone and Related Chemical Tracers (MOZART) chemical mechanism showed even more strongly enhanced surface ozone mixing ratios due to vertical mixing of enhanced ozone that has been produced aloft. Our study indicates the need to also evaluate the O3 precursors across a network of stations and the development of high-resolution regional inventories for the anthropogenic emissions over south Asia accounting for year-to-year changes to further reduce uncertainties in modelled ozone over this region. © Author(s) 2017.