It may have seen delays, but the market launch of the Tata Tiago is positively nearing its D-day. Expected to take place on March 28, Tata has announced the start of bookings for its latest small car, what is in-fact its first ‘all-new’ small car after the Tata Nano. Here’s a look at what the Tiago offers -
Tata’s design and technical team started working on the Tiago project towards the end of 2012. Though the primary design center was Tata’s U.K. facility, the Italian and Indian studios were equally involved. In a first, JLR-derived processes were used for the execution of the Tiago’s styling. One of these is CDRM (Customer Designed Reference Model) basically a clay model of the car which was shown to dealers and target audience. “Around three or four batches of 60-70 people were shown the car”, Mr. Pratap Bose, head of design, Tata Motors, told Indian Autos Blog. The result is what you see in these images.
At the tape, the Tiago measures 3,746 mm in length, 1,647 mm in width, 1,535 mm in height and 2,400 mm in wheelbase. While its dimensions are comparable to that of the Maruti Celerio, its closest rival, in terms of overall weight the Tata is a good 150 kg more.
In profile, the Tiago may look similar to the new Ford Figo at first glance, especially post the B-Pillar. However, the design details very much set it apart from any other hatchback in this segment, and most importantly, any other Tata Motors’ product. The front fascia sees ‘bug-eyed’ headlights with a piano-black grille with honeycomb structures, and the layout is carried over to the plastic part housing the wipers.
The side profile has a chic, European stance to it lending further credence that the Tiago was in fact a design collaboration between three distinct teams, two of them housed in the Old Continent. Tata is keen to point out that gaps and finishes (panel gaps) on the Tiago are the best yet for any Tata product.
The rear features Boomerang-shaped taillights and a spoiler with black accents on either side. What we really like about the Tiago’s design is that it manages to stand out despite being subtle; there is nothing flashy or unnecessary to its looks.
The interior of the Tiago borrows plenty of parts from the Zest and Bolt. The dashboard sports the all-too-familiar three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, an instrument cluster with a MID, a piano-black center console, buttons for switching between drive modes and a well-integrated Harman entertainment system.
Overall build and quality of materials are superior to that of the Maruti Celerio, but a notch below the Hyundai Grand i10. That being said, Tata Motors will offer customization options including colored inserts for the AC vent surrounds, center console and door handles.
Moving to the rear, ingress and egress are comfortable processes on the Tiago despite its small appearance. While the overall width of the rear seat can accommodate two large adults (fitting three medium-sized adults feels like bit of a squeeze), kneeroom is about adequate wherein you feel snug, but not overly comfortable. For a Tata product, the Tiago does not have acres of legroom one would come to expect is what we're saying. What works very well though are the ergonomics and seat cushioning.
There’s also an inconspicuous cost-cutting at play here: Even the top-end variant of the Tiago does not get map pockets on the front seat back. The reason? “During our survey, we found out that most buyers opt for an after-market seat cover, which anyway comes with a map pocket, so we decided against incorporating it, saved us some resources”, a product planner told Indian Autos Blog.
Overall, what we really like about the Tiago’s interior is that it feels inviting: It performs well ergonomically and has all the features a buyer would need at this price point. This is a cabin you definitely wouldn’t mind spending time in.
One of the highlights of the Tiago is its newly-developed Harman infotainment system. The unit, which is capable of supplying turn-by-turn, voice-guided navigation through a smartphone app integration, took Harman 18 months to develop. The 8-speaker system has above average sound quality, one of the better units in this segment from an OEM.
Electrically-adjustable wing mirrors, 14-inch alloy wheels, foglights, rear spoiler, rear wiper and washer, steering mounted controls, manual AC, Multi-Drive mode and rear parking sensors, not to forget ABS, EBD and dual front airbags are other features the top-end Tiago offers.
Engine and Gearbox:
The Tiago introduces a new engine family for Tata Motors with the all-new all-aluminium Revotron petrol engine. On the Tata Tiago, this 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine will develop 85 PS and 114 Nm of torque.
The inherent flaws of a three-cylinder unit are ever so present on the Tiago: The thrummy noise at idle and low rpm, minor vibrations creeping into the cabin, and a not-so-smooth power delivery. Take these factors aside though and the petrol engine and 5-speed gearbox are actually well designed for urban use.
Driving within Pune, at no point did we feel that the Tiago was underpowered or lagging behind. The petrol engine may not be as easy revving as the Suzuki K-Series unit, but with your foot flat down, it will touch its 6,500 rpm redline with moderate hesitation.
More than the engine, its the well-chosen gear ratios which make the petrol Tiago an ideal city commuter There’s ample go in the low- and medium-end of the powerband for you to ‘zip’ through traffic. Needless to say, this engine is not going to set your pulse racing with its performance, but it does a good job nevertheless in the real world.
Coming to the diesel engine, the Tiago is powered by a 1.05-liter three-cylinder Revotorq unit which is capable of 70 PS and 140 Nm of torque. Refinement of the diesel engine is leagues ahead of the Celerio’s twin-cylinder engine, yet a step below the 1.1-liter Hyundai unit, which is also a three-cylinder.
Again, like the petrol, well chosen gear ratios ensure that the Tiago never feels like a slouch. And like the petrol, its the low- and mid-range regions where this engine performs best. The sweet spot of the engine is 1,750-3,000 rpm, and while one may not be pinned down to the seat when the turbo kicks in, the small bursts of torque ensure you can get a quick move-on when needed.
In both petrol and diesel, the gear action and clutch feel very positive, inline with a small city car expectation.
On the drivetrain front, we're actually more pleased with this new three-cylinder petrol than the Zest's four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit. Its obvious that an engine designed from scratch feels better than one with a bolted-on turbocharger.
Ride and Handling:
To put it simply, the Tiago offers a great balance in the ride and handling department, one that its competitors do not offer. On the handling front, the Tiago’s chassis feels suitably taut, the steering is well weighed, and grip from the 14-inch tyres are adequate too.
More than the handling, its the ride quality that will appease prospectively buyers. Tata has setup the suspension for tackling the most average of Indian roads, and therefore your occasional potholes and crevices pose no discomfort to the small car. In this department, the Tiago has what it takes to make the Celerio and Grand i10 feel stiff, and that’s saying a lot. If there is one reason to buy the Tiago, it has to be for its perfect ride-and-handling package which is undoubtedly best-in-segment.
Brakes and Safety:
At least the top-end variants of the Tata Tiago will come with ABS, EBD and dual front airbags as standard. Keeping in-line with market leader Maruti-Suzuki, Tata would do well to offer these features as optional on other variants of the Tiago in the future.
Our ABS-equipped test car performed rather well under hard braking. The brake pedal and feel leave nothing to be desired, in this segment size at least, and the stock 175/65 14-inch Goodyear tyres are among the grippier rubber offered in this segment.
Tata is yet to disclose the ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of the Tiago. However, we expect both engine variants to deliver 20+ km/l. Under Pune’s traffic conditions, the petrol Tiago averaged around 12 km/l whereas the diesel variant hovered around the 14 km/l mark.
Prices for the Tata Tiago are expected to be announced on March 28, 2016.
The Tiago is pitched as a rival to the Maruti Celerio, Chevrolet Beat and the Hyundai Grand i10. While the Tiago feels like a very competent product, the Grand i10 is no doubt a step above when it comes to interior space, build quality, fit-and-finish. That being said, the Tiago is a more than capable alternative to the Celerio.
The small car from Tata Motors presents a better proposition than Suzuki’s global small car as far as ride-and-handling, build quality and overall drivability (diesel) are concerned. Where Tata is still far from matching Maruti is when sales and service touch points, overall reliability and resale are factored, which are no doubt vital considerations for the small car buyer. In addition, the Celerio also has the added advantage of the AGS (Automated manual transmission) which now accounts for nearly half of sales. Tata’s senior vice president, programme planning and management, Mr. Girish Wagh says an AMT will be available later in the Tiago's lifecycle.
Ultimately, pricing is key and Tata Motors can’t afford to replicate the fiasco as with its last hatchback launch, the Bolt. Undercutting the Celerio spec-for-spec by at least INR 5,000-10,000 should find a lot of homes for the small hatchback.
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