It’s that time of the year in India when the festivities begin and don’t end till a few months later – no we’re not talking about the Coldplay Global Citizen concert – we’re talking about all the religious festivals that will now follow back to back. It is also that time of the year when many buyers will zero in on their decisions and finally walk into showrooms to book their cars – expecting delivery on certain ‘auspicious’ dates. It is also that time of the year that we realised that it had been a while since we drove the Tata Tiago – in fact, the last time we did, it was called the Zica and subsequently, the name was changed for much-discussed reasons. So, we sampled the Tiago again – this time at home base in Pune, so we could spend a little more time admiring not only its design details that Tata Motors’ brilliant team has worked so hard to put in, but also some of its more functional ones. This isn’t about the mechanical working of the Tiago’s brilliant engines, but more about practicality and things you’d generally not notice on a test drive out of a showroom.
We’ve said it before and we’ll sat it again, the Tata Tiago is a handsome car – the overall turnout is more global than Indian, but God is definitely in the details. While the shark nose is clearly evident at first glance, it’s the pattern in the grille that really caught our eye – you could go ahead and count the number of Hexagonal perforations in there but we’re not guarantying any prizes for guessing right either. While the same theme repeats in the air dam, it is that completely ignored bit of plastic between the front windscreen and the back of the bonnet that puts a smile on our face every time we see it.
The very fact that Pratap Bose and his team made it a point to bring the hexagonal cutout theme to this otherwise-visually-insignificant part of the car is what shows their total commitment to the feel good factor. While that part (which also houses the wipers) may go unnoticed most of the time, that moment when you do spot it just puts immense respect for the designers in our minds.
This hexagonal obsession actually continues to an intricate pattern in the tail lamp as well as in the shape of the centre console and steering wheel. Then of course there’s the way the monotony of the rear bumper has been shattered with the dual tone treatment – almost makes the Tiago look like it’s got a diffuser at the back. Our personal favourite on the Tiago’s rear though will always be those little spoiler extensions on the hatch. There’s nothing like it on any Indian car today and it instantly adds loads of Sport-swag to the car’s behind.
Driving Feel and other such things
What we had with us in Pune was the petrol Tiago – which means it had Tata’s Revotron 1.2-litre, three cylinder engine under the hood. When we first drove the car last year, we found the petrol mill to be peppy with its 85PS, 114Nm output figures. Well, guess what – nothing’s changed! This Revotron is so much fun to drive in city traffic and the compact dimensions make it quite easy to manoeuvre around in tight spaces as well. There are a few downsides as well though.
With the Tiago being so much fun, it is nearly impossible for people who love to drive, from keeping the Tiago within a sane rev limit. The throttle response coupled with the handling package and the compact dimensions mean that you’re always high in the rev range to reward yourself with a rather neat exhaust note. The flip side to this is of course that the fuel efficiency drops significantly. With a restricted demeanour of your own right foot you can squeeze out an indicated 20kmpl-and-above out of the Tiago though – it’s just a matter of patience.
When you do run out of fuel on the Tiago’s 35-litre tank, the little white LEDs on the fuel gauge switch off and the low fuel warning comes on. The first time this happened to me I was caught off-guard and a sense of fear crept into me – but not because I was miles away from a gas station. Accompanying the low fuel indicator on the Tiago is an audio warning as well and we’re not talking about a sweet voice politely reminding you to fill up. We’re talking about a deep, bassy, shoehorn-style blare straight out of a scene from Shutter Island and it will repeat every time you turn on your car till you tank up. That, Tata Motors, is scary, but it does drive the point home – I made a beeline straight to the closest petrol pump!
The one thing on the Tiago’s drivetrain you can’t do much about though is what the old-school called tranny snatch. If any of you have a more X-rated meaning coming to your minds for the term, then shame on you, because tranny snatch is simply the sudden movement of the gear lever every time you go on or off the throttle at higher rpm. This isn’t really a deal breaker on the Tiago, but can be a little irritating at most. The only other place we found the Tiago lacking slightly was in steering feel – we’d have loved it to be slightly heavier but then again, that’s just personal preference.
Features and Practicality
Tata Motors has done an awesome job of bringing the Tiago out to the modern world of connectivity – pretty much what their ConnectNext philosophy is all about. There is the Turn-by-Turn Navi App that basically syncs to your smartphone and relays instructions on the Tiago’s infotainment system screen as well as through its 8-speaker system. There is the Juke-Car App that allows all the occupants to sync their phones simultaenously to the app and everyone can use the music system like a jukebox – queue tracks from your phones directly to the system and it will play them one after the other. These are the features that every sales person will be instructed to talk about, but there are more which you discover along the way.
We were immensely psyched about the rear windscreen wiper on the Tiago. No, it’s not because we’ve gone cuckoo. The moment you engage reverse gear on the Tiago, the rear wiper swipes the glass clean so you can see even better out the back in case it got dirty – especially in the rains. This is a tiny feature but something that enhances the feel-good factor on the Tiago by leaps and bounds. Then there are the materials used on the dash – this is one car that doesn’t feel impersonal and plasticky on the inside thanks to the multitude of textures and soft-touch surfaces. The air conditioning is extremely effective and while that’s a great thing (always has been with Tata cars), the vents on the extreme sides can not be completely closed, which can turn the Tiago into an igloo. Minor oversight?
The 242-litre boot may not be huge but is adequate and even comes equipped with an in-built hook on the side to hang your grocery bags from just so they don’t shift around if you’re driving home in a hurry. There are door pockets on all 4 doors too – a feature that all cars still don’t have even in a segment above the Tiago’s field of battle. The seats are comfortable and there’s tons of space all round for four full-grown adults. This is a car that will make you smile no matter what.
We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again – Tata Motors has come a long way and it shows in the way the Tiago has turned out. For those who have already made the choice, it is proving to be a great everyday car and for those who haven’t here are a few things to consider. The Tiago is Tata’s announcement to the World that they’re preparing for bigger, better and truly world-class products soon – the October-bound Hexa and the Nexon compact SUV after that, included. Brand legacy is an uphill battle, but in this day of restricted thought and convoluted theories, it only makes sense to form your own opinions.
This festive season, if you’re looking at buying a cost-effective small car then go check out the Tata Tiago. Take it for a spin and see if you can spot the things we’ve mentioned here. It may or may not punch above its segment when you’re considering a new car, but it definitely does make more sense than buying a used premium hatch – you’re getting the space, you’re getting the performance and you’re getting more features and gadgets than an older generation of hatchbacks will ever offer, and at Rs 3.2-4.8 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) it’s available at a similar price point too. It’s worth a thought.