Tata Motors brand new hatchback is easy on the eyes. Styled by Tata’s European design studio, the Tiago is a ground up design that looks contemporary and proportionate. Unlike the Bolt and the Zest, it doesn’t look like it is standing on its toes and for the first time in Tata hatchback design, there’s no yawning gap between the wheel arch and the tyres. Keep staring at it and you’ll see all kinds of interesting styling cues and little details that make it look far more appealing than the Maruti Celerio and, to a certain extent, the Hyundai Grand i10.
I mention these cars because they are the ones that the Tiago will compete with and taking on these two small car giants, as you know, is no easy task. Is the Tiago up to it?
When you step into it, you’ll see that there’s quite a lot of attention to detail that’s gone into this car. The dashboard design is attractive with Tata’s interesting ConnectNext system dominating the center console. Interior quality, atleast on the upper half of the dashboard, is good and the amount of thought that has gone into the small details is quite evident. The dashboard has two different textures, the dials are simple but clear and the cabin feels airy and bright. If anything, the air con knobs and the lower half of the center console look a bit too plain but then again, the interiors feel much livelier than the Celerio and quality is almost up there with the Grand i10. Tata is even offering dealer level interior customisation options – you can change the colour of the outer air-con vent surrounds, the steering wheel bezel, the center console, the gearlever bezel and the inner door handles to suit your taste.
Add to this comfortable seats, a spacious cabin, 22 small but useful storage spaces, a 242-litre boot and you have a car that is more car per car than even the original Indica. There are a couple of tiny irritants though. The air con unit intrudes into the front passenger footwell and restricts foot space a bit and the stub like door locks (like in a Maruti 800) will irritate those who are used to pressing a button to unlock all the doors.
There are two engines on offer – a 1.2-litre, three cylinder motor from its Revotron series of engines and an all new 1.0-litre, three cylinder diesel. The petrol isn’t turbocharged and yet makes 84bhp and 114Nm of torque (the Bolt’s turbocharged 1.2 makes a mere 5bhp more in comparison) and this, along with the 1012kg Tiago makes it a peppy performer. Throttle response is good and the engine pulls cleanly from around 1200rpm. The mid-range is reasonably strong and if you keep your foot in, there’s an extra burst after 5000rpm all the way to the 6200rpm redline. It won’t sent any 0-100kmph records but because the engine delivers power without any hiccups, because it feels so responsive, you really won’t complain. The clutch is light, gearshift action is snappy enough and on the whole, the car is very easy to drive.
Put a gun to my head though and I’d pick the diesel. It makes 69bhp but the extra torque it has – 139Nm – and well matched gear ratios make it feel quite peppy. There is some lag and boost comes in somewhere between 2200-2500rpm, but once it’s on, it’s easy to keep the engine on boost. The diesel feels much peppier than the Celerio’s two-cylinder engine and though the former sounds a bit gravelly, it make a far nicer note than the Maruti. As expected, there is some vibration at idle but it smoothens out nicely when you’re driving. Both engines feature an ‘Eco’ mode that dulls throttle response by approximately ten percent and aids fuel efficiency and needless to say, I preferred the default, more powerful ‘City’ mode.
Over Goa’s roads, the Tiago felt nicely planted. It’s got good grip, the new chassis has good balance and the steering is responsive enough to let you have fun behind the wheel. The suspension is an independent, McPherson strut setup up front and a non-independent twist beam setup at the rear and it is tuned well. It takes large potholes in its stride and doesn’t crash or sound flimsy and this makes the Tiago feel like a big car. The diesel feels slightly better damped than the petrol and I think this is down to the stiffer springs its slightly heavier 1080kg kerb weight demands.
What you’ll also like is the decent amount of kit that comes in this top-end XZ.
The ConnectNext system includes a superb eight speaker Harman audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and USB and aux ports. Tata has also included a smartphone enabled Turn-by-turn Navigation App but I think this bit is overkill – if you’ve got a windscreen mounted phone holder, Google Maps does a better job. There’s quite a bit of safety kit as well – there’s ABS, EBD and two airbags.
The Tiago should be in showrooms circa January 2016 and with an expected starting price of Rs 3.8 lakh, it looks like a lot of value for money.