Shock value: MG Comet vs Tata Tiago EV
I drove to the shoot location in the Comet, but I was off script. Usually, these early morning runs are a blast – pre sunrise, the roads are empty and it’s a license to drive just a little bit harder, take corners a little bit faster, push the limits of the car and get a solid understanding of its dynamics. Very often it’s up some winding road on a hill close to town, or a highway leading to nowhere. Today? Well, not today. I had an electric car with limited range and I needed to have enough to get to our shoot location (which was in some corner of the city for a change), go head to head with a rival, and drive back. So I was coasting.
The rival in question is the Tiago EV. The only other electric car on sale today that sits under the Rs 10 lakh price bracket. Tiny. Affordable. Electric. These two cars might have a lot in common but they couldn’t be further apart. One is an ICE car that has made peace with an electric future, while the other was born into it. We’re answering some important questions today. Can affordable EVs be your only car? Are they still secondary urban runabouts? And most importantly, which of these two should you be putting down your hard-earned money on?
There’s no denying which of the two will start more conversations. The Comet draws eyes, questions and nods of approval. So many passersby asked how much it costs, because they assume a tiny car to have a tiny price. Not the case here, but it certainly is striking. To my eye, the form factor is a draw and while I’d happily pass up on all the chrome and all of the badges, there’s something about this diminutive box on wheels that makes it look endearing. The Tiago EV on the other hand has very little to differentiate it from the standard Tiago – some blue accents here, a badge there, different wheels. It’s subtle, until you slap on some green plates and then it’s impossible to ignore. It is still a good looking car that manages to look contemporary seven years after it was first launched. But the attention the Comet guarantees is impossible to ignore.
That continues when you step inside. There’s a massive slab of high res digital real estate – twin 10.25-inch screens dominate the narrow dash and there’s a sense of sophistication to the Comet’s cabin. The steering wheel controls are reminiscent of the iPod, the space in the front is a clear indicator of its born electric origins, and the rotary gear selector feels premium (though lacks storage space). In contrast, the Tiago’s dash feels less upmarket. The screen accepts CarPlay and Android Auto like the Comet’s but it is far smaller, and less vibrant. The instrument cluster is packed with important info but it isn’t a clean design. Tata has made some important upgrades to the Tiago though, the auto headlamps, auto wipers and leatherette seats really uplift the cabin. And critically, the Tiago has more space – you’re not constantly rubbing shoulders with your passenger, and you have a second set of doors to access the rear seats. Space in the back is adequate in the Comet, I fit in there comfortably with my 5’10” frame but getting in and out is simply easier in the Tiago. Plus it has a boot!
Driving through the city, the differences between them couldn’t be more stark. The Comet is about as wide as an auto rickshaw and has the manoeuvrability to match – your speed through traffic will depend on how brave you are, and your ability to thread it through the tiny gaps that present themselves. There’s a bit of a learning curve, you need to recalibrate your brain to remind it that the left-hand-side of the car is actually much closer to you than usual and once you do that, you’ll be flying. I’d never thought I’d say this about a Tiago but it feels large in comparison. The bonnet stretches out further in front of you, the car is wider and you can’t be as slippery in traffic. U-turns, parking, visibility – it’s all better in the Comet.
Move past that one trump card though, and the Tiago’s strengths start to shine. It is quicker so overtakes are easier, ride quality is more mature as is the handling. In our VBOX tests, the Tiago did a 0-60kmph time in 5.5 seconds, while the Comet did it in 6.7 seconds. Fun fact, the Comet will actually breach the 100kmph mark and go on to hit a top speed of 102kmph, but the Tiago is comfortably faster hitting 120kmph. Both get a Sport mode to dial up the performance, but only the Tiago EV gets the option to change the aggressiveness of the regen. In real world conditions, the Tiago does feel a little sprightlier, and overtakes are less of an effort but neither are neck-snapping fast.
Physics catches up
Then there’s the question of ride and handling. Because of its small wheels and tyres, and suspension that has less travel, you need to take it easy in the Comet over bumps and breakers. Not doing so can lead to some uncomfortable crashing in the suspension and thudding in the cabin. With how atrocious our roads are, the Comet doesn’t feel fully settled and is constantly reacting. A minor pitter patter in the cabin. The Tiago remains far more composed on broken patches, allowing you to slow down less, carry more speed and remain more comfortable in the cabin. Ride is one of its biggest strengths and always has been.
On the handling front, the Tiago feels more sorted as well. Not that you’re going to be setting any lap times, or even carving up mountain roads with either of these two. However, the simple act of changing direction feels nicer in the Tiago. Should you find a slightly empty stretch with a couple of bends, the Tiago feels more collected through it. The steering feels connected and body control is impressive. Both cars have their weight low down but the wider track and longer wheelbase gives the Tiago a sense of stability. Not that the Comet is bad. The steering is direct and it reacts quickly to inputs but the Tiago feels more engaging. I suspect the seating position has something to do with the sense of engagement as well – in the Tiago you’re sitting lower down and further back, whereas in the Comet you’re right on top of the front axle.
Now, the techy bits. The Comet has a 17.3kWh battery, while the Tiago EV gets two variants – a medium range with a 19.2KWh battery and a long range variant with a 24kWh battery. In my time with the Tiago EV, it has given me impressive range. Over 200km routinely and up to 230km if driven well. The Comet on the other hand will give you about 180km of range on a single charge. Mind you, these numbers are subject to your driving style. Now both these cars have more than enough range as daily runabouts. Come back home to your wallbox, top it up and you’re ready to go again. I’ve spent more time with the Tiago and have gone over a week without needing to recharge it. I suspect the Comet will go nearly as long, if not as long. Depending on your commute obviously. As for charging times, Tata claims 8.7 hours for the Tiago (10-100 per cent) for their standard call box charger (they will sell you a faster 7.2kW callbox which can top it up in 3.6 hours) and MG claims 7 hours for the Comet (0-100 per cent). What tips the scales significantly in the favour of the Tiago EV is the ability to fast charge. 10 to 80 per cent in 58 minutes means should you need to do long distances with it, you can. I’ve driven to Mumbai and back with the Tiago EV and it involved two stops of about an hour each. That simply won’t be possible with the Comet, without having to stop for hours on end to top up.
Safety is another factor to be considered. The Tiago (not the EV, the standard car) has a GNCAP safety rating of 4 stars which is impressive. The Comet on the other hand hasn’t been crash tested. That said, there’s a sense of safety and security to the Tiago courtesy the seating position. The Comet has your legs so far forward and very little in front of it but way of a crumple zone in terms of a crash. This isn’t to say the MG is not safe — I can’t say that for sure without it being put through a proper crash test, but from behind the ’wheel, the sense of security is higher in the Tiago.
Coming back to the start of the story – can these affordable EVs be your only car? Not yet. There are inherent compromises with the electric drivetrain, particularly at the more affordable end of the market as they have smaller batteries and limited range. Having them as your only car means you would require them to do everything and they can’t do long distances as competently as an ICE car. Long distances in the Comet are out of the question but even with the Tiago EV, it will be tough. I’ve driven Pune-Bangalore in a diesel Tiago. In an EV? I’ll have to stop at least four-five times and add over five to six hours to my journey.
Are they still secondary urban runabouts? Most definitely. Plenty of families have two cars. One primary and one secondary, to drop the kids to school, run errands and both these cars fit that brief perfectly. Now, which of these two should you be putting down your hard-earned money on? It is actually a tough call. The Comet has very real strengths as a hyper focussed urban runabout. As a secondary car, you might be willing to put aside its driving dynamics for its ability to deal with traffic. I know many who would, and if that’s the case, little comes close to the Comet. However, at evo India, we love to drive and the Tiago EV is simply the better car to drive. Plus the additional doors, boot and ability to fast charge make it more versatile. The Tiago EV is going to have to be our pick.