Friday, January 28, 2011

New Tata Aria Crossover- Test Drive, Review, Features

Finally test drove the Tata Aria. Had registered for a TD long back-initially I was asked to come to showroom and take a test drive- I didn’t or rather couldn’t and after 2 months, they finally brought it to my office so that I can drive it around a bit.
Aria is a big massive vehicle powered by the same engine that runs Safari Dicor. It has enough space for a large family of 7, boasts of 4x4 abilities and lots of comfort. Pitched in as a crossover- a compromise between serious die-hard off roading machine and a comfortable family wagon, Aria appears like Jack of all and Master of None.

Crossovers do not have a successful history in India. The Fiat Sienna Weekend, Skoda Octavia Combi, Indigo Marina, Maruti Baleno Altura all have failed to click, though they were more spacious and practical than a sedan. Aria goes one step ahead and offers MPV+SUV two in one. In an attempt to compromise between the two, Aria is neither a sporty muscular SUV which is rugged, powerful and fun to drive, nor it is an affordable family wagon to ferry people around.

No doubt Aria has features and characteristics of both. It has enough space for 7, got loads of entertainment, safety and comfort features, a more stable design and not to mention the 4 wheel drive with traction control and cruise control. As a vehicle buyer who’d spend 15-18 lakhs, one needs to ask himself/herself if he/she wants a serious SUV or a 7 seater MPV or a mix of both. That confusion can be left to the buyer and let us evaluate Tata Aria for what it is.

Drive: With a load of 2 people and a short drive in the city, I couldn’t judge much. I had clear view of the road and big rear view mirrors were helpful. Drive was just fine and not as inviting as the Endeavour was. Few auto magazines have termed Aria’s engine as underpowered for its weight, size and load.

4x4 Drive: A few other 4x4 cars I’d driven- such as the ford Ford Endeavour, used to make lot of noise and offer  lot of resistance in 4x4 mode (that was very old first generation endeavour. Won’t be fair to compare it with current day models though) Aria was very smooth in 4x4 mode. Aria also allows toggling between 2 and 4 wheel drives on the go, while some cars need you to stop completely before changing between 2WD and 4WD. Aria doesn’t have finer controls like 4H and 4L, sales executive told me its automatic.

Features: Traction Control and Cruise control are like icing on the cake (is that the expression to use?) in addition to 4WD. Not quite common in entry level SUVs and we won’t get to engage them in day to day life either, but good enough to show off to your friends and defend why you paid 18lakhs for this vehicle. Navigation device was not installed in the vehicle I drove. 6 airbags can give feeling of safety, but can cause mild heart attack when the owner hears about their replacement cost.

Passenger airbag turn off: This is a cost saving feature, but can cost you a life.tata-aria-passenger-airbagcontroltata-aria-side-airbags
When a vehicles meets an accident (collides with an impact) all airbags go off, with the intention of protecting the occupants of the car. However, airbags are very expensive units and once they go off, they are totalled-meaning, they need to be replaced completely, at a huge cost (read close to a lakh). If there were no passengers in the car other than the driver, all non-driver airbags going off during an impact is total waste of money. To prevent this, Aria gives a control to turn off Passenger airbags.

But this feature can have a serious implication: When passengers are present, driver should remember to turn on the airbags. If he doesn’t, then it is as good as NOT having them, when there’s a collision, compromising safety of passengers.

200 mm ground clearance is 20 mm more than many of its rivals such as Scorpio, Xylo (180mm) and Innova (176mm) but less than Endeavour (210mm). Both front and rear disc brakes are good (many rivals have rear drum brakes). Even 17” wheels are a bit bigger than its rivals. So lot of points on paper for Aria, but still it may not win hearts of hardcode off road enthusiasts . Despite the good ground clearance, you won’t feel that you’re climbing into a vehicle-one can get in as easily as getting into a sedan. (That’s the idea behind the crossover)

Interiors: A series of boxes and controls are present at the centre of the roof along the vehicle, providing boxes to keep your stuff, buttons to turn on light and vents to cool the passengers.aria-music-systemaria-overhead-boxes
Downside: A touch of wood would have been nice, as in Innova 2.5V, but wood option is available in mid range Prestige and Not in top end Pride. Brush Metal inserts are provided though.

No bucket seats in 2nd row. Seating combination is 2+3+2. Buckets seats would have been better option when carrying 7 people (4 people get to sit in bucket seats, 2 or 3 can adjust in last row. In its current configuration, only front 2 passengers get bucket seats, others will have to share bench seats.) Point to note: 3rd row seats are at the same level as in 2nd row, and not elevated as in few other rivals. Hence even 3rd row will be comfortable at par with Row 2.

Skyrack and footrest are also missing.

Concorde Motors Chennai has sold about 38 Arias in past 2 months and the vehicle has a nominal waiting period of 4 weeks. When asked about top speed, the lady executive looked at the dash and said 220 kmph. When I insisted “Are you sure?” she said “We’ve crossed 200 in this vehicle”

 aria-on-steering controlsShould one buy Aria? That would depend on how much you like Aria’s competition. If you’d 16-18 lakhs to spare on a SUV/MPV/Corssover, your options will be as below:

Toyota Innova 2.5V- Saves a few lakhs, higher economy, powerful engine, toyota reliability trusted by every tour operator. Sans 4WD option.

Skoda Yeti: Compact 5 seater, but excellent off roader with more cool features than Aria. Fun to drive but Skoda service bills are known to cause nightmares

Ford Endeavour 2.5 4x2: You’ll get only the cheapest variant at 18 lakhs. Well powered, commanding vehicle.

Nissan X-trail, Honda CRV and Suzuki Grant Vitara

Similar posts: Toyota Landcruiser Prado and 200* 2010 Ford Figo review * Mahindra Scorpio mHawk 2.2 Vls review * Wayanad in a Scorpio * Mahindra Xylo vs Innova * Self Drive cars in India * Tata jaguar and Landrover * Brief date with Mercedes benz * 4x4 Himalayan Jeep Safari-mission aborted * Mitsubishi great driving challenge * Toyota Fortuner trapped in Mud * Buying a car vs renting a car


Raviraj said...

Very nice. Wanted to know more about this particular vehicle.

You just presented it with a silver plate.

Over all nice post.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Ravi

Mayank said...

well written. But for 18 lacs I dont think i will buy this.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post and review.I do agree with this aspect, this car is a class apart,We cannot compare it with others.This is a very good choice if you try considering Tata Aria . to be your car and ride with smooth performance for any kind of journey on the road.

himanshu said...

i want to meet ur RND team mr ratan tata car too much expensive @ compare too other cars ur car have lots of features but see ur vehicle looks people wants looks & ur RND team have no mind

Maruti Ertiga said...

Tata Aria put itself apart from other cars,it's very stylish and fabulous.I have to share one news regarding to car market as-Maruti Suzuki India is all geared up to launch its newest MPV Etriga on April 12. This new car would come in three variants of both petrol and diesel
versions. The car is rendered simple looks but grand engine specifications. The Maruti Ertiga would seat 7 people comfortably and is expected to be priced in the competitive range of Rs. 6-9 lakh. The major competitors of Maruti Ertiga are Toyota Innova and Mahindra Xylo.