When the Tata Aria was launched about an year ago, it had to create a class for itself. It couldn’t compare/ compete with hardcore SUVs like Ford Endeavour/Toyota Fortuner/M Pajero which were priced 20Lakh+, nor could it compare/compete with lesser priced MPVs like Innova. Aria had lot of muscle and an array of features, but didn’t strike a chord with prospects much as the concept of crossover in this segment wasn’t that known.
I subjected this beast to a 2888kms drive in about 10 days. Spent about 11020 on diesel. That is about 240 litres or close to 12kmpl. On board computer showed an average of 11.5kmpl though. 4x2 variant is 200kgs lighter and should give better mileage. More about the drive later.
I’ve already reviewed Tata Aria earlier in this post, but that was based on few minutes of drive. Lot of things have changed since then. I got to drive the Aria for about 10 days, Aria is now available in 4x2 at a reduced rate, there’re new competition such as Mahindra XUV500 and so on. Here’s an updated review based on recent experience.
Aria’s armory of features: Aria Pride had a series of features
· Cruise control is nice to have on a highway.
· Red colour foot lamps in all doors instantly reminded me of Mercedes Benz J. Useful when getting in and out of the car in night.
· Reverse camera is cool and makes parking easier. This is more practical than Merc’s parking sensors which beep if anything comes too close or Xylo’s mirror mounted indicator which shows the gap between the vehicle and an obstacle.
· Rear door wiper runs automatically when in reverse gear
· Steering mounted audio controls are cool. But this means driver will have to deal with additional commands by the passengers to increase or decrease volume or change track. Accidental pressing of these button can also spoil the fun
· Instrument panel is fully loaded and shows almost everything except may be the latest cricket score. Aria gives very specific indication as to which door is open, while Scorpio VLS I’d tried used to just say “One of the door is open”, forcing people to open and shut all doors till the warning stops.
· Electrically folding external rear view mirrors are also nice. When stuck in a narrow road trying to give way to an oncoming vehicle, I enjoy seeing the expression on the driver of the other vehicle as Aria’s mirrors fold on their own (of course I need to press a button) to get some space
· There’re lot of roof mounted storage bins. My passengers hardly used them.
· Ground clearance is good. At 205mm, it is 25mm more than XUV500, Scorpio, Xylo and Innova, just short of Ford Endeavour by 5mm. With its low body design, Aria is easier for elderly people to get in, compared to other SUVs.
· Windows roll up or down completely with one touch. No need to keep it holding till it rolls completely
· Rain sensors are cool. Wiper speed gets adjusted depending on rain intensity.
· Follow me home lamp is useful. You can turn on the headlamp by pressing a button on the remote controlled key
· Top of the line variant gets auto lighting- can adjust light intensity depending on darkness outside. Again sounds like a BMW/Merc feature and is cool to have in a under 20 lakh car.
· Ability to switch between 4x4 and 4x2 on the go is cool. Shift happens without any hitch.
Another thing noticeable is Tata is very serious about Aria and doesn’t want it to be another Taxi Model. Usually manufacturers keep on offer a low spec, low cost variant often preferred by taxi operators. In Aria even cheapest variant comes with ABS with EBD, All disc brakes and other features, which if removed could have made it cheaper and more attractive to tour operators. Looks like Tata wants aria to be a family wagon.
Also to be noted- for naming Aria variants, Tata has shed its traditional convention of LX, GX etc and has chosen terms like Pride, Pure, Pleasure- idea Tata seems to have sourced from Range Rover.
What is missing/not good:
· Skoda Yeti and Mahindra XUV500- the other two SUVs in Aria’s price range, have Hill Hold Control/Hill descent control. This helps vehicle negotiate steep hills without having to stall or roll back. Aria misses this
· Clear Lens tail lamps could have been nice. But I believe that has been preserved for next facelift.
· When second row door is completely open (by 90 degrees), it blocks front doors from opening (see pic). This appears to be a simple design issue which Tata engineers can fix. Also probability of someone opening second row door completely is very low and hence this is not a huge drawback.
· Fuel tank cap opener- Aria’s fuel tank cap can be opened with a gentle press when the doors are unlocked. But fuel station staff are not trained to this- they expect fuel tank cap to pop-open, as it happens in other vehicles which have a lever/button to unlock fuel tank cap. So everywhere I had to get out of the vehicle and show the petrol station staff how to open the fuel cap.
· Touch of wood would have been nice. Aria’s cousins Grande gets wood finish, but aria misses on it. While leather options are available, there can be some customers who like wood.
· Controls on steering wheels can be either re-positioned so that they don’t get accidentally pressed, or another button can be given to turn them off/lock them. Soundtracks abruptly getting changed can annoy the passengers
· No automatic option. I always prefer manual, but there’re few who prefer auto.
· There’s no skyrack or foot rest below the door for that SUV feeling, if these matter to you. (Even XUV500 doesn't have them, but Scorpio, Endeavour, Tata Safari have them.