Tata’s “IMPACT” design philosophy, that started with the Tata Tiago, has been like a facelift to the brand design language. The Tiago has been cracking some good numbers for the carmaker mainly because of aggressive pricing and fresh looks in the hatchback segment.Has Tata carried the same philosophy in its new offering? We spend a day in Hyderabad with the new Hexa to find out.
What is it?
Tata’s new flagship product that was first showcased in 2015 at the Geneva Motor Show. It will compete directly with the Mahindra XUV 5OO, Toyota Innova Crysta. Design cues and the overall body shell might remind a few of the Tata Aria but the carmaker has literally changed everything in the Hexa (still shares the same X2 platform though).
How does it look?
As mentioned before, it might remind some of the Tata Aria that didn’t too that well in the Indian market but Tata has surely added some design elements that make the SUV feel more premium and aggressive than before. The first thing is noticeable at the front end are the blacked out projector headlamps with look neat and are nicely integrated with the honeycomb blacked out grille. They haven’t overdone the chrome usage at the front which in my opinion aligns with the ‘tough’ and ‘rugged’ look that Tata has aimed for. The front bumper also houses the DRL’s (daytime running lights) surrounded with chrome inserts which have been placed just above the fog lamps. Overall, the front end looks masculine enough to leave an impact.
The side profile again is reminiscent of the Aria. The main highlight though are the brilliant 19-inch wheels. When I first saw the car at the 2016 Auto Expo, I never really expected the 19-inchers to make it to the actual production model and even the wheels on the concept model were quite identical to the final ones. One would expect the ride quality to go for a toss with slightly lower profile tyres but that’s not the case here, you’ll read more about it in the ride and handling section.The rear looks slightly boxy and the main highlight is the huge chrome slab that runs all the way to the ORVM’s. The tail lights get an OLED strip which looks premium.
Now on the inside, the fit and finish, quality of the materials used is quite impressive. It follows and “all-black interior theme” and there are good splashes of polished chrome, piano black and matte black elements. It even gets mood lighting which can be adjusted manually between 8 different colors. Tata’s association with JBL has been carried forward in the Hexa as well. The “Connectnext” infotainment system comes paired with 4 speakers, 4 tweeters, a subwoofer and a power amplifier. The sound quality is quite good and will keep you audiophiles happy. However, it still lacks that Bass that one would expect out of a 10.1 channel music system. Also, the 5-inch touchscreen unit looks a bit small on the huge dashboard and competition like the Innova Crysta has better looking 7-inch screen.
What’s under the hood?
The Hexa draws it power from a 2.2-litre diesel engine which Tata calls the “VARICOR 400”. The 400 in the name denotes the torque figure the power output stands at 156PS. This is the same tune as the recently updated Tata Safari Storme. The Hexa is quite a heavy car (2248 kgs !) so expecting strong acceleration figures doesn’t make a lot of sense. Simply put, the Hexa isn’t a very fast car and but its no slouch either. It has got just enough power for most of your requirements. Having said that, the low-end power delivery (1500-2000 rpm) of the car could have been a bit better.
How’s it to drive?
We sampled both the automatic and the manual variants during our test. The automatic variant is a boon to drive inside city traffic as the shifts are quite smooth and jerkless. Downshifts can be a bit aggressive at times, but that is something one can live with. Out on the highway, the 6-speed torque converter automatic box works just fine and it also has a Sport mode which holds up the gears slightly longer in the meat of the power band(helps in those quick overtakes). You can also take charge of the gearshifts yourself by pushing the gear shifter into manual mode. Expecting paddle shifters in this particular type of a vehicle does not make a lot of sense and one might hardly even use the manual mode.
The manual variant also gets different drive modes- Auto, Dynamic, Rock and Comfort. One doesn’t feel a lot of difference toggling between different modes, it’s just the rock mode(basically the off-road mode) that changes driving dynamics as the 4WD gets engaged. The different modes also alter the Traction/Power settings to ensure that you have enough grunt whenever required. So basically, instead of adding a conventional 4WD- 2WD switch and a ‘Power or Eco’ button, you toggle around with the Drive select mode which has been termed as the ‘Super drive modes’. This has no relation with the more capable (and expensive) Land Rover tech and is a complete in-house Tata thing.
NVH(Noise Vibration Harshness) levels are one thing that deserve a special mention here. Tata has done a commendable job with the same. There is literally no engine noise/diesel clatter that creeps inside the cabin(only some slight turbo whistle in the mid rev range).
Is it comfortable?
Yes, the suspension soaks up most of the tarmac undulations brilliantly, small or big potholes, you hardly feel them and in fact you end up not worrying about the surface that lays ahead. The 19-inch wheels also aid in taking over the small bumps and literally the car glides over them. The seats have nice cushioning and back support which means doing long journeys won’t leave you tired. However, for the driver, there are certain discomforting elements. First of them being that the steering wheel isn’t adjustable for reach and you can only tilt it. Now, what that results into is the driver not finding a suitable driving position even with an 8-way adjustable seat. Another thing that bothers while driving the manual variant is the lack of a dead pedal. In a car that is near perfect in every other aspect, and has been positioned as a premium product, driver comfort should also have been given some more thought. The second-row seats are quite comfortable and would be a boon during long road trips. It gets dedicated AC vents and even sun blinds which would definitely help in the scorching heat. The third row of seats have generous space(both legroom and headroom) and the Hexa is a true 7-8 seater in this matter. The third row even gets dedicated AC vents, cup holders both sides and a 12V power slot.
Should I buy one?
The carmaker has come a long way in terms of design, quality, fit and finish and engine refinement levels. The automatic variant, with its added convenience, makes a strong case for itself and has enough grunt and space for long outstation trips whereas the manual variant is decently capable for your off roading escapades. If Tata Motors prices the Hexa aggressively, just like the Tiago hatchback, it can be the new sensation for the Indian carmaker.Reviewed by- Konark Tyagi