Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Road test and review: Tata Aria 4X2

You probably think a mid-life makeover of the Tata Aria isn't worth your time. You might be making a hasty judgment there. The Tata Aria 4x2 is not just another makeover. It extends the range to new segments and redefines several benchmarks by slashing prices by a whopping Rs. 1.3 lakh. If that isn’t incentive enough, take it on a drive to find out whether Aria 4X2 will be a game changer for Tata.
No better place than Pune for a test drive -- with a wide variety of driving conditions spanning across the Yashwantrao Chavan Expressway, idyllic hill stations a stone’s throw away, most indisciplined city traffic and off-roading prospects within the city limits, thanks to roads that have forgotten even the smell of tarmac.
The angular, wrap-around dual-barrel headlamp with projector beam and the signature Tata grille that we saw on Vista and Manza give Aria an aggressive look. Step in, oh sorry, walk-in (Passengers can simply walk into the Aria, rather than having to climb up or get down, thanks to the low-floor design) and you'll be quite impressed, rather surprised. The incredibly spacious cabin has three-row seats that are
strategically arranged to provide passengers with acres of head, leg and shoulder rooms. Both front and middle seats are adjustable so that even a 5'6" person can comfortably sit in the third row. Yet, the third row is for kids, I must say. There are AC vents on B and C pillars, providing satisfactory cooling in all three rows equally.  All seats, except the driver's, can be flat-folded, giving you lots of luggage space - even space to stuff in a Tata Nano.
The dual-tone dashboard is neat, but not that exciting. Unlike the 4X4 edition, the new Aria has black & beige interiors with wood inserts and it looks much better than the black & plum dashboard withbrush metal inserts. The Aria 4X2 lacks Satellite Navigation system and reverse guide camera, but has the Ultrasonic Reverse Guide System instead. There are two gloveboxes, one of which can be used as a chiller, too. The 2 DIN integrated music system with 6 speakers is great but again, nothing 'exceptional' about it.
Aria 4X2 has a constructive driver information system that gives you real-time information about fuel-consumption, distance to empty, engine performance and other critical data. Tiltable steering, electronically adjustable and foldable mirrors, height-adjustable driver's seat provide the driver with lots of ease.
Tata had taken safety to new heights with the Aria 4X4. Aria 4X2 also benefits from the same features, both active and passive, that only vehicles over Rs 30 lakh can boast of. While active features like ABS , EBD and all disc brakes aid steerability and control in emergency braking, driver and passenger airbags ensure protection from front impacts. However, Aria 4X2 lacks curtain airbags. Passive features include Hydroformed chassis members that enhance strength and rigidity with reduced weight, crumple zones to absorb impact energy, side impact beams within doors, collapsible steering, auto door unlock during accidents et al.
At the heart of the Tata Aria is the same 2.2 litre Direct Injection Common Rail (DICOR) engine that powers the 4X4 Aria. Belting along a resplendently smooth mountain road that leads to Lavasa, the Aria didn’t gasp. The potent motor has an astonishing spread of power, pulling hard from low in the rev range and getting progressively and fantastically stronger all the way to the 4,400rpm red-line. Coupled with variable turbine technology and 32-bit ECU, the motor delivers 140 PS power and 320 Nm torque. It is equipped with a dual mass flywheel that isolates torsional vibrations from the powertrain, thus providing a NVH free environment in the cabin. The new Mark II gearbox is mated to the engine ensuring a slicker shifting. Turn the ignition and the Aria burbles gently into life. But as your foot goes down, it becomes a monster, accelerating swiftly. Trust me, there’s very less or zero turbo lag, this coupled with minimal gear shifts makes city driving duck soup.
Ride and Handling
Aria does a remarkable job of protecting its passengers from rutted Tarmac. Unlike many others in this segment, Aria doesn’t juggle the middle-seat passengers. Independent double wishbone suspension in front and five link rear suspensions mean it rides amazingly and the shortage of body lean is amazing for such a tall, heavy car. There’s no need to slow down unless you are cruising along a dreadfully damaged road.  Aria is capable of dampening the harshness of ruts, potholes and even small speed breakers. You feel really confident behind Aria’s wheel, thanks to precise steering response, tremendous braking and laudable cornering capabilities.
When I halted amid dense fog of the Lavasa hills for a brief photography session, a couple of guys curiously chasing me on their two-wheelers all the way uphill, passed by, yelling – “naaice car!”- and that says it all.
The Tata Aria 4X2 is available in three trim levels and the prices are:
Tata Aria 4×2 Pure – 11.61 lakh
Tata Aria 4×2 Pleasure – 12.61 lakh
Tata Aria 4×2 Prestige – 14.26 lakh

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