Cute and complete

The little Tiago hatchback is one of the best things to have come from the stables of Tata Motors. Refinement is not a word usually associated with Tata Cars but their recent introductions like the Zest small sedan, the Bolt large hatchback and now the Tiago are refreshingly cute and complete and a very far cry from their Indica/ Indigo cars that while being reliable and spacious would never have qualified to be called refined.

The Tiago is an entry level hatchback competing with Maruti’s popular Celerio and Alto K10, Hyundai’s Eon, Datsun Go and Chevrolet Spark. Tata has done a very good job with the styling, interior space and product features to enable the Tiago to attract good sales away from such strong competitors. While it is just 3.746 m long it is quite wide and tall to make for a roomy interior. It is longer than the Celerio (3.6m) and the Hyundai i10 (3.585m) and its 2400 mm wheelbase provides quite good interior legroom without compromising the space in the boot.

Although the Tiago has been mostly associated with a tangerine colour as seen in the footballer Lionel Messi’s advertisement all the colours are eye catching and brighten the overall good looks even if the Tiago is not exactly `Fantastico’. There is a wide sweeping honeycomb grille seamlessly sloping up into the pretty lightly blackened headlights and a skillfully sculpted side profile with discrete creases to give it a classy but uncluttered look. The dark `c’ pillar gives the roof a floating look. The rear end also looks quite distinctive with interestingly designed tail lamps, a neatly sculpted tail gate and a shapely bumper with a racy blackened lower portion. The roof-mounted spoiler atop the rear windscreen is also a nice touch.

The models are propelled by two 1199 cc 84 HP petrol and 1147 cc 69 HP diesel engines. Although capable, competent but the 3-cylinder engines have not been able to completely suppress the engine vibrations. The 5-speed gearbox is however well matched and the little cars accelerate well and offer very acceptable fuel efficiency.

There is a wide choice of models that essentially reflect a huge array of features and accessories for entertainment, comfort and safety. While the top models offer ABS and EDB brakes as well as dual front seat airbags a centre mounted touch screen for numerous functions like navigation and reversing plus several convenient controls on the steering wheel the base models are not so generous. The exclusively designed `ConnectNext’ Infotainment system by Harman, as also on the Bolt and Zest, provides a system of user friendly entertainment and technology. The on board micro computer provides the driver with an easy display of speed, mileage, fuel status, consumption, distance to empty, outside temperature, et cetera.

The Tiago has made a good initial entry into a large but fiercely competitive segment of the market and its success will be jealously watched by envious competitors who are sure to bring better designed and better priced models to contain its competitors. Today’s buyers have long memories and it may need more than a series of good models to retain the loyalty of buyers.  A car maker can engineer better styling and better engine efficiencies but the long term value is often determined by resale value that a car maker cannot control.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist