Premium yet affordable SUV

Hexa roughly competes with the Creta and Innova but costs less

I have always had a bit of a soft about underdogs and especially if an underdog is dogged enough to try to make itself better. I lost respect for India’s General Motors who make quite good cars but opted out of competing in the huge Indian marketplace. Tata Motors have however been very successful in recently producing a number of excellent cars to correct the very strong image that their old cars like the Indica and Sumo were too unrefined for modern buyers and only suitable for the taxi trade. But if you ask any taxi driver he will tell you that they are quite trouble free and economical and offer the best inner space of any car in their price range.

Their latest model the small Nexon SUV has been a big hit and has sold 10,000 cars in three months. It competes very successfully with the hugely popular Maruti-Suzuki Breeza. Its Tiago hatchback is also doing very well while the Tigor, small sedan and big Hexa SUV compare well with any international brand but are much more affordable. The old clunky Tata Image however continues to dent their resale values making most buyers cautious.

The first of their refined range of new cars was the small Zest sedan that was not only surprisingly spacious but also offered good ride, handling, performance, fuel efficiency and the best value among the compact sedans. The Bolt, its hatchback sibling, shares these qualities and feels very good on the road. These were soon followed by the very successful smaller Tiago hatchback and a bigger Tigor, a small sedan with a sporty look. Both offer excellent styling, performance and have big array of electronic gadgets like keyless entry, push button starting, climate control as well as central touch screens to easily manage navigation, entertainment, communications and many other conveniences. The rear view camera is very addictive. Most of these new models also offer an easy access to economical or performance engine setting modes as well as AMT automatic gears for their top models.

Some of the old Tata models however still soldier on. The Indica hatchback and the Indigo saloon continue to sell in small volumes to buyers, like the taxi trade, who want spacious and reliable cars at a low price. Similarly the Safari and Sumo still sell as does the small Nano. These may generate useful extra sales but they do not enhance the Tata image or resale values.

The Hexa SUV, recently launched in Nepal, is a completely new platform with very attractive styling and a peppy but fuel efficient upgraded 2200-cc diesel engine that delivers a big 156HP with good torque at low speeds to make driving easy at any speed. The ride over bad roads or the handling on twisty roads is impressive. And, driving is very easy with 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. As with all new cars it sports a huge array of electronic gadgets for comfort, safety and infotainment including a 10 speaker sound system. The unnoticeable electronic management of brakes and suspension make driving safe and stable and prevents ‘roll back’ while climbing and safe speed on steep descents. The interiors are spacious, comfortable and tasteful in 6-seat or 7-seat configurations. It roughly competes with the Hyundai Creta and Toyota Innova but costs less. Unlike the Safari or Sumo it is a SUV very well worth spending your money on. The ‘premium feeling’ of the entire package shows that Tata Motors has clearly gone the extra mile to make their new Hexa as good as it gets.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist