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Old 19th November 2010, 15:26   #1
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Cool Tata Safari: 22 months with the 2.2

Purchase, initial and long-term ownership review.


(NOTE: Please understand that that following post is my personal and humble opinion based on my own personal experience. This post is not intended to offend anyone. There may be several spelling and grammar errors. My apologies in advance)

I Needed a SUV that I could drive while I was in India (3-5 months a year).

Available choices in my price range (under 2000k) at the time (Jan 2009) and in order of preference.
  • Toyota Fortuner
  • Honda CR-V
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Chevrolet Captiva
  • Mitsubishi Pajero
  • Ford Endeavor
  • Mahindra Scorpio mHawk
  • Tata Safari 2.2 Dicor
  • Toyota Innova
Requirements
  • Immediate availability (needed vehicle within first half of Jan 09)
  • SUV looks
  • Rugged, Durable and High center for gravity for rural Punjab use (10-15% off road)
  • Easy to get in and out for my father who prefers high seating
  • Local Service & Repair
  • 5 Passengers in full comfort with option for 2 extra seats for occasional use.
Immediately discounted vehicles
  • Toyota Fortuner (Not available at any local dealers, can order by paying 200-400k premium with no absolute delivery date, dealer tried to pass off used model as new = uncool)
  • Honda CR-V (Only 5 seater NO 3rd row option)
  • Mitsubishi Outlander (5 Seater)
  • Chevrolet Captiva (5 Seater)
  • Mitsubishi Pajero (I really like it but my better half really dislikes it)
  • Toyota Innova (is a minivan per better half)
Vehicles left in ring
  • Ford Endeavor
  • Mahindra Scorpio mHawk
  • Tata Safari 2.2 Dicor
Test Drive experience
  • Ford Endeavor - two models 2.5 and 3.0, tried both. 2.5 was immediately drowned out by the 3.0 Thunder. Endeavor seemed the roomiest of all (I can't comment on Pajero since it was discounted before I could even test drive it). Having always driven SUVs and Trucks (pickup) in the US, I felt right at home with the interior quality and layout. The fit and finish seemed in the same league as the Fords in the US (rental fleet experience), which is a good thing. The seats were comfortable and SUV seemed well insulated. The ride quality seemed a bit harsh on rough patches. Having a friend with Endeavor ownership experience only helped deter away from the Ford. He seemed rather unsatisfied by the suspension and brakes especially in rural areas with bad roads.
  • Mahindra Scorpio mHawk - Fit and finish while a step down from the Ford is quite (and surprisingly) decent for a domestic. Interior is well insulated from road and engine noise. The SUV looks good and complete on the outside. The cladding while borderline tacky - looks much better than that of the Dicor. Mahindra could do itself a favor by omitting the cheesy exterior graphics. Interior bits and pieces and switchgear have a feel of quality over the Dicor. The rear most seats (model featured side facing seats in the back) were roomy enough for occasional double occupancy. The set back was the interior room. The first time I sat in the SUV at the dealer my knees hit the dashboard and my immediate thought was to slide back the seat which only provided a half and inch more (So the slightest braking or position change would cause discomfort). Salesperson confirmed that the seat was slid back full aft. I stepped out to reconfirm the size of the SUV. Ok on to the middle row. Since I couldn't imagine ever driving the Scorpio with the front two seats slid up, the middle seats offered even poorer knee room. Though I am only 5'11" I have always had knee room issues hence the reason I avoid flying economy. This was not acceptable. I wish Mahindra had reduced the 3rd row size and offered better legroom in the first two rows. Driving position too for me was awkward at any setting. At salesperson's insistence we went for a test drive. The steering felt good at low speeds and power train seemed much mature than the Dicor. The mHawk turbo spool and blow-off (I think) sounds are very addicting and I found myself accelerating and decelerating just to listen to the beautiful sound which reminded me of my supra. The suspension is just strange. I understand Mahindra's intention, suspension is tuned soft to absorb rough roads and it does a good job of doing so but the trade off is borderline dangerous handling at high speeds and sudden braking conditions. The suspension makes the Scorpio feel top heavy (like driving with large load of luggage on the roof). Having said all that I must again compliment Mahindra on the power train, the mHawk sounds good even at idle. Overall just seemed like a well put together SUV.
  • Tata Safari Dicor - Out of all the SUV's this was my least favorite in terms of looks. I mean who is TATA fooling, it’s the same original safari with tacked on upgrades. I never liked the looks. The SUV looks incomplete like something is missing from its shape. Tacky cladding, many body pieces put together like an afterthought like the piece between the rear door and rear wheel-well and around the same position on the roof-top just to point out two. So I was already shaking my head but a friend and a safari lover invited (rather insisted!) us to take a look inside. I walked around to the front to help my father to the front passenger seat. To my surprise he had comfortably seated himself with a smile he confirmed that the seat was extremely easy to get into for him. I looked at the seat position and he was comfortable with his knees a good 1.5-2" away from the dash. I slid the seat all the way back to my surprise revealing abundance of leg/knee room in the front. My immediate thought was to try the middle row. Even with the front seats slid to the aft most position the legroom in the middle row was excellent. The downside is the upright seat back in the middle row. Slightly additional slant would've been perfect. The 3rd row side facing seats are single short occupants only and I must mention rather difficult to climb in and out of the rear. Suitable for small adults or children only. The interior quality is the worst in the bunch. I did like the simple dashboard layout but it would've been perfect had TATA splurged for some quality switchgear, materials and better quality control on fit and finish. The analog clock is just stupid. No complaints on the instrument panel. Overall the interior looks like it belongs in a beta tester and not a production vehicle. The same feeling comes from the power train. Switch on the engine and I could swear at least 35% of the engine noise is transferred to the inside. The old 3.0 Dicor seemed less noisy inside. The driving position is enhanced by the driver side height adjustable seat and pathetically executed tilt wheel. I did appreciate the side vents on the door and the full power door; locking, lockout and side-mirror adjustment switchgear is on the driver door, which is where it should be unlike the Scorpio. Seats, door panels seem beefier though latter offered minimal noise insulation. In fact I had to recheck the driver side window assuming the excessive road noise was because I hadn't rolled the window all the way up. The transmission was notchy and the clutch was hard. The acceleration wasn't as good as the Scorpio or Endeavor but once the vehicle gets going the suspension feels stable and handles well at high speeds. Safari was the only vehicle test driven without ABS. Hard braking didn't cause any unexpected drama. To keep things comfortable you have to keep shifting down and up as the power train vibrations are felt well inside if the rpms dip too low. The Scorpio and Endeavor both seemed more forgiving in this nature. Again, overall the Safari felt like a beta tester and not a production-ready vehicle.
Verdict
My friend with Ford Endeavor had a very few nice things to say about it and the fact that I would have to modify my garage to fit the Endeavor didn’t help it much. His argument seemed that the vehicle wasn’t worth the price they were charging and that I would be better off going with the Fortuner for a little more. The 3.0 Thunder in white would have to be ordered for delivery later into the month, which wouldn’t work and the available black piece wasn’t acceptable either. Where vehicles like Endeavor and Fortuner are fetching almost twice as their foreign counterparts, the Safari and Scorpio (and Innova) being a domestic product is priced the lowest in the (sane) category. Unfortunately for the Mahindras – there is no fix to the Scorpio’s legroom problem, which was a real shame. Same friend favored the Safari since it was almost just half the cost of the Endeavor. My father was already leaning towards the Safari if Endeavor was out of picture. A quick vote in the family tied the Endeavor and Safari with only one person favoring the Scorpio (me). The TATA dealer offered an additional discount, extended warranty and a promise that we would receive a 09 model (as opposed to the 08’s the others were getting rid of) Furthermore the safari could be delivered next day on condition we would have to pick it up from another dealer (100kms away). So Safari it was.
Ownership
Overall the Safari fit the bill and did what it was supposed to. It was able to navigate through roughest of roads and did well off road despite being 4x2. There were plenty of moments where it brought smile to the driver’s face. From standstill the Scorpio is quicker, but the top-speed is where the Safari shines (Former being more important however). From passenger point of view, the Safari has comfortable seats, excellent legroom and great driving position. My father really liked the vehicle as he had no problem with getting in and out. Another great feature of the Safari is that it’s never mistaken as a hired car. Not many private or company car for hire outfits use Safari’s (Probably cost prohibitive in terms of repair). The few positives end here.

Unfortunately all of the issues experienced during test drive persisted in the delivered vehicle throughout my 22-month ownership. The road and engine noise was unacceptable. The vibrations and noise from the driveshaft was irritating. Dealers dismissed the driveshaft noise as “normal” to all Safaris. Six months into the ownership the alternator failed (Bearing broke per the TATA mechanic). TATA’s way of handling such issues is bizarre. The alternator problem was treated as not a problem of their own but of Bosch – the manufacturer. They told us to take the vehicle to such and such place and contact Bosch service to come and fix the problem. The Bosch people said they would repair/replace the alternator but not the drive belt etc. My brother-in-law who is also a lawyer had a good chat with the local TATA service center upon which the vehicle was towed from our house to their location and it took them a week to get it fixed. Unacceptable. Having owned a Honda City for the same time span and dealer with Honda dealer. There is a HUGE difference in customer service and attitude between the two. Upon receiving the vehicle after alternator repairs the alignment was off for some reason, which took another month of complaining and the dealer dismissing as normal to finally admitting and fixing the problem but at our expense (I didn’t care at that point as long as the problem was fixed). The rear door (cargo) never sealed properly causing excessive dust and outside noise to seep into the cabin. The problem was not the rubber seal but the door itself - which was not aligned properly and rubbed against the rear bumper cover. The result was substantial damage to the paint. It took several trips to the local TATA dealership to get it fixed. They seemed more interested in fixing things only when paid and not under warranty. Companies like TATA and their dealers work this way because they know by doing this the customer will eventually just live with it and stop complaining. This was true because I stopped complaining. There were problems with the power windows, the replacement alternator was always noisy and seemed like it too was going out (to mention a few).

Fortunately for me the Safari also has a diehard fan base in our region. I was approached several times by individuals wanting to purchase mine and last night I took an opportunity (great offer) and sold the Safari.

Not to offend anyone but my humbleness cannot over come the feeling of good-riddance in my mind.

Last edited by GhettoMAX : 19th November 2010 at 15:38. Reason: Formatting error
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Old 19th November 2010, 15:48   #2
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Quote:
TATA’s way of handling such issues is bizarre. The alternator problem was treated as not a problem of their own but of Bosch – the manufacturer.
thats such a strange thing to do. I hve seen it happening in assembled computers where the guy tells you its a part problem to go to that manufacturer. I assumed the car as a whole should be covered.
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Old 19th November 2010, 15:57   #3
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A very honest writeup, and i appreciate you for it. Which variant did you buy?

As far as the Safari is concerned, its a question of "If only Tata had...".

Between, no pics?
Also, what was the price you sold it at?
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Old 19th November 2010, 16:50   #4
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That's a well balanced report, very honest and straightforward, it is sad that the negatives were more than the positives. Hope you got a good deal on selling the vehicle.
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Old 19th November 2010, 17:07   #5
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You have said what I keep saying so many times.

" I wish there was a Safari made by M&M".

The Safari is great as a concept but miserably fails in execution and longevity. Which is why the Scorpio, in spite of being smaller and bumpier sells at least twice as many numbers as the Safari, year on year.

Anyway, what is your next steed?
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Old 19th November 2010, 17:28   #6
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Unfortunately, Indian SUV enthusiasts with a budget of 10-12 lakhs are left with only two options when it comes to buying a new car - Safari and Scorpio. As discussed over zillions of posts all over this forum, both have their pros and cons by virtue of being 'INDIAN-bred' automobiles - you buy one and you end up yearning for what you are missing from the other

That said, your issues sound more like A.S.S related rather than vehicle related. From what I have experienced over the last year or so, TML is really taking its A.S.S's to task now, at least in the bigger cities across the country.
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Old 19th November 2010, 18:18   #7
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Originally Posted by benbsb29 View Post
A very honest writeup, and i appreciate you for it. Which variant did you buy?

As far as the Safari is concerned, its a question of "If only Tata had...".

Between, no pics?
Also, what was the price you sold it at?
Sorry I should have mentioned that the model I purchased was the EX 4x2 as that was the only one available in White on the date I needed it. The VX was preferred but was only available on Black and the delivery for 09 VX in White was late into month.

The base price for EX from top of my head was 8,85,000 (before tax) - and approximately 15-20k in discounts plus 2 year extended warranty. There is a long story behind the so called discount and "free" extended warranty. In short they had promised 30k in discounts and extended warranty and then back paddled on both on the next day during delivery citing the manager was misinformed and the said discounts were only on outgoing 08 models. They pulled out all sorts of paperwork explaining their mistake. I wasn't thrilled by their attitude in general - making it seem like I should be thankful enough to be getting a 09 Safari at all.

It wasn't until we had left the showroom (in a fuss) without taking delivery and their prospective buyer failed to secure a loan did they call us back and offered us a more conservative discount. The party that bought the Black 09 VX 4x2 apparently received no such discount and extended warranty when they overheard us the buyer wasn't amused.


I was offered between 7,00,000 to 7,85,000 by various parties. The vehicle had 28,400 kms. Due to various reasons such as people not wanted to pay all cash and upfront etc. I sold it to the first person that could offer up all cash and it was for 7,50,000 to a very nice young couple. Both fans of the Safari.

7,50,000 is really how much I thought the vehicle was worth since there was minor un-repaired scratches and an incident that required replacement of front driver-side fender and side mirror.
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Old 19th November 2010, 18:25   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cool_dube View Post
Unfortunately, Indian SUV enthusiasts with a budget of 10-12 lakhs are left with only two options when it comes to buying a new car - Safari and Scorpio. As discussed over zillions of posts all over this forum, both have their pros and cons by virtue of being 'INDIAN-bred' automobiles - you buy one and you end up yearning for what you are missing from the other
Yes, don't get me wrong. Nothing about the experience came as a shock but you always (in the back of your head) hope things are better.
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Old 19th November 2010, 18:51   #9
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Originally Posted by n.devdath View Post
You have said what I keep saying so many times.

" I wish there was a Safari made by M&M".
Absolutely 100% agreement. I hope the new M&M World SUV is good though I am skeptical from the spy interior pics so far.


Quote:
Originally Posted by n.devdath View Post
The Safari is great as a concept but miserably fails in execution and longevity. Which is why the Scorpio, in spite of being smaller and bumpier sells at least twice as many numbers as the Safari, year on year.
True, the Scorpio is well put together.

Quote:
Originally Posted by n.devdath View Post

Anyway, what is your next steed?
I don't have a need for 5+ passenger vehicle during my current visit so my City is getting-r-done for now (tough times in rural areas but hasn't let me down yet) I am hoping by the next visit to India there are more SUV's offerings (slim chance right?)

If nothing changes, here are my personal picks
  1. Mahindra World SUV if M&M finally delivers.
  1. (Tie) Toyota Fortuner Limited (A/T would be excellent)
  2. And very very very reluctantly - Innova - if nothing else works out.
  3. I will give TATA one last chance if they learn from Jaguar and LR and roll out a Wold class SUV with decent A.A.S.

Last edited by GhettoMAX : 19th November 2010 at 18:53.
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Old 19th November 2010, 19:19   #10
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This is exactly the kind of ownership experience my friends have had with the Safari in the past. It is a good platform, but Tata somehow manages to screw it up each time.
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Old 19th November 2010, 20:47   #11
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I agree with the others comments. Safari is a far superior product from an overall design perspective. Unfortunately betrayed by lack of Tata's commitment to the product for over 10 years. Why else would they leave it with an underpowered 90 bhp engine for so longs. Things seem to be changing in terms of improving the product and overall QC, but they have ignored the Safari for so long that it will take time to change the market's perception.

If only they would contract the manufacturing to M&M, it would make a fine product.
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Old 19th November 2010, 22:28   #12
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I sympathize with you for your experience. I wont criticize you for what you comment because its your personal experience.

What I would be interested to know is that whats your future plans? I am sure after selling off Safari you would be searching for one. Right? Share your thoughts on that too.
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