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Old 12th October 2010, 01:05   #1
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Default Tata Aria : Test Drive & Review

What you'll like:

• Solid body-on-frame construction. Seemingly robust
• Futuristic styling, especially the face. Good street presence
• Spacious 1st & 2nd seat rows. Interior quality a big leap ahead for Tata
• Balanced road behaviour. Strong brakes too
• Premium level of equipment. Many segment firsts, including AWD
• Safety : Traction control, ABS, 6 airbags & all-round disc brakes

What you won't:

• Rs. 14.75 lakh (base) - 17.75 (top variant) on-road is simply overpriced
• Third row of seats best suited to kids only
• Unsettled ride quality at highway speeds
• Apprehensions over initial niggles with new Tata cars
• Tata's un-premium after-sales service experiences

The Aria 4x2:

• Team-BHP's review of the Aria 4x2 is available at this link (Tata Aria 4x2 : Test Drive & Review)

NOTE: Click any picture to open a larger higher-resolution version in a new window.


Last edited by GTO : 3rd August 2011 at 22:24. Reason: Adding link to 4x2 review
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:06   #2
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u·til·i·ty : The state or condition of being useful; usefulness.

The term "crossover" was coined by ingenious marketing departments. I, and the Indian mass market, don't quite understand it. You may disagree, but most of us view the Aria as an MPV (multi-purpose-vehicle). And the success of such products completely depends on their usefulness. Of course, the Aria does sport AWD and previously unseen creature comforts, hence many may be drawn to it for the image, space & equipment. Yet, a majority of the Aria's potential customer base will be primarily interested in the 3 rows of seats and / or occasional AWD capability. Say, the urban family consisting of husband, wife, parents and a bunch of kids wanting to travel together. Some existing UV options could have proven too basic, thus the Aria is loaded to the gill with bells & whistles, in Tata's attempt to provide an overall experience comparable to upmarket cars. In my books, the Aria is an MPV that also wants to make a lifestyle statement. This is Tata's most expensive passenger vehicle till date, and must deliver on an all-round premium experience. For those of you interested in the topic, here is a related discussion (Your expectations from Tata / Mahindra products that cost over a Million Rupees).

The X2 is Tata's first new UV platform in about 20 years. You see, Tata has been so busy with hatchbacks & sedans (Indica, Indigo, Nano, Manza etc.) that it completely ignored the lucrative UV segment for a long time. Its last all-new launch - the Tata Safari - was way back in 1998! And you can easily trace the roots of the Safari to the 207 platform. The UV segment is incredibly important to Tata. Wafer-thin margins of 2 lakh rupee Nanos & 4 lakh rupee Indicas are incomparable to that of 8 - 15 lakh rupee utility vehicles, whether SUV, MUV or...well...crossover! The Innova’s success is in great part due to its work-horse nature and stunning durability. It's quite obvious that, for the Aria to succeed, Tata is going to have to burn the midnight oil & ensure consistent quality (read = no niggles), while its dealers need to provide fine sales & service experiences. After all, the 12 - 15 lakh segment has formidable brands like Honda, Toyota, VW and Skoda. It's noteworthy to mention that neither Maruti nor Hyundai have cracked the million+ rupee market. Period.

The Aria's premium positioning starts with the equipment list. Full marks to Tata for the level of kit; we’re seeing stuff that beats 20 lakh rupee SUVs and matches 30 lakh rupee German sedans. Heck, the spec sheet makes the Fortuner look completely naked in comparison. The Aria Pride (top variant) is equipped with all-wheel-drive, 6 airbags (including side & curtain), ESP + traction control system, ABS + EBD, disc brakes front & rear, GPS navigation system, reverse guide camera, climate control, dual air-conditioner (front & rear), auto headlamps, auto wipers, cooled glove box, cruise control, 6 speaker music system, audio & phone controls on the steering, bluetooth pairing with upto 5 phones, height adjustable driver seat, electric adjust & retract for ORVMs, full leather and 17 inch alloy wheels. However, I have a question : Since Tata has given so much, why skimp on a practical add-on like reach adjustable steering, or a feel good accessory like the sunroof? Given its extensive feature list, I'm surprised Tata didn't see value (and safety) in providing an active tyre pressure monitoring system.

I am not at all convinced about the pricing strategy. Tata is known for providing value, whatever the segment. In Mumbai, the base Aria starts a full lakh rupees over where the top variant Innova ends (13.18 & 12.10 lakh respectively). The mid-variant Aria is about 16.5 lakhs on the road, while the Pride costs over 17.50 lakh rupees (Mumbai). The same vehicle in Bangalore crosses 19 lakhs, not too far from where the premium SUVs start. That is a serious amount of money and I do feel Tata has been way optimistic with the pricing. This is one Tata that I don't consider VFM. Here's a quick look at her specs vis a vis alternatives. The Aria is the first AWD MPV in India, making it difficult to run an apples to apples comparo. I've therefore listed out the alternatives at either end:
Tata Aria : Test Drive & Review-uv-comparo.jpg

Thanks to the futuristic front end and her dimensions, the Aria has phenomenal presence on our roads. The fat tyres give it a planted look. Considering her bulk and size, the Aria actually needs 235 patch tyres. Any thinner and she’d end up under-tyred. You only need to glance at the side profile to realise the Aria's sheer length. There are some parts of the Aria that are too quirky for my tastes. I also feel that the futuristic front doesn’t gel with the bland rear. However, there is no doubt that the design is proportionate; not too tall nor too narrow. Panel gaps are uniform for the most part, although I did notice inconsistency between the front door & fender. Also, you could easily insert a finger in the XL size panel gap between the bonnet & the A Pillar. The Aria, as with most Tata cars, wears a deep, lustrous and top notch paint job. The Indian market loves chrome & the Aria wears dollops of it.

No longer the humble smile we saw on the 1st gen Indica, the Aria wears a brash confident face:


The body-line that says "MUV" more than it says "Crossover"


I’m not a fan of the X’Mas tree rear lights and do think they’ve gone out of style a decade back:


The front 3/4ths view is far more appealing:


Styling at the rear doesn't seem to match the rest of the car and has a bread-boxy feel:


Embossed name on the chrome strip adds a touch of sophistication:


The D Pillar styling is weird, to say the least, and wears a striking similarity to that of the Honda CRV:


“Double barrel” headlights with the low-beam being a projector type. Stunning design!


Funky 5 spoke alloy design. Tyre size = 235 / 65 R17. Rear disc brake pictured here:


Aria sure has presence when viewed from certain angles:


Face to face with her older sister. Tata has indeed come a long way:


Look at the flexible rubber flap below the bumper. It's an air-dam, an aero device whose basic function is to reduce airflow going under the car and causing drag. Thanks to Mpower for the explanation.


Spare tyre, 5-link coil-spring rear suspension and actual dual tail-pipes - all tucked away above the 200 mm ground clearance:


The low-floor design that lets you walk in, rather than climb into the Aria:


Neatly hidden away reverse camera activates when you engage reverse gear:


The twin chrome exhaust tips add character. Even though the actual tail pipes are puny, it’s the thick exhaust tip that gives out a “meaty” effect:


Keeping up with the norm of ORVM indicators. Mirrors can be electrically adjusted and folded away too:


The ORVMs feel like they are from an overgrown F430 or the likes. Super rearward view:


Pronounced Are-ya, not Air-ya:


Flared wheel arches bring muscle. However, the tapering in at the bottom + wide tyres still result in mud splatter on the body:


The wipers are Civic-style butterflies. Many ask about the purpose of this arrangement? It’s basically to give the front passenger as good a view of the road ahead as the driver:


Super wide panel gap that you can insert a finger in!


Another display of the intended SUV DNA in the Aria. Mounting for a tow-ball so you can lug along a trailer, boat etc.

Last edited by GTO : 13th October 2010 at 09:20. Reason: As per WA.
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:06   #3
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Nicely styled dashboard, Range Rover influence obvious. The black and plum colour option is pictured here:


The Aria isn’t equipped with running boards and, quite honestly, doesn’t need them either. You can simply walk into the vehicle. Ingress & egress are an effortless exercise. The doors don’t shut exactly with a deep thud, yet the vehicle feels heavy and solid enough. The improvement in interior quality is immediately apparent. Simply put, the Aria is about 20 years ahead of the Safari, & Tata has obviously progressed leaps & bounds in this department. Hardly anything feels “loose” or the type that will come off in 6 months of usage. While the interiors aren’t “premium”, they do feel well screwed together for the most part. There’s some feel good stuff in here too. Take the climate control adjustment knobs for instance; they exude a sweet, premium clicking action when you move up and down the blower or temperature. Or how the front cup-holders slide out, with rubber dampers to hold the coffee cup. Even the audio system controls feel nice. The passenger power-window-lock button (from the driver’s door) seems like it’s out of a 25 lakh rupee car. Of course, there are also the odd rough edges & a feeling of flimsiness. Example, the third row cup holder lids are rudimentary & the gear lever leather cladding was already running loose. The horn pad feels plasticky and works at inconsistent spots over its entire area. The lids of the overhead bins are flimsy (in a cheap way) and the handbrake cladding is too basic. How much ever we tried, we couldn't get the seats to fold completely flat (refer to pictures). In my opinion, the interiors are 85% “there”.

You have three interior colour combinations to choose from : Black + plum (our test car), black + black (a favourite in Europe) and black + beige (a hit in the local market). The dashboard has a rather straight-forward design and portrays a distinct Range Rover influence. There isn’t much of a wow factor, it goes about its purpose in an unobtrusive way. I quite liked the brushed aluminum finish running on either side of the center console, and around the air-con vents as well. Seat compound is on the firmer side and feels European in nature (great for long drives). Take a look at the pictures, you’ll even see MB-Tex like material being used (What is MB-TEX?). The quality of leather feels hard-wearing. This is one of the rare cars which offers superlative back and under-thigh support. In fact both, the front and middle row seats, offer outstanding comfort. Additionally, either front seat gets adjustable lumbar support. The Aria is w-i-d-e on the inside. And by wide, I mean slightly more than the Safari too. Front passengers have access to splendid shoulder room as well as leg space. Tall occupants will easily fit in. My only grouse lies with the plastic panel - below the glovebox - that hits against the front passenger’s shinbone. Middle row occupants have access to generous legroom as well. I am 5’10” and, with a 6’1” reviewer in the driver’s seat, I still had excess legroom! The seatback is adjustable for as far as a 40% recline, and can be moved fore & aft too. The seat is wide enough to accommodate 3 without a fuss. The center armrest is integrated in such a way that it doesn’t make the middle passenger feel unwanted. He will have a firm backrest, yes, but can easily sustain long trips. There is abundant foot room, while the long door armrests – running nearly the entire length of the door – are a great place to rest your arms on. Also, the center transmission hump is only about an inch high and doesn’t create a hindrance at all. Headroom is overall sufficient for the front & middle rows. It isn’t as much as in the Safari, yet does the job. Note that the 5th passenger (middle row) will have about an inch lesser headroom, thanks to the overhead storage bins running above his head. If I were to find one fault with the middle-row seat, and I’d be fussy here, it’s that the foldable armrest is too short. It only supports until about 2 inches ahead of your elbow, and not the entire forearm.

Things aren’t as bright for the 6th & 7th passengers. The third row is surprisingly cramped in terms of space. We even tried pushing the middle row further, but still I couldn’t sit comfortably. Even the foot-room is at a serious premium, while my head was buried into the roof. Only consolation is that the adjustable head-rests (neck restraints) have a superb travel range & stretch all the way up. This bench is best for children or really short adults only. The ingress & egress to the last row is best left to acrobatic kids. The Mahindra Xylo’s third row remains the benchmark, whatever the segment.

The climate control system chills the huge cabin in a shockingly small amount of time (total of 10 air ducts). Even the last row was cool in less than 5 minutes of driving, this in an Aria sans sunfilm at half past noon. Middle-row passengers have 4 air-con vents to serve them; one on each B-Pillar and two mounted in the center. The center air-con vents are placed surprisingly low, possibly to accommodate the adjustable armrests of the front seats. The center air-con vents are powered by the front a/c, though you will need to fire up the rear air-conditioner to have the ones on the pillars function. Yes, there are separate controls for the front & rear air-conditioners. The latter can be directly controlled by middle row passengers.

The high-perched driving position gives you a commanding view of the road ahead. The large windscreen, and generous glass area on all sides, results in A+ visibility. Even the rearward view isn’t too bad for an MPV. The ORVMs scream style and are equally functional too. I haven’t driven a car that gave me a wider view of the stuff happening behind. Both the front seats get fab height-adjustable armrests, I thoroughly enjoyed using them. There’s also the driver’s seat height control with a decent range of adjustment. The steering is tilt adjustable, although I find it surprising that such a well-equipped vehicle doesn’t offer reach adjustment for the steering. The steering’s center boss area protrudes out in an awkward manner. By itself though, the steering is great to hold. I like how it’s a size smaller than expected in a UV of this size. Shockingly, the footwell is terribly narrow (undoubtedly a design oversight) and neither is there a dead pedal. Inacceptable for a vehicle that prides itself on long-distance cruising ability. The driver has no option but to fold & rest his left leg in front of the clutch pedal. This can severely affect driver comfort over long drives. The driving position still has faint roots in Tata's truck like seating. Your legs go down into the foot well rather than more horizontally into. This, and the lack of telescopic steering, can result in a less than optimal angle for your ankles. Further, there isn’t a central locking / unlocking button on the driver control panel (where the power window buttons lie). Pulling on the door lever doesn’t unlock the doors either. You have to bend your left arm, and pull the unlock knob (at the start of the door, next to the B Pillar) just like in a Maruti 800. This was seriously annoying when we were continually jumping in and out of the car.

God help you if you forget where you left that odd item. The Aria has so many storage compartments that you can actually host a treasure hunt contest in here! There are 7 overhead storage bins mounted on the roof, and the way in which they are lined up gives out an “airplane” effect. Each lid opens in slow motion and is felt-lined on the inside. 3 of the 7 can hold sun glasses, while three others are medium-sized for cds / a book etc. 1 is XL sized for larger items. Whatever you place in here, do so carefully else they’ll fall out when the lid flips open. I like how each of the 7 overhead bins has rubber dampers in place to prevent rattles. The dashboard is home to two glove boxes, of which the upper one is cooled (say, for a Coca Cola can). The main (lower) box is unexpectedly small and is about the size of that in a regular B segment hatchback. In fact, this is probably the only car in the world where the owner’s manual doesn’t fit into the main glovebox. The upper (cooled) glovebox has better depth. The cooling function can be switched on / off at will. Leaving aside the small glovebox, there is so much storage space in the Aria that you’ll probably run out of things to keep in them. The door pockets are deep & wide enough; you can even pick a coin from their base (your hand will fit in) and yes, all 4 door pockets can hold 1 liter bottles. There’s a storage spot on each of the 4 door armrests, all with a ribbed base. A neat anti-slip section for your mobile phone is placed right ahead of the gear lever. Either front seat has a deep seatback pocket. A center glove box (between the front seats) is conspicuous by its absence.

Steering is good to hold. Integrated audio & phone controls:


A clear and concise instrument cluster, though the MID's blue colour is a bit cheesy. Don't pay attention to the F.E., the car had been idling for quite a while:


The center console is a bit plasticky, but has everything you need and is easy to navigate. I love the brushed aluminium on either side. Some of these buttons feel truly premium:


The in-dash display has a lot of potential, but the visual interface is rudimentary at best.
Sound output from the standard ICE will suit the needs of the general car buying junta. USB / Aux connectors are placed in a tiny cubicle below the climate control. Can pair up to 5 mobiles via Bluetooth:


Reverse camera view - though great for seeing things in your path will take some getting used to:


Gear shift quality is acceptable:


Surprisingly small foot-well for such a large car. Dead pedal sorely missed!


Cruise control buttons are quite responsive and a pleasure to use on the expressway:


Hard plastic. Feel durable & the clicking action is positive:




Lumbar, recline and height adjustment on the drivers seat. Passenger gets lumbar adjustment as well:


Both front seats have adjustable and collapsible arm-rests. Comfortable place to rest your arm:


Electrically foldable and adjustable ORVMS. Power window disable button is premium enough for a Benz:


Twin glovebox. One on top has cooling function (for your Pepsi can or food item).


The lower glovebox is average sized. Lockable:


Front doors easily engulf a 1L bottle, and leave plenty of room for more storage in a wide-mouthed pocket:


You need to unlock the door by pulling this stalk up. Just pulling on the door handle doesn't do the trick. Quite irritating, especially in combination with the speed triggered auto-lock:


Euro-style headlamp controls. The backlight dimmer also controls the large display screen and the AC temperature display brightness:


So much roof storage that the only issue is finding where you stowed something away:


Rear doors have pockets that can store a 1L bottle, and then some:


Aircon vent on the B-pillar...


and center console too, for the middle-benchers:


There is adequate room for 3 – 4 medium sized bags, even with all the three seat rows in place:


Flipping down the last row opens up more space than most people would ever need:


Room enough to move home (or create a home here?). When you fold all the seats down, it’s not completely flat. There is at least an inch or two of difference in the levels:


Pull on two levers to flip the seat, so the 3rd row seats can be accessed. Ingress / egress not for the faint hearted:


The rear bench - best suited for kids or really short adults:


C-pillar air-con vents for the last bench are surprisingly effective:


That's me on the third row. 10 minutes is all I could bear:

Last edited by GTO : 12th October 2010 at 17:44.
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:07   #4
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A clean, well presented engine bay:


2.2 Dicor from the Safari with a few improvements. Mated to an AWD system, dual mass flywheel and more:


Push in to open, push in to close:


Dual gas struts lift the bonnet and hold it up there:


A fair deal of damping under the hood:


Though some of the foam looked like it was manually stuck on as an afterthought:


Adapterra AWD system capable of supplying as much as 45% torque to the front wheels (when required). Otherwise, it runs as a RWD:


Hitting the 4x2 button disengages the front axle:


Diesel power comes from a 2.2 liter common rail unit rated at 138 BHP (4,000 rpm) and 320 Nm of torque (1,700 – 2,700 rpm). The engine is well-rounded in nature and offers acceptable performance; it isn’t a scorcher, but is no slouch either. Anyone who has driven the Safari will feel right at home. After all, it’s the same engine running an identical state of tune. Tata claims that the gear ratios have been tweaked for the Aria. Driveability is acceptable at low speeds. Obviously, there is a certain amount of turbo-lag, yet it’s manageable & easy to drive around. You can feel the turbo spooling at about 1,700 rpms, after which power delivery is fairly linear. On the move, whatever the gear, the engine feels immensely tractable as long as you are over 1,700 rpm. The 2nd & 3rd gears, in particular, offer great flexibility and will prove to be vital tools in the city. On the open road, make judicious use of the accelerator and you’ll make swift progress on the highway / expressway. Mid-range is really punchy, making highway overtaking an effortless exercise. If you are at over 2,000 rpm, there isn’t even a need to downshift. The engine is rather free-revving right uptil 4,000 rpm. If you insist, she’ll go on to 4,900, but you’ll do best in upshifting at 4,000 rpm (even when driving spiritedly). This is the point at which the engine makes peak horsepower. On the straights, the Aria seems capable of cruising at 140 - 150 kph all day (top speed = 168 kph). The Aria’s ARAI fuel efficiency rating is 13.5 kpl (with 190 gms of CO2). For the sake of relativity, the Xylo is 12.92, Scorpio is 12.84, Endeavour 2.5 is 11.90, Sumo Grande MKII is 13.55 and Safari is 13.93. Information taken from this post. According to our ownership reports, the Safari gives 9.4 kpl in urban India and 12.7 on the highway. The Aria’s efficiency should be in the ballpark of those numbers. Fuel tank capacity is 60 liters.

The Aria’s gearbox is a second generation version of the Safari unit (internally badged as the Mark II). The gear lever itself is placed on the lower side. Personally, I like it this way, vis a vis the tall Innova unit. The shift has a rubbery side to it, and the 1st / 2nd gear require a little effort to engage. Though the gates are sufficiently well defined, and the throw is shorter than in other UVs (say, the Innova), I wouldn’t use the term “slick” for this gearbox. There’s not much to complain about, albeit not much to rave about either. The Tata with the best gearshift remains the Manza.

The Aria’s NVH levels are actually better than the Innova! You’d be hard pressed to tell that it’s a diesel when cruising at 120 kph in 5th gear. Engine & transmission vibrations are damped out, even when the driver is redlining the Aria. Tata continually stressed on the “double mass flywheel” at the time of the technical briefing. Driving in too high a gear at too low a speed saw minimal vibrations & no clatter from the transmission. For the most part, I have to admit the Aria’s passengers won’t feel any unnecessary vibrations or noises. One fly in the ointment is the drivetrain movement felt on the clutch pedal. And a significant amount at that! This wasn’t even there in the Manza. Further, over broken roads, you can feel the steering & gearbox shaking noticeably, as they move about their mounts.

The Aria wears an independent double wishbone suspension at the front, and a 5 link at the rear. Ride quality within the city (< 80 – 100 kph) is satisfactory, including for last row passengers. That’s quite the achievement for a vehicle riding on 17 inch wheels. Ride quality was fairly composed through the in-roads of Pimpri, including over broken patches. The Aria softens out sharp bumps enough to keep nasty jolts out of the cabin. No complaints within the city whatsoever. In terms of outright ride quality though, the Safari is plusher. However, the Aria has undoubtedly a better balance in comfort and on-road behavior (IMO, the Safari is too softly tuned). On the flip side, over a 100 kph, the Aria doesn’t feel anywhere as planted as an Innova. There is always some amount of unwanted vertical movement over less-than-perfect roads. In fact, even on the expressway, there is some choppiness (much like the Fortuner). Expressway behaviour is acceptable, though on classic Indian highways, passengers will complain of bounciness. This is especially relevant to the Aria’s rear end. Body roll is well controlled, much better than in other home grown UVs (namely the Scorpio, Xylo, Safari etc.). Sure, the Aria does feel top heavy, yet body roll is not excessive at all.

Behaviour & handling at speed are better than in any other Indian UV thus far. I drove a Safari the Sunday before the Aria drive event, and can tell you that the Aria is leagues ahead in terms of on-road behaviour. Even at 150 kph, the Aria doesn’t feel scary as the Safari & Scorpio do. This is no doubt due to the tauter suspension setup, the resultant control in body roll, and the excellent brakes (more on that later). Straight line stability is of tall order and there isn’t a hint of nervousness at expressway speeds. Grip levels are solid too. The power steering weighs in well over a 100 kph. It feels moderately heavy at those speeds, that’s a good thing IMO. Not to say that the steering is perfect. It feels rather wooden around the center position, and doesn’t make you feel as connected as the unit in the Innova does. The power steering is middle-of-the-way when it comes to effort at 0 kph parking speeds. The unit isn’t super light (like the Scorpio for instance), and those used to sedans will take a while getting accustomed to it. Not a cause for too much concern though. The Aria doesn’t take too much to pilot around the city. This is due to the engine & drivetrain characteristics, the excellent driving position and the smallish 5.6 meter turning radius. Note that, at all times, the Aria feels like a proper “body on frame” UV. Tata stressed on a “sedan like” experience in the Aria. Sorry, I completely disagree. This car isn’t anywhere like a CRV, Captiva or Outlander to drive. You are advised to acknowledge the height, size and bulk at all times. In emergency situations though, the ESP + traction control + ABS + EBD + 4 disc brakes should keep matters in control.

The AWD system's bias is toward the rear. When required, and in slippery conditions, the Aria can supply as much as 45% of torque to the front wheels (55:45 rear / front ratio). For the regular drive to work, you can switch the AWD mechanism off (via a button on the dashboard) to maximise fuel efficiency. In 4x2 mode, the front axle ends up disconnected, and the Aria is rear-wheel-driven. Ground clearance of 200 mm should help over rough roads. Don't expect to go off-roading with the Aria. Her size, weight, lack of low ratio transfer case and independent suspension ensure that she is capable only of the mild stuff (light sand, slush etc.).

The brakes are confidence inspiring while the pedal is easy to modulate too. The large front & rear disc brakes go about their work just as intended. I didn’t feel a hint of nervousness in that classic case of a three-wheeler suddenly moving in your path on the highway. On my Safari drive, I broke into cold sweat in a similar situation. On the flip side, the Aria nose dives easily under braking, even at city speeds.

Let me summarise in this manner : Even though they are from entirely different segments, the Manza left a far greater impression on me than the Aria. The Manza redefined its segment in terms of space, urban ride quality, VFM price tag, acceptable fit & finish at the price and the engine / tranny. That was Tata Motors at its absolute best. The Aria doesn’t break new ground in any way, except for the feature & gizmo list. Sure, the end product is contemporary, interior part quality has improved and it has better on-road behaviour. But then, at the Aria's price points, that's expected, isn't it?! Again, I equate Tata with providing value, whatever the product, and am left surprised by the optimistic pricing. Don't get me wrong, I take great pride in Tata's engineering chaps making such progress. It's just the bean counters that I don't see eye to eye with. The Aria better prove to have bullet-proof reliability, a stellar sales & service experience and deliver an extremely satisfying ownership to its customers.

Last edited by Rehaan : 13th October 2010 at 10:18.
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:07   #5
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Other Points:

• Team-BHP's review of the Aria 4x2 is available at this link (Tata Aria 4x2 : Test Drive & Review)

• This review has been jointly compiled by GTO & Rehaan.

• Moderator FlyingSpur was actually the first to have driven the Aria : Link to his review (Tata Aria : Driving Impressions. EDIT : FULL specs, features & variants on page 18).

• There are two types of 15 - 19 lakh rupee customers : One who looks at value, the second who buys on brand or image. Can't wait to run an analysis on the upcoming quarter's sales figures. After all, it's only the paying customer's word that counts. Truly, he's the one putting his money where his mouth is.

• To the uninitiated : Crossovers are car based SUVs that drive like a sedan, but give you the high-perched driving position, space, ground clearance and style of SUVs. Crossovers nearly always have a monocoque construction; the Aria however is a body-on-frame (as most SUVs are). Best examples of crossovers in the Indian market are the CRV (based on Civic) and Outlander (based on Lancer).

• Some other reviewers are harping about how the Aria is 200 - 300 kilos lighter than the Safari. Sorry to say, its an urban myth. Aria = 2145 kg (mid variant) and 2160 kg (top loaded). Safari 4x4 = 2170.

• In case of an accident, the Aria will automatically unlock all doors, and switch on the hazard lights as well as the in-cabin roof lamp. Tata claims that the Aria meets all current European safety norms. ESP is an Indian OEM first.

• By not giving an automatic option, Tata has missed an opportunity. Premium car buyers are increasingly choosing slush boxes. This is all the more relevant as the Aria is targeted toward the urban customer.

• 140 BHP is a conservative tune for this engine. Tata should have given it some more power, if for nothing else, to differentiate the Aria from the Safari.

• 8 body colour options : Dark grey, silver, gold, maroon, white, blue and two options in black.

• Tata ran a clever Build a dream car campaign. In building the car, you go through every important feature of the Aria.

• The "Aria" name was used for a concept Tata roadster earlier.

• The rear hatch opens upward, not sideways. The hatch will go up automatically, thanks to the gas struts. However, it needs strong hands to close, as does the bonnet.

• All 4 power windows have one-touch push down, but not one-touch up (not even the driver’s window).

• Feedback given to Tata : Optional captain seats for the middle row.

• Built on a completely new production line at the main Pimpri plant. This line is exclusive to the Aria.

• The Aria’s first export markets will be where the Xenon & Safari are currently sold (including Italy, Spain & Poland).

• On a related note, I’m surprised that the Sumo replacement isn’t here yet. Long overdue. Why has Tata ignored the lucrative 6 - 8 lakh rupee utility vehicle segment for so long? Mahindra is having a field day!

• Doors auto-lock once you start driving. This is a simple + must have feature in my opinion (I miss it in the Civic).

• The radio antenna is imprinted on the LHS last row glass.

• Front seats are placed on the higher side, this explains the generous footroom for middle-row passengers. Plus, the seat back (of the front seats) is soft. You can bury your knees in comfortably when required.

• Rear air-con blowers are rather loud, even at speed 2 / 3.

• Except for a slightly firm backrest (which is still manageable), the 5th passenger (middle row) won't feel unwelcome at all. Only limitation is, he doesn't have a head rest / neck restraint (possibility of whiplash).

• I wonder why Tata didn’t get rid of the boot altogether to maximize third row comfort? If so, the Aria would have been a true 7 seater (as in, 7 adults). At the least, a sliding option should have been provided to the 3rd row for versatility.

• The cab forward design is obvious. The way that the windscreen stretches all the way to the front reminds me of my Civic.

• Both, the steering tilt adjustment and the driver's seat height adjustment have a good range.

• Doors are light to open, but require quite the push to shut. A careless closing action will result in them ending up partially open.

• The handbrake is very heavy to lift, and didn't hold well unless it was pulled almost as far as it could be lifted.

• The adjustable front armrests have three different (height) positions you can choose from. My driving position didn’t see any interference from the armrests when shifting gears. Rehaan’s did.

• Auto Expo Arias had foldable trays for middle row passengers (Link to picture). Doesn't look like the trays made it to production.

• You can choose to start / stop the cooling in the upper glovebox. Unfortunately, there isn’t any sign of when it's open or closed (you have to manually find out). The valve button feels terribly cheap to operate.

• No airflow volume control for the individual vents at the front. They can be fully closed though.

• Cruise control is very responsive when driving on the expressway. You can easily control acceleration / deceleration with your left hand.

• Push-in the fuel lid to open, push-in to shut. There’s no control inside the cabin for locking / unlocking it. The fuel lid is dependent on the central locking system.

• Though the middle row can be adjusted fore & aft, you have to keep it all the way back to really experience the Aria. Available room (to middle row passengers) is super.

• Lighter & ash tray for both, front & middle rows . Last row gets a 12 volt power socket.

• Boot light doesn’t activate automatically upon opening the hatch. You have to switch it on manually.

• As if you’d have needed it at all, there’s another sunglass holder right above the driver (in place of a grab handle). While on the topic of grab handles, there’s a pair available for the last row of passengers too.

• You’ll see proper 3 point seatbelts for the 6th & 7th passenger.

• If you try to remote-lock the Aria, and one door has been accidentally left open, it’ll throw out a warning horn. Neat.

• Would have been nice to have the center console tilt toward the driver. Guess it's kept neutral keeping in mind the export markets.

• MID throws out information on the usual stuff : two trip meters, distance to empty, average and instant fuel efficiency.

• Significant amount of shake on the gear lever when you start / shut the engine.

• The crowds sure flock to new UVs in rural India. Even a Mercedes E Class didn't garner as much attention as the Aria!

• Climate control also has an economy mode that will presumably kick the compressor in a little less, and thus maximize fuel efficiency.

• Navteq supplies maps to the Aria's GPS system.

• ESP can be switched off in the export variant; not so in the Aria sold here. Been removed since the time the Aria was shown at the Auto Expo. Tata felt it would be misused, better safe than sorry.

• Being made available, to begin with, in 25 cities through 69 dealerships.

• Standard warranty : 3 years / 100,000 kms.

Last edited by benbsb29 : 8th August 2011 at 16:24. Reason: Adding link to the 4x2 review.
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:08   #6
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The Smaller but Significant things:

The automatic wiper sensor is mounted on the base of the windscreen. It doesn’t obstruct your view, but stretches about 2.5 inches in height & sticks out like a sore thumb:


Scuff plates on all four doors to add a premium feel:


Material similar to MB-Tex. It is a vinyl used by Mercedes Benz and made famous for its durability:


Poorly fitted rubber flaps to cover the seat hinges are just one example of the rough edges:


Roof-mounted controls for the lights and rear air-conditioner. These buttons engage the vents on the B & C Pillars:


Volume and seek audio controls, along with the mode button which can also control your phone via bluetooth:


Front A/C vents don't have a flow volume control, but they can be shut completely nevertheless:


Puddle + safety lights on all four doors:


Middle button activates the "approach lights". Useful for finding your car in a tightly packed parking lot:


The cooled (via AC) glovebox can function as a regular glovebox if you turn off the cold-air valve (top right):


Probably the only vehicle we've ever encountered where the owners manual refuses to fit in the glovebox!


The inbuilt GPS has an option to guide you to the nearest Tata dealership / service station. Neat, especially when in unfamiliar locations:


Button to control the MID:


Rear seat recline controls are awkwardly positioned, right next to the neck restraints. Thus, you have to reach over your shoulder to adjust:


Extendable sunshades rock!


Despite plentiful in-dash and in-roof storage, we really missed a center console storage box:


A hydraulic jack to make things a little easier:


12v socket and light in the boot. Light doesn't activate automatically when the rear hatch is opened. Rather, you have to switch it on manually:


Tools neatly tucked away below the rear floor:


The shoulder of the middle row seat hits the AC vent, preventing it from folding forward completely. A design flaw:


Though empty by default, a rear-door placement for a subwoofer has been provided:


Oh c'mon Tata! Strips of fabric stapled on as a patch up job. This is the front passenger footwell:


Though a bit plasticky, there's plenty of spots to put your sunglasses, or for the kids to dump their PSP and iPods:


Maroon door handle cladding feels cheesy:
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:30   #7
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Finally the review is here. Great review GTO. I saw the picture with you on the 3rd row. Did you move the 2nd row front or did you leave it at the default location? I assumed that moving the 2nd row forward a bit would give more space for the 3rd row. By moving the 2nd, I didn't mean to put the 2nd row passengers in trouble either
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:31   #8
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Excellent review GTO. Pricing is big let off. Are the projector headlamps HID's? Was the seat pulled forward and the third seat experienced? Thanks again for the superb reporting effort..Cheers.
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:34   #9
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Great job again GTO!! Great review!!

Here's my take on the pricing strategy.

I think Aria is a bold (and risky) move by Tata. They want to move up the automotive value chain by launching upmarket cars, which they have done now with the Aria. That brings along with it high expectations of quality and overall ownership experience. Tata will surely know that, they are hardly novices in the automotive world. Sure, they havent exhibited great quality or world-class refinement in their existing cars. But then, all their cars to date are economy models, where cost-cutting is the name of the game.

With the Aria, the game can change for Tata, but only if they make the overall experience of ownership of this car significantly better than the other models (barring JLR of course) in their product line. That includes initial quality, buying experience, long term reliability and service experience. As you say, initial quality is a quantum leap from the Tata cars of yore. Lets wait and watch how the rest of the parameters are handled.

If these factors are given due importance by Tata, the price they are quoting will not seem so steep.

The biggest risk is indeed that they are now already asking a price at which the above factors become imperatives. They indeed have a lot to prove.

However, I have a feeling that Tata has turned a new leaf with the Aria. I am not expecting Japanese reliability and quality from them just yet, but I hope this is a step in that direction. After all, two years of interaction with the JLR team surely must have given them a lesson or two in quality engineering and refinement.

PS: Did anyone notice the weight of the car? The brochure mentions it as 2720kg! Thats about 150kg more than an Endeavour and 200 kg more than the Fortuner!!
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:35   #10
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^^ As mentioned, we did try with the middle row seat pushed forward. Still, the last row was awful.

@ Civicsense : That's the gross weight you have put up. Kerb weight of the Pride variant is 2160 kilos.

Last edited by GTO : 12th October 2010 at 01:40.
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:46   #11
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Great review! Precisely sums up the Aria as a product. I am disappointed at Tata's lack of attention to detail - rubber covers not fitting properly, stapled on foot well covering etc. They took their time getting the basics right, surely they could have got a QC guy to focus on this for a couple of hours? And most glaringly, lack of space in the third row! What were they thinking?!

A flagship product has to get everything right first time. There are no second chances. Hope Tata get the production version right.
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Old 12th October 2010, 01:52   #12
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thats a full five star review gto

i really like the bold standout stance of the aria and the nice looking alloys and wide section tyres.
the equipment levels are truly amazing and i am sure it would keep the owners pretty much occupied with unearthing a new feature everyday.

its good to hear all the progress that tata has made with this product but the sad part for me is the pricing.
for anyone who spends 17lacs on a vehicle would want it bundled with absolute peace of mind and reliability, and i dont feel a tata car can provide that. i wish the aria proves me wrong.

i hope they make sure that all the gadgets and gizmos that they have planted in the car work flawlessly for a good period of time and the fact that they just do not become an additional source for niggles.
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Old 12th October 2010, 02:00   #13
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Great review, GTO. Uniquely Team-BHP. And now I do get it. Thanks

PS. Did you get the chance to take her Off-Road? I mean, there's 4x4, so..? How a bout a video?
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Old 12th October 2010, 02:07   #14
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WOW!! Finaly TATA does something that is top notch. The car has been carefully crafted. Although the buyer would find the price hard to digest but still if this car can prove its worth then hell to 17L.A to Aria.
P.S--I dont understand the presence of two openings(for CDs) in the center console. Is it that we can insert two CDs?? Wierd!!
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Old 12th October 2010, 02:09   #15
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GTO a detailed review with great pics dissecting the Aria.But some things i missed from your review are this being a full time 4WD why no observations/views on its off road behaviour.How the vehicle tackled decreasing radius turns with the 4WD drive switched on and off on tarmac and dirt would have been great.

A Tata costing more than a Toyota is unimaginable for many of us,but look at the advantages of the base Aria Pleasure vs Innova V.

Where Innova loses:
1. A fully loaded Innova trying to overtake a trailer on a 2 laned road is a nightmare.Say at 70kmph in gear acceleration in 4th is just not there and if you shift to 3rd there is a lag before the engine responds.My observations are after driving a BS4 Innova, a Safari 2.2 has so much more grunt.

2. The ride quality of the Innova on broken roads with occasional pot holes thrown in is not the most enjoyable experience for the car or for the people inside it.

3.The small tyre size and low ground clearance of the Innova do not permit the occasional off road ride like Scorpio or a Safari.

4.The high speed handling of Innova is not that sharp on an expressway that it can be compared to a car.It is in the city where effortless drive shines but again with a constant gear changes for shooting forward in traffic gaps.

Now coming to Aria it scores in all the above areas from the reviews so far.Now qouting from the Flying Spurs assesment after his first drive "Shoot me for saying this, but I'd definitely say it eats the Innova, in terms of comfort, drive, equipment, everything".

Now just wait for the Pride variant to be priced similar to Innova`s V variant to pass a judgement. Its strange why TATA choose not to launch a 2WD drive variant right from day one to give an alternative to those 4000+ buyers of Innova every month who don`t need/care for a 4WD!

Last edited by damodar : 12th October 2010 at 02:11.
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