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Old 2nd March 2010, 17:35   #1
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Default Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review


QUADRA-JET POWERED SA-FIRE FLIGHT WITH A DOSE OF SAFETY

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03924.jpg

70 percent of Indian car buyers still prefer a small VFM hatchback.
Less than 3 years ago, there was only one small diesel hatchback which ruled the roost-the TATA INDICA. Virtually no competition from any manufacturer meant that Tata made merrier profits on every unit sold which sent the Mumbai House's cash registers ringing, even after 8 years of service without any major changes, barring the continuous improvement that the company carried out to make it refined and bug-free.

The Big diesel mayhem

Fast forward, March 2, 2010. Within a span of just 3 years, the small diesel car market is on a verge of explosion with no less than 7 choices at your disposal. These are:
  • Maruti Swift DDIS
  • Maruti Ritz DDIS
  • Fiat Punto Multijet
  • Ford Figo TDCI
  • Hyundai I20 CRDI
  • Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDI
  • Volkswagen Polo 1.2 TDI
Suddenly, the car which enjoyed monopoly for 8 years is surrounded by 7 dwarfs and Tata's snow white is in serious trouble.
Competition. Here. There.And everywhere.

To make matters worse, the premium hatch segment is on a verge of growth trajectory and the owner is spoilt for choices. Add the upcoming Toyota Ethios and it counts to 8. While you can have your own 8" pizza from any outlet as long as you are satisfied with it, this is not exactly the case when an average Indian buyer goes on to purchase a car.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03900.jpg

Time to make amends

When Tata finally launched the Indica's long overdue successor in August 2008, expectations were high. After all, Tata's bread and butter car was redesigned for the first time in a decade and was bigger, better and more refined in all those areas which the previous Indica lacked. Though still not perfect, it was a quantum leap for Tata and all its 10 years of know how was incorporated and the final product was leagues ahead of its predecessor.
Add Fiat motors and competitive pricing was like adding more icing to the cake.
But while the car had everything that an average Indian diesel car buyer wanted, it still lacked polish and finesse and most importantly, did not have vital safety equipment, like ABS and Airbags, even as options. While all the aforementioned competition was offering them, the Indian public started to gain importance of these features and even though sales were mediocre, at least there were takers for safety features.

Until now.
While the response to the Indica vista was cautious, the general perception of Indica as a "Taxi" car was something that Tata did not want to associate with the vista.And moreover, alarmed by the intense competition in the diesel hatch segment and judging by the atrocious accident statistics in India, Tata finally decided to give the Indica Vista its first serious upgrade.
More on that later.
Along with that, both the Safire 1.2 petrol and quadrajet 1.3 diesel now come in 2 additional varients-Aura ABS with ABS and Aura plus with airbags in addition to it.
The infotainment has also been upgraded with bluetooth connectivity, USB and AUX-IN ports and some changes to the stereo HU.
To top it off, Tata's more car per car tag is reflected with a cracker of a price tag which makes it one of the cheapest price to specs to equipment car in its class.
So, sounds like a winner on paper? Doesn't it?

And how does the new "improved" Safire with upgrades feel to drive on the road?
Read on to find out.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03894.jpg

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Old 2nd March 2010, 18:00   #2
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Indica Vista 2010

List Price (New Delhi ex showroom, in rupees) as on March 2, 2010 pre budget:

1.2 Safire petrol
  • terra- 3,46,287
  • aqua- 3,71,661
  • aura- 3,95,795
  • aura ABS- 4,17,794
  • aura plus- 4,49,502
1.3 quadrajet diesel
  • terra- 4,27,980
  • aqua- 4,50,337
  • aura- 4,82,386
  • aura ABS- 5,04,385
  • aura plus- 5,35,328
Specifications:

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-untitled1.jpg

Equipment Checklist and colours:


Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-untitled1s.jpg

What's Lilly (+ves):
  • cracker of a price tag
  • class leading backseat space and comfort
  • supple ride
  • superb bottom end torque of safire motor
  • excellent diesel mid range
  • overall improved refinement and fuel efficiency
  • superb Blue 5 audio, user friendly
  • tractable and torquey quadrajet for highways
  • improved braking with ABS
What's silly (-ves):
  • misaligned dashboard panels
  • clunky gearshift
  • sloppy and vague handling
  • Exterior styling and placement of instrument cluster not to everyone's taste
  • audio display could have been better in daylight
  • noisy petrol motor, uninspiring top end performance
  • Inconsistent quality of Tata's after sales service and small product quality niggles
Bottom Line:
  • Small improvements and added features at a superb price tag make the Indica now worth considering, only wish it had more finesse and polish of its rivals.
Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03926.jpg
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Old 2nd March 2010, 18:25   #3
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Exterior Design and Styling:

Tata decided to play safe with an evolutionary design, rather than a revolutionary design for the new Indica Vista. All of Indica's trademarks-the teardrop headlights, the smiling grill, the curvy profile and vertical christmas tree taillights have been retained, only they are now bigger and the car itself looks grown up a lot when parked alongside the old Indica.

While the whole design makes aure that no one mistakes it for anything other than an Indica, it is not necessarily a good thing with potential buyers often commenting that it is merely a facelift as compared to a generation change. Though every body panel is new, Tata could have designed the car more cohesively, especially the rear which looks terribly 80s.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-1.jpg

The front end looks very striking and imposing with huge petal shaped headlamps which run all the way along the perimeter of the fender and help disguise the visual bulk. The smiling grill also has grown considerably in size and runs along with a central crease atop the bonnet which gives it good proportions.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-2.jpg

The bumper also merges well with the overall front sharp and the integrated air dam is simple, yet functional of keeping the radiator cool. All models barring terra have front fog lamps as standard.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-3.jpg

The sides have a very curvy profile and despite being actually a cab forward design, it disguises its visual bulk, thanks to a central character line that runs across the profile through the fender, doors and the rear quarter panel.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-4.jpg

The rear 3 quarter is where the car looks best, with huge vertical taillamps dominating the area. The bootlid design is plain and simple with a single character line that gives it a stylistic touch. Integrated Rear fog lamps is standard on all aura varients.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-9.jpg

The rear, otherwise is plain dull and uninspiring, even though Tata wants to shout by placing an over sized brand logo at the centre. C'mon Tata!

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-6.jpg

The car was designed by ex-I.DE.A guy Justin Noreyk along with inputs from in house Tata designers. The overall result is a clean and decent design, if a bit outdated and instant recognizable as an Indica, wish Tata would something about those wheels and tyres which look excessively raised and spoil the overall stance of the car.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-7.jpg

All new design, yet the same old Indica.
Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-8.jpg

Last edited by sidindica : 2nd March 2010 at 18:28.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 18:46   #4
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Build Quality and Finish:

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03916.jpg

There is a marked improvement in the way the car is built and finished in a new assembly line shared with Fiats in its new JV plant in ranjangaon, Pune as compared to the previous gen. While exterior paint quality is superb, the panel gaps, though now consistent, are still a bit large and same goes for the interiors which suffer from low rent plastics in some areas and shabby finish, especially the inner door handles and many misaligned panels like the centre console garnish and fuse box under the steering column. Even the tilt steering knob feels flimsy and feels as if it can break apart from repeated usage.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-6.jpg

Whats good is that compared to the vista that was launched in 2008, the plastic quality, at least in the cars tested improved considerably and are more softer to touch and feel. Given the car's price point, don't expect Hyundai quality plastics, leave alone reaching skoda and VW levels.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-12.jpg

The bodyshell feels rigid and touch and except from rattles from loose glovebox door and seat mechanism, the cars behaved exactly like a new car should. The doors shut with a tolerable thud, though nowhere in the league of Euro rivals, but better than the tinny Japs at least.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-ggg-2.jpg
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Old 2nd March 2010, 19:32   #5
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Interiors, space and comfort:

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-4.jpg
Like the exterior, the interior is dominated by a huge dashboard with a waterfall type central console and centrally mounted instrument cluster, which is not exactly to everyone's taste.
In an attempt to standardize the same dashboard for left and right hand drive markets, Tata has not provided the dashboard with many storage spaces. Other than the large glovebox, capable of holding a small laptop, the storage practicality can best be described as mediocre.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-5.jpg

Central mounted meter console can take time used to. Tachometer to small to read. Good old temperature gauge absent.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-7.jpg

What Tata cars are known for is fabulous amount of space and comfort that they provide for the asking price and the vista is no different. Being the first of "new generation" passenger cars from tata, they had made the car more roomy and airy from inside.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-13.jpg

The front seat legroom is generous and tall passengers can stretch due to generous seat travel. The adjustable lumbar support, standard on all aura models, superbly supports your lower back and makes long drives less painful. Though the seat cushioning is firm, the under thigh support is above average and not much of a complain.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-14.jpg

However, its the rear that is the Vista's trump card. The seat comfort and angle of inclination is brillantly optimised and is easily the best in its class.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-16.jpg

Legroom, headroom and width are generous (see pic above for minimum and maximum legroom) and this is one of those few cars that can sit 3 abreast comfortably. Two up, long distance travelling is almost fatigue free and the soft cushioning simply provides outstanding levels of comfort, coupled with decent backrest and you have an ideal chauffeur driven car which can also be used as an ideal long distance companion.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-17.jpg

Boot space at 232 litres equals that of the swift and is disappointing for a car of this size. Clearly, passenger room has been given a priority over luggage space. In aura and above models, a rear power outlet near the parcel tray for memsahibs to charge mobiles after a long talks with their boyfriends is provided, a thoughtful touch.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-18.jpg

However, to make amends, a 60:40 split seat is standard on all aura and above models which also double fold.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-19.jpg

Boot space with seats folded, in case two passengers have to be transported with lots of luggage.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-22.jpg

Apart from cupholders and small storage space in and around the gear console, not much can be stored in the car. However, a seat under tray is provided under the co driver seat to store 3 one liter bottles.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-2.jpg

Handbrake console with additional storage space.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-11.jpg

Front door pad with full size armrest, all 4 power window controls and poorly designed door pockets.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-15.jpg

Rear doorpads, not much to store here. Plastic quality below par.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-3.jpg

Rear legroom.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-20.jpg

Full size 14" spare wheel standard on all quadrajet and safire aura ABS and aura plus, which gains 14" wheels.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-.jpg

Co driver side dashboard. The design eats into precious kneeroom for the front passenger. Space atop dashboard wasted. The model is Aura ABS. Aura plus comes with dual airbags and a 4 spoke steering wheel as standard.

Last edited by sidindica : 2nd March 2010 at 19:37.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 19:49   #6
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Infotainment and Blue 5:

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-1.jpg

While the aura varient now comes only with a MP3 CD player as standard, the Aura ABS and plus varients now come added with bluetooth connectivity, USB and AUX-IN output as standard, in addition to the infrared remote control for backseat passengers. Unlike the manza, steering mounted controls is NOT standard, even in the Aura plus version.

Sound quality on stock Onkyo speakers is just below average with decent mid and treble, but less than steller bass. The system comes with 4 door mounted speakers as standard. Serious audiophiles would do well to upgrade to good brands for better sound quality.

However, the best part of the system is its bluetooth connectivity, not standard on rivals (except the punto) or cars costing more in its class.

It can pair upto 5 mobile phones, transfer the phone book, and also take and receive calls, as expected.

It can be done in just 5 easy steps:

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-2.jpg

Simply turn on your phone's bluetooth and go to bluetooth mode by pressing the green button in the stereo.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-3.jpg

Pairing option will come, and it will give you a passcode.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-4.jpg

In your cellphone, a device by the name "TATA" will come. Accept it.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-5.jpg

Put the same passcode that comes in the RCD display on your phone.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-6.jpg

Voila! The phone is now connected.

One major drawback of this system is that display is annoying small and is almost impossible to see in direct sunlight, especially that garish blue shade with too small fonts. This area needs serious improvement.

Last edited by sidindica : 2nd March 2010 at 19:54.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 20:20   #7
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Engine, gearbox and performance-1.2 Safire

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-1.jpg

The 1.2 liter class is already way too overcrowded with motors like K12 from Maruti, Kappa from Hyundai, HTP from VW-Skoda, Sigma from Ford and S-TEC from GM respectively, all fighting it out for a slice of pie.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-2.jpg

So, how does Fiat's 1.2 FIRE compete in here?
Branded as SAFIRE, this 1172 cc motor may seem underpowered with just 68 odd horses in tap for such a big car but at least in this model, Tata has tuned it for bottom end drive ability and whack rather than top end performance.

The Aura ABS and Aura plus models actually featured improved engine mounts to minimise vibrations and to cope with the extra weight of ABS kit, suspension has also been tweaked a bit.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-3.jpg

So, how does that translate into the road?
Fire the idle and the engine seems pretty refined with no vibrations filtring through the cabin (petrol also gets under bonnet insulation). However, as speeds catch up, unwanted noise creeps into the cabin and the higher you rev, the more noisy it becomes, especially above 3000 rpm.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-5.jpg

Whats SURPRISINGLY good about this improved motor is the bottom end is simply superbly tuned for city performance.
While driving through crowded streets of Ghaziabad, unbelievably the motor was running without any jerks in 4th gear at 1500 rpm at 20-30 odd kmph, a result of flat torque curve (see pics above and below).

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-6.jpg

While the motor is superb for the city, it simply labours in the highway with 0-100 dispatched in about 17 odd seconds. Overtaking manoeuvrs need proper planning and its best to keep the engine with its usable power band of 1500-3500 rpm. No point revving beyond it, as it becomes pretty clattery and annoying and sounds gravelly. Clearly, cost engineering plays a primarily role and overall the motor is no patch on either kappa or K12, leave alone the I-vtec. Additional sound deadening, especially under the firewall is required. Overall, nothing great, but for the asking price, it does its job well.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-4.jpg

The gearshift is not what you expect from a Fiat sourced box. Its pretty clunky and vague shifting, especially at 3rd and 4th gears.

Fuel efficiency-1.2 Safire:

Tata claims to improve upon the mileage of 1.2 Safire in this new batch of Vistas. For a car of this size to weight ratio pulled by 1.2, expect a real world figure of about 11-13 kmpl in City with 50 percent AC on, part attributed to superb low RPM response, and while it struggles on the highway, expect no more than 14-15 odd kmpl under the same circumstances.
Individual mileage figures will, of course vary depending upon the driving style.

Last edited by sidindica : 2nd March 2010 at 20:21.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 20:41   #8
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Engine, gearbox and performance-1.3 Quadrajet

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03895.jpg

The quadrajet is the familiar Fiat sourced 1.3 Multijet that does duty in many other cars in our country. Known worldwide for its juicy combination of performance and economy, it acquaints itself well under the bonnet of the Indica Vista and is the obvious engine of choice.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03953.jpg

Start the idle and refinement, for a tata car is simply unbelievable. Cabin insulation seems class best, even better than the maruti twins and along with new engine mounts, this edition of vista is also enhanced with additional sound insulation along the firewall and under the dashboard. Performance is not earth shattering but adequate all the same and unlike the Maruti twins, it makes higher torque at much lower RPMs. Turbo lag is evident below 2000 rpm (MJD trademark) but once it crosses that, the engine has simply superbly tuned mid range and makes a serious mile muncher, especially on the highway with the tall overdrive 5th gear, engine running at about 2500-3000 rpm. The car feels quick than its claimed 0-100 timings of 16 odd seconds suggest simply because the engine has a side power band, only getting annoying at second gear where lag makes you to downshift. It pulls cleanly from 3rd and 4th gear and can waft you to 3 digit speeds with relatively ease and the car is actually more fun to drive due to its free revving nature, all the way upto 5500 rpm.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03954.jpg

The gearbox (C510 Fiat) actually shifts better with this engine and is comparatively less vague and clunky as compared to its petrol counterpart.

Fuel efficiency: 1.3 Quadrajet:

Customer feedback has shown that the engine is highly fuel efficient due to its lightweight construction and superbly tuned torque characteristics and in the vista it is no different.

In real life congested City traffic with 50 percent AC on, expect about 15 odd kmpl and on the highway, where it can stretch its legs, thanks to tall 4th and 5th gears, a figure of 18-19 odd kmpl can be achieved with ease.
Of course, as mentioned before, figures may vary according to individual driving characteristics.

Last edited by sidindica : 2nd March 2010 at 20:42.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 21:15   #9
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Ride, handling and braking:

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03917.jpg

Riding on tall profile 175/65 tyres on 14" wheels, the Safire (silver car pictured) rides superbly after the upgrade from the puny 13" that come standard in lesser equipped versions. The beefed up front suspension with modified spring and damper rates irons out regular road imperfections with ease, only crashing through large potholes.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03947.jpg

The Quadrajet (white car) rides even better, thanks to beefed up suspension to cope up with an additional weight of the diesel motor and coupled with a bit stiffer springs, as with petrol, minor imperfections are ironed out with only the harshest of bumps and craters unsettling the car.

Ride quality at the rear in both the cars is again equally impressive, with the new semi independent suspension ironing out craters with only large bumps being transported to occupants. While no punto, fabia or polo, ride quality is pretty impressive, provided you drive sedately. Passengers do not get tossed around at low to medium speeds but at high speeds, even at minor imperfections, the occupants can get unsettled, but not alarmingly.

Which brings us to the car's handling:
Make no mistake, the car handles decently but it cannot be described as a driver's car. Its a neutral docile handling automobile which rewards you if driven carefully and sedately. Steering is light at parking speeds but as speeds build up, it becomes vague and inconsistent, the soft suspension tuning clearly biased towards ride rather than driver involvement with body roll evident, though not alarmingly so, at the corners. For an average Indian customer driving the vista, it gets the job done, though.

Braking with ABS standard:

Now comes to the BIG question: How do brakes perform with the much needed ABS?
The answer is: quantum leap improvement over the standard brakes with improved pedal feel and reduced stoppage times, more impressive in the diesel. Wheel locking is kept well under control and ABS kicks in a bit early under spirited driving, keeping distances in check. Quite clearly, ABS for a nominal price is every worth the extra cash and highly recommended from our side.

Last edited by sidindica : 2nd March 2010 at 21:18.
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Old 2nd March 2010, 21:27   #10
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Buying and owning:

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03925.jpg

As mentioned in, buying a car is one thing but owning it altogether is an entirely different ballgame. Tata's service standards, though improving, still can best be described as inconsistent and less than stellar. Some dealers go to lengths to take care of customers whereas some take a care-a-damn attitude, often leaving bitter experiances in the minds of Tata owners. While efforts are on post Fiat alliance, Tata has still more climbing to do. Only time will tell how well dealers are equipped to keep customers satisfied but from my experiance, it can best be described to be on the positive side.

Maintaining the vista is pretty cheap, and Tata's widespread service network, the second largest in the country takes care of all your needs, just make sure that you find the right service center to cater to your needs.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-dsc03898.jpg
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Old 2nd March 2010, 21:43   #11
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Summing up:

As a package for the asking price, the vista acquaints itself pretty well. Decent looks, acres of space and comfort, good ride, decent handling and now with added safety features coupled together in an improved avatar now make it worth a look for an average car buyer. For him/her, it will do whatever you ask from it, sometimes also exceed your expectations.

The new improved safire, while not excelling in any area, offers decent blend of price to size to features for people on a tight budget and coupled with good bottom end performance and decent mileage, it makes a case of itself. Only if we wish that the NVH levels were a notch better and 14" wheels be made standard on lower versions.

The diesel is now even better. At 5-5.35 lakh odd for the top end version with ABS and airbags, it is simply outstanding value for money and provides all that long distance travellers/ average salaried class people that buy diesel cars look out for. While handling and interior fit/finish can be better, at this price, you simply cannot get any other lower B segment hatch that offers you an optimised combination of performance, economy, space/comfort and features and now with a proven multijet engine, it is almost hard to beat.

It, however remains to be seen how Ford will target the vista and price the Figo. If rumours of a shock price tag are believed to be true, then it will be an interesting battle to watch between Ford and tata and the figo, which is clearly a superior product is stated to give Tata sleepless nights.

And who better judges than we, the Indian car buyer.
Let the games begin.

Tata Indica Vista ABS: Test Drive and review-tataindicavistasport.jpg

(Test drive cars courtesy Urmil Motors, Ghaziabad, Special thanks to the entire staff of Urmil Motors for organising this test drive.)

Last edited by sidindica : 2nd March 2010 at 21:46.
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Old 3rd March 2010, 09:51   #12
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Additional facts:
  • Engine ECU immobilizer is standard on all SAFIRE and QJD varients, along with tilt steering. The "janta" version, the TDI is not equipped with these.
  • The colour palette mentions 2 shades of white. Mint white comes in only TDi and Porcelain white comes only in safire and QJD for an extra cost of Rs. 5,000.
  • 2 years warrenty standard with an option to extend for 2 more at a nominal price.
  • The old Indica V2 will be phased out from Euro 4 cities after April 1,2010.
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Old 3rd March 2010, 10:32   #13
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Wow ..Sid , excellent review ..
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Old 3rd March 2010, 10:44   #14
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sid, what's the difference between the aura+ and the aura ABS ? All i see is different seatbelts. Is that worth the 30k difference? or did I miss something ?
EDIT: guess I did. Just saw the airbags

Last edited by greenhorn : 3rd March 2010 at 10:47.
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Old 3rd March 2010, 11:05   #15
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Excellent reveiw !!!. Sid you have covered all the points very well.

How do you compare your Punto with Vista.
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