Tata Indica Vista Quadrajet Aura review, test drive

Autocar India
First Published: 13:07 IST(21/1/2013)
Last Updated: 13:18 IST(21/1/2013)
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Tata set out to deliver even more car per car with the new Vista
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Under the skin, the Vista is a far cry from the Indica. Twenty-five percent stiffer and built using hi-tech tailored blanks of steel that vary in strength from section to section, the Vista’s  chassis is far from basic. It forms the basis of Tata’s new car platform and as a result has a lot of sophistication.

The nose of the car is compact and starts low, the car has a tight-fitting, modern skin, and stylistic details are very subdued. The wheel arches have only a hint of a flare, there is a subtle crease along the door handles and the front bumper is fused seamlessly with the car’s rounded nose section. The rear of the car with the tall tail-lights is difficult to tell apart from the Indica, though the lights are much narrower and the rear considerably wider. The only telltale sign, if you can’t compare, is a crease that runs across the hatch. The Vista, however, looks severely undertyred and excessively raised — a Tata signature if ever there was one.

The Vista has been engineered to pass stringent European crash test norms and even the bonnet height has been optimised for pedestrian safety. Other areas that have been optimised include a fuel tank large enough to cater to a number of body styles, wheel wells can take 15-inch rims, suspension towers that have been strengthened, and a steering rack that is now placed on the front subframe to isolate it better. The design of the front suspension is an evolution of the MacPherson strut system seen on the current Indica, but Tata has opted to go for a non-independent rear. It uses equal length driveshafts for improved refinement and minimising the effects of torque steer.

Interior

The front seats adjust for height along with the steering wheel, the front seats are large, and back and thigh support is good too. There is plenty of legroom for tall drivers and for once general ergonomics are pretty good as everything falls easily to hand. The rear seats offer sofa-like comfort, with just the right amount of firmness as well. The bench is placed at the perfect height, thigh support extends all the way to your calves and the bench is wide enough for three. The backrest, though very comfortable and supportive, feels a bit too reclined. The door pockets (careful, they have sharp edges) are strangely very shallow, there isn’t too much space below the central console and though there is a very large and lockable glovebox as well as an tray under the passenger seat, a cabin of this size could easily have had more.

What Tata has got, by and large, right is quality. Yes, you heard that right, the Vista now has plastics and other bits that feel well built. A clear improvement from the crude Indica interiors, the grain on the dashboard, the soft-feel plastic on the dash and the improved fit and finish are things that will go some way in delivering a feel-good factor not earlier attainable in a Tata car but there is more to do still. Parts like the door locks, the air con controls, the buttons across the dash and bits like the ones that adjust steering and seat height are still not upto scratch. Skoda Fabia-like interior quality is still some way off.

With its radical centrally- mounted instrument panel, similar to the Nano’s, the look of the Vista cabin is bright and airy. What impressed us probably the most was the relative lack of squeaks and rattles. Doorshut is nice and solid, nothing worked itself loose over the period of some rigorous testing and fingers crossed, things should stay that way.

Performance & Economy

It takes a while, but you soon realise why the Vista doesn’t feel like a Tata. There is precious little vibration on the move, the cabin is silent and, incredibly, shifting gears is easy too.The Vista feels responsive and tractable in city traffic and lower gearing helps as well. Peak torque is reached at 1750rpm and with the turbocharger optimised as well, it’s actually slightly nicer to drive in the city than the Swift.  With gearing identical to that of the Palio D, the Vista is a good highway cruiser as well, the Fiat diesel spinning unobtrusively. And overtaking slower cars is relatively easy too. But the Vista is neither as fast as the Swift, Indica DiCOR or the Palio D.

100 from rest takes 16.4 seconds, more than a couple of seconds away from the Swift, but due to the gearing the gap narrows slightly by 120kph. Top speed is a decent 151kph. Though we did like the Vista’s gearbox, the light clutch and especially the unobtrusive manner in which gears are selected, the gearshift needs some degree of effort to operate.

Heavier than the Swift  but now with more torque at a lower rpm as well as shorter gearing, the Vista did brilliantly in our city cycle, giving 13.6kpl to put it in the same ball park as the Swift diesel. On the highway, a short gearing does penalise economy to some extent but the Vista still acquitted itself well by returning 16.7 kilometres per litre.

Ride & Handling

Sitting on its wide track and long wheelbase, with 65 profile tyres, tall springs and gas shocks all round, ride quality on the Vista is terrific. The suspension works really well compared to the earlier Indica, the Vista having a composure and cohesiveness about it the Indi lacks and this raises comfort on roads considerably. There is less movement of the cabin when you hit a bump, absorption of hits taken in potholes is impressive and, though some shock is transmitted, it’s only the really sharp or steep-edged bumps that catch it out.

It wouldn’t be incorrect to state the Vista rides nearly as well as the Fabia. And the Vista also pitches only in extreme circumstances. Overall, it feels far more composed than a Swift on bad roads and doesn’t fidget about. Where a Swift feels choppy and unsettled, the Vista is completely unruffled. Still, despite the good straightline stability and feeling of surefootedness, this is not a car that enjoys being hustled around. The high suspension means the car rolls a lot, grip from the narrow rubber is not sufficient and the Vista is nowhere near as happy to get into a corner as say a Swift or even the Palio.

Though the light steering is a boon in city traffic and takes the muscle out of driving this car, it’s numb on centre feel at high speeds and a general feeling of vagueness does not encourage spirited driving.  The brakes however help build confidence but there is no ABS and on the narrow tyres absolute stopping distances are not that impressive. Nevertheless, for the most part they have plenty of bite and the pedal is nicely tuned as well.

 Verdict

Tata set out to deliver even more car per car with the new Vista. More of everything — space, comfort, refinement, performance, the lot. By and large, Tata has succeeded for the Vista is a thoroughly engineered and modern hatchback. Tata has used new materials, new processes and their competence has reached a new level. You truly can’t get more space or comfort in this class, the interiors have moved up the quality ladder and with the addition of Fiat’s fabulous 1.3 Multi-jet, the Vista now is as refined, powerful and efficient as any of its competitors.

Technical Specs


Fact File
What it costs
Ex-showroom (Delhi)  3.63-5.52 lakh
Warranty  24 months/unlimited

Engine
Fuel                       Diesel
Installation              Front, transverse
Bore/stroke            69.6e/82mm
Compression ratio  17.6:1
Valve gear              DOHC, 4 valves per cyl
Power                    74bhp at 4000rpm
Torque                   19.37kgm at 1750-3000rpm
Power to weight      64.91bhp per tonne

Transmission
Gearbox  5-speed manual

Dimensions
Length  3795mm
Width  1695mm
Height  1550mm
Ground clearance  165mm

Chassis & Body
Weight  1140kg
Tyres  175/65 R14

Suspension
Front  Independent, lower-wishbone, MacPherson struts
Rear  Non-independent, twist-beam, coil springs, shock absorbers

Steering
Type  Power assisted rack and pinion
Type of power assist  Hydraulic

Brakes
Front  240mm ventilated discs
Rear  200mm drums

Economy
City  13.6 kpl
Highway  16.7 kpl
Tank size  37 litres

Range at a glance - Engines
Petrol  1.4/1.2 litre
Diesel  1.3 litre


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