Tata Sierra EV Concept SUV: the design story

    Tata’s new Sierra is a design that’s both fresh and modern but also carries forward the Sierra look, successfully managing to tug at our heartstrings.

    Published On Feb 10, 2023 08:00:00 AM


    It’s called a ‘wrap-over’ window, it was used to transform a light pick-up into India’s first SUV, and the side ‘graphic’ it created managed to turn the Sierra into something of a design icon. Fast forward to today and what we have is the introduction of a freshly minted Sierra – a near-production-ready SUV headed to showrooms in 2025.

    The 2025 Sierra works because not only is it fresh as a daisy and future-ready, it also manages to pay respect to the original and tugs at our heartstrings (something the new Safari never did). But what’s the inside story, and just what does the new production-ready Sierra have to offer? Coming right up is a deep dive into what clearly is one of the most forward-looking SUVs created for the Indian market yet.

    Emotional appeal 

    What makes the Tata Sierra a Tata Sierra? It’s the side graphic, of course. Created by the big, single pane wrap-over window and the ‘B’ and ‘C’ pillars that flank it, the graphic gives the Sierra its unique identity. Walk up to the new car and this impression is successfully carried over. What’s interesting, however, is that the new Sierra doesn’t really have a wrap-over fixed window. And this one is a more practical five-door. So, how have the designers managed to successfully convey the impression of a single fixed window?

    Big rear window recreated with hidden rear door; see sunken door handles.

    Tata design head Martin Uhlarik, whose baby the new Sierra is, explains. “We had to keep the signature of the wrap-over glass, but at the same time we are not designing a retro car.” So Tata’s designers used the following visual ‘tricks’. For one, the wrap-over glass is replaced by a rounded black plastic finisher on top. Look closely; it’s clever. The rear window is also mounted flush with the one behind it and this gives it the impression of being a single large window.

    Rear doors have full frames.

    What also helps is that the ‘C’ pillar is hidden behind the glass and finished in black and that the door handles are sunken into the side panels. The designers have also evolved the rearmost or ‘D’ pillar. Partially blackened, it gives the impression of having a larger glass area and a floating roof.

    Clean, sharp and confident 

    The new Sierra also has a very modern shoulder-line that’s broken in two. The muscular haunches work particularly well and this imparts a very ‘fit’ and narrow-waisted look. Around the rear, the Sierra gets a wide clamshell-like hatch that makes it look wider and larger than it is.

    Tail-light is neat, clean and sophisticated.

    Around the front, it looks nothing like the original Sierra… but how can it? The 1990s Sierra had a headlight and grille combo that looked very Mercedes SEC. This new one combines DRLs and a connecting light bar in a single curve. The main lights are placed lower down. The tall, flat bonnet has no radiator grille, but the 170hp, 1.5 direct injection turbo-petrol version will have a different nose and a larger grille.

    High bonnet line allows for a small frunk.

    The 2025 Sierra may look long but, at 4.3m, it actually is shorter than the 4.6m Tata Harrier and will be Tata’s Creta rival. While the 2020 concept was only 4.1m long and built around Tata’s Alfa platform, this 2025 EV is built on what is now called Tata’s Gen 2 architecture – a heavily modified ALFA platform.

    Lounge Time 

    Where the 2025 Sierra will also differentiate itself is the rear-seat experience. Ingress and egress are much easier than on the three-door original, of course, and with the rear bench seat pushed back, there is a massive amount of legroom. Tata’s lounge seating is also so spacious, it feels like you are sitting in the back of a limo. And this impression is only furthered by the big sofa-like rear bench that’s reclined, has a very comfortable backrest and comes with Ottoman extensions for your legs.

    Lounge rear seating could be exactly what owners in this segment want.

    When I look up, I do notice that the side windows don’t curve around the top like the earlier Sierra did, and that the uninterrupted view of the 1990s Sierra isn’t quite there. The new Sierra, however, gets very large side windows and placed right above is a huge panoramic sunroof, so this sort of makes up as you get a near-180-degree field of view.

    Mini info screen for the front passenger neatly integrated.

    The rear even has mini vases for the doors, and Tata says they will be carried over like those on the modern-day Volkswagen Beetle. The rear bench also appears to split 50:50 and that’s good, because boot space, with the rear bench, pushed all the way back, is likely to be poor. The lounge option, however, won’t be the only one; the Sierra will also be sold with a more conventional 5-seat rear bench.

    New four-spoke steering will get an illuminated logo.

    Up front, there are still hints of moss on the dash, like the 2020 car, and the layout in general is very horizontal. There’s a large 12-inch touchscreen attached to a digital instrument panel and all the buttons and switches on the new steering are flush-mounted. On the final production car, there will also be a HUD and there will be many options for customisation. Tata has even given the Sierra a central speaker; music, it says, is central to happy family drives and this is a car for all generations to enjoy.


    Tata has made a habit of headlining the Auto Expo. Cars like the Indica, Nano, and now the new Sierra have generated huge emotional appeal and real connect, and the carmaker today is in a position to fully leverage this. Expect the 2025 Sierra to take on Hyundai’s facelifted Creta and Kia’s new Seltos, and give them both a run for their money. Thing is, Tata will do this not by competing head-on with them, but by shifting the goalposts.

    Early pre-2020 sketch of the Sierra shows it could have been a compact SUV.

    In conversation with Tata design head Martin Uhlarik

    The new Sierra has evolved considerably from the 2020 concept. Could you briefly take us through the journey?

    After we did the proof of concept in 2020, we had a design contest between all three of our design studios: India, Italy and the UK. This is the design we finally chose. Because this is an EV, it gets a much longer wheelbase (due to the battery) and isn’t as tall as the 2020 car, but the proportions actually work better. The signature of the Sierra is the wrap-over glass. To give it a similar effect, with an extra door and a drop glass rear window, we used a plastic finisher on top, and it has come out pretty well.

    How close could this car be to the final production version?

    This is actually less a show car, and more a production preview. We’ve already frozen the design in the studio and it is this vehicle! Now the design team is working with the quality department to get all the surfacing and all of the fit and finish to this level for production.

    Smooth skin of the new Sierra is evident from the initial sketch of this car.

    Does it have a front trunk?

    Yes, it does; a small storage space will be there on the final car.

    Obviously the plants and the moss won’t make it to production inside the cabin.

    No, no, we are planning on having a vase in the armrest as an accessory. The concept is to make it more like your home, a space you want to spend time in, and if you want to customise it, we still can give you moss on the instrument panel. At the rear too, you can have iPads, fold-out tables, an armrest and a wireless charger. Even the lamp will be made an accessory. If you want it, you can have it.

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