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Rating 8 8

2010 Tata Aria

10th Nov 2010 8:00 am

There’s a lot to like about the Tata Aria.

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  • Make : Tata
  • Model : Aria

 The Aria’s crossover design is an attempt to combine the attributes of a car, MPV and SUV into one package. The styling was done by I.DE.A of Italy with inputs from Tata Motors’ in-house design team, so have they succeeded? You can clearly see the design cues from the different segments like the cab-forward stance of an MPV, the large wheels and muscular arches of an SUV, and the front end which bears resemblance to a Tata car with its Indica-like grille and central bonnet crease. The vertical rear tail-light stack has traces of the Indica as well and the tailgate, which lifts vertically, adds to the car-like feel. This jumble of elements seems to come together as a whole and the Aria with its long wheelbase and large 235/65 R17 tyres has well-balanced proportions.

There are some interesting details too. The sharply cut headlights with twin barrels look superb but don’t offer as good illumination as the Safari’s lamps. Another clever touch is the way the mass of the car has been effectively camouflaged with the use of blacked-out rear pillars and a roof panel that swoops into the D-pillar. This coupé-like styling touch is also seen on cars like the Mercedes R-class.

The panel gaps in certain areas like where the A-pillar meets the bonnet are quite big. However, the deep-gloss paint job and splashes of chrome succeed in making the Aria look pretty premium from the outside at least.

Under the skin the Aria is completely new. The Aria’s X2 chassis is Tata’s first all-new ladder frame in 22 years and is as modern as they come. Sure, Tata could have taken the lighter, unibody or monocoque route but has stuck to a ladder frame as the company feels this tried-and-tested structure delivers the strength and rigidity demanded by our roads in the long run. Also, the Aria’s hydroformed chassis, the first for an Indian car, is lighter and stronger than a conventional frame.

The Aria is underpinned by an all-new front suspension not seen before on a Tata vehicle. The torsion bar layout, used in the Safari, has been ditched for a coil spring set-up with wishbones that leave space for front driveshafts. The rear suspension is ◊ ∆ similar to the Safari’s five-link design but rear discs brakes are standard. The Aria gets a new all-wheel-drive (AWD) system from DivgiWarner that acts ‘on demand’ like in most soft-roaders and automatically switches from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive when it senses slippery conditions. However, in two-wheel drive, it is the rear wheels that are driven and not the front ones as is the case with soft-roaders like the Captiva, CR-V and Santa Fe. Traction and control and ESP are standard on the top-end Aria to add to the car’s surefootedness.

On roads where traction or the lack of it is not an issue, you can completely completely disconnect the front axle from the wheels with a simple press of a switch to reduce the load of the drivetrain. Tata has tried to make it lighter but at 2220kg the Aria is still heavy. All that equipment and the 4x4 hardware add to the scales 

For the Aria to compete as a luxury crossover, Tata has loaded it to the gills with features. There’s a GPS-based navigation system, cruise control, Bluetooth pairing for five phones, reversing camera and screen, sliding second row seats, electrically retractable rearview mirrors, glovebox chiller and even rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights. Unfortunately, the GPS system is quite rudimentary and you would have to be a brave man to use cruise control in our traffic but there’s no denying the pampering here.

The interior fit and finish is also clearly the best seen on a Tata product yet. Plastic quality is much improved, pieces of trim fit together better, the rotary headlight switch feels solid and even the stalks are nice and chunky. However, quality standards still lag behind other Rs 15 lakh cars, the Innova included, and it’s easy to spot quality blemishes. Small things like the seatback trim which gets dog-eared when folded, the wavy and imperfect rubber beading and the quality of the gear knob should really have been improved. And there are a few ergonomic nightmares too – the driving position isn’t ideal as the steering is too close to the driver and the pedals are too high. What makes it worse is the narrow footwell and
no place to rest your clutch foot. Also, you keep hitting the steering-mounted audio controls unintentionally and, in the absence of an unlock switch for the doors, the locks are inconveniently placed. Okay, we maybe unfair in the way we always subject Tata cars to such close scrutiny but when
you consider the sticker price, it’s quite natural to whip out your magnifying glass.

What you will really enjoy is the sheer size of the big and airy cabin. The design of the dash is very functional and the leather seats are very wide with lots of support. Like all Tata cars, the seats feel slightly hard but this is better for long drives. ∆ There is plenty of space for front seat passengers, and the addition
of armrests makes sitting on the large seats even more comfortable. However, a serious omission is powered seats, a feature we really think the Aria should have come with, especially for its top-of-the-line variants.

There, however, is plenty of room for rear seat passengers and the flat floor makes it easy to move around. Leg-, shoulder- and headroom are superb and the ‘H-point’ is quite high, which is great for comfort. You can adjust the angle of the middle seat backrest and you can slide it fore and aft for more legroom.

The third row is very cramped for adults and only good for children. The seatback is very vertical, you are sat crouched and legroom is not great either, which is surprising for such a long car. The smaller Mahindra Xylo or even Tata’s own Sumo have much more comfortable third rows. That said, there is decent space in the rear for luggage, with all seats in place. What’s also good is the large and flat loading area you get when you tilt and flip the seats forward. However, tumbling the seats is not as easy as we would have liked and the absence of a running board will make it hard work for elderly people to clamber inside.

Storage space for odds and ends is quite generous. You get two gloveboxes (one of them is cooled), massive door pockets and lots of cubbyholes (the one ahead of the gearlever is useless though). Tata has gone over the top by giving seven roof-mounted boxes and a provision for a drop-down TV screen as an accessory would have made more sense. 

 At one extreme, Tata Motors has the Nano, the world’s cheapest car which showcases frugal engineering at its best. At the other it has the Aria crossover, a bold attempt at taking the low-brow Tata Motors brand upmarket. You can see why Tata wants to do that. Look at some of the other Group brands – TCS writes software for Ferrari’s Formula 1 cars, Taj Hotels has some of the finest addresses in India, and Jaguar-Land Rover is up there on the luxury scale. But when it comes to cars, the Tata badge doesn’t have the same zing and that’s exactly what the company wants to achieve with the sophisticated Aria. However, it won’t be easy. Not only will the Aria have to successfully clamber over any brand-related obstacles it is bound to face but it will also have to live up to the higher expectations customers have at this price point. That means higher standards of quality, refinement and comfort. 

2010 Tata Aria
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