Design Review

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Off late Tata Motors has been bullish about the kind of work that it is putting into change their fortunes as passenger car manufacturer. And indeed it is paying of dividends with the recent example being that of Tata Tiago. An aggressive pricing, great design, feature loaded interiors and performance packed power plant meant that the company had success in their hands. Taking off from there in a segment where space, comfort, design and features are increasingly gaining much more importance Tata have now come up with the Hexa. Showcased at This year’s 2016 Delhi Auto Expo, the company is pitching the Hexa as a Lifestyle Vehicle and not a Crossover as people like you and me would think of it otherwise in relation to only its exterior design.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Tata Hexa – Exterior 
As the saying goes, do not judge a book by its cover but that is exactly what would happen in case you choose to checkout its images online. We had a similar experience prior to this drive, however there were a couple notions that got answered the moment we had the vehicle in front of our eyes. What were they exactly? For starters those of who might remember the Tata Aria and those who don’t,  it is an MPV which the home grown automaker is still selling in the market as off today and has some design similarities. But then again the Hexa is going to be a Flagship offering which means that the pricing should be competitive and premium at the same time.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Thus Tata Hexa is based on the company’s signature IMPACT design language that brings forward an aggressive and bold looking vehicle this time around. The front end is characterised by dual tone bumper which offers many elements like Daytime Running Lights (DRL’s), a pair of fog lamps, longish vertical air intake with Silver surround that double’s up as a Skid Plate. Above it sits Tata’s signature honey comb grille with chrome embellishments given to the lower part as stylish projector headlamps featuring a smoked effect provide it a much needed good look. Completing the look up front is a muscular bonnet that sets the tone for the newly designed machine.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

A while ago, we spoke about the fact that the Tata Hexa shares some of its design similarities with that of the Aria. Well coming to the sides, this truth comes into contention as the profile is something that we have seen earlier especially when it comes to the first two quarters. The only difference is that the design is more compressed now. The side view mirrors with indicator inserts are yet another reminder of the MPV (Aria). With muscular wheel arches playing an integral part out here, the Hexa caters to 19 inch dual tone alloy wheels that blend perfectly and are proportionate to the whole design. 

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

What is crucial to note out here is the back plastic cladding found at the lower half that runs right across from the front to the rear forming a unique identity. The premium appeal is further substantiated by a thin chrome strip originating from the front door widow making it way to the rear tail gate that turns into one decent size slab. The Hexa badge in chrome on either side is a noteworthy element to look into. Plus the availability of silver roof rails further puts its design into perspective. Meanwhile the rear has been done away with the vertical tail lights that were a trademark of Tata design with the first major change being seen on Tata Tiago and now in the Tata Hexa. Thus its horizontal wrap around LED lights looks great with a dual-tone bumper that comprises of chrome finished step plate and chrome highlighted twin exhausts. A rather small but visible roof spoiler makes an appearance, so do elements like reflector inserts on either side along with a rear wiper. These on the whole complete the rather aggressive and muscular exterior design of Tata Hexa.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Tata Hexa – Interior 
Considering what the Tiago is one was expecting the same if not more from the Hexa. Well you would be happy to know that Tata Motors have aced it when it comes to the interiors. Taking off from where they left, the fit and finish is truly outstanding. Its premium effect makes an instant impression on one’s mind as the cabin features all black interior with leather upholstery. Since we drove both Manual and Automatic variants, let us tell you that the former comes in 7 seat variation while the latter offers 6-seater combination with the second row featuring captain seats in it. Coming back to the cabin design, the moment one gets into the driver’s seat the first thing that you would notice is its rather bigger steering wheel in comparison to the Tata Zest and Tata Tiago (Off course with mounted controls). 

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Below it is an elegant instrument cluster which comprises of two circular yet flat bottom dials one of which is the Speedometer while the other is the PRM meter having chrome surrounds.  In between them is digital information display that provides a fuel gauge and other essential details about the vehicle. To the left lies the center console which features substantial amount of Piano Black finish to it. Be it the lower portion of the A/C vents, the infotainment system or the gear box console it is present all over. Smart chrome touches visible all-round further up the premium appeal of the Hexa.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Tata Motors have spent a lot of time on making their recent products very tech savvy. Thus Tata Hexa grows even more in stature in relation to the next-generation CONNECTNEXT technology. This technology caters a 5 inch Harmon & Kardon infotainment system featuring voice recognition and smart phone integration. In order to further boost up the on-board experience, Tata has plonked in a 10 speaker JBL sound system (these comprise of 4 speakers available in the doors followed by 4 tweeters, a dash mounted centre speaker along with a sub-woofer and amplifier) at the end what it all means it that one was in for a treat.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

The same disperses impressive sound quality no matter what genre you are listening too. As part of the package, the CONNECTNEXT infotainment also provides features like radio (FM/AM), USB port, iPod, navigation, rear view camera, on-screen SMS Display (allows the user to readout messages on the screen), Bluetooth telephony  and audio streaming.  Plus it comes with different Apps that are compatible with the system namely NAVIMAPS, Juke-Car, Tata Smart Remote and Tata Smart Manual. This, my friends is an expansive list of things on-board this ‘Life Style Vehicle’.  Besides these, the controls given for the air conditioning system are made up of good quality materials thereby reinstating its premium appeal. Restricted only to the manual variant, right above the gear lever and below the air-con control panel sits a circular knob meant for ‘Super Drive Mode’. Further we would be explaining this feature in much detail in our engine and performance section. Note this element is not available in the Automatic.

From features to now the level of comfort, as mentioned already both 7 and 6 seat variations are on offer depending upon the manual or automatic model selected. For more there is an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat, the space up front as well as in the second and third row is relatively good with ample amounts of head, shoulder and leg room.  As for cushioning, the well contoured leather seats ensure great comfort while the under thigh support is good too. However a lopsided effect to a person like me, who is short in height, is that due to absence of dead pedal the under thish support becomes a bit uncomfortable as the calf tends to hit the lower part of the driver’s seat especially while driving long distances. But then again it would depend from person to person which is why we thought of just mentioning it out here. While for storage of luggage, the Hexa originally caters to 128 litres that can be doubled to 671 litres by folding both the rows (2nd and 3rd) up.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Tata Hexa: Safety features
Tata Hexa comes loaded with safety features like 6 air bags comprising of dual front, side and curtain. There is Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), ABS with EBD, Hill Hold Control (HHC) & Hill Decent Control (HDC) and Traction Control on offer.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Tata Hexa: Engine and performance
With a whole lot of man hours and testing gone behind the development, Tata Hexa features a 2.2 Litre VARICOR 400 diesel engine under the skin. This 2179cc 4 cylinder engine produces 154 bhp of power output with 400 Nm torque. With power figures out of the way, this engine is better refined then what we have seen in the past, drawing direct reference with Aria. In fact when compared keeping in mind only the maximum power output in PS, the Hexa produces 156 in comparison to 146 in the Aria with overall difference being of 10PS. This means that one should be able to get better performance. Turn over the key and when in idle both (Manual and automatic) variants feel well insulated. 

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

Before we begin with the drive itself, let us share with you that the manual variant featured here-in stands to provide a 6-speed Synchromesh transmission. This gear-box provides relatively okay shifts as the 5th & 6th gears are somewhat of a mystery to solve and take a bit of time getting used to. When asked upon its nature, the technical team from Tata Motors attributed that this scenario could arise due a light or hard push of the left hand being used to engage the gear. Thus to be able to overcome this shortcoming, one needs to improvise as per the necessary. Plus slotting the vehicle into reverse for the first couple of instances will be an issue as the gearbox does engage instantly even though the reverse camera comes on immediately.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

But then again, spend some more time with the vehicle and these shortcomings would even out. The one aspect that we were eagerly waiting to try out was the ‘Super Driving Mode’ available in this and not the Automatic. What the Super Driving Mode caters is to four different functions namely – Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Rough Road. Starting with the Auto, which is self explanatory, the engine adapts itself to counter any kind of road condition. Stability and traction are well taken care of under this mode. While in the Comfort Mode the power delivery is precise allowing for linear acceleration without compromising on ride comfort. This state is best suited for highway cruising.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

In the Dynamic Mode, the engine can be set up for better performance in relation to maximum power and acceleration. Its handling improves and so does the ability to take on curves and corners with much of a sweat. From a safety perspective, the ESP kicks in at the right time when required which is a good thing. And last but not least, Rough Road Mode caters to going off the road wherein the diesel mill alters itself for tricky conditions. Under this mode, braking is further enhanced along with ride stability. In our view the Dynamic and Rough Rode Modes are worthy of experimentation, as the variant is well weighted in terms of overall performance.Alongside the manual, we were also provided the opportunity to sample its Automatic variant. So therefore, the Automatic Tata Hexa features a new-generation 6-speed transmission that offers a Normal, Manual and a Sports mode.  Its Normal Mode is ideal for city driving conditions where in engine is subdued and react well to stop-go traffic scenario. The Manual transmission allows you to work through the gears as and when required with decent shifts. Meanwhile the Sports Mode is a bit more complex. The reason for this is that it has Auto-Sensing Race Car Performance which basically equips the Hexa with more power and better performance. Having said this, the engine does feel eager to make a sprint but its rev holding characteristic especially between 2000 to 3000 RPM does make the cabin a noisier one.

Tata Hexa: First Drive Report

In contrast to what has gone in, Tata Hexa provides an excellent ride quality keeping in mind Indian road conditions. As experienced this vehicle soaks in potholes and broken roads with utter ease. Small size speed breakers are gobbled without discomforting the occupants such is the suspension set-up of the Hexa. But before we get to the handling aspect, would like to mention that steering on the manual variant is on the heavier side when compared to the automatic which is slightly lighter. Now to it, the vehicle is relatively decent while encountering corners or taking turns with minimum amount of body roll.

Tata Hexa: Verdict
Getting to meet one of India’s most awaited product launches from Tata Motors was indeed an enlightening experience. We would like to go back to that saying which we had mentioned earlier in the day, do not judge a book by its cover. Well in true spirits, Tata Hexa is an innovation that will definitely make an impression in the mind. Its aggressive and muscular looks do manage to catch the attention of passersby which is exactly what we experienced while driving this vehicle in the scenic city of Hyderabad. Interior quality and comfort helps establish its credentials as a Flagship product while the feature list on-board will surprise most of the people that too it coming from Tata. Decent enough performance means that the company is headed in the right direction however until the final launch that will take place in first half of January 2017; one can only expect the pricing to be competitive in the range of INR 11.99 – 17.85 lakhs (ex-showroom). Until then its great looking silhouette is definitely creating a buzz for this “Life Style” oriented vehicle if not a Crossover or MPV as many us would call it to be.