Tata’s journey in the Indian passenger car market has never really been a smooth ride. The trust factor synonymous with the brand has eluded them in this category, as they have constantly struggled with product and service issues. With just a handful of successes over the past two decades (Estate, Safari, Sumo, Indica), an extravagant experiment (Nano) that didn’t quite go right, and a few unsuccessful new launches (Bolt, Zest); things haven’t really gone their way. Lack of timely upgrades, long intervals between product launches, flogging dated technology and niggling issues with sales, distribution & service networks meant that Tata never really posed a challenge to the market dominance of Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai. Although on paper they always remained the strongest contender to do so.
But all is not lost. In the last couple of years the company has made serious attempts to re-evaluate its position and come up with a roadmap for transformation. A significant move has been to shed the old and focus on a new, youthful and energetic generation of customers through better designed products. The ‘IMPACT’ design language was introduced in 2016 and resulted in a new set of vehicles like the Tiago, Hexa and the recently launched Tigor. Whether this will make up for lost opportunity, only time will tell. But one glance at the new line up and you can tell that Tata’s portfolio never looked better.
We spent the weekend driving the Tata Tigor 1.2L Petrol XZ (O) variant, which comes loaded with top of the line specs. The sub-4 metre sedan competes with some solid entry level sedans like the MS Dzire, Hyundai Xcent, VW Ameo, Honda Amaze and Ford Figo Aspire, in what is perhaps one of the hottest segment in the Indian car market.
The Tigor is a good looking car with oodles of style. It has a bold design, with some strong and aggressive styling cues. While the front is quite similar to the Tiago with the signature mesh grille and elongated crystal-like smoked projector headlamps, the rear is where the real deal is. It features a notchback design which Tata calls the ‘styleback’; with a sloping coupe inspired roofline and high boot lid. It gives the car a dynamic stance and a distinct look unlike any other compact sedan in the market. Embellishments like the split rear LED tail lamps with chrome applique, and a rear roof spoiler with integrated brake LEDs running across the width of the rear windscreen are other stand out design features. Being a sub-4 metre sedan the boot does look a bit stubby, but overall the Tigor sits pretty on 15″ diamond cut alloys with an effortlessly flowing design that gives it a contemporary & sporty appeal. The build quality feels amply solid and the paint job has a premium hue to it.
Inside the cabin, Tigor borrows heavily from its hatchback sibling. The dashboard design is carried over from Tiago, as are the front seats and the instrument cluster. However, the infotainment console in the XZ (O) variant has a touch interface, and the overall design is a win. The quality of material used is exceptionally good for the segment, and the small, light and sporty power steering is easy to manoeuvre and makes the cockpit a comfortable space to be in.
Although the Tigor is a little smaller than Tata’s other compact sedan, Zest, its wheelbase has been increased considerably, which creates more space in the cabin. There is ample rear legroom and headroom, inspite of the sloping roofline. However, the car isn’t the widest, which means fitting three full grown adults in the rear can be a bit of a squeeze. At 419 litres, the boot isn’t the largest in the segment either, but its a price you pay for the coupe-like styling.
The Tigor has an extensive feature list, especially on the XZ (O) variant we drove. Standout features include a 5″ touch screen with voice recognition and smart phone integration, a fantastic Harman 8-speaker stereo system, USB and bluetooth compatibility with controls on the steering wheel, parking sensors with rear parking camera, and a very effective automatic climate control system. While the feature list is impressive, the touchscreen feels a bit dated, with the smartphone pairing via bluetooth in our test vehicle being extremely dodgy.
A few missing features like engine start/ stop button, auto headlamps & wipers, a central lock/unlock button and rear AC vents inside the cabin could have improved the likability quotient. Seat back pockets are also missing, and the rear could certainly do with some more alternate storage options.
The 1.2L 3-cylinder petrol engine in the Tigor produces 84 BHP and 114 Nm of torque, and is mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. It’s a smooth revving motor and the gearbox is smooth shifting as well. But the drive is at best adequate for city roads. This isn’t exactly an asphalt raider’s set of wheels. While it can do a good job for your daily commute in stop & go traffic, it lacks the bite and punch when you look for a bit more engagement and responsiveness. Things are fine as long as driving conditions are unhurried and calm, although you cannot help but ignore the sluggish engine manners. If you are an enthusiast, performance anxiety may creep in while getting on to a flyover or while overtaking. Or when you look forward to a bit more power to exploit on open stretches.
The Tigor comes with two drive modes – ‘City’ being the default mode, and ‘Eco’ for a more fuel efficient drive. Switching to ‘Eco’ makes the drive even more sluggish and there is a considerable gloom that sets in. You are not likely to try it out very often.
There is a fair bit of engine noise at high revs too, and a lot of it flows into the cabin. At mid to high revs you sometimes wonder if you are driving a diesel, and not a petrol. That being said, the Tigor is a comfortable ride, and the suspension has been tweaked to take into account the additional weight of the vehicle vis-a-vis the Tiago. It takes on potholes, broken road surfaces and rough patches without causing much discomfort to passengers and the overall ride quality is firm and well behaved. The Tigor performs well on straights, but handling isn’t its sharpest skill – you do sense a fair bit of body roll on sharp turns or on that rare quick manoeuvre you may attempt.
Fuel economy in the petrol version was rather disappointing, as we averaged around 12 Km/l. However, if its economy you’re after, you should consider the diesel variants of the Tigor, which come with Tata’s familiar 1 litre 3-cylinder motor producing 69 BHP.
One of the best things about the Tigor however, is its price. Post GST, prices for the petrol variants start at INR 4.59 lacs and go up to INR 6.04 lacs for the top of the line variant. Diesel starts at INR 5.41 lacs and goes up to INR 6.87 lacs.
The Tigor excels in several areas, including design and feature offerings. It has a distinct road presence, thanks to a coupe-like design which makes it unlike anything else in the segment. In terms of feature list, it is well ahead of several of its competitors. While it is a stylish urban commuter, it lags behind in drivability; which may not be acceptable to the young new-gen customers it is targeted at, as they would most certainly look for some bit of adrenalin rush behind the wheels. But for those who prefer commuting in style and comfort without caring much for the driving dynamics, the Tigor is for you. You can’t get a better deal than this one, in this segment.
Since its launch in March 2017 Tigor has been clocking some decent figures, making it to the third place behind MS Dzire and Hyundai Xcent in the sub-4 metre sedan segment. While it was priced lower than its competitors at launch, post-GST prices make it even more lucrative. The launch of the revamped Dzire may have stolen a bit of its thunder, but Tigor still has a lot of skin in the game. It is a seriously built product that impresses, and at its price, it is quite a steal deal.