2011 Tata Aria 2.2 DICOR Adapterra Road Test Review

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Added in: Reviews

This Tata Aria 2.2 DICOR road test review came as a surprise to the entire Motoroids team. Good or a bad one, we’ll see in a bit. We picked the car early from the dealership and got to drive it for a fair bit before I joined him. My first words were in the form of the most obvious question– “So, how’s it?” “Drive it to believe it”, pat came the reply, although I didn’t quite understand whether he was being an impressed or a sarcastic man as he uttered those words.

I took the keys and buckled up, glancing around, trying to assess the overall quality and finish levels. The ambience around me wasn’t somehow looking like that of a Tata car, except for the familiar acres of space. I twisted the key, expecting the RVM, steering, and the dash to start vibrating, thanks to my experience with some of the earlier machines from the Tata stable. But that was not to be. In fact, the engine came to life in one of the smoothest manners ever witnessed from the vehicles of this class and size. People who know me closely would tell you that I am one of the harsher critics of all vehicles carrying that T badge. However, all my preconceived notions about the brand and car kept getting brutally demolished with every passing minute I spent with it.

Tata Aria is the first indigenously developed product from Tata Motors in a long time. We have seen great improvements in the Vista and Manza versions of the Indica hatchback and the Indigo sedan respectively, but a fair bit of praise for those accomplishments should go to FIAT as well. The Aria is different though. It’s the fruition of Tata Motors’ own blood and sweat. It’s the Indian company’s own big attempt to make a leap to the next level. Have they succeeded in their endeavour to uplift Tata’s engineering capabilities a notch higher? Read on to find out…

Words: Amit Chhangani

Tata Aria – Design and Style

Tata Aria – Engine and Transmission

Tata Aria – Ride quality, Handling and Driving dynamics

Tata Aria – Interiors and Features

Tata Aria – Detailed List of Features

Tata Aria – Drivetrain

Tata Aria – Safety

Tata Aria – Summing it up

Tata Aria – Tech Specs and Features List

Tata Aria – Detailed Images (Exteriors)

Tata Aria – Detailed Images (Interiors)

Tata Aria design and style

The Aria takes Tata’s biggest USP, cabin space, to a new dimension altogether. The new crossover is meant to accommodate seven in comfort, and it has managed to pull the feat off in style, as we would discover later. However, a problem with wrapping so much space within sheets of metal is that the resultant entity has a very little chance to look sporty or striking. The Aria too, having put function before its form, has suffered a bit in the visual department. In a bid to increase the volume within the cabin, the car has been extended towards the rear without any drop in the roof line. This makes it look heavy from the rear, to the extent that it overpowers the front from certain angles, which doesn’t usually do much good to the aesthetic appeal of a car. The Aria looks huge and heavy, especially in profile.

The front of the car, especially around the angular, elongated and trapezoidal headlamps looks chiseled and muscular. However, the slightly bulbous bonnet and a curvy grille somewhat neutralize the brawny look. We would have loved to see some angular treatment around the wheel arches and the front fender area. However, when viewed head on, the Aria presents a beefy, brawny, and intimidating face, which is a good thing, as people driving on the highways treat such fascias with utmost respect and give way immediately. That huge front grille and that massive central air dam make the front of the Aria look really imposing. Ever seen a Toyota Fortuner in your RVM? It’s that kind of stuff we’re talking about here. Although that daunting look gets far subtler once you view the car from angles other than head on.

In profile, the enormous space covered inside the Aria’s cabin makes itself even more evident. The shoulder line is marked by a pronounced crease that runs through the length of the vehicle, and has a chrome lining above it, throughout the sills of the windows to add a touch of elegance. Tata has kept the profile surface free from any complex creases or accent lines. That’s a good thing for keeping the price low, although having a couple of dynamic accent lines in that area sometimes totally transforms the visual character of the car. Somehow I feel that something more innovative would have really done the Aria’s profile a whole lot of good. The roofline stays parallel to the ground, and never drops. This makes the rear end of the car look bulky, which it actually is. To top it up there is a massive overhang after the rear wheels. This makes the Aria looks like a proper people mover – a premium one.

At the rear, the slender, vertically placed tail-lamps make the Aria look rather meek. It gives you the impression of a van, and not a muscular, burly machine with considerable off-roading creed when view directly from behind. Overall, the Aria passes off as a huge MUV with an up-market feel to it. It’s only when viewed from the front that it really looks like something that has the ability to take you off the tar, and bring you back on it with aplomb (Read SUV). In profile, and from the rear, it looks like a proper people mover. Probably Tata Motors wanted it to be that way, but with a proper 4×4 AWD on offer, we would have loved to see a design which had a bit more attitude to it.

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Tata Aria engine and transmission>>>

Tata Aria engine and transmission

The Aria is powered by the 2.2 DICOR VTT engine which powers the current Safari as well, albeit with a whole array of improvements and changes made. The engine has a variable turbine twin mass flywheel for smoother, vibration free operation. The dual mass flywheel keeps the torsional vibrations away from the powertrain, thereby eliminating body boom and annoying driveline rattles, especially at the bottom of the rev range. The incorporation of a dual mass flywheel also improves the fuel efficiency of the engine. Power and torque output is the same as the Safari DICOR’s 140PS@4000rpm and 320 Nm@1700- 2700 respectively.

Even with the same power and torque output, the Aria’s is a different engine and the difference is clearly perceptible, right from the word go! The new 2.2 DICOR engine feels smooth in operation, creates much less noise and delivers power and torque in a smooth manner. You can feel the turbo begin spooling up and transmit torque to the wheels from as low as 1600rpm, while by 2000rpm you could feel a strong surge of torque and power propelling you ahead with great reassurance. According to our rather hurried test, the Aria does its 0-100 km/h sprint in 16.2s, and its 0-60km/h run in 6.9s. We are sure that the top speed of 160+ km/h or thereabouts shouldn’t be a problem in this machine at all.

Unfortunately we had the vehicle with us only for three hours. A rigorous shoot schedule meant that were able to drive the vehicle only during the morning, when there was hardly any traffic. We didn’t have any problems in general with the mid-and top end performance of the 2.2 DICOR VTT, and found it perfectly driveable, although some of our other journo friends reported slight discomfort to manage the engine in stop-start city traffic. We would need to have the car with us for a longer period to validate that. The engine also made us shift back into a lower gear a couple of times when we tried to rely on the torque to scale some inclines like flyovers in high gear below the 2000rpm mark.

Along with the new engine, the five-speed synchromesh transmission system on the Aria too is new and is referred to as ‘Mark II’ version by the engineers at Tata Motors. The new gearbox is equipped with new housings to enable improvement in the NVH refinement characteristics. Tata Motors have made efforts to improve the shift feel and comfort by introducing new Steel Synchrocones with Carbon Lining. The gear selection and shifting mechanism too is new to improve the feel.

Again, the changes made to the gearbox are very perceptible. The Aria’s gearshift doesn’t feel rubbery or notchy as the case was with some of the other SUVs from the Tata stable. It’s still not as effortless and delightful as say, the CR-Vs silky feel but slick enough to classify as a smooth shifter. It really leaves nothing to complain about. You never miss the slots or get stuck halfway even if you shift without depressing the clutch completely. The position and the throw of the shifter stick too feels just right for the big crossover. You can feel the driveline vibes on the gearstick if you tend to keep your hand over the shifter stick while driving, but that’s a really minor issue.

All in all, we came out impressed with the qualities of both the 2.2 DICOR VTT engine and the Mark II transmission. Except for at the very bottom end (1100-1600rpm) of the rev range, where we felt a slight lack of spunk, the engine behaved like a complete gem, and was complimented equally well by its five-speed gearbox.

Following are the salient points of the new 2.2 DICOR VTT engine of the Aria

a. Advanced CAN based interactive engine delivering features like Cruise Control and online information display of instantaneous and average fuel efficiency, range etc.

b. Intelligent self adjusting timing drive mechanism to provide robustness, reliability & efficiency.

c. Cast Aluminum ladder frame and oil sump to improve rigidity / stiffness for better NVH performance and refinement.

d. New compact oil filter for better space management and ease of maintenance.

e. Anti-permeable rubber hoses to ensure drip dry rubber hoses in engine compartment.

f. Compact, Nocolock brazed intercooler with smooth fin geometry, delivering enhanced performance in a tighter package.

g. Calibration optimization done for each gear at various speeds for seamless drive transfer and driving pleasure.

h. Ability of the Engine ECU to communicate with immobilizer ECU providing greater degree of safety against theft

i. Calibration strategies to safeguard engine against abusive operation without hampering drivability.

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Tata Aria ride quality, handling and driving dynamics>>>

Tata Aria ride quality, handling and driving dynamics

 

The Aria employs a Double Wishbone Coil Spring over Shock absorber setup up front. At the rear you have a 5 Link set-up with coil springs and shock absorbers. Tata have tried to get the right mix of a comfortable ride and good driving dynamics. And should we say, the Aria impresses with its ride quality and body behavior. I was a little apprehensive about the dynamic ability of the Aria, having experienced the Safari making its enormous weight evident to me at every corner previously. The Aria is a giant leap forward though. On a straight road, the car feels absolutely planted and steady even at speeds more than 150km/h. There isn’t any overly soft, wallow-y feel that you associate with most Indian SUVs. It feels steady, sure footed and responds well to sudden steering inputs without wobbling like a boat. Of course, it’s still not a sporty sedan, and with all its weight and size a double lane change maneuver is not advisable at or above 100 km/h as I found out. If you try to dial in very sharp steering inputs at high speeds, the Aria may get slightly scary. However, the overall feel is reassuring and makes the Aria a reliable highway cruiser.

If you have driven a Safari, and dared to push it hard around corners, you’d most likely know the very essence of the term ‘body roll’. The Aria in an enormous leap forward, in that department. Even with all its weight, it behaves fairly well around corners. It’s still not as controlled, predictable and lithe as, say the Outlander or the CR-V, but it’s not too far away either, going by its sheer size and weight. As long as you know that the Aria, at the end of it is a people mover, and has its focus more on comfort than driving dynamics, you’d appreciate its virtues as a decent handler. The moment you start pushing it towards the extremities, you’ll disappoint yourself, at your own fault.

While the handling of the Aria is appreciable for its size, the ride quality is downright impressive. The Aria would take in its stride and flatten out whatever undulations the fabled Indian potholed roads may have to throw at it as a challenge. The 235/65 R17 tyres provide great primary suspension, and are complimented equally well by the secondary suspension setup which makes the ride cushy and smooth over even the roughest of roads. There is no unsolicited stiffness, no jarring thuds, only a pliant ride, in a cabin which is surprisingly quiet and refined for an indigenously developed car. There is plenty of ground clearance too, to let you maraud the surface beneath you without having to worry about damaging something under the body.

All in all, the Aria is a really appreciable effort from Tata Motors as regards ride and handling. They have got the balance between good ride and predictable handling well. It’s unfair to compare it with lighter, smaller and more expensive vehicles like the CR-V on the dynamic front, but it still towers above all else in terms of ride quality. While we would all like to see the Aria behave a wee bit better around the corners, we don’t think we have any real reason to complain about. The engineers at Tata Motors sure deserve a pat on their back for a job well done.

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Tata Aria interiors and features>>>

Tata Aria interiors and features

As we had mentioned earlier, the Aria somehow manages to present a totally new face of Tata Motors to you as you climb into the cabin. The materials used, the fit-finish, the ergonomics everything has improved. I tried hard to find the edgy, crude plastic bits which have become synonymous with Tata cars’ interiors, and I failed miserably in the attempt. I even looked below the steering column to check out the panel gaps, which are usually big enough to slide in a finger or two, but everything was nicely tucked in this time around. Of course, the quality and finish is still not up there with the Japanese and European manufacturers, but with the Aria, you know that it’s not too long a distance to get there.

A few small issues are still evident here and there, but overall the Aria’s cabin (especially the two-tone black-plum leather upholstered cabin that we got for test) is one nice, comfy and tech laden place to be in. We quite liked it. The seats felt comfortable with good support for back and thighs. With tons of tools and toys thrown in to play with, we really didn’t have any reason left to complain. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. We request you to have a look at the pictures with captions to know about all the features available in the Tata Aria better.

Here is, however, a list of a few things which, if addressed will add tremendously to the Aria’s cabin appeal

  1. Some panels on the dashboard, when pressed by a finger, go in and come out as if they have not been put together properly.
  2. The blue backlit screen of the music system doesn’t look too great. That sort of backlighting is a thing of past, and we are used to brighter, more reader displays now.
  3. The Sat-Nav, although a great feature, is rather difficult to set up with entries to be made for every letter individually. The controls and feed-in system could have been more intuitive and driver friendly. Keying in so much info with the current system won’t be possible while on the move.
  4. The car we got for a test had leather covered gear knob, but the stitches on the knob were already coming off. Such small things deteriorate the overall experience. Our advice – ‘A stitch in time saves nine’
  5. The audio and phone controls on the steering wheel are positioned in such a way that they keep getting pressed inadvertently. In our opinion they are too much ‘on the surface’. Keeping them a bit away from the outer ring, and by creating recesses for them would have prevented them being used without the driver intending to.
  6. Some buttons on the center console are way too small to be operated while on the move. Bigger buttons would have turned out to be more ergonomic and easier to use.

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Detailed list of features with images on the next page>>>

Tata Aria’s List of Features (Prestige, top end model):

  • Adapterra 4×4 system (Torque On demand) with Axle disconnect
  • Crash protection – 6 Air bags (DAB and PAB side and curtain Airbags)
  • 4 channel Anti Lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD)
  • Electronic Stability Program
  • Traction Control System
  • Dual zone collapsible steering column
  • Rain sensing Auto Wipe & Auto light
  • Engine Immobilizer with perimetric alarm system, Key less entry
  • Dual tone Interiors, Leather upholstery
  • Height adjustable drivers seat
  • 2nd row seats with slide and recline

 

  • Flat floor seats folding
  • Roof console with Overhead bins
  • Height adjustable seat belts with RPLL and pre-tensioners
  • Steering wheel with Audio control and cruise control switches
  • Cruise control
  • Intelligent climate control with Economy AC mode & dash, floor console and Pillar mounted air vents
  • Glove box cooling
  • Infotainment system, 2 Din Integrated music system with aux-in, with Tata Blue Connect and USB, Voice dialing, Reverse park assist sensors/camera, Speed sensing volume control, Navigation system capable

 

  • Multi Information Display with instant fuel consumption, distance to go, trip info, temperature
  • Day Night Invertible dials
  • Butterfly wipers
  • Electric fold outer mirrors with Electrical mirror adjustment “Approach lights “Express down Power windows

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Tata Aria drivetrain>>>

Tata Aria drivetrain

Tata Aria is the first vehicle from the Tata stable to be offered with an adaptive All Wheel Drive (AWD) system. Tata Motors have christened this 4×4 ‘torque on demand’ system as ‘Adapterra’. The Adapterra Torque on Demand feature supplies torque in varying proportions between the two axles depending on the terrain. Not only does it help the vehicle grip better in tricky off-road conditions, but also aids stability on winding roads. The ECU for the Torque on Demand AWD system on the Aria continuously takes into account front (axle, wheel) speed, rear (axle, wheel) speed, throttle position, ABS signals and mode (4×2 / 4×4) position to decide on the Torque distribution.

The system reduces the torque where the wheels are slipping, or lacking grip and provides additional torque to the side where the traction is more. This not only aids the car overcome slippery surfaces while off-roading but also aids stability on normal roads. This gives the Aria a decent level of capability to go off the road, with a brain to handle certain tricky situations all by its own. The ToD system on the Aria, like most AWDs does away with the need of driver intervention in putting the 4×4 system to use wisely, and handles the situation automatically.

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Tata Aria Safety>>>

Tata Aria Safety

Tata Motors have gone the whole hog in embellishing the Aria with top-notch safety features which only the cars in the Rs 30 lakh + bracket could boast of. They have put in active and passive safety features such as Traction Control, Electronic Stability Program and 6 airbags, which were till now available only in the high-end cars. Let’s have a look at all the active and passive safety features offered by the Aria

Active Safety features

• Disc brakes on all four wheels

• Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)

• Electronic stability program (ESP) – ESP constantly monitors the steering inputs and compares it with the direction that the car is going in. On detecting loss of control due to acute understeer or oversteer, ESP steps in and applies braking force to the appropriate wheel and restores the car’s stability.

Traction Control System (TCS) – TCS prevents locking up of wheels under acceleration. This feature is extremely useful in low grip driving conditions. TCS detects loss of traction under acceleration and supplies adequate amount of torque to wheels based on amount of traction available at each wheel.

• Powerful projector headlamps for better visibility in the night

• Ultrasonic Reverse Guide System or Reverse Guide Camera (depending on the option you choose)

Passive Safety features

6 air-bags. The feature adds a fair bit to the cost of the car, but can make the difference between life and death in case of an accident

Hydroformed chassis members offer enhanced strength and rigidity with reduced weight

Crumple zones to absorb impact energy

Side impact beams within doors

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Tata Aria – Summing it up>>>

Tata Aria – Summing it up

The Aria, in my humble opinion is the first car from Tata stable which seems to be doing everything right from the word go. Except for some very minor issues, which we are sure will be addressed after getting some feedback from the customers and other automotive experts, we think that the Aria is bang on the money. It’s got acres of space inside, comfortable seats, loads of legroom, flexible cabin space management which is adaptable for passengers or luggage very conveniently, it’s overloaded with features and goodies, has plenty of toys and technology for you to play around with – and to top it all, it’s got a great engine and transmission! All in all, the Aria looks like a fab machine – but we’ll have to understand what segment is it designed for before drawing any conclusions.

Tata Motors have announced that for now the Aria will be available only with the 4×4 option. This clearly points at the fact that Tata Motors want to position this car as a lifestyle product. However, no prizes for guessing that the company would keep its options open for a 2WD version as well, and instantly drop the prices a couple of lakhs and strip down the vehicle a little more to bring it to a more accessible level if Plan A doesn’t work.This has been substantiated during the Aria launch press con where the management hinted towards the option of bringing such a variant in future. And it’s only a good thing. Not only will that variant help Aria find its place place in a lot more Indian homes, but also launch Tata Motors strongly into the premium Taxi segment – a market currently dominated by the Innova.

But that would be for later. For now, Tata have priced the Aria base variant at Rs 12.91 ex-Delhi, which sounds like a reasonable price to us. The top end with goodies like ESP, Traction Control, six airbags and wizardry such as rain sensing wipers, darkness detecting headlights and reverse parking camera sounds nothing less than a steal at Rs 15.5 Ex-Delhi. The only thing that may bring a bit of doubt within the buyers’ mind is that T emblem on the grille, which hasn’t ever been seen on such an expensive car. The Aria is a whole damn lot of a good car for that price, at least on the paper, and we really hope that it proves to be the game changer for Tata Motors, surpassing the brand perception and commanding its price purely 0n its quality and features.

The Aria is still some distance away from attaining the finesse and quality of the globally renowned automotive brands. However, the Aria delivers value in trademark Tata style with unmatched space, great comfort, a worthy powertrain and loads of features. With a Japanse or German badge on that grille, this car would have looked reasonable for even twice the price. And just because it’s a Tata, its not fair to think that it doesn’t represent value. For once, having experienced the Aria’s great qualities first hand, we would like to give it to Tata, and congratulate their entire team for coming up with such a fabulous product at such a competitive price point. Bravo, Tata! Bring more such stuff on!

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Complete specs and features list on the next page>>>

Tata Aria Specifications

Engine 2.2 L Direct Injection Common Rail Engine with Variable Turbine Technology, BS IV compliant,

with twin exhaust outlets

Maximum Power 140PS@4000rpm

Maximum Torque 320 Nm@ 1700- 2700 rpm

Transmission G-76- 5/4.1 – Synchromesh with Overdrive with Dual Mass Flywheel.Torque on Demand 4×4 Vacuum assisted independent hydraulic

Brakes Front – Ventilated disc brake with twin pot caliper, Rear – Ventilated disc brake with drum for Parking

Suspension Front: Independent Double Wishbone with Coil Springs Over Shock Absorber, Rear: 5 link Suspension with coil springs Rack and Pinion steering with power assistance

Tyres 235/65 R17 Alloy wheels

Seating capacity 7

Prices :

Tata Aria Pleasure: Rs. 12.91-lakh

Tata Aria Prestige: Rs. 14.3-lakh

Tata Aria Pride: Rs. 15.5-lakh

All prices are ex-showroom Delhi

Features (Top End Model):

  • Adapterra 4×4 system (Torque On demand) with Axle disconnect
  • Crash protection – 6 Air bags (DAB and PAB side and curtain Airbags)
  • 4 channel Anti Lock Braking System (ABS) and Electronic Brake-Force Distribution (EBD)
  • Electronic Stability Program
  • Traction Control System
  • Dual zone collapsible steering column
  • Rain sensing Auto Wipe & Auto light
  • Engine Immobilizer with perimetric alarm system, Key less entry
  • Dual tone Interiors, Leather upholstery
  • Height adjustable drivers seat
  • 2nd row seats with slide and recline
  • Flat floor seats folding
  • Roof console with Overhead bins
  • Height adjustable seat belts with RPLL and pre-tensioners
  • Steering wheel with Audio control and cruise control switches
  • Cruise control
  • Intelligent climate control with Economy AC mode & dash, floor console and Pillar mounted air vents
  • Glove box cooling
  • Infotainment system, 2 Din Integrated music system with aux-in, with Tata Blue Connect and USB, Voice dialing, Reverse park assist sensors/camera, Speed sensing volume control, Navigation system capable
  • Multi Information Display with instant fuel consumption, distance to go, trip info, temperature
  • Day Night Invertible dials
  • Butterfly wipers
  • Electric fold outer mirrors with Electrical mirror adjustment “Approach lights “Express down Power windows

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Detailed Images of the Tata Aria (Exteriors)>>>

Detailed images (exteriors):

 

 

<<<Back to Table of Contents | Tata Aria Detailed Image (Interiors)>>>

 

Detailed Images (interiors):

<<<Back to Table of Contents

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