A couple of days back we got our hands on the new ‘Tata Indica Vista Safire90’. As the name suggests, it’s a new 90HP variant of the Tata Indica Vista. Quite frankly, when FIAT gave the Punto a 90HP treatment, we were quite sure that Tata would follow suit and give the Vista an upgrade too. But though Tata has done that, they have taken a slightly different approach towards giving the Vista a bigger poweplant. Unlike the Punto which got the 90HP ‘diesel’ engine from the Linea, the new Vista variant gets the 90HP ‘petrol’ mill which not only powers the gasoline version of the Linea but also propels Tata’s own Indigo Manza. So has transplant worked well? Or will this be just another upgrade in the Indica line-up – a line-up which keeps on getting endless amounts of variants with every passing season? Let’s find out…
Table on Contents:
– Interiors & Features
– Engine & Drivability
– Image Gallery
Since we have never posted a roadtest of any of the previous iterations of the Indica Vista, I’m going to take this opportunity to talk about the ‘Vista’ in general too, instead of just highlighting the newness of the 90HP variant. Coming back to the design, the Indica Vista has been a major departure from the original Indica. It still has the familiarly long vertically stacked taillights at the back and the smiley grille up front that still tells you it’s an Indica. But the Vista has grown larger over its predecessor and also tends to look a tad European in its design approach. The swept back headlights, which are now becoming a signature design for the current crop of Tata vehicles, give the Vista a modern and aggressive look. The smiley grille doesn’t get any chrome garnish (yet) apart from the chromed ‘T’ logo in the centre but doesn’t feel down-market in any way.
The large silhouette of the Indica Vista makes its spacious interiors evident in the first glance itself. The large windows add an airy feel to the passenger space and in a way, explains why the Indica line-up has been so popular amongst families and fleet operators for over a decade now. When seen from the side profile, the wheels of the Indica Vista look slightly undernourished and small against the car’s large wheel wells. Speaking of the wheels, this 90HP variant gets the same alloys that Tata shod the ‘Indica Vista Anniversary Edition’ with. While they looked decent on the AE’s white-body-black-roof scheme, they look like a cheap aftermarket add-on on the other colours like Red, Blue, Grey etc. Such perceptions though, change from person to person. The Vista continues with the Indica’s tradition and places the variant monogram (Aura+ in this case) above the wheel arches. However, the side mounted turn blinkers which shared space with the variant monograms on the old Indica, now move to the bottom corner of the front windows and below the ORVMs. While this looks good from a designer’s point of view, it doesn’t serve the purpose of a side mounted turn blinker all that well.
At the back of the car, the Vista flaunts a flat tailgate with a couple of straight creases that try to fill up the emptiness of the boot lid. On either sides of the boot lid, are the model name (Indica Vista) and engine variant (Safire / Quardrajet) monograms. The new variant we tested gets the ‘Safire’ monogram with a ‘90’ tag above it, like the one seen on the similar engine-d Indigo Manza. Overall the tailgate is drab and I don’t particularly like the design of the rear windshield – more on that later…
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Interiors & Features
Get inside the car and you’ll know why I called the Indica Vista a major departure from the old Indica’s design. The Vista’s interior provides an insight as to where Tata is heading in terms of design, quality of materials and the fit and finish. While the early models of the Vista did present some panel gaps, loose electrical housings and vibrating panels, the new Vista Safire 90 has worked well towards ironing out these shortcomings. Apart from the better quality of materials and better fit and finish, the new Vista variant also comes with Black and Beige interiors. While most believe that an all-Beige interior looks plush and up-market, the Black and Beige has its own advantages. The all-Beige interiors of the earlier Vistas were known to create bright reflections on the windscreen, which in turn would hamper visibility during daytime driving. The Black upper surface of the new dashboard however, addresses this issue to a large extent.
Apart from the new dash, there isn’t much difference in the equipment level of the Vista Safire 90. In fact this variant gets all goodies that recently debuted on the ‘Indica Vista Drivetech4’. Like the Blue5 infotainment system for example, lumber support for the front seats, four spoke steering wheel, height adjustment for the driver seat etc. The seats are large and comfortable, no doubt. The addition of lumber support further adds to the comfort levels when you decide to travel long distances. The rear seats offer decent legroom and as I mentioned earlier, the large windows impart an airy feel to the rear bench passengers as well. The rear windshield however, could have been designed better.
The roof spoiler and brake lamp housing at the top and the wiper housing at the bottom leave a very small window for the rear view mirror to reflect. Furthermore, the RVM itself is mounted a tad higher which makes it even more difficult to get a wide enough view of the road behind you. Things get even worse when you increase the height of the driver’s seat! But the height adjustment on the large enough driver seat and the tilt adjustment for the steering wheel is a combination that will allow drivers of most sizes to fit comfortably inside the new Vista. It even irons out the driving judgment issues that many people associated with the earlier iterations of the Vista.
Fortunately, there aren’t any steering mounted audio or phone controls. I say ‘fortunately’ because the way the four spoke steering is designed, inclusion of audio or phone control switches would have led to their unintentional operation every now and then. We experienced the same issue when we tested the Aria as well. Every time we would turn the steering right, we would change the audio track / radio station and on turning left a woman would say “No phone present” in her not-so-seductive voice. No such worries on the new Vista though.
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Engine & Drivability
The most important aspect of the new Vista is the new Safire 90 petrol powerplant that it borrows from the Indigo Manza. Compared to the same engine in the FIAT Linea 1.4 FIRE, this mill runs a different state of tune with a re-mapped ECU and different gear ratios. Tata claims that the torque curve is now flatter and as much as 100 Nm out of the 116 Nm is available from as low as 1,600 RPM. Cutting the tech jargon short, what this translates into is better drivability in the city traffic conditions. The better low end and mid-range grunt means that you can make quick overtaking manoeuvres without revving the engine too high. What it also means is that you get better cruising speeds as lower RPM thus adding a valuable bit to your fuel efficiency calculations. The new engine feels eons better than the underpowered 1.2-litre mill that powers the ‘Safire 65’ variant of the Indica Vista.
Get onto the open highway, check your rear view mirrors and floor the throttle and voila, you will wonder where the 90 horses have disappeared! Your jaw will drop further in disbelief when the petrol engine hits redline at a mere 6,000 rpm. You guessed it right, the Indica Vista even with its 90HP engine, isn’t an outright performance car. The fact is evident with a 0-100 km/h sprint which is a little over 14-seconds. A similar engine-d and heavier Linea manages the same sprint in less than 13-seconds. We did about six to eight launches each during the performance testing and every time we would shift from 1st to 2nd a little before the red line, the engine would drop revs significantly. From there on the shifts would be perfect all the way to the top gear. We blame this to the gear ratios which have been set for optimum performance within the city roads than a drag strip. Even then, the Vista Safire 90 managed a true top speed of 165-odd km/h, however, we reckon that it could have gone a little more too. But the 175-section rubber starts returning unnerving feedback after 160 km/h so we did not try attaining higher velocities. Even after all this jazz, the Indica Vista Safire 90 returned a decent fuel economy of 12 kmpl overall – which is primarily because of the well tuned low and mid-range of the car.While we performed all these test runs, the Vista Safire 90 offered a plush ride, not only on the straight stretches of the concrete highway but also on the potholed roads near the Tata factory in Pimpri-Chinchwad. The suspension is tuned for a comfortable city ride and that’s where its forte lies. We took the car to the twisties of Amby Valley the next day and the suspension demonstrated the typical traits of a soft setup. There was fair amount of body roll as you can make out from the photos but in spite of that, the tyres never lost their way. Grip levels are quite decent on the stock rubber and compliment the braking well even if you don’t buy the ABS version of the Vista Safire 90. But all said and done, it’s better to be safe than sorry, hence in country like ours where the traffic elements are highly unpredictable, it’s always best to buy a variant that has the maximum number of safety features. In the case of this car, it’s the Aura+ which comes with Anti –lock Braking System and driver and passenger airbags.
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So has the engine transplant worked well? In a nutshell, yes. Tata isn’t positioning this car as a cheaper alternative to 1.6-badged hot hatches like the Polo, Fabia or Palio. Instead they have plonked in a more powerful engine and tuned the overall setup to make the Vista Safire 90 a better and cost effective alternative to other lower powered hatchbacks – which are available in abundance not only in the Indian market as a whole, but in Tata’s own product portfolio as well. Within the city, the Tata Indica Vista Safire 90 is a great car to drive with a light steering wheel, powerful air-conditioning, a decent entertainment system and the meaty low and mid-range grunt that you are going to need for most its life.
Is it just another Indica variant then? Not really, in fact you should consider the Indica Vista Safire 90 a result of the feedback Tata has received from the auto journos and more importantly, the customers. Tata have ironed out most of the niggles, improved the quality and fit-and-finish, packed more features and will still price the car competitively to ensure that it retains the value-for-money characteristic of the ‘T’ badge.
If you are the type looking for a feature packed, value for money city car, the Vista Safire 90 should fit your bill very well. But if you are a power monger looking for a hot hatch with a cheap price tag, then please continue searching, there’s still nothing in the bag for you.
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Features & Interiors:
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