Not even once was the word Aria mentioned by any of the Tata officials during the media drive. The reason, Tata says is because Hexa is a completely new car, built from the ground up. This is how Tata wants it to be. It is very however easy to notice the Aria silhouette in that of Hexa or vice versa (as both cars are going to be sold side by side).
Codenamed Eagle, it took Tata Motors more than 3 years to bring the product to life, from a 2D design, to a 3D model. First showcased at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, Tata Hexa will be launched in India in January 2017, almost two years after the concept global debut. We were in Hyderabad recently and test drove the new Hexa. Here is our Tata Hexa review.
Since start, Tata wanted the Hexa to be an SUV, and not a people mover MPV or crossover. The idea was to offer a full-on 7 seater SUV. In order to do so, designers at Tata Design Studios in UK, Italy and Pune have given the Hexa a very beefed up look. This was achieved thanks to a flattened front, new dual coloured grille, large wrap-around headlights, bull-horn styled chrome lip under the grille, aluminium sills, plastic cladding all around, clamshell bonnet, dual tone bumper, etc.
These do give the front of the Hexa an SUVish stance and a much better road presence. But the moment you move inside, you are reminded of the Aria. Though there are some interesting changes, like the 19 inch machined alloys and a flattened D-pillar, there isn’t much which differentiates Hexa from Aria.
The flattened D pillar creates what Tata calls Dynamic floating roof at the rear. Other aspects of rear design are large wraparound LED tail-lamps with first-in-India patented flexible LED technology, thick chrome slat running between the tail-lamps, dual tone bumper, and stylish dual exhausts with chrome tip. Overall, new Tata Hexa does look like an appealing SUV for Indian roads.
Cabin of the new Tata Hexa gives a highly upmarket feel. Finished in black, the dashboard features soft plastic, leather, chrome inserts, piano finish on center dash, 5 inch touchscreen infotainment system by Harman, leather-wrapped steering wheel, AC controls, a 12V charging port, USB port, AUX-IN, and a knob to change drive modes.
Wrapped in leather-like upholstery, seats offer decent comfort, though we would have loved to have a tad bit extra cushioning as after sitting in the car for a longer time, seets start to feel hard. Headroom and legroom for the 1st and second row passengers is in plenty. Third row passengers, especially those who are taller than 5’10” will find it difficult to last in the third row.
All passengers in Tata Hexa get individual AC vents. The controls to vents of 2nd and 3rd row passenger is located in the centre of the roof, which can not only be accessed from the second row, but also from the third row as well as front row. All rows also get a 12 volt charging port. In addition to this, the second row gets a fast charging USB port. Tata says that this is the first time a car is getting such a port where the port is intelligent enough to understand what should be the wattage it should provide to fast charge a device.
Some remaining points – If you are the driver, there is no proper place for you to store your phone, except for the under-armrest storage area. Music system offers good sound quality, thanks to 10 JBL speakers. Tata says they invested 1,000 hours in tuning the music system.
For your storage needs, Tata Hexa comes with 29 different utility spaces, spread across the cabin. On the dashboard there is a dual glove box, one as a chiller and the other as a standard. Above the driver’s head, on the right there is a sunglass holder. There are big door pockets which are good enough to hold a minimum of 3 bottles of 1 litre each. Near the centre AC vent in the second row, there are two cup holders. 3rd row passengers also get bottle holders, but smaller. Boot space with all three rows up, stands at 128 litres, which increases to 641 litres when you fold the 3rd row seats.
Accessing 3rd Row Seats
Entering and exiting the car for passengers in the front two rows is not an issue. For third row passengers, it’s a bit of a tedious task. In order to enter, you will need to fold the second row seats using a lever under the seat. This is not an issue for the 7 seater version, but the one which has captain seats, they do not fold enough unless the first row seat is also folded and pushed forward.
For third row passengers who want to get out of the car without help from the outside world, they can do so by pulling the strap under the second row seat.
Engine, Transmission & Mileage
Tata Hexa is only available with a 2.2 litre Varicor 400 diesel engine. This is the same engine which is on offer in Safari Storme, but performance is completely different. We discuss how the engine performs in detail in the ‘How is it to Drive’ section later in the review. Speaking about engine specs, Hexa’s Varicor 400 delivers 156 PS max power at 4,000 rpm and a peak torque of 400 Nm in the range of 1,700 – 2,700 rpm.
Tata Hexa transmission options on offer are 6 speed Manual, as well as, 6 speed Automatic. Though Tata Motors have not revealed claimed fuel efficiency figures, what we managed to squeeze out of our Hexa MT was 10.5 kmpl, and 9.5 kmpl from Hexa AT. These are impressive figures, considering the size of this car, and the ‘no-respite’ driving we put the machine through.
Features & Safety
Coming of age, Tata finally started to add extra zing to their cars by offering exciting new features. This was first seen in the Zest, which was launched in 2014. Post that, we have seen a good list of features in the Bolt, Tiago, and now Hexa.
New Hexa is by far the most feature-rich Tata car ever. Let’s talk about the Tata Hexa features on offer in detail:
Driver Assistance Features
– Twin barrel smoked projector automatic headlamps
– Front fog lamps with DRLs + Rear fog lamps
– Electrically adjustable and foldable ORVMs
– Rear defogger
– ORVM Demister
– Reverse parking assist with camera display
– Benecke Kaliko leather-feel upholstery for seats
– Mood lighting for interiors (8 different colours)
– Luggage space of 128 liters (All 3 rows up), increased to 671 liters with both 2nd and 3rd rows folded
– 29 Utility spaces
– Sun blinds for second row passengers
– Programmable MID
– ConnectNext infotainment system by Harman
– 4 Speakers on 4 doors, 4 Tweeters on 4 doors, 1 speaker on dashboard, 1 subwoofer on the rear door (tailgate)
– AUX-IN, USB, Bluetooth
– Steering mounted controls
– Smartphone navigation via NAVIMAPS app
– Illuminated vanity mirrors
– Power outlet for all 3 rows
– Auto power down all windows
– Tilt steering (no telescopic)
– Remote tailgate and fuel lid opener
– 8 way adjustable driver seat
– Automatic temperature control
– Individual AC vents for all 7 passengers
Talking about safety – At the press conference, the first thing Tata Motors spoke about was safety. Once inside, the car definitely feels like a safe place to be. Opening and closing of doors is a bit tough, thanks to the high grade steel used. In addition to a solid structure, Tata Hexa is also equipped with a list of modern safety features like 6 Airbags (Driver, co-driver, curtain and side airbags), ABS with EBD, Corner Stability Control (Ver 9.0 with 4 channels, 4 sensors), Electronic Stability Control, Engine Immobilizer, Speed Sensing Auto Door Lock, Central Locking, 298 mm front disc brake and 206 mm rear disc brake.
Though the engine is same as we have seen on Safari Storme, Varicor 400 on board the Hexa is much more responsive. At idle, the engine feels quite refined. There are no vibrations felt in the cabin, except for the slight vibrations visible on the gear knob. Talking of which, the gear box is a bit notchy, and requires more than usual effort to slot gears.
Into first gear, thrust comes once you cross the 1700 rpm mark. Below that, the car feels a bit sluggish. There is a bit turbo lag as well, but nothing to complain about. The revs go all the way up to 4,500 rpm. Inside the city, when driving through tight corners, or parking in cramped spaces, we realized that the steering wheel is a bit heavy. Once you are on the go, steering becomes light. Steering response is not bad, and you get a decent idea of road quality.
In fact, when driving inside the city, we barely changed gears as 3rd gear was good enough for the kind of speeds we usually stick to in city traffic. You can drive the car at 1000 rpm as well, which is wonderful as you don’t have to keep shifting gears.
One stretch of our drive was passing through the beautiful outer ring road (Hyderabad) which is a 8 lane highway. Here we managed to test high-speed capabilities of the Tata Hexa. The car feels stable and in control even when you are doing speeds above prescribed limit. The car manages to reach 150 – 160 kmph without much effort, but beyond that, the engine starts to struggle. It is on the highway we also realized how difficult the gearbox can be. Downshifting and upshifting was quite tedious. On top of it, finding fifth gear was almost impossible, which is a bit of a downer if you are in the mood of some sudden overtake manoeuvres.
Speaking about the drive modes, Hexa manual variant comes with four drive modes – Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Rough Road. Comfort and Dynamic are 2WD modes, while Auto and Dynamic are 4WD modes. By default, when you start the car, the Auto mode is engaged. The modes allow you to engage best possible combination of throttle response, steering response, ECU map and brakes as per your liking.
Auto mode felt a bit stiffer than the Dynamic mode. In the latter, the steering felt lighter, and overtaking manoeuvres were also done more efficiently. Comfort mode makes your drive a relaxed experience, and can be useful when you are cruising along a highway stretch. Rough Road mode activates creep function. Put into first gear, and release the clutch. The car will do the rest, be it uphill or downhill on a bad road.
Soon we reached halfway point and swapped our car with one equipped with an automatic transmission. This is so much better than the manual, that was the first impression. The gearbox was quick and responsive, or rather a bit more responsive. It will downshift even when you are cruising at a steady speed. It does not get four drive modes like the MT variant and is only offered as 4×2. Like other automatic cars, it gets the conventional Drive mode and Sport mode. Drive mode changes gears efficiently, while Sport mode lets you feel the thrust for a while longer. You also get a manual shift option in AT, which can be activated using the gear lever.
Talking of ride quality, potholes or bumps, you need not worry about them at all when you are inside this car. We took the car through some pretty bad roads, filled with huge potholes. Nothing managed to unsettle the car. Tata Hexa absorbs bad roads like a boss. You don’t even need to slow down for potholes and bumps. Total guilt-free driving. The only reason you might want to slow down for is other people on the road. Cause once you speed past them on such roads, all they will do is curse you for the dust storm you just created. Important point to note is that the ride quality for passengers on all three rows is impressive.
Weighing 2,280 kgs, Tata Hexa rides on 19 inch alloys wrapped with 235/55 MRF rubber. Front suspension has a double wishbone setup while rear suspension is coil spring type. While pushing around the corners, the car maintained its line, and not even once did tyres lost traction. Braking lacks bite, but brakes do a decent job of stopping this mammoth on 4 wheels.
Overall, the car handles all kinds of terrains well. But, in case of extreme offroading, the suspension bottoms out in spite of 200 mm ground clearance. This is probably due to the softer setup of suspension, which also allows a good amount of body roll to seep into the cabin. Combination of heavy car with softer suspension setup is what gives the Hexa its amazing ride quality over bad roads.
Without a doubt, this is the best Tata car we have driven till date. It has its pros and cons, but overall, as a package, there is only one thing that can stop the Hexa from being a success. Its price tag. We all remember what happened with Aria, thanks to a heavyweight price tag. At the same time, we also know that Tata has learnt their lesson and are doing their best to make a comeback in the Indian auto industry. (Tiago is a brilliant example of that).
With bookings set to open from 1st November 2016, and deliveries to commence post launch in Jan 2017, Tata Hexa has got the right ingredients to take on its rivals, Mahindra XUV500 and the Toyota Innova Crysta.
Photos – Tata Hexa
Studio Shots – Tata Hexa