Tata Motors Limited is a big boy, second only to Maruti Suzuki in terms of car sales in India. Add to this the JLR acquisition, Tata Motors is a global automobile car brand that is simply not to be taken lightly. Yeah, all the candy gloss looks great and feels greater to hear, but the coming days will be very crucial for Tata Motors as an upmarket car brand. The sole reason for this: The Tata Aria Crossover MPV. When a bunch of intrepid motoring journos get together somewhere in the middle of the Thar desert with very few two legged or two/four wheeled beauties to ogle at, talk invariably shifts to the great Indian automobile industry. With the Tata Aria’s launch as fresh as the the earth smelling damp after the rains, it was a hot topic on which every motoring writer worth his steering nut had an opinion on. Yours Truly was also a privileged enough to be a member of this colorful coterie and here’s a brief condensation of what “really” the Indian automotive publishing community thinks about the Tata Aria.
First of all, most folks are impressed with the Tata Aria, with the overall fit and finish the big car has to offer. Shut lines are tighter even though the gap between the bonnet and the A-pillar is still massive. While the interiors show a many fold increase in degree compared to the Tata Indigo Manza, they’re still a tad shy of what the Toyota Fortuner, Honda CR-V and the Chevrolet Captiva manage to offer. Now, you might be wondering why we’re comparing the aforementioned SUVs with the Aria. We are, as the top end Tata Aria’s price, on-road Bangalore is a whopping INR 20 Lakh. By virtue of it’s pricing, the Aria leaves the Toyota Innova far-far behind. Talking about the Innova, the Aria’s interiors when compared to the Innova are at par if not better although only time will tell how the interiors wear down and whether the Tata Aria’s interiors, despite the higher price tag it comes with, can manage to outlast the Toyota Innova’s interiors.
Talking about longevity, this is one factor that has been gripe of Tata vehicles, and we aren’t talking about the engine of the Aria here as the tried and tested 2.2 Liter DICOR diesel engine, which also does duty in the Tata Safari, has been a rugged, bombproof option. While the Aria might not accelerate like a scalded cat, it will nicely munch miles and overtake most of the 18 wheelers on the highways if you ride the torque wave of the engine. The overall longevity of Tata cars, time and again comes under the scanner due to the way Tata cars feel put together as the miles get logged. Many a Tata car owner’s constant gripe revolves around the various squeaks, rattles and creaks that creep into Tata cars over time and the Aria is one car that Tata cannot afford to mess around with when it comes to solid build quality and an overall feeling of the car being well put together. The build quality of the Aria, though not a solid as say, a Toyota Fortuner is quite impressive, at least initially. The doors, even though they don’t shut with a teutonic thud still feel weighty enough to inspire a general sense of solidity.
Coming to the bells and whistles that can keep you engaged you all day even if you’re on the left seat, Tata Motors have pulled out all stops to ensure that the occupants of the Aria feel totally pampered. You get some stuff like the cooled glovebox which usually remains in the confines of much higher priced sedans in the Aria and for these very reasons, the Aria has to be commended for featuring a very impressive in-car equipment list for the price it commands. This, of course, again will have to measure up with the time for which all these features actually work well without any mechanical or electrical intervention to set them right. If Tata Motors have gotten this one very important factor right, then the Aria, would be the harbinger for Tata cars in which all the features work according to what they were designed for. This is a very important factor as the buyer shelling out close to twenty big ones expects all the bells to ring as they should and the whistles to sound as they should. The initial impressions of the Aria on this front looks pretty impressive though.
Finally, the big question of whether anyone would be really willing to buy a car, to be specific, a Tata car that is priced close to INR 20 Lakhs was a constant rejoinder on most peoples’ lips even after they accepted the fact that the Tata Aria, while not being the more car per car in the Indica vein, does offer a very reasonable value-for-money proposition. Yet, the word on the street still remains that Tata is till not ready to tap the INR 20 Lakh segment yet as the image to sell a premium car is simply not there yet. Yes, the Aria is loaded with trick bits like ABS, ESP, Airbags and a full time All Wheel Drive option amongst very many other features, all of which come at a significant premium in most other cars when compared to the Aria with it’s value pricing. But still, Tata Motors’ image as a budget car maker whose cars, even though not considered anywhere close to premium, are said to offer great value propositions. This general image of being a car maker for the masses has to be shaken off by Tata and the Aria is one such product that can be the flagship of what the relatively young car maker in Tata Motors can deliver.
So, it all boils down to Tata being able to maintain stellar quality levels coupled with a consistently good service experience, if it ever wants to be considered as a premium car maker. This, as most folks able to muster up enough dough to buy the Aria, would under no circumstance like to be treated like cabbies lining up their Indica at the quick service bays of a Tata authorized workshop. And lest I forget, a stripped down Tata Aria, that offers comfortable seating minus all the fancy gadgetry like Adapterra and its likes could just be the car that could actually give a certain Toyota Innova some sleepless nights. Such a variant might just be on the cards in the future of Tata Aria sales fail to perk up, as we’ve seen it happen over and again with Tata cars that receive tepid responses at the hustings. The world is watching, Tata.