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Sporty, refined Hexa shines new light on Tata's abilities

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 27, 2016

Tata Motors' newest vehicle - Hexa

Inside look: The Hexa gets tasteful interiors

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Even as the mystery surrounding the ouster of Cyrus Mistry continues, here are juicy bits about Tata Motors' newest vehicle - Hexa

After sincere, but ineffective attempts at changing its image with the Zest and the Bolt, Tata Motors has seen some success after the surge in interest for the Tiago, which was unveiled last year. The small car seemed jinxed initially with its first name Zica unfortunately sounding like the Zika virus and coinciding with its outbreak. But with the new moniker and a refreshed launch strategy, the Tiago still managed to bring Tata back into the reckoning in the car market. Whether its brand ambassador - footballer Lionel Messi - helped in the revival or not, the Tiago has managed to score the key goal of winning back the trust of car buyers. Tata Motors believes that a big reason for the success of the Tiago was the new Impact design language and the engineering changes that were effected as part of the new strategy. The next vehicle from the Tata stable that will benefit from Impact design is the new Hexa. And going by our experience with the new Hexa, it is clear that this will also be another vehicle from Tata Motors that has the potential to boost the brand's image.

Design

Even readers who are only obliquely interested in cars, will still be able to identify the similarities between the new Hexa and the erstwhile Aria. The design of those headlamps you see in the pictures of the Hexa here, the stalked door mirrors, the body side panels and the roofline are all almost entirely carried forward from the Aria. The tailgate is a completely new unit and the tail-lamps are now a much more modern interpretation instead of the thin elongated unit in the Aria, which reminded one of the Indica.

The similarities with the Aria end there. Despite the fact that this one can't shake off its body style resemblances with the Aria, the Hexa's design comes across as being quite unique, with a new level of build quality for a Tata vehicle. It is remarkable how Tata designers and engineers have managed to transform what looked like a hulking mess in the Aria, into an appealing, and as we shall see a very driveable, sports style vehicle in the new Hexa. The Hexa seems comfortable in its skin, with some very likeable design features like the signature grille and its humanity line in chrome, smoked effect projector headlamps, LED daytime running lights and the redesigned front fender with its large airdam. The design oozes aggression and the new well-made two-tone body-side cladding and 19-inch alloys give the Hexa its sporty stance.

There are more design changes at the rear. A bit of modernity in the floating roof concept with the blacked out C-pillar, the tail-lamps are entirely new units with a horizontal, wraparound design. These lamps are said to sport the first flexible LED tubes connected by a chrome appliqué. Twin exhausts in chrome make the Hexa’s design highlight its power and the dual finish for the rear fender adds more ruggedness to the design.

Interior

The Hexa is being offered in 6-seater and 7-seater configurations. The cabin of the Hexa is a huge change compared to the Aria. Textured, soft touch plastic dashboard and door panels, and sculpted leather-feel seats in black with contrast white stitching manage to elevate your expectations the moment you step into the cabin. The basic design and layout of the dashboard was not flawed in the Aria and so that stays, though it is evident that individual elements have been carefully selected and it shows in the dramatic improvement in quality. There is mood lighting in 8 different colours, there is the 10-speaker JBL music system with a 5-inch touch screen at the top of the centre stack. Space available in almost every seat in the 6-seater configuration we drove was excellent. The captain seats in the second row can be moved fore and aft, and there is more than enough space for accommodating luggage loaded for a week-long road trip, with the second or third row bench folded down (max 671 litres).

Neatly finished, multi-function steering wheel is great to hold and overall, all the knobs and switches in the cabin feel sturdy and ergonomic to hold and use. Thin chrome surrounds and trim elements help push up the premium feel of the cabin. There are more features too in the Hexa such dual aircons, cruise control, auto headlamps and rain-sensing wipers. The driver’s seat has 8-way electrical adjustments and the door mirrors are not only electrically foldable, but also feature demisters.

Performance

The Hexa’s engine is the same 2.2-litre Varicor 400 diesel engine that is currently available in the top trim Safari Storme. The refined 2,179cc diesel engine is already popular and makes its way into the Hexa in the same state of tune as it is in the Safari Storme. So, the engine generates a peak power of 156PS and a peak torque of 400Nm. Of course, left alone these numbers don’t exactly paint the right picture. The Hexa is almost the same weight as its predecessor (about 2,300kgs) because of the number of new features, even though some weight savings were achieved. But the tuning enables the powertrain to deliver a very peppy performance.

The Hexa is quick off the block and offers enough pulling power all the way till about 4,000 rpm. There is only a hint of turbolag and there is no sense of hesitation or perceived vulnerability even in the way the vehicle behaves on the road. Straight-line stability is excellent and there are electronic aids like ESP and traction control helping correct errors if any wheel slippage is detected. Body roll is still there, inevitable with the suspension also set up for a fairly pliant ride.

The engine is offered with two gearbox options — a 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Working your way up the gears is easy in the manual too with most of the torque already available from about 1,500rpm (idling is set at 800rpm). The only crib we’ll have is the slightly rubbery shift feel in the manual gearbox. Surprisingly, the automatic is an excellent gearbox, with perfectly space gears. The auto comes with a sports mode and what Tata calls an auto detect race car mode. The manual gearbox on the other hand has four super drive modes for altering the car’s performance based on the driving surface. The modes are Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Rough Road. The Hexa will also be available in 4X2 and 4X4 variants. The all-wheel drive system in the 4X4 is an electronically unit via an adaptive system developed by Borg Wagner.

Bottom Line

Depending on the trim level, the Hexa is loaded with a big list of safety tech including 6 airbags, ABS with EBD, Hill Hold and Hill descent control etc. But, the big, most impressive change in the Hexa is of course, the level of refinement that has been achieved. NVH performance is at a new high for a Tata vehicle and in fact rivals many competitors’ vehicles. Ergonomics and choice of materials is similarly at a new high. Braking performance could have been better. During our test drive the brakes seemed to bite late after a bit of pedal travel. But, overall the perceived reliability levels, including the feedback one gets about the electronics in the vehicle is excellent. We expect the Hexa to be priced in the ₹10 lakh to ₹16 lakh range. And we expect this vehicle to contribute to the revival in interest for Tata cars. Whether it can take on the giant in the segment — Toyota Innova — only time will tell.

Published on October 27, 2016
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