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Souped-up and raring to go

S Muralidhar | Updated on November 01, 2018 Published on November 01, 2018

Tata’s Tiago and Tigor JTPs get a powerful engine and some more, but do they have the ‘go’ to make them feel special?

Just a few years ago, Tata Motors’ passenger car business seemed like it was headed on an irrevocably downhill path. Launched in quick succession, the Tiago, Tigor and the Nexon managed to put the brakes on the slide and have actually pulled the car-maker out of the woods. And, in what could be a case study on how quickly fortunes can change and allow a company to look beyond the ordinary, Tata Motors is now set to join the clique of car-makers that have a separate division to create serious performance versions of their stock cars.

Last week saw the launch of the Tiago JTP and Tigor JTP, two cars that have been developed by the joint venture Jeyam Tata Special Vehicles. The new JTP brand logo that will adorn the panels of these souped-up performance cars will represent Tata Motors’ attempt at creating something like a RS variant. And, unlike some of the competition cars, the JTP versions of the Tiago and Tigor will not just sport visual differentiators and a token retune of the engine, but will instead offer a significant improvement in driving dynamics and performance over the volume models. According to Tata Motors’ officials, the idea was to create performance-focussed cars that can also be driven everyday by regular car buyers. The target audience is a young buyer who is looking for the ‘joy of motoring’ in a commute car.

 

 

 

So, do the Tiago and Tigor JTPs deliver on the promise? I went to Coimbatore, the home of Jeyam Automotives, the joint venture partner that has a history of prepping race cars, to test drive the new models.

Tiago JTP

The stock Tiago is already a good-looking hatch with elegant lines and near perfect proportions. What I’ve had reservations about has been it’s raised stance and small wheels. The Tiago JTP’s overall design is identical, but there are bits that identify this to be a special member of the team. The front fender features a new design with a larger air dam, a new bonnet grille design that also includes a polished black lipping and sports the JTP logo in one corner. The bonnet gets a small motorsport-style vent, which actually helps dissipate heat and is not just a cosmetic addition. The Tiago JTP, unlike the regular model, is much more sporty to look at due to a few subtle changes too. The car sits about 4 mm lower with a ground clearance of 166 mm and it sports larger, 15-inch wheels (compared to the stock version’s 14-inchers). The Tiago JTP also gets wider 185/60 tyres. At the rear, the fender is different too with the addition of a diffuser and also gets a twin exhaust — both of which are active and also help deliver a louder, and interesting exhaust note. The two JTP cars are being offered only in two body colours, Red and White, with contrast elements thrown into the mix such as black rear spoiler, door mirror housing and faux vents with the JTP logo located just behind the wheel arch on either side. These elements are painted a contrast red in the White body colour models. The smoked projector headlamps, polished black roof and the addition of the sideskirts add some more character to the exterior of the Tiago JTP.

Tigor JTP

Compared to the regular Tigor, the JTP version gets the same set of additional exterior features that the hatch sports. Tata officials say that they’ll weigh the pros and cons of introducing JTP versions of future models and there is also the possibility of some of these vehicles being developed in parallel in the future. But, for now, the Tiago and Tigor seem to be good choices and it is to the credit of Tata’s impact design philosophy that the compact sedan looks as appealing, if not more than, the hatch.

For the cabins of both the Tiago and the Tigor, Tata Motors’ developers have gone for an all-black interior theme with contrast colour elements in red. The steering is leather-wrapped and stitched in a racy red. The seats also feature the stitching and patterns in the same colour. Inserts for the aircon vents and even on the edges of the carpets make the cabin look different, but just about. The pedals are also adorned with drilled aluminium extensions and form part of the standard attempts at differentiating a sports car. I felt more could have been done, especially because inside the bonnet, the powertrain certainly feels more capable than the average sports variant.

For example, the seats could have been sportier with a deeper-set middle and bigger bolsters on the side. In fact, I’m sure there will be takers even for a race-spec lightweight sports seat for the driver and front passenger. The JTPs’ cabins are otherwise identical to the regular Tiago and Tigor.

The overall equipment levels are comparable with other cars in the segment. The JTPs will of course, be offered only in one top trim level. But I hope JTSV, in addition to selling these cars through select Tata showrooms for ensuring a better purchase experience, will also offer buyers some customisation and individualisation options.

Performance

The Tiago and Tigor JTPs are powered by the same 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine that is offered in the Nexon; only in the JTPs, the mill is tuned to deliver 114 PS of peak power and 150 Nm of peak torque. Both intake and exhaust systems get performance enhancements and the five-speed manual gearbox gets a different set of ratios for taller pre-overdrive gears. Tata officials say that the JTPs are capable of doing 0-100 kmph in 10 seconds. The 1,199 cc, three-cylinder engine benefits substantially from the turbocharging and retune; it feels more refined and much more eager than the stock Tiago and Tigor’s powertrain. There is just a shade of lag, before much of the torque becomes available from about 1,800 rpm. In both the JTP models, the third gear is one of the best slots to be in with a wide power band offering seamless acceleration from a low of about 28 kmph to a high of 120 kmph. The top speed has been restricted to 160 kmph. The gearbox feels fairly crisp to shift, though there is still mild play in the gating. But, the JTP powertrain with its linear power delivery actually brings the fun factor into driving these cars, and is a reminder about how much more can be squeezed out of a small three-pot mill.

The Tigor JTP’s cabin feels quieter and more settled in the right sort of way. The tuned exhaust note — a mild roar — can still be enjoyed, but turbo whine that is a bit intrusive in the Tiago JTP is snubbed out in the compact sedan. With better suspension mounts and a 50 mm longer wheelbase, the ride in the Tigor JTP is also better. The Tiago JTP feels a bit more edgy, making me wonder if it could have been lowered just a bit more with a tad less suspension travel to make it feel more connected to the tarmac.

Bottom Line

Tata Motors’ decision to still retain the model hierarchy in the ride quality and NVH departments for the JTPs is the only conservative bit in the mix. Both the JTPs are surprisingly fun to drive, and also look and feel special compared to the stock cars. Finally, buyers can expect to get a truly quick souped-up version without emptying their pockets. The Tiago JTP has been priced at ₹6.39 lakh and the Tigor JTP will retail for ₹7.49 lakh (both ex-showroom).

Published on November 01, 2018
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