Text: Martin Aguilar / Photos: Patrick Cardano | posted June 10, 2014 18:31
The new challenger from India
One industry official once said that the Philippines has one of the most diverse markets in the world in terms of auto brands present. Japanese cars, German cars, Italian supercars, British sportscars, American SUVs, Chinese compacts and lately French MPVs. Now we can add another to that list as Indian automaker Tata has formally arrived through the Pilipinas Taj Autogroup.
It's not our first time to try out an Indian-made car given that models like the Suzuki Celerio and the Hyundai Eon are both manufactured in the subcontinent, but this is the first time that we are driving a purely Indian automobile from an Indian carmaker.
This is one of their first models available in the Philippines: the Tata Vista. Technically speaking the Vista is an Indian-made hatchback that is priced to compete against models like the Toyota Wigo, Mitsubishi Mirage, Kia Picanto, among others, but is sized to proportions similar to the Jazz.
At first glance, you’ll notice that the Tata Vista is more bulky and quite longer. True enough, its wheelbase measures at 2,470 mm, which is 20 mm more compared to the Wigo and the Mirage. The Tata Vista also has a length of 3,795 mm, longer than the other vehicles in its class.
The front fascia of the vehicle is infused with enormous triple barrel headlights while the hood of the vehicle has chrome strips on the rims. Located between the headlights is the front grill of the car that is infused with the Tata logo. The rear of the vehicle is designed with elongated taillights that extend from the roof all the way to the rear bumpers.
Inside, the Tata Vista can easily accommodate 5 people without compromising comfort. Surprisingly, the interior cabin is bigger than what I expected. It has relatively good leg and head room both at the front and rear seats. A 5’8” passenger will have no problem getting inside the vehicle and seems comfortable enough for a long ride. The air-conditioning unit of the car is good, but can improve more given that we live in a tropical country. The trunk compartment of the car can fit an averaged size cooler with more room to spare for luggage.
When it comes at the steering wheel, I personally feel that it was a bit too big for the car, not to mention that it's easy to hit the horn button while maneuvering for U-turns or parking. Also of note is the rather loud horn given the car's size; in India, it should be noted that cars have to be engineered with loud and extremely long lasting horns.
The engine of the Tata Vista is pretty decent; a 4-cylinder 1.4 liter engine that makes 75 PS with 114 Nm of torque matched with a 5-speed manual. It's not stellar performance given that most modern 1.3 liters tend to make above 80 PS . As a compact hatchback car, the engine noise and vibration is suppressed nicely though.
However while driving the Tata Vista we noticed some inconsistencies with the clutch pedal, as the clutch pedal has a silly habit of staying depressed. It didn't happen all the time, but when it does you have to give the clutch a little tap to pop it back up. One thing about that clutch though is that it is really light, an advantage in heavy traffic, though it still feels a little strange.
Despite the odd qualities of the clutch, the performance of the Tata Vista is better than expected; in fact, according to our editors, it drove better than the Chinese cars they tested when Chery or other similar brands started arriving in the Philippines. No interior panels fell off (that happened with the Chery V5 when our EIC opened the tailgate) nor did the car overheat in traffic.
Given its size, price, value and rather unique styling, the Tata Vista should pose a decent challenge in the entry level hatchback segment.