|100,000 KMs, stopped by to capture this while on a highway!|
Before I talk about the Tata Aria and my experience of 100,000 KM journey with it, it would be necessary to go back in time and rewind to discuss how I arrived at this mean machine.
Earlier, I drove Tata Safari, about 120,000 KMs. Let us not try to look for any reasons into my fascination with Tata. To put it simple and straight - even today, I am a big fan of Tata Safari.
Moreover, with a large family of Five to drive along, it turned out to be more of a necessity than anything else. Two very significant members of our family needed fairly large space. Zara & Marshal - the wonderful lovely couple of German Shepherd. They both loved being driven around and would jump onto the boot as soon as the rear door is opened; and Zara, would refuse to come out as she wouldn't like to be left behind.
Furthermore, being a family of ‘Nature and Wildlife’ enthusiasts, any opportunity of a small get-away and we prefer to look for an off-road destination.
|Zara & Marshall in Safari - both loved driving around!|
Lastly, this perennial problem of bad roads that really need a vehicle with a very high ground clearance.
It was a difficult choice to find replacement to Tata Safari from the available options at that time, within a reasonable budget. Having given up on my search, I had decided to go for Tata Safari again and called the showroom to enquire about it. The sales manager got curious to know more about a customer who wants to replace Safari with another Safari; and after a brief conversation he requested me to drop by at the showroom.
I walked into the showroom one evening and this monster was parked right there. I didn’t have to spend too much time at the showroom looking around the vehicle - so decided on the test drive and that is it. I found exactly what I was looking for in this cross-over as if, almost tailor made - Tata Aria Prestige 4x2.
I have since put this machine through 100,000 Kms, across all kinds of terrains and difficult road conditions, including the foods in Chennai last November, when there were hardly any vehicles found navigating the flooded streets.
|November 2015 - Floods in Chennai|
|Mudumalai Tiger Reserve|
Very briefly, I will talk about this growing rage of ‘four-wheel’ among the consumers. I had my initial driving lessons rather early in life, and that too on the hills and in jungles. Those days we used to get four-wheel system only in Willys and then Mahindra Jeep. From my past experience, having driven around all kinds of terrains & conditions, let me put it very bluntly that ‘four-wheel’ is actually not required in most of the terrains and roads open to public transport - NEVER. Unless one is actually living on coffee plantations, in the mountains or frequently visiting places like these, a normal city driver may never even use the 4-wheel feature in his lifetime.
So, these colourful, screaming and loud body-stickers of 4x4, 4WD or AWD are just plain show-offs from functionality PoV - moreover, they consume lot more fuel than a normal 4x2 transmission.
Of course, these are path-breaking developments in automobile technology that allow one to go effortlessly ‘4x4 on-the-fly’ or use ’hill-assist’ - driving around today is that much safer, easier and effortless.
Talking about specs of Tata Aria Prestige 4x2:
Same engine as Safari - 2.2 L VTT DiCOR, generating max 138 bhp Power and 320 NM Torque - truly a mean machine. Ground clearance of 200 mm is ideal for any road condition. Massive 4.8 Meters of length is still easy to drive around and manoeuvre, given the sharp turning radius of 5.6 meters.
The driver seat with lumber, recline and height adjustments; plus the huge windscreen provides a complete view, just like a 70mm cinemascope. I haven’t seen bigger ORVMs for a panoramic view on both sides.
|View from ORVMs|
If you are looking for cosmetics and luxuries, probably this is not the car you would like.
Let me however clarify that Aria is miles ahead and lot more improved from Safari, with respect to the interior cabin, design aesthetics & build quality. If driving is your real passion and you are willing to compromise on the little fringes, you would love to be at the wheel on Tata Aria. On the highways, at 140 kmph, it is a fine Sedan that moves effortlessly just like an Aria, with tyres well planted and in complete control.
Turbo-boost at 100+ kmph or 1800+ rpm onwards is just amazing and feels like an aircraft taking off.
|Sathyamangalam Forest on Western Ghats|
Road Behaviour & Balance: Once, driving at 120 km/h, I had to use brakes to actually stop within 20-25 meters; and my little princess sleeping on the second-row seats didn’t even realise. That is the kind of balance and road-grip expected of a real Cross-Over.
On otherwise bad roads and off-road conditions, it quietly converts into SUV - rough and rocky terrain or steep ghats is where you actually get to know the Tourqe of this cross-over beast that still screams like a Safari - ’make your own road’ !
|Bandipur National Park|
The longest I have been at the wheel on Tata Aria was for about 620 KMs, and it did not feel like we actually drove that much - effortless and comfortable.
Driver and passenger seat is very comfortable, including the second row. Last row seats, for which I have heard negative comments for leg space - whenever I have had people sitting on the last row seats and driven them around for 2-3 hours, it was never a problem. Honestly, I never drove long distances with last row also occupied.
Space provided inside is the first thing that hits everyone in this Car. Unfortunately, Zara & Marshal both are not around anymore - they live in our hearts and we cherish those days and fond memories of the years we spent with them as a Family and driving around.
Mileage: City driving conditions are so pathetic that they are not even worth discussing mileage on any car; but just to share the information on Tata Aria, average 8-9 km/l. On the highways, I normally get upto 13-14 km/l. The pic below was taken exactly at 100,000 km on Chennai-Bangalore highway, and when I checked the average fuel consumption, I was very pleasantly surprised - 16.7 km/l.
|Fuel consumption of 16.7 km/l at 100,000 KMs|
Not everything is positive about Tata Aria. There are several issues that should be resolved and improved - some as follows:
Firstly, the projector headlamps assembly should come fitted with HID instead of normal bulbs. Even though with excellent ‘double-barrel’ head lights, overall visibility is not all that great on highways.
Handbrake is too hard to use and hence needs to be pulled all the way up, to be actually effective.
Overall high maintenance cost. Even after timely routine checks & service, the maintenance cost continues to be a dampener. The wear and tear of Diesel engine starts to show up after about 40,000 kms.
TATAs really need to pull-up and improve upon their extremely poor ‘after-sale’ service record. I had very bad time at Tata Concorde getting my Tata Safari serviced each time. After such a terrible experience and poor service, I had already decided not to take my Aria for paid services at TATA Concorde. But, they really make it difficult for outside service centres to obtain spares promptly and in time.
Remembering these lines in a song from the film Chalo Dilli :
ये जीवन है Suffering , ये जीवन कभी सफ़र हैकभी सफ़र में Suffering , कभी Suffering में सफ़र है ...