Tata’s Indica was conceived as a car the size of a Zen, the space of an Ambassador, and the price of a Maruti 800. While Ratan Tata’s next car dream may be floundering in West Bengal, the Indica’s success has been the reason why Tata Motors is now counted among the world’s top auto makers. Now as the Indica turns 10, it will have a newer avatar. The next-gen Indica Vista is here, based on a completely new platform which will also spawn other variants.
The new car is wider, longer and more spacious than the current one. It is better built and finished, and is powered by some very efficient and globally proven Fiat engines—courtesy Tata’s alliance with the Italian car maker. There is a new diesel—the same engine which powers the Palio and even the Swift. And there is a new petrol version, too.
The Vista drives well, but is still a bit soft on braking. The handling is much improved but lacks sporty character. The plastics are better overall, though the finish still looks a bit cheap. Tata has gone all out to woo buyers, though, by introducing the Vista with multiple variants based on power train and trim. Prices range from Rs3.5 to Rs5 lakh.
The Indica Vista points to the future of Tata—it’s an indication of the new path the company must tread to be counted among the world’s top car makers. So, while it may not match the quality of a Skoda Fabia or the sporty ride of a Suzuki Swift, make room for the next best-seller from Tata’s stable.
Blue is the new green. Sounds strange? Well this is an interesting new technology that promises to offer a more immediate solution to the green needs of the automobile industry. The technology uses diesel engines—making them greener, cleaner and more fuel-efficient.
Modern pump-duse and common rail diesel engines are consistently more fuel-efficient than their petrol or petrol-electric hybrid counterparts. But the particulate matter and noxious gases they release have always been an impediment to diesel’s growth.
Enter Bluetec. This is a technology developed by Daimler, now on licence to the other Germans, too. Bluetec uses Ad-blue: a liquid urea-based solution. It is injected into the car’s exhaust system—before the exhaust gases are released through the tailpipe. The compound breaks down the noxious gases—especially nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide—and almost 80% is converted to harmless by-products such as nitrogen and water. The Ad-blue liquid is stored in its own tank, and little is used at a time. This means that it doesn’t need refilling for approximately 28,000-30,000km of usage.
Is India ready for this? Well, the inclusion of such a system in a high-end car would not impact cost-to-buyer as much as it would in smaller cars. So, price may be one prohibitive factor. The more crucial point is the fuel quality. Bluetec needs high-speed refined diesel to work efficiently, something Indian oil marketing companies do not currently supply.
New M Class
Speaking of Bluetec, I recently drove the complete new range of Bluetec-enabled diesel vehicles in the Mercedes-Benz SUV range. That is where I also saw the latest avatar of its M Class SUV. This is the facelifted version that will be made available in India starting now. It has retained its imposing looks, and unlike the previous generation, the second-generation M Class certainly commands a lot more attention. It has bigger wheels, a slightly wider front grille with a 5mm larger logo in the centre and the chin has been reworked to look more muscular now.
The M Class can be loaded up with all kinds of optional equipment—everything from a sunroof to satellite radio and navigation to an inbuilt phone. And all this will cost you. The M Class is priced between Rs65 and Rs80 lakh in India. This includes diesel and petrol variants, with options on manual or 7GTronic seven-speed auto transmission.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is editor, auto, NDTV. Write to us at email@example.com
For previous Road Runner columns (click here)