Tata Hexa: Taking a new direction
The Hexa is Tata’s latest no-holds-barred shot at the premium crossover segment. It’s built on the same rugged building blocks as the Aria, but Tata has festooned it with equipment and features to dial up its desirability quotient. It sits atop the company’s line-up and will take on the Mahindra XUV500. However, given its size and estimated price of Rs.12.5-18 lakh, however, it also has the Toyota Innova Crysta in its crosshairs.
It’s got a bold design with an aggressive front end. A large air-dam and chrome-garnished grille dominate the nose, and the projector headlamps stretch back along the sides. The profile is clearly reminiscent of the Aria, and even the big 19-inch wheels seem a touch dwarfed by the large body. The upright rear end gets attractive LED tail-lamps, and the scuff plates up front and at the rear, along with the 200mm ground clearance, accentuate the ruggedness.
Inside, smart double-stitched leather adorns the glovebox and soft-touch plastics form the rest of the dash. The knobs, textured surfaces and brushed aluminium accents around the air vents add detail, while the plush leather seats, knitted roof and an all-black interior add to the premium appeal.
The small 5-inch touch screen looks too small here. But it comes packed with features, including apps for offline navigation, synced playlists, remote control for the audio system, vehicle service notifications, and more.
The seats are superbly cushioned. You sit nice and high, and all-round visibility is good too. In the third row, the space and comfort are better than many of its rivals.
The Hexa is powered by the 156hp, 2.2-litre “Varicor400” diesel engine that has been used for the latest iteration of the Safari, while the base “XE” variant gets a less powerful 150hp Varicor320 diesel. The powerful engine comes mated to either a six-speed automatic or a six-speed manual gearbox, while the base variant gets a five-speed manual.
The engine is quite refined for the most part, becoming audible only when you accelerate hard. In fact, the overall cabin insulation is quite impressive. When setting off, you’ll find that the clutch doesn’t release progressively, making it jerky off the mark. Power kicks in quite early, and it pulls cleanly thereafter. It’s responsive and very drivable, so you don’t have to work the gears much.
The steering, which is heavy at low speeds, and the huge length of the Hexa makes parking and driving through traffic quite cumbersome. But on an open road, the Hexa starts to shine. This 2.2-tonne vehicle offers a great sense of security at high speeds. It feels rock steady on the highway and nice and stable around corners. This is a tall car, so on a mountain road you will experience some body-roll, but the impressive road-grip ensures you always feel sure-footed.
The all-wheel-drive-equipped Hexa offers four drive modes that can be selected via a rotary controller on the centre console. The modes—Comfort, Dynamic, Rough and Auto—have different settings for the engine and all-wheel-drive system. Go off the beaten path, and the Hexa will surprise you with how much it can do. We went deep into a quarry, over jagged rocks and loose gravel and it never let us down. There’s hill-descent control, six airbags, and stability control.
Where the Hexa really shines, though, is in its ride quality. It handles potholes and rough roads with extreme ease.
The automatic variant of the Hexa feels much easier to drive. It also has a sport mode for more aggressive gear shifts when you’re in a hurry. The automatic gearbox makes driving the Hexa a really pleasing experience, both in the city and on highways, and this is clearly the version to go for.
Tata has upped the quality levels and the Hexa feels genuinely premium and upmarket; overall comfort is one of its biggest strengths. Yes, there are still a few rough edges and in town, the manual can be a bit ponderous to drive. But overall, the Hexa, which will go on sale in January at an estimated price range of Rs.12.5-17 lakh, is easily the best Tata crossover yet and certainly worth waiting for.