Upgraded, and yet

Written by Vikram Chaudhary | Updated: Sep 21 2013, 08:32am hrs
Recently, Tata Motors announced a customer-focused strategy for its passenger vehicles called HORIZONEXT. Under it, the company unveiled eight upgraded products across its five brandsenhanced versions of the Indigo eCS, the Sumo Gold, the Nano and the Indica; CNG versions of the Indica, the Indigo and the Nano; and the Explorer Edition of the Safari Storme. Tata surely needed this. After all, we have seen its vehicles falling behind in quality levels compared to those of its Japanese and Korean competitors. A four-pronged strategy, HORIZONEXT aims to intensify product focus; imbibe world-class manufacturing practices; enrich customer purchase experience; and keep a consistent quality of service. In fact, Karl Slym, managing director, Tata Motors, while talking about HORIZONEXT, said that the company intends to move to a strong podium finish in the passenger vehicle market.

So, how good are these upgraded vehicles Of these eight, we choose the Indigo eCS diesel and try to deconstruct the changes.

First, a little history. In 2008, Tata launched the Indigo CSIndias first compact sedanwhich proved to be a very important car for the industry by ushering in a new segment. But since then Maruti and Honda took the lead by launching the Dzire and the Amaze, respectively, both hugely successful cars. (Hyundai is also planning to come up with a compact sedan next year.) Although the Indigo CS had its plus pointsspace and fuel-efficiencyit could never match up to its competitors in desirability. And that desirability is what the new eCS aims to achieve.

Now, the changes. The Indigo eCS is powered by a more refined CR4 engine that cranks out a maximum torque of 140Nm@1800-3000rpm. It also gets a new F-Shift (feather shift) gearbox. Then the car comes with the new Duo Float Suspension that enhances load distribution along the constituent elements for a smoother ride. While driving the car in and around Delhi we found that while 140Nm of torque seems decent in city driving, on the highway it somehow falls short of your expectationsthe car struggles to overtake long vehicles in a higher gear and more often than not you have to downshift while overtaking. The gearbox, though, is now relatively easier and smoother to operate. The new suspension is slightly better and makes the rear-seat ride more comfortable. Although Tata claims to have reworked the NVH package, we found that a lot of external sound still seeps into the cabin. But there is good news is on the fuel-efficiency frontthe Indigo eCS delivers an ARAI-certified mileage of 25 kmpl.

Tata has also carried out changes to the car's exterior and interior. It now sports a new grille and a redesigned headlamp unit, as well as dual-tone bumpers. The car gets rear park assist, electronic ORVMs with integrated blinkers and ABS. Inside the cabin you have a leather-wrapped four-spoke steering wheel, new instrument cluster, multi-function music system with Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry and a cooled glovebox. All this is nice, but there are some glaring misses; for instance, there are no practical storage spaces next to the gearlever or the handbrake to keep your phone or wallet. Although features such as keyless entry and a cooled glovebox are good, I must add that the cabin quality of the earlier launched Tata Vista D90 is still better than at least this HORIZONEXT vehicle.

Yes, the new Indigo eCS is a decent improvement over the previous carand we believe other seven products have also been similarly improved uponbut the fact remains that even after all this, the car leaves a lot to be desired. If Tata really intends to move to a strong podium finish in the passenger vehicle market, it still has a lot of work to do, at least as far as product quality is concerned. Though there is an area where the car wont disappoint you at allprice. The Indigo eCS BS3 starts at R4.99 lakh and the Indigo eCS LS BS4 starts at R5.29 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi).