Ever since the Tata Hexa made itself public, there was a lot of excitement among people and the press. At the same time, there were concerns too about the Hexa falling to the same fate as that of the Aria. As details became clear, it became evident that the Hexa is a serious effort by Tata in the right direction. It's rich list of features, spacious cabin and a good mix of powertrain options made it a strong contender in its price segment and we liked the vehicle on most parameters when we tested it for the first time.
Since then, however, I've always wanted to see if the Hexa ages better than earlier Tata vehicles. This, because some earlier Tata vehicles didn't enjoy the reputation of ageing well and as they got older, the build quality became increasingly questionable. With the Zest and Bolt, we started seeing a turnaround in Tata's quality and approach but the Hexa is its flagship vehicle presently and goes against globally-acclaimed competitors such as the Toyota Innova Crysta and the domestically popular Mahindra XUV500. So is the Hexa comparable to these vehicles in terms of build quality? There was only one way to find out so we took a press vehicle that had more than 20,000 km on the odometer. For those of you who understand the trade of testing vehicles, press vehicles typically have up to four or five times wear and tear than normal vehicles with a similar odo reading because of the daily torture that these vehicles are put through multiple journalists.
How does the Hexa stand against the test of time and torture?
So with the mentioned idea, I took the Hexa and headed to Agra for a couple of days. The first sight of the vehicle was pretty good as the dealership had it cleaned and polished before sending it over. Despite about 22,000 kms on the odometer, I didn't find anything off place in the cabin to start with. With a few bags tossed in the boot and a couple of passengers settled in, the journey began in the evening from my office in Noida. Within 15 minutes, I was on the Greater Noida expressway and that meant it was time to open up the gates of power. With a VARICOR400 engine, the Hexa gave me access to 154 hp of power and 400 Nm of torque, which felt enough through all conditions to push the two-tonne weight of the vehicle.
Our test vehicle came with a six-speed automatic transmission, which meant this one didn't have four-wheel drive. If you want the four-wheel drive, you'll have to do away with the AT and live with a 6-speed manual transmission instead. The transmission, straightaway makes it clear that it's more than capable of complimenting the engine. It upshifts with decent urgency and doesn't hesitate to drop a couple of gears quickly the moment you kick-down the throttle. In fact, if one were to compare this transmission to the Toyota Innova Crysta's AT, the Hexa's feels so so much better, smoother and quicker. It's as hard for me to believe it as it is for you right now but the guys at Tata have actually made a better transmission than Toyota!
The engine was reasonably smooth despite being exposed to so much abuse by different people. Cruising at speeds above 100 km/h was effortless and the engine felt comfortable accelerating up to about 150 km/h, beyond which the engine starts to show signs of strain. Fuel-efficiency throughout the 600 + km trip averaged at about 16.8 km/l, which is extremely good for a vehicle of its size. However, one needs to consider that over 80 % of my total driving was done on highways, most of which included the Noida-Agra Expressway. In city conditions though, the figure might be lower but expect the Hexa to return around 11 km/l in a mixed driving cycle.
Throughout the journey, I was impressed with the fact that a media test vehicle with more than 22,000 kms on the odo did not rattle or squeak over sections that showed as roads in Agra but felt more like exploring lunar surface. This was proof that Tata Motors has taken a big stride in terms of quality control on the assembly line. I still remember Safaris from the mid-2000s being plagued with a rattling tailgate but the Hexa, on the other hand, feels like a global product.
Cabin Comfort – What's good and what could be better
The cabin of the Hexa is quite spacious and this shouldn't come as a surprise considering its size. Our test vehicle came with captain seats in the middle-row and the adjustable seats turned out to be supremely comfortable for the occupants. Rear AC vents turned out to be effective in the noon heat and it's only the design that I feel could've been made to feel more premium. The rear AC controls right now feel more utilitarian. The dashboard though is a different story and the all-black interiors do a good job of elevating the richness of the cabin. The steering wheel with mounted audio, phone and cruise function controls feels premium and offers a good feel as well.
The infotainment system too is largely impressive with a colour touch screen paired to a JBL 10-speaker audio system from Harman. The sound quality is truly impressive and even audiophiles in most cases will not feel the need to upgrade to a different speaker setup. Layout and controls for the infotainment system are easy to use and well within the reach of driver. There are two shortcomings in this system though. The 5-inch screen is a bit too small when you consider the competition or even smaller hatchbacks and navigation too can be accessed but only through your smartphone and through an app. Tata Motors should immediately consider ditching their collection of apps they're offering with the Harman systems. In almost all cases they're of little use and if you finally are able to figure out a valid reason for their existence, operating them is a cumbersome experience. This aside for almost all functions required on a daily basis the system performs flawlessly and is a huge step in the right direction and only needs some tweaks now as mentioned above.
Rest of the cabin turned out to stand the test of time and torture very well as everything functioned well and nothing felt as if it could fall off. Storage space has been carved out at multiple places inside the cabin and most of these are well-thought so you aren't going to have any problems stuffing various eateries and essentials even for a long journey.
I remember myself skeptically listening to Tata officials at the first media drive about how the Hexa has been developed by a network of global suppliers and hence is better in quality. That skepticism though totally disappeared after the four days I spent with this Hexa. It had gone through the hands of multiple journalists, each of whom pushed it to the limit in terms of acceleration, handling, braking and many other parameters. These 22,000 + km in my opinion were equivalent to around 70,000 to 80,000 km of wear and tear on a normal single-hand driven vehicle. Despite this, the Hexa never failed to impress on all the conditions I put it through. Not just that, it turned out to be an involving vehicle to drive and I personally feel that if you're someone who enjoys driving the Hexa is presently a good pick in its segment. In addition, we've been able to establish that it also ages better than earlier Tata vehicles and is at par with the competition in almost ever manner. Now if the guys at Tata Motors are listening, can we please have a larger touch screen minus the app suite in the next Hexa upgrade?