Tata Tiago AMT Long-term Review: The Tata Tiago has proven to be a successful car for the company as it brought along a fresh change in design, features, powertrain and space from the usual things in older Tatas. As expected, later the company launched an AMT version of the Tiago, which made great sense as the adoption of AMT/ Automatic Manual transmissions is on a rise due to increasing traffic congestion. We drove the Tiago AMT earlier for a brief while and found it to be an average car with competitive pricing. The car, however, left a few doubts in our minds and the only way to clear them was to do a long-term test of the car. We got our long-term Tata Tiago AMT in the last week of February. Since then, we've clocked more than 1,000 kilometres in the car in varied conditions and came back surprised. The car not only failed to impress us but turned out to be a bit disappointing too. Read on to know why this is a car you can avoid if looking for an automatic
In order to make things easier for you, I've broken down this story into two parts – Things that are good and those that aren't. We'll start with the negatives and move to the positives thereafter.
Tata Tiago AMT Negatives – AMT, the reason you buy it for is the one you shouldn't buy it
Tata Tiago AMT is powered by the same 1.2-litre petrol engine that develops 85 hp and 114 Nm of torque. The engine is an impressive unit and has enough power to move around the Tiago with ease, both on the highway and in traffic. Problem is the gearbox, which in this situation is the 5-speed AMT.
When we tested the Tiago AMT earlier for a couple of days, we did find it to be slow like most AMTs but found it be acceptable as we thought most problems would disappear with getting used to it. During our long-term test though, we realised that one just can't get used to the AMT unit as it behaves in an erratic manner and there's no pattern even within this chaos.
Let's start from the moment you sit in the car and push off. Slotting the gearbox in drive mode itself is something that won't happen all the time. At times, you slot the lever down and press the accelerator only to find out nothing happens. This is despite the fact that the lever gear selector is in right place, the gearbox is still stuck in neutral. The same can happen randomly when you select reverse and the remedy is that push the gear selector in neutral and then back again in forward or reverse mode. I know, it just takes a couple of seconds but such inconsistency in today's age in a car in this price-bracket is hard to digest.
Once on the move, the AMT is slow to respond and while this is a problem area for AMTs in general, the one in Tiago feels slower. It's as if there's a man under the hood who shifts a gear every time you ask for it. Problem is that while this is the story of most AMTs, in the Tiago it feels as if this man doesn't know when to slot which gear, making things worse. So if you're going up an incline at about 25 kmph, the gearbox doesn't seem to understand the load on the engine and will simply shift up into 3rd gear, dropping revs to point where the car struggles to continue upwards. This can be quite annoying in traffic, particularly on congested flyovers. At this point, some might think that a heavier usage of throttle should rectify things and while this is right for most AMTs, it doesn't work that way in the Tiago. First of all, applying the same amount of throttle at different times has different results in acceleration. Acceleration at times just doesn't happen for as long as two seconds as the man under the hood with no clue about gear shifting struggles to decide on which gear to slot in.
Surprisingly, at times acceleration comes in a surge after a long lag, leading to sudden acceleration, which could be risky in dense traffic. If this was a permanent trait, I wouldn't have much problem as gradually any user would get used to the throttle application. However, with unexpected outcomes intermittently, there's no pattern to get used to.
Even at highway speeds, at times the gearbox is too slow to respond to kick-downs, which means that you'll again need to take control of the gears manually, thereby defeating the purpose of buying an AMT. Shifting manually is fine and lets you rev to about 5,500 rpm but the shifting isn't smooth and shift shocks are quite prominent, both in automatic as well as manual mode.
Here's a word of caution. If you're getting out of an underground parking with a steep incline, make sure to shift into manual mode. In automatic mode, the gearbox at times might get you to the exit and at times its confusion could leave you struggling for momentum. With cars moving in close behind you, it's not a position you would be comfortable with.
Having read all of this, one might wonder why haven't I spoken about the 'S' button near the shift selector. Well, engaging the Sports mode does change the mapping and hence you rev higher in any given gear. Mr confused shifter under the hood now holds every gear for a longer time, improving drivability. A few minutes down the line one starts thinking that the gearbox works much better this way but realises soon that it also consumes more fuel in this mode. Add to it the inconsistent outcome of throttle usage on a random basis and the S button too fails to offset the problems of the gearbox.
Tata Tiago AMT Positives: Beyond the AMT almost all is good!
Once you move away from the AMT gearbox, pretty much everything in the Tiago is good. The design is pleasing and the car commands a smart presence on the road. Instead of taking the aggressive road, Tata Motors' designers have taken a soothing approach. This means the car grows on you and even after a few years of ownership, you'll not be disappointed or bored to look at the car.
The engine is quite impressive and works like a charm with a manual gearbox. Acceleration is good and fuel-efficiency too is nice. However, all of this goes for a toss with the AMT in the equation although fuel-efficiency remains impressive at 14.8 kmpl in city traffic during our testing. If only the gearbox wasn't so confused, leading to frequent manual shifting at high revs due to frustration, the figures could have been better.
Inside the cabin, things are good and you get all features one would expect at this price including, Bluetooth, USB connectivity and steering-mounted audio and phone controls. The dashboard fitment quality and plastic quality is good by segment standards and storage areas around the cabin too are ample and conveniently placed.
Seats up front are comfortable and the rear seat bench too offers good under-thigh support and legroom and headroom too are generous. Cooling from the AC is impressive and even on hot days, the car cools quickly even for the rear occupants, adding to the overall comfort.
Till the time one doesn't bring the AMT into the equation, the Tata Tiago is a good car and is at par with the competition. With the AMT though, things transform as the gearbox doesn't seem to be suitable for any of the purposes it sets out to fulfil. An erratic and inconsistent behaviour from the unit means that you might spend most of your time in frustration, thereby not enjoying the other good things of the car.
At a time when bad cars aren't really made anymore, it's quite surprising to see how Tata went ahead with selling the Tiago AMT in its present form. The gearbox feels more like it's in a test stage and needs a lot of work to bring it even close to the AMTs we've been seeing from Maruti Suzuki or Datsun and Renault too.
If an automatic car is what you're looking for without much of a premium then AMT is the way to go but should you consider buying the Tiago AMT? The answer is no as the AMT unit fails to deliver on the purpose it was made to serve. Hopefully, vehicles such as Nexon AMT and other forthcoming models won't have this kind of performance from the AMT unit.