2014 Tata Aria Review
Car Tested: 2014 Tata Aria Facelift (Pride 4×4)
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 11.83 – 17.79 lakhs
The Tata Aria is a very practical MPV with loads of space and storage bins on the inside.
Every few years, Tata Motors comes up with a product which is out of the box, at least for an Indian automobile company. If we go down memory lane, we can all recollect that the late 1990s was the time when the Indica came and changed people’s very perception of a small car. In the early 2000s, Tata Motors brought out yet another interesting product, this time it was the Indigo, a spacious sedan which was frugal yet inexpensive to buy. The second half of 2000s saw the Nano taking India on the world map while the earlier part of this decade has seen Tata Motors push out a very different product, the Aria. Launched in 2010, the Aria has failed to get sales rolling and now the Indian automaker has given it the much needed facelift. But is it enough?
Exteriors – Visually the facelifted Aria is identical to its predecessor because the changes are limited to the lights. Both the front and rear lights lose the orange tint found in the indicators and now sport a clear lens instead. The headlights get a projector set-up with black treatment on the inside. The rest of the car remains the very same which is a bit disappointing since the styling of the Aria is one of the major reasons for its poor performance at the box office. With the vehicle being on sale for 3.5 years now, a more significant cosmetic update was expected. The only difference on the side of the car is the graphics while a VARICOR moniker is placed below the A-pillar, right below the trim badge.
Interiors – The dashboard of the 2014 Tata Aria doesn’t see many changes either. The bigger improvement is the updated infotainment screen which now gets colour on the top trim. This still feels basic with the colours not being rich enough and the quality being sub-par for a product which costs upwards of Rs. 11 lakhs. Tata Motors claims the quality has improved on the Aria and while the pre-facelift models did have rattles and squeaks, the one we drove did not show any signs of poor build quality.
Tata Motors has loaded the Aria with a ton of features and that really makes this crossover one of the most equipped vehicles at this price point. There is so much on offer but small things like Bluetooth audio is sorely missed. Storage bins inside the cabin are in insane numbers, the roof has so many opening lids that you can stuff a crazy amount of things. This is surely a boon when mutiple people are traveling long distances in the Aria. The way some of the controls are placed clearly signify the influence of Land Rover in the design of the Aria (like the headlight switch and controls for the multi-information display), although JLR engineers are yet to give inputs, Tata engineers have cleverly learned a thing or two from the Brits.
Tata Motors has also added a new Harman audio system to the Aria which offers good audio quality. The steering mounted buttons aren’t very ergonomically placed and the steering itself feels a tad too big. Where the Tata Aria absolutely excels is the cabin space. There is generous amount of interior room and that too in each row, making this car a proper seven seater (the last row is best suited to children though). The boot has decent space too and once the last row of seats are flipped down, you get ample amount of luggage space to move house.
Performance – The same 2.2-litre diesel engine powers the Aria but has been given a hike in output, necessitating a new name for the motor, which is now called VARICOR (the old one was called DICOR). While torque output is the same as before (320 Nm between 1500-3000 RPM) it is now available in a wider band. However power output has been bumped by 10 PS and the new Aria now belts out 150 PS at 4000 RPM. Along with the increase in overall performance (0-100 km/hr is dispensed in 14.92 seconds), the Aria now feels much better in the way it performs as the retuning has given the mill a more linear nature.
The improvements to the 2.2-litre oil-burner is also apparent in the NVH department, the engine isn’t as audible as before. Once past the turbo-lag, performance is strong with redline coming up at 4800 RPM. 100 km/hr comes up in third gear and giving the motor the beans ensures you overtake with ease. However, the 5-speed transmission isn’t smooth shifting and the clutch has inconsistent feel when partly disengaged. Cruising at 100 km/hr in fifth gear results in the tachometer ticking in at 2000 RPM, a six-speed gearbox is the need of the hour for improved cruising abilities. Our test car returned 10 km/l in the city which is decent for a vehicle of this size.
Driving Dynamics – The Tata Aria uses a body-on-frame construction and thus weighs quite a bit. All that weight isn’t very obvious but try to push the car through corners and you are bound to get a hint of the heavy nature of this MPV. That said, handling is good, the Aria is predictable with good grip on offer and body roll is well contained for the most part. Ride quality is where the Aria totally excels, it absorbs almost everything in its stride, a strong point for a people mover in a country where roads are far from prefect.
Our test car was the 4×4 and a button on the dash lets you switch to 4×2 mode, thereby boosting economy. However, the Aria is no off-roader and Tata Motors also realises that. Hence the focus has been on the 4×2 version ever since the Aria failed to pick up sales (Tata launched the Aria initially in 4×4 guise and was confident that buyers would accept the all-wheel drive capabilities). Hampering the driving experience is the steering which lacks feel and is a bit too vague. The brakes are strong and offer re-assuring bite.
Verdict – The Tata Aria is a much better product than what people have made it out to be, and we are saying this after having driven it across states on previous occasions. The amount of practicality it offers for a large family is without doubt its USP. While Tata Motors should have done much more to the facelift model, thereby improving the product by leaps and bounds, the minor changes are very welcome. The company has also made the lineup more simple, three variants are on offer and the 4×2 version is a lucrative buy for a person who wants a spacious and comfortable MPV which also offers good value.
The 2014 Tata Aria should have got more changes as this update was much awaited. With revised prices, this crossover is a good alternative to the national MPV of India, the Toyota Innova.
* Ride quality
What’s Not So Cool
* Steering lacks feel