Tata Safari Storme Long Term Review
Car Tested: Tata Safari Storme VX 4×4
Kms Done: 7001 kms
Test Started at: 12,263 kms
Test Concluded at: 19,264 kms
Mileage: 10.85 km/l, 13.15 km/l (best), 9.28 km/l (worst)
Fuel Consumed: 645.25 litres
Fuel Cost: Rs. 41,618/-
Rs. per km: Rs. 5.94/-
The Safari Storme is a vehicle which begs you to keep driving, it offers terrific feel
Among a sea of pseudo SUVs, there are a few real ones and among those there is one which has the biggest fan following. The Tata Safari might not be as hot selling a vehicle as its rivals but there is no denying the fact that anybody with even the faintest of idea about cars, has sheer admiration for this beast. The Safari Storme joined our long term fleet a few months back and our initial report clearly conveyed how we had fallen in love with this vehicle. We told you our plans of exploring different regions with the Tata Safari Storme and we did take it places, so how did the car fare through the thick and thin?
Our experience with the Tata Safari has given us a thorough insight of the car. We can confidently tell you as to why people love it but in spite of that, it doesn’t sell as much as it should. While in lay terms people say the Safari has a fan following since long which has made people admire it so much even today but the high pricing makes the sales chart a bit uninteresting for Tata Motors. While in theory that’s true, there is more than such simplicity to the tale of India’s first SUV, loosely translated, also the oldest. There are both ups and down sides of the car.
We have discussed the upsides of the Tata Safari Storme at length and will come back to them later in this report. Let’s first talk about the not so good things about the vehicle. To make a better judgement about the Safari Storme, I took around different sets of people in the car, those who had little knowledge about automobiles. Everyone loved the exterior and found the Safari’s presence intimidating but once inside, things weren’t as positive. All found the interiors to be old (aka dated) and many were shocked to find the single-DIN audio system in this car.
Now Tata Motors took a really long time to prepare the Safari Storme (remember it was supposed to be launched in end-2007 and was being developed under project name Safari 18) but the improvements could have been much more. Given the company has done a fine job with the new chassis but they somehow left the interiors mid-way. The Safari’s dashboard doesn’t feel as good as it should, specially for the asking price and when compared to its rivals (from Mahindra), the Safari does end up looking ordinary. What I do love about the Safari Storme though and for which I should give Tata Motors an applaud, is the build quality, no dangling wires or exposed bits and that sure is a big step in the right direction for the company.
What does confuse me about the Safari Storme is the mid-way approach to things. Some things are really nice and show the attention to detail by the company while others are ridiculous. Nice touches are the one-touch down windows for all doors, auto-locking doors, beeping of horn if any door left open, rear wiper starts on its own when reversing (only if front wipers are on), delayed front wiper swipe (a la Fiat) and power windows can be operated by the driver even if window lock is activated. That’s not all, there is plenty of storage bins including big door pockets, lid on the top of the dashboard, etc. Puddle lamps offer convenience at night as the Safari does take up more space to park so you can see where you are going to get down. Also one has to appreciate the fantastic projector headlights which offer excellent illumination.
Coming to the bad bits and unfortunately, there are a lot of them. The indicator stalk is placed too high and requires extra effort to operate, fuel lid opener is next to the power window switches so you accidentally open the fuel lid, glove box is too small for a car of this size, audio system not worthy of such a class and price of car, no Bluetooth audio (the USB won’t charge your phone and won’t read the iPod either) and the sound quality is average. The stalk mounted audio controls are not very easy to use and changing tracks is slower when using the stalk (don’t know why).
The thing I absolutely hated about the car during its tenure with us was the parking sensors, their being present was of no use at all and they are more irritating than of any help as they keep buzzing as soon as you get into reverse, whether your near an object or not, they keep buzzing all the time! There is no multi-information display (the cluster is the same as the old Safari) and with a small tank size, distance to empty would have come in handy. The last row of seats are not good for use as sitting side facing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and bigger people end up hitting each other’s legs. Auto up for all windows would be nice considering the windows are really large and take time to close as the motor is itself slow. That’s not all, there is more. The boot door lever is really hard and requires effort and since we used the Safari Storme as our shoot car, every time on a shoot, I had to personally get out and open the boot door for the camera crew to access their equipment. Everyone tried opening the door and gave up thinking it’s locked but it’s open although one needs to press it hard to open the door.
While I have been very fussy about the interior appointments, I do love many things about the Safari and one among them is the commanding driving position. With excellent visibility all around, even at the rear thanks to big mirrors, everything else looks like a mosquito, trucks seem smaller in size and less intimidating too. The Safari’s massive presence meant that whenever I enter a road, people stop and let me go, when it should be the other way round. Looks like the Safari has “Right of way” written on its hood. Parking the car might seem a task but it’s relatively easy to park thanks to the good view of what’s around. It does end up taking more parking space and something I realised often as I couldn’t open the door, never mind, I was able to jump out of the window and also enter through it, they are that big.
Faults with our test car? When it came, it was fine with no issues but over time the key started to have a mind of its own (not a key issue but an immobiliser fault as we had the spare key and the same problem persisted), it wouldn’t lock the car which left you with two options – either put the key in the ignition till the issue resolved or lock manually. We sent the car for third service as it was due during our stint with us. When we received the car, we found the left side rear door handle was broken (the front left door’s puddle lamp cover was also broken). The left rear door simply wouldn’t open from outside and one had to push and pull at times when left with no option and it did work but took time.
Coming to the service of the car, the Tata Safari Storme was under six months old when it came to us but when the service became due, it had crossed the half year age mark. So PUC had to be done, something which I notified the dealership. When the car arrived, there was no PUC done so I got it done myself. Later when I received the service bill, PUC was mentioned and charged. While it certainly isn’t a matter of Rs. 150/-, what it is, is a concern with transparency from the dealer, more so when a customer folks about Rs. 16 lakhs to buy the top-end Safari Storme VX 4×4. Even the steering alignment wasn’t done properly, the wheel was right centered before service and post service it was made left centered. The car was serviced by Tata Motors own subsidiary Concorde Motors, so with independent dealers, the experience is going to be more or less the same, if not worse.
When I got the car, I was extremely happy that there were no rattles (the car had done slightly more than 12,000 kms) but overtime rattles started creeping in. This is an issue which needs to be resolved in the upcoming Safari update as rattles tend to spoil what is otherwise a fantastic experience with this car. In spite of the drawbacks mentioned above, the Safari did please us to an extent no other car has managed to do so. The Storme makes you feel special and that’s not something one expects from a Tata car.
Munching miles in the Safari Storme is extremely easy and it keeps you fresh all the while
For instance, who ever sat in the car, loved it for various reasons but the fairer sex simply couldn’t come in terms with me raving so much about the driving feel. Multiple female colleagues of mine took to the wheel of the Safari Storme and they immediately were in agreement with me that this vehicle has FEEL. In fact, all of us really enjoyed driving the car which is testimony to the fact that speed or cornering hard isn’t the only way to have fun in a car. You sit high and you feel like the king of the road, heck, you even get to see what’s miles ahead of you. I have been a big Tata Safari fan since day one but each iteration of the car I drove, I was disappointed by its wallowy suspension. The new Safari Storme is the best of its creed yet and I wouldn’t ask for more from Tata Motors. It handles just right, you can push it and there is plenty of grip although body roll is evident but it becomes part of the experience. The steering has good feedback but tends to vibrate a lot post 140 km/hr and the best cruising speed is 120 km/hr as the vehicle is the most calm at this speed. Still, one can’t help but deeply respect the way the Safari conquers the highway.
No other car feels so at home on the open roads, the Safari Storme just feels like it was made to munch miles and munch we did as we drove the vehicle to Bangalore and took it to Chennai and Coorg from there, no fatigue at the end of the drive. The 40% stiffer new hydro-formed chassis makes the Storme feel planted at all speeds and the ride quality is fantastic too. There have been people sleeping in the back seat of the car and I have driven over rumblers and big bumps at speed yet not woken them up. There is of course plenty of room inside the cabin and five people and their luggage is easily accommodated.
I visited my Uncle and his small kids (aged 8 and 3) had the option of sitting in either the City or the Safari, both ran to the Safari and that’s because everyone just loves the shape of this car. Our tester being a 4×4 didn’t see its off-road ability go futile, the resort we booked in Coorg has a km long but narrow excursion to reach the guest house, the Safari made light work of traversing through the slushy terrain. The shift on the fly system works like a charm and the Bridgestone tyres on the car are simply excellent, not a single puncture over the 7000 kms of on and off-road driving.
The Tata Safari has had its fair share of heart transplants (ah those TCIC days) and the Storme is powered by the 2.2-litre DICOR mill which has plenty of pep to punch above its weight (we timed 14.45 seconds to 100 km/hr which is quick for a vehicle which tips the scale at 2 tonnes). Did you know Tata offered a 2.0-litre petrol engine on the Safari at one point of time, yes it guzzled fuel. The DICOR of course doesn’t sip diesel so quickly, it always returns a mileage of 10 km/l even with a heavy foot. The motor has quite the grunt, you can hit a top speed of 180 km/hr should you get a road long and empty enough to do it. In fact, the powerplant is happy to cruise at 160 km/hr without breaking into a sweat but 120 km/hr is the ideal stress free speed, taking stability into consideration.
In-gear acceleration is really good and there is a good pull in the mid-range. One has to avoid getting into higher gears at low speed as the drone in the cabin can become quite a lot. The gearbox shifts decently well but second gear takes some effort and you can hear the cable, the transmission needs more refinement. The engine sounds nice and when stretched into the top-end, it’s quite audible which we like. The motor is quite refined and the upcoming update with an increase in power is only going to help performance become even better. The Safari isn’t underpowered anymore, something which was of concern before the DICOR unit made its debut in the car. However, Tata still needs to reduce weight as the same hampers multiple parameters of the car, 100 kgs lighter please. The brakes are good with 4-wheel discs and ABS working well but electronics like ESP should be a added for improved safety.
Tata Safari Cost Of Service
* Engine oil per service – Rs. 2340/-
* Oil Filter – Rs. 215/-
* Air Filter – Rs. 692/-
* Fuel Filter – Rs. 1624/-
* Axle Oil – Rs. 1168/- (Front and Rear)
* Wiper Blade – Rs. 285/- (Front), Rs. 554/- (Rear with arm)
* Wheel Alignment – Rs. 623/-
* Wheel Balancing – Rs. 830/- (5 wheels)
* Brake Service – Rs. 2000/- (for all 4 discs)
The Tata Safari Storme has been one of favorite long termers and it was hard to let it go back. This vehicle connects with you instantly and the feel good factor is so high that you get addicted to driving it. However, in its current avatar, there is a lot more expected from it. When you look at rivals from Mahindra, you wonder why Tata doesn’t offer even close to as many features on the Storme. Then you look at the Aria and Zest and you realise Tata has the technology and know-how to load the vehicle with a ton of features. Things like a better instrument cluster with the tacho dial turning red at redline (seen in the Manza since years), a modern dashboard with a CONNECTNEXT infotainment system, climate control AC, steering wheel mounted audio controls are available in the budget Zest itself. Then there are so many features present on the Aria which should be offered on the Safari as well. We at MotorBeam love the Tata Safari but in its current avatar, we won’t buy one. The company isn’t taking the Safari seriously, maybe it’s riding on the brand name to continue selling but if the issues mentioned in this report are addressed, sales will increase five fold. Tata needs to modernise the car with better quality and equipment and when they do, there won’t be one or two, but four people from our team lining up to buy one.
The Tata Safari Storme has its fair share of shortcomings but in spite of that, it’s a car which has massive charm and that makes you love it more and more with time. With driving feel unparalleled by most, this vehicle is one which we deeply adore.
* Driving feel
* Ride quality
* Commanding looks and driving position
What’s Not So Cool
* Lack of equipment
* Dated dashboard
Further Reading –
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta