Following the success of the Tiago, Tata is looking to taste success again, this time in the premium SUV space with the Hexa which has been launched at a starting price of Rs 11.99 lakh. Based on the same platform as the Aria, the Tata Hexa has a lot riding on its massive shoulders. The Hexa will now be Tata’s flagship brand and spearheads the Indian carmaker’s revival efforts that were kickstarted by the Zest and the Bolt in 2014, followed by the Tiago in early 2016. The Hexa will be available with a 2.2-litre Varicor engine in two states of tune - 150PS and 156PS but while the former will put out 320Nm of torque, the latter will generate an impressive 400Nm of torque. It is being offered with a choice of 6 variants - XE, XM, XT, XMA, XTA and XT 4x4. The Hexa looks good and is loaded with convenience and safety features even in the base variant, but can that help it establish itself as a premium car maker and wipe off the sour aftertaste of the Aria? Let's find out.
- Polished 6-speed automatic transmission makes city driving and highway cruising a breeze.
- Features. Leather-feel upholstery, 10-speaker JBL audio system, all-row air conditioning - the Hexa gets it all.
- Looks. The Hexa's Impact design philosophy has transformed the Aria into something you'd make way for.
- Optional four-wheel drive makes the Hexa capable off-road. Will go places MPVs can only dream of.
- Fit and finish on the inside could have been better in certain areas.
- The clutch pedal has an abrupt bite point and takes some getting used to.
- The six-speed manual gearbox isn't sure slotting and feels heavy to use. Vibrates a fair bit too.
- No 4x4 + automatic combo on offer. Top-end XT 4x4 is available only with a 6-speed manual transmission
- Steering feels slightly vague while tracking straight. Requires corrections to keep it in line at triple digit speeds.
Stand Out Features
'Super Drive' modes lets one choose between Auto, Comfort, Rough Road and Dynamic on the fly. It works flawlessly and does what the dial says.
19-inch alloy wheels look lip-smackingly good and are two sizes larger than its closest rival - the XUV500.
Gamut of safety features include 6 airbags, traction control, hill assist and a lot more.
The new Hexa is definitely a huge step up compared to the Aria. It will take on the likes of the Mahindra XUV500 and also slug it out with the lower variants of the Toyota Innova Crysta.
"The new Hexa from Tata is a compelling product and, at the current price point, we think it is a well-rounded, value-for-money offering."
The new Hexa from Tata is a compelling product and, at the current price point, we think it is a well-rounded, value-for-money offering.
There's no denying the fact, that at first glance, the Hexa does bear a strong resemblance to its predecessor - the Aria. The proportions, the MPV-like silhouette and the face still carry remnants of Tata's old flagship. That said, the Hexa is indeed redesigned from head to toe. To keep the big brute in line with Tata's new Impact design philosophy, there's been an extensive amount of reworking in terms of aesthetics. It is safe to say that the design team has been successful in eliminating the Aria's (drab) van-like design and replacing it with a fresh and aggressive one.
What we particularly like about the Hexa, is the new and angry face. The generous use of geometric detailing on the grille and the air-dams give it a wide and imposing stance. To add that much-needed dose of aggression, the bonnet shut line has been moved higher and the hood itself has been shortened - making it independent of the family grille.
The gloss black grille carries blunt hexagonal detailing and bears Tata's signature 'humanity line' that connects the smoked-out projector headlamps. Little details, like the gloss black accent piece on the headlamp, the positioning of the LED daytime running lamp and the massive faux skidplate go a long way in tying the design up neatly.
Over to the side, the Aria overtones become a tad more apparent. While the silhouette remains more or less unchanged, but a few design details truly make the Hexa stand out. The biggest talking point (quite literally) are the 19-inch machined alloy wheels. We like the fact that Tata have chosen a clean five-spoke design that complements the overall butch character of the Hexa very well. Notably, it is only the top-spec XT variants that will get the big alloy wheels. The other variants get 16-inch steel pressed rims, which do look slightly underwhelming when compared to these.
Just like the Tiago, the Hexa features a single prominent shoulder line that cuts across the profile and meets the wrap-around taillamps. Tata has attempted to break the monotony of colour here, considering the sheer size of the Hexa. The chrome trimming along the window line (that gets a neat shark fin detailing near the C-pillar), the black wrap around the pillars, the roof rails and the matte-black cladding go a long way in making the Hexa look purposeful and SUV-like.
Over to the rear, Tata has chosen to keep things simple. The biggest change here compared to the Aria, is that the vertically stacked 'Christmas tree' taillamps have been given the boot for a stubby horizontal set that gets the LED treatment. A prominent slab of chrome connects the two lamps, while details such as the twin exhausts, angular reflectors on the deflectors and the subtle spoiler add a touch of sportiness to the profile.
Overall, the Hexa is a refreshing changeover from the ageing Aria. With its aggressive looks and presence, it does make a lasting first impression.
Step inside the Hexa, and you would be surprised at the sheer amount of space. One can simply walk into the cabin of the big Tata, and you do not have to climb in. The doors open nice and wide too, which will make ingress and egress straightforward, especially for the elderly. Once seated, the large glasshouse strengthens the sense of space, in spite of the all-black colour theme that dominates the interior.
From the driver's seat, one gets a healthy view of what lays ahead. The perch itself can be adjusted for reach, tilt, lumbar and height which gives it enough leeway to be comfortable for varying sizes. The only grouse we had with the first row, was that the seat back itself felt slightly narrow. While this wouldn't be a big bother if you have an average build, you will miss a bit of support around your shoulder and back if you are built big. On a related note, we do wish Tata equipped the Hexa with an electrically adjustable driver's seat (the Mahindra XUV500 gets it).
That aside, the Benecke-Kaliko leather-feel upholstery feels upmarket and is as close to the real deal as possible. All three rows get draped in the same material, that does give a posh edge to the cabin. There's some more of it on the door pads, on the chunky central armrest and around the gear lever as well. The steering gets a smooth leather wrap too, that feels nice to feel and touch. Sadly, there's only tilt adjust on offer.
Behind the steering wheel lies what Tata likes to call the 'Driver Information System (DIS)'. The instrument cluster houses a pair of analogue dials - for the speedometer and the tachometer - and a crisp LCD display that reads out a chunk of information. One can cycle between parameters such as time, drive mode, distance to empty and a lot more on the screen using the toggle switch on the right stalk.
The dashboard gets a thorough revamp when you compare it to the outgoing Aria. The chunky centre stack takes most of the credit for it, and houses the new 5-inch 'ConnectNext' touchscreen infotainment and the controls for the automatic climate control. In the overall scheme of things, the screen does look slightly small. The interface is fairly straightforward and easy to use, but we wish the display itself was larger and had slicker graphics.
The display is the command centre for the 10-speaker JBL sound system and also doubles up as the screen for the reverse camera. Needless to say, sound quality is fantastic with crisp highs and subtle lows. The audio system includes a dash-mounted central speaker, as well as a subwoofer and an amplifier stowed away in the boot. The sound staging is brilliant, and you'd have fun grooving to the tunes no matter what row you're seated in.
Speaking of which, the Hexa is available as a six-seater or a seven-seater. Long story short, in case you plan on driven around and could do with one seat less - the former is the one to pick. The captain seats are just as comfortable as the front seats, and feel comfortable to lounge in and relax. There's enough legroom and shoulder room is barely a concern. The only hiccup with the six-seater version, is that access to the third row becomes slightly tricky since the seats don't tumble down and merely recline and travel forward. We found it way more convenient to simply walk through the central passage into the third row.
The seven-seater version makes it easier for occupants to access the last bench. The seats do tumble down and flip over to make entry and exit easy. The bench seat is comfortable, but you might find under-thigh support to be slightly lacking over long journeys. In case there's no one seated in the last row, you can slide the second row further behind and even recline to relax. Pretty thoughtful.
What about the third row, you ask? It is surprisingly accomodating! Yes, there isn't too much of headroom on offer and the occupants will sit with their knees pointing towards the roof, but it is genuinely usable over short distances. For the family roadtrips, we'd recommend the kids occupy these seats. It will get taxing on the back and the neck for the adults.
The feature list is long enough to keep a kid occupied for hours. Highlights include configurable ambient lighting, sunblinds for the rear windows, a fast charge USB socket for the second row, all-row airconditioning, and a chilled glovebox. But, there are a few misses too. For instance, keyless entry and go, a sunroof and even reach adjust for the steering is missing on the top-spec Hexa.
Summing it up, the Hexa has upped the ante in terms of features and comfort. Yes, the fit and finish could've been slightly better in a few places but they aren't major niggles which will make you look away from the big Tata.
The Hexa will be available with a sole diesel engine, in two states of tune. The 2.2-litre, four-cylinder engine is the same powerplant we've seen do duties under the bonnet of the Safari, the Safari Storme and the Aria. The base XE variant of the Hexa gets a 150PS / 320Nm tune, whereas the mid XM and the top-spec XT variant gets 156PS / 400Nm to play around with. The other notable difference happens to be the gearbox. While the lower tune is available exclusively with a 5-speed manual, the latter gets a choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed torque converter automatic.
The engine comes to life with a shake and stir, just like we’re used to with big Tata vehicles. That said, it isn’t audible isn’t the cabin unless you decide to drive somewhere in a hurry. NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels are well within control and the cabin feels isolated from most of the fuss outside. The motor isn’t a particularly fun to drive unit, and feels more at ease at cruising speeds. Torque spread is even, and there isn’t a sudden gush of shove that will pin you to your seat. What you get instead is linear power delivery, with perceptible turbo lag under 1500rpm.
On the manual variants, the clutch is relatively light, but isn’t progressive at all. In fact, the first time you drive the Hexa, there’s a high chance you would stall it. The bite point is vague, which keeps you guessing. The other fly in the ointment, is the fact that the gears aren’t sure slotting - especially into fifth and sixth. But, get going and you get used to it pretty quickly.
You also get ‘Super Drive’ modes, that can be toggled on the fly. The effective modes are the result of varying calibrations of the engine and throttle map, the ESP and the ABS module that lets you set up the Hexa for intended usage. The modes on offer include Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Rough-Road. While it functions as a rear-wheel drive in Comfort and Dynamic, it transmits power to the front wheels in the other two modes. The modes work without a hiccup - but we preferred to leave it in Auto for most of the time we drove it.
The other big talking point about the Hexa is the 6-speed automatic transmission. It is our pick out of the two, since it makes driving so much easier. Shifts are smooth and quick, and there’s barely any head-nod associated with automatics. The gearbox selects ratios very well and responds to the varying weight of your right foot quickly. For a spot of spirited driving, you can always slot the gearbox into Sports mode, or into Manual altogether to take charge. The transmission holds the revs in the meaty mid-range, giving you a healthy amount of torque in reserve for those roll-on accelerations.
Ride and Handling
The standout in the Hexa experience is the ride quality. The big wheels wrapped in chunky rubber shrug off bad roads without a fuss. The ride remains planted when at triple digit speeds too, and there's next to no vertical bobbing.
What isn't confidence inspiring, is the steering. It feels lacklustre at highway speeds and vague when tracking straight. It also needs a lot of input to keep it going in a straight line, and cornering requires a fair bit of guess work too. There's a fair bit of body roll too, that will force you to back off when the roads get twisty. We weren’t too impressed by the feel of the brake pedal as well - it feels lacking in terms of bite and feel.
In terms of safety tech, the Hexa is loaded to the brim with goodies such as 6 airbag, electronic stability program, traction control, hill ascent and descent control and anti-lock brakes.