Tata’s big boy SUV cum Crossover cum MPV, the Aria, managed to capture the imagination but failed to rack up sales numbers. It was a spacious MPV with a powerful engine, but people could just not digest the pricing of the Aria. For the year 2014, Tata Motors has had a rethink. They have given the Aria a minor facelift adding a spicy sprinkling to grab more attention. And to add further appeal, Tata has sweetened the deal by slashing away the prices as well. The base LX variant now costs about Rs 10lakh (ex showroom Delhi), and the top-of-the-line variant now edges close to Rs 15lakh. We got the powerful 4X4 top spec variant to play around for a few days.
The Aria is, and has always been, a powerful looking brute with an intimidating muscular personality. It has a lot of road presence and in fact is very menacing to look at in this ‘quartz black’ colour that we are driving. The exterior of the new Aria is pretty much the same as the previous model. In fact there are just three changes, the headlamps are now blacked out and the rear tail lamps now have clear glass.
There is an Aria decal running across the sides of the car, and that is about it. The overall dimensions are massive and the Aria looks big from every angle. The wide girth and large wheel arches containing those huge 17” wheels looks great and matches the appeal of this large SUV Crossover. The Tata Aria used to be available in 8 colour options, but for some reason the new one only comes in 3 colours.
Not much has changed inside the Aria. One noticeable difference is the colour screen for the infotainment system, but that is available only on the top spec variant. Also the JBL sound system is optional now. The Aria comes with automatic climate control and leather seats. A number of connectivity options are available such as USB, Aux-in and Bluetooth, although you cannot stream music through the Bluetooth connection. The dual barrel projector headlights are quiet powerful on the Aria.
The steering gets mounted controls but one has to be careful as they get pressed while turning the wheel. But then the Aria shines when it comes to interior space. It is enormous from the inside as well with huge seats on the front and second row. The third row is a bit cramped, but then that is expected as it has a big boot even with all the seats up. For added comfort, even the last row gets air conditioning vents. The glove box also comes equipped with cooling vents to keep things cool.
One area that Tata should really work on is plastic quality of this otherwise tough built car. Yes, the quality on Tata vehicles have come a long way and are much better now, but still the plastics feel rough and ergonomics are somewhat awkward. A little bit of work and the Aria could sport a very interesting interior indeed.
The drivers and front passenger seat is well bolstered and comfortable. The second row will easily take three passengers comfortably, but reserve the last row for kids only. The roof of the Aria is lined up with storage compartments from the cabin at the front to the last row of seating.
Engine and performance
2014 Tata Aria is powered by a 2.2 litre turbocharged diesel engine that now produces 148bhp of maximum power. The power rating is actually up 10bhp over the previous version. Peak torque of 320Nm is produced at a low 1500rpm that has now made the car more tractable. Most of the work done on this facelift is under the bonnet. The engine runs smoother, is quieter and feels more powerful.
And then there is the 4-wheel drive system for a fair bit of off-road driving as well. But we feel there is a fair amount of noticeable turbo lag before the Aria comes in its real strides. The 5-speed manual gearbox however, still lacks refinement. Everything is there, the short throws, the soft gear action, but still lacks refinement. You feel lost while quick changing and wrestling with the gear stick.
The ride quality on the Aria remains unchanged. Aria stays on course on highways and manages high speeds with ease. The big hefty Crossover eats away the rough patches on our roads comfortably. But it does tend to panic as soon as it sees a corner approaching. You have to understand that it weighs about 2.8 tonnes and that is a lot of weight to lug around. The 4-wheel drive hardware lets you off-road to some extent, but do not forget that the tyres are meant for tarmac and they tend to slip on wet muddy off-road tracks. The top variant of the Aria comes with ABS and EBD and traction control to keep it in check. You also get 6 airbags for safety of the occupants.
Tata engineers have really worked on the refinement levels of that 2.2 litre turbocharged diesel engine. It feels a lot better than the previous version and is more powerful as well. There is lots of space for your entire family and space for their luggage too. On our run, our test car returned us a fuel efficiency figure of 11-12kmpl in the city. The Aria is an MPV, SUV and Crossover, all wrapped in one package. Tata most expensive product comes with lots of space, a big powerful engine, rides well and atop this returns decent fuel efficiency. Apart from being a bit pricey, we consider it a good value-for-money buy.