Tata Tiago JTP and Tigor JTP Review: First Drive
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Sub-Rs 10 lakh sports car has become a reality, thanks to the JTP Tigor and Tiago. But, will these sporty machines be as easy to live with as they are exciting?
When Tata first showcased the hotter JTP versions of the Tiago and the Tigor back at the Auto Expo in February 2018, all of us here at CarDekho collectively gasped in awe. Because what we saw was exactly what the enthusiast was crying out loud for, since a very very long time - an everyday car that was had been given a big shot of steroids. The Tigor compact sedan and Tiago hatch form an excellent basis to build affordable pocket rockets. On the face of it, Tata seems to have delivered as per the brief by cramming in healthy power and tuned suspension to make the most of it. But, let's temper our expectations a bit and deconstruct the twins, piece by piece.
Visual updates are identical for the hatchback as well as the compact sedan. But it isn't an exercise of just making the cars look sporty. There's a bigger purpose to these changes other than turning heads.
Up front you see a new grille, finished in gloss black. The air dam is significantly larger than the standard versions, letting you take a peek at the intercooler that sits behind it. Both of these tweaks are to improve the flow of cooler air to the engine.
On the hood, and on the fenders, you'd find vents. Again, these aren't plastic trim pieces slapped on top of the sheet metal. They're functional, meant to help suck out the heat from inside the engine bay quicker.
The JTP twins also have a sporty two-tone theme. Irrespective of the body colour, you get a blacked-out roof. If you pick a red car, you get a gloss black finish on the ORVM, and if you pick white, you get an eye-popping red. There's some more visual drama in the form of side skirts and 15-inch alloy wheels. When viewed from the side, you'd notice that the Tiago and the Tigor JTP sit lower, by 4mm to be precise. Couple that with the bigger alloys and the fatter rubber, and you've got two cars with solid stance.
From the rear, the dual-exhaust tips will grab attention. There's a diffuser too which helps improve aerodynamics for stability. With the Tigor, you'd spot the new taillamps from the XZ+ variant.
So the design doesn’t scream ‘I’m fast’, just underlines it in a reassuring way. No doubt, the cars look properly exciting.
Once inside, you’re greeted by a sea of black. Black dashboard, black upholstery on the seats, and even black headliner. This place is livened up by dollops of red, in the form of stitching on the seats and the leather-wrapped steering, as well as subtle outlines around the AC vents.
What really makes you grin, is the fact that there’s attention to all the touch and feel points. For instance, the steering feels meatier, and the gear lever too gets a different texture. Finding a good driving position isn’t easy as the seat is high set, but once you fiddle around and settle in, you feel right at home.
In terms of equipment, both cars are based on the XZ variant. The carryovers include the stellar 8-speaker audio system, steering-mounted audio control, a detailed MID, height-adjustable driver’s seat as well as a tilt-adjustable steering. Additions to the Tiago JTP come in the form of a 5.0-inch touchscreen unit, and smoked projector headlamps. The Tigor JTP, on the other hand, gets everything that the Tiago JTP does, and packs in automatic climate control, a rear central armrest as well as a reverse camera. It also borrows the clear-lens taillamps from the recently launched Tigor XZ+.
Needless to mention, there’s no difference as far as practicality is concerned. You get the same amount of room in the front row and the rear seats, and the same cubby holes too. Boot space isn’t compromised either and stands at 419 litres for the Tigor JTP and 265 litres for the Tiago JTP.
Engine and Performance
Powering the JTP twins is the 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the Nexon compact SUV. But, it has been fettled with quite a bit. It runs higher boost pressure, there’s a shorter intake that force feeds air, the intercooler is larger, and the exhaust has less back pressure. Put all of these together, and you get a higher power count of 114PS, and higher torque, that is restricted to 150Nm. Tata claims that both these cars will hit 100kmph from standstill in around 10 seconds. A quick casual run timed against a stopwatch saw us hovering around the 11-second mark. So, in ideal conditions, those claimed times seem completely realistic.
What got us giggling in glee is the way the cars treat your senses. When you’re really belting it, you get a sweet-sounding induction noise past 4000rpm. This is accompanied by a throaty exhaust note, that spits every now and then. The cherry on the cake is the ‘pssssh’ sound as the blow-off valve dumps excess boost when you lift off for an upshift. You feel like the cars have character, and that isn’t something you’d get on every ‘fun’ car out there.
It’s not about full-bore runs and 0-100 timings all the time though, right? So, should you choose to baby the JTP twins around, they return the favour by being easy to drive. You can potter around town at 20kmph in third without having the engine shake, shudder and shout in protest. In fact, you can pull past 100kmph in the same gear. So, overtaking out on the highway is a breeze too. Just step on the gas, and let the 114 horses under the hood do the talking.
There's not much more we'd want from cars like these. Both are stress-free to drive inside the city, and at home being belted on the highway. If there's one place that the twins are even more comfortable than usual, that'd have to be the twisties. Which brings us to the next section.
Ride and Handling
When we pestered the good folks at JTP to tell us what's different with the suspension, they quipped that tuning it was a 'black art'. One spin in either of the two cars will have you thinking the same. There's definitely some voodoo involved here, because we expected a trade off in ride quality for handling prowess. Fact is, there's none. At all.
The springs haven't been touched. It's the damping that JTP has worked on. Both cars chomp down on broken roads easily, without unsetting the cabin too much. In other performance-oriented cars, we usually find the cabin rocking about side to side as you tackle imperfections on the road. That's not the case here. They simply 'hop' over the bad bits of road.
And when you're belting it on the ghats, it delights yet again. Body movement is in control, and at no point does it feel unnerving or scary. As you push it hard into a long bend, you feel the weight shifting towards the outer wheels, pushing them down, giving you a clean line.
Speaking of lines, the steering feels responsive, and more importantly, quick to respond. The way the nose tucks in as you flick the wheel, especially on the Tiago JTP, has to be felt to be believed. What you'd also appreciate is the pace at which the steering builds weight. It's noticeably heavier at triple-digit speeds compared to the stock cars, and it also returns to the centre a lot faster. And, that's because JTP has fiddled around with some code for the electric power steering. In terms of hardware, the steering rack is identical to the non-JTP versions.
The Tiago gets 185/60R15 tyres, whereas the Tigor gets a slightly taller sidewall with 185/65-section tyres. Our test cars came shod with Apollo Alnac 4G tyres that JTP claims to have been developed specifically for the two cars. We had no issues in terms of grip, and only when we were belting the cars really hard continuously did we find a small amount of slip from the wheels. The wider rubber also means braking performance has improved considerably despite unchanged hardware.
The Tiago JTP and the Tigor JTP get the same safety kit as the top-spec version of the standard car. On offer are dual airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, as well as corner stability control.
Should you buy one? Is it worth the extra Rs 1.2 lakh? The answer to both these questions, is a resounding yes. But, there are caveats.
For instance, if fuel efficiency ranks high on your priority list, and if you were hoping that the JTP would be a new 'top-end' model with more features, then this possibly isn't the car for you.
But, if you know and understand that the whole point of this car is performance, and nothing but that, then you'd appreciate the value it brings to the table. It's properly fun to drive and doesn't compromise on everyday usability either.
Yes, we do think the Tiago JTP in particular could've done with more kit at that price point, especially bits like a parking camera and auto AC. But that isn't something that would be a deal breaker for anyone looking for driving excitement.
The bottom line here’s that if you were wishing for an affordable sporty small car to use on a daily basis, your prayers have been answered.