Aria - Story of an unsung hero..
Back in 2010 when the Indian auto industry just offered hatchbacks, sedans and UVs, Tata Motors was the first to introduce a whole new segment called a Crossover. Yes it means a vehicle that gives you the comfort and luxury of a premium sedan alongside the big SUV like stance. Back then TaMo was only known for their value offerings like the Indicas and Indigos and suddenly when Tata launched the premium offering - the Aria in 4X4 avatar only & a sticker price of around 20L, eyebrows were raised everywhere. High pricing meant that it saw limited buyers and what made things worse for Tata is the fact that the initial batch of Arias had lot of niggles including major mechanical failures leading to breakdowns. TaMo did not lose hope on the product and they constantly put in efforts to revive the Aria brand by introducing a lower spec 4X2 model range and price corrections but from a premium buyer's perspective, the brand Aria was nothing but written off!!
Many of us who are familiar with product lifecycle management know what developing a platform is. Since the Aria was not based on any of the other existing offerings from Tata, the car was developed from scratch. Everything from the hydro formed chassis to the double wishbone and multi-link suspension was new. It also saw many first in segment features like all wheel disc brakes with ABS+EBD, dual mass flywheel standard across all variants. The top spec models came equipped with 6 airbags, ESP, seatbelt pre-tensioners, cruise control, automatic projector headlamps & wipers to name a few. Though not an excuse a product based on an all new platform is always something that will have an issue or two. Nevertheless the lower variants of the Aria with fewer electronics and gadgetry had no such reliability issues and my review is based on driving the Aria Pure 4X2 model for about 60,000kms over the last 3 years.
The Aria is a solid package for someone who is looking for a spacious 7 seater SUV as their daily drive. The car though big and bulky in external appearance is actually surprisingly easy to drive in traffic. The floor is not overtly high as in the Xylos and the Fortuners. It is perfectly positioned and getting in and out does not require a footstep accessory even for someone who is say 5'2 tall. The engine is nice and strong with healthy power and torque figures and is well complemented by the 5 speed manual gearbox that has perfectly spaced ratios. 100kmph in 5th gear is achieved at around 2000rpm and that translates into great cruising abilities without compromising on the fuel efficiency. One can easily expect upto 12kmpl in the city and upto 15kmpl on the highways when driven sedately. A full tank gives a range of about 550kms on the highway. Braking is really commendable with discs all around and the 235 section 16" tyres give the car great stability during cruising and also braking. Ride quality is amazing and it can tackle most of the bad roads with ease. Body roll is definitely evident and cornering at speeds is something that you should not be doing with this vehicle. High speed stability is good and one can do speeds of upto 120 with good confidence and anything above the vehicle does not feel comfortable - XUV is the clear winner in this segment when it comes to high speed manners. Ground clearance of 200mm ensures that it is near impossible to bottom the car on any of the speed breakers but one needs to be careful when it comes to tacking large pot holes as the front and rear bumpers are positioned very low giving it low approach and departure angles hence are susceptible to damage. The audio system that comes with the car is more than decent and is of great quality for a regular non audio geek but the speakers tend to give up under high bass output audio files. The dual AC unit does a good job of keeping the cabin cool even at over 40 degrees outside temperature and with two blowers and vents for all 3 rows, the passengers have nothing to complain about. On the looks front, the car is no looker but from certain angles ? especially the front, it has a very imposing stance. When it comes to space, the first two rows are great and can seat 5 people in good comfort whereas the 3rd row seats are best suited for someone below the 5?6?? mark. The bolstering on the sides for all the seats is not up to the mark and do not do a good job of hugging the body during cornering etc. The headlamps though good in terms of design lacks brightness on the low beam. This is mainly due to the use of projectors. Even a 100W bulb does a poor job of illuminating the road and one ends up using the more powerful high beam for all the night driving requirements. Service interval is once in a year or 15,000km whichever is earlier and the overall cost of ownership is really good in its segment. Service bills each time have been around the 8K mark including parts and labor. Over the last 3 years and 60,000kms the car has been a solid performer with absolutely no issues pertaining to mechanicals or even the electronics. It has been that kind of a car where I can say I just fill it and drive it. The car has not failed to make me smile every time I park it after returning from a highway run. I have been able to drive for >1000kms in a day without feeling stressed or fatigued. Having said the above, there are many aspects that need improvement. Design of the dash is something I felt can be improved to liberate more room on the inside. The fuel tank does not have proper venting and lots of air gets trapped during the tanking process. The fuel gauge is one of the worst I have come across off late. It is very vague and slight tilt on the car during parking can make a big difference in the fuel reading and this means the range or DTE also is very erratic. The middle row 60% split seat does not tumble as it collides with the AC vent behind the handbrake lever. Serious design flaw!
Overall I am extremely satisfied with my choice of picking up the Aria and am looking forward for many more miles of happy ownership. Kudos to Tata Motors for coming up with this wonderful offering!
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