It’s a new SUV from Tata and one that has come by after a significant period. Yes, we are talking about the Hexa which was unveiled at the 2016 Auto Expo and will be launched in early 2017. The Aria replacement shares the same underpinnings but has been completely redesigned and fitted with everything that will make the car appealing to new-age buyers. But is this enough to help the automaker succeed in a segment where it struggled for a while now? Read on to find out…
The Tata Hexa might be based on the Aria platform and possibly have similar lines but it’s a completely new vehicle. Where the Aria was curvy and a bit round, the Hexa is muscular, and in-your-face. It achieves this thanks to the chrome laced grille and gold coloured bumper. Complementing this is a modern looking lighting package comprising big headlamps and LED DRLs. The side reveals the MPV silhouette of the vehicle. However, it does get sharply raked A-pillars and really nice looking 19 inch wheels which increase the sporty quotient. The rear, despite having so many elements, looks too square but this is not such a bad thing as the boxy rear-end has been a defining trait of Tata’s SUVs over the ages.
The Tata Hexa gets an all-new interior and the elements are similar to what we have been seeing on Tata’s newer models but now in their highest quality considering the positioning of the vehicle. The dashboard is completely black with chrome outlines for a majority of bits on the upper section while the entire centre console section has been enveloped in a ring of gloss black plastic. The look, quality and feel of all the plastics and the rubber do a good job of boosting the premium feel in the cabin.
The front seats are supportive and offer good bolstering. They look quite good too thanks to the contrast coloured stitching and perforations on the leather like fabric. The driver’s seat gets eight-way adjustment but this is all completely manual. The second row is sufficient in terms of head room, leg room and under thigh support but with seats that we found a bit too stiff for our liking. Despite being billed as a seven-seater, the space in row three is quite less and is a bit woeful in terms of headroom making this sufficient for kids or short journeys. However, access to the third row is very easy in the seven-seat variant as both seat sections fold and tumble. The boot with both rows of seats up is sufficient for two to three pieces of airline size luggage but can be expanded by folding the seats.
Now here is where things get interesting as Tata has loaded up the Hexa with a quite a few features. The list includes climate control, touchscreen infotainment system with a dedicated mobile app, cooled glove box and six airbags. For the person behind the wheel Tata has fitted cruise control, 8-stage adjustable hill descent control and ABS as well ESP. There is also a digital trip computer with a colour TFT display but its controls are a bit odd to use. It is on par with the XUV500 in this regard but lacks keyless start, stowage spaces in front.
The Tata Hexa is offered with just one diesel engine which in this case is the 2.2-litre four-cylinder unit producing 153.8bhp/400Nm of torque. This can be had with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic and in the case of the former you also get a torque-on-demand all-wheel drive system.
First the manual- Despite the high torque figure, there is noticeable turbo lag under the 2000rpm mark and it is after this point that the engine pulls nicely quite close to the redline. The torque has been spread out in such manner that there is a strong mid-range. Consequently, out on the highway, you need to switch to sixth gear only once you cross the 110kmph mark. The downside to the manual is that the gearbox is notchy and the shifts feel imprecise, especially when you need to go into reverse.
The automatic, does a much better job getting off the line as well as minimising the turbo lag. It shifts at different rpms depending on the throttle input and is intuitive to change down when you need to make a quick overtake. It also comes fitted with a feature which learns your driving style and ensures that there is minimal delay between throttle input and engine response. However, it does not get the driving modes that are offered with the manual.
The manual variant also gets the option of four driving modes each of which alters the throttle response. They are auto mode, comfort mode, dynamic mode and rough road mode and you can learn more about them here.
We also did some off-roading with the Hexa and in the rough road mode it seems quite capable of tackling most obstacles thanks to the high ground clearance as well as tools like the programmable hill descent control and AWD system which can send up to 40 per cent of torque to the front wheels if the situation calls for it.
On the ride quality front, the Hexa feels a bit stiff at lower speeds but it is not something that will really affect you. The plus side of this slightly stiff ride is that the car feels relatively stable when you go faster and is able to keep its composure when you decide to venture down the road less paved. Given the large size and heavy weight of the vehicle, it does roll through corners but it is not overly exaggerated as one would expect from a ladder on frame chassis vehicle.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||153.8 @ 4000||153.8 @ 4000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||400 @ 1700-2700||400 @ 1700-2700|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||60||60|
|Tyre size||235/55 R19||235/55 R19|
|ABS with EBD||Yes|
|four driving modes||Yes|
|touchscreen infotainment system||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||140 @ 3750||153.8 @ 4000||153.8 @ 4000|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||330 @ 2800||400 @ 1700-2700||400 @ 1700-2700|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||70||60||60|
|Tyre size||235/65 R17||235/55 R19||235/55 R19|
Has Tata done enough with the Hexa to let it succeed? We think so as this car has everything expected from a vehicle in the segment. It lacks things like keyless start, proper front storage spaces and is quite massive in terms of length- an issue that will pop up for parking space starved city dwellers. But on the positive side the feature list is comprehensive; it is quite spacious, has solid road presence and will let you go to most places without thinking twice. For the Hexa to now completely succeed Tata must price it in such a way that it undercuts its main rival- the Mahindra XUV500 variant-for-variant. Given the price range that we believe it will exist in, the Hexa is also a competitor for the range of D-segment sedans.
Pictures: Kapil Angane