Saturday, February 09, 2013

Vista Visits : Review of the Tata VistaD90

 I've taken lots of tests in my life.  Given a few.  I've driven stuff from a Mercury Cougar(1970-72) to a lumbering Ambassador(teens till mid twenties ),  and an almost  heritage style Fiat (for 38 years) to a Tata Indigo (since 2009).

But never have I done a "test"  drive . You are supposed to be testing a car .  Actually, you end up getting tested yourself.

Thanks to Tata Motors and Blogadda , I had the opportunity to test drive the Tata Indica Vista D90 for 3 days  recently.

You can look up all the technical details here. I wouldn't recognize a Quadrajet or even a Quintujet engine if it came walking in front of me.   But something tells me that this   engine is basically a  Suzuki-Fiat-GM alliance engine, which is variously tweaked  by the engineers, and  Tata's  call it  the Quadrajet , Fiat calls it the Multijet, Maruti-Suzuki types call it the DDis.  Which is actually nice, because I've consciously looked for Indian makes, really majorly driven Fiats and now Tata cars, out of choice, and this kind of fits in.

But it was my first time with a diesel engine. Took some time getting used to the typical sound.   I thought the initial pickup , was pretty slow, or as they say, sluggish. Like a person just getting up from sleep. There after, in 2nd, 3rd, and higher gears, the pickup improved amazingly, enhancing almost in a y=x**2 non linear fashion, and the car fairly flew across the lake side Link Road (JVLR) , which allows higher speed driving. Like the person suddenly rushing around realizing he had 15 minutes to catch the office bus.

I would have loved a long distance drive across expressways, but the review days were all weekdays and that was not possible.

I also found out, that like our politicians, that sense of power remained,  even when I drove at lower speeds on roads with frequent turns and gradients and the car comfortably drove in top gear without making any kind of cribbing sounds. Maybe it is a diesel engine thing. I don't know.

Unlike our politicians, the car has an excellent braking system.  Made amply clear when I drove on roads monopolized by cattle, and folks walking in the middle of the road.  I didn't have to struggle with the steering wheel, while finely negotiating sudden appearances of bulldozers, handcarts and sand heaps, and school children.  The car tolerated bad roads and our famous potholes with great finesse, probably because of excellent suspension, and a firm chassis.

Another thing I thought was a very thoughtful addition, was the fact that the car didn't start unless you pressed the clutch completely.  With four drivers, and one car in the family, the probability of someone leaving the car in gear when shutting off is non zero. I've been subject to sudden leaps of the engine in an unguarded starting moment.  I don't know whether this is a common feature in other cars.  But certainly , kudos to the makers here for this erstwhile simulation of getting into neutral.

  Several other nice things . Like the Touchscreen Multimedia Navigation System, Fully Automatic Temperature Control,  Driver Information System, Follow-me home Headlamps  and so on. 

 The car comes with a rear windscreen wiper (in addition to the usual ones). Greatly appreciated by someone with years of experience of wiping windscreens in a Fiat and the improved ability to see traffic in your rear view mirror .

Call it the old age non-audio Fiat hangover, but I am not comfortable, with one hand fiddling with radio controls while driving. The VistaD90, has placed all the controls for the audio on the steering wheel , operated by touch. Which is very nice.  

There is a blue-tooth system where you can configure your phone to it and have conversations on your phone without lifting a finger. And everyone inside the car can be part of it and know your secrets.  A dial pad for the phone is also available on the console of the music system. Which I think is a bit too much. When you drive, you drive.  You shouldn't be dialling and tapping 10 digits while driving. (You can always pull to the side of the road, stop and use your phone).

Apart from the fuel gauge, speed, rpms and other standard parts of a dashboard, this car can also tell you your average mileage, how many kilometres you can go on existing fuel  (till empty) and so on. Which is great.

Then there is what I call the "nag" feature. It has these beeps it gives, if your seat belts lie unused. Or if your doors are not closed properly. And you must listen and comply for the nagging to stop.  

The driver side door is fitted with easily reachable locking controls which are really ideal if you are regularly driving a gaggle of kids to school.  Window open and shut controls are also right there, which is very useful.

Several thoughtful features. The headlights remain on for 30 seconds after you shut off the car.  Kind of guiding your way through a dark garage. Late evenings, and you return to the car in semi darkness, and unable to sense the ignition key point , you bend a bit to see behind the steering wheel, only to be delighted, by a ring of light around the keyhole. What a nice surprise !

The front seats are adjustable is many dimensions, and be  put in what I call the alert driver mode, tall person mode, lumbar support mode etc. The non driver side seat can also  be put in semi sleeping position (if no one sits behind).  The rear seats can collapse in a 60-40 way, so that you can adjust seating along with increasing boot space for some lengthy item . Three people can sit comfortably in the rear seat when no seats are collapsed. It is also possible to collapse the remaining two seats. 

Good leg space for folks in the rear seat, given that this is a hatchback. Provided someone taller than 6 feet isn't driving.  It is possible that the lady in the photo was happy with it since I was driving, and had to adjust the seat a bit towards the front.

A decent boot space, not meant for lugging large suitcases  along with four passengers. But that's where the collapsing seats are useful, if you carry fewer passengers.

One design flaw, if I might call it that, is that the driver is unable to see the front end of the car. This flaw exists even in the Tata Indigo (which I drive).  If you are parking in front of a wall, it is difficult to see how close you are getting to the wall. It is also occasionally difficult to see how close you are to another car in the front.  The gradient of the bonnet could be better designed. I just wonder if this is a Nano hangup. It might work in the Nano because you are almost right in front yourself. But this snub-nose design doesn't work both in Indigo or the VistD90.  

A good city car, easy to manoeuvre.  Though a bit high . In height and if I might say so, price in Mumbai.  Also with the driver's seat setting that worked for me, I found it a bit difficult to get in and out without getting obstructed by the steering wheel.

A very nice three days, where family and friends were treated to rides and their opinions enjoyed.  A lot of folks suddenly thought I had a new red car.  Honest person that I am, I had to clarify.  Gave a lot of opportunities  to family folks doing photography.

I hear the car is fitted with air bags.

I am just relieved I never had to find out.

This is a part of the Product Reviews Program at BlogAdda.