The Tata Hexa has been a much awaited vehicle from Tata and had the industry talking before its launch. It was earlier shown as a concept at Geneva Motor Show in 2015. The Tata Hexa is one of the successful vehicles from Tata in recent times and has successfully wooed buyers as well, with some intelligent positioning. We review the Tata Hexa in detail and tell you whether it is worth buying. Read further.
Even though it replaces an MPV, the Hexa doesn’t look like one. Tata has given it a muscular and aggressive styling. The bonnet is heavily sculpted, there are smoked out projector headlamps, the grille is wide & highlighted with chrome and the bumper integrates LED daytime running lights. You will notice flared wheel arches on the side profile along with the neat looking 19-inch alloy wheels. These are the biggest wheels available in this segment. The black cladding adds to the rugged appeal of the Hexa.
The side profile might remind you of the Aria with its silhouette but Tata has cleverly reworked some details to cover the MPV proportions. The rear profile gets a heavy dose of chrome on the tail gate with LED tail lights while the bumper gets a skid plate and dual exhaust setup. The tail section might look a tad simple compared to the rest of the styling but it will grow on you with time.
Let’s first talk about what’s changed the least on the inside – the space. It’s a big car so it has a big room, right? Well, not quite. Its beefy body-on-frame construction eats up a lot of space when compared to a similarly-sized SUV with a monocoque chassis. Still, there’s more than ample room for five; it’s just that the last row is best for two people only. Boot space is surprisingly good with all the seats in place; you could get a mid-size suitcase in here, although you will have to haul it high up over the tall sill.
Similarly, access to the cabin is quite a climb up and across the wide door sills. On to the seats, and at the front, you’ll be impressed at how well Tata has crafted the big chairs. The contrast-stitched faux leather feels suitably rich. The cushioning, which uses multi-density foam, is a touch too firm but has the bolstering just where you need it. Our only small grouse is the ‘lump’ around the H-point of the seat which, rather than adding to the support, feels like you’ve sat on your mobile phone. The thick A-pillar can initially cause a blind spot but you learn to look around it. The car’s size and the high driving position can be a little overwhelming until you get used to it.
If you want to replicate the comfort of the front seats in the middle row, you can do so on the top-spec XT trims of the Hexa with its two individual chairs. The only downside of these, apart from reducing the seating capacity to six, is that they don’t tumble forward and this limits maximum boot space; also, it’s easier to just walk between them to access the back row. A conventional split-folding bench comes as standard, but even here, accessing the third row isn’t easy. It has to be slid all the way back to tumble forward properly, and then too its immense weight makes it quite a task. Moreover, the Hexa’s huge rear wheel arches make access tricky, to begin with. Still, when in place, even the bench seat is really comfortable, supportive and spacious, although the middle passenger has a large central AC console to deal with. What does give you that ‘executive’ feeling in the middle row is the window shade that can be raised to keep the heat out quite effectively.
Finally, the third row – it’s quite a comfy place for two. The high floor chassis means you sit a bit knees-up of course, but it’s not as bad as some other ladder-frame SUVs. The advantage of the MPV-like squared-off rear is that head and shoulder room isn’t compromised in the third row. In fact, you can even recline the backrest, and there are also adjustable headrests. There are, of course, air-con vents for all three rows, but the blower is really quite loud, and when fully cranked up it, can overpower even the engine noise.
So, space and comfort are a highlight in the Hexa but you’ll agree that what really wows you about the interior is the quality of materials. It’s on a level thus far unseen from Tata Motors, and for once has a design to match. The dashboard isn’t a dull collection of flat surfaces anymore. The central stack has a variety of colours, textures and surfaces; here too, like with the exterior, excessive chrome has been substituted with other finishes, like piano black and dull grey plastics. Panel gaps are impressively few and even so, the dark colour scheme helps conceal them. The quality of the switchgear is also rather good (there are even knurled knobs and door locks), apart from a few places like the steering control buttons which feel tiny and fiddly to use. The upper glove box also has a terribly tricky-to-use unlock button for its latch.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
While the Hexa’s engine has been derived from the 2.2-litre unit seen in the Aria, in its Varicor 400 guise it has been extensively revamped. Girish Wagh, Sr Vice President, Product Planning at Tata Motors, explained that the block, head, intake and turbo systems have been revamped to deliver higher power and torque density and greater levels of refinement. The four-cylinder engine makes 156hp and 400Nm of torque which is channelised through a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic. Upon start up, the engine feels reasonably quiet; although, getting going smoothly from standstill requires some getting used to as the light clutch has a very sudden bite. Also, considerable effort is required to change gears and slotting into fifth required plenty of guess work, too.
Easy drivability is a strength of this engine, with the turbo spooling up nice and early, letting you amble along in one gear. On the move you can haul the rev needle to the 4600rpm limiter if need be. The performance through that rev range is adequate, not exciting; no doubt, weighed down by the Hexa’s considerable 2280kg kerb weight. On the move the engine remains reasonably quiet till around 3200rpm.
Using Bosch’s ESP 9.0, the Hexa packs traction control, hill hold control and hill descent control. This combined with engine modes and on-demand all-wheel drive has allowed Tata Motors to offer drive modes – Auto, Dynamic, Comfort and Off-Road. For instance in Comfort, the sudden spike in torque is softened for a smoother drive experience, and the gentle responses are also used to help improve fuel efficiency. In Dynamic mode, the performance of the engine is unhindered and the ESP intervention is also delayed. While in other modes the all-wheel drive mode is engaged only when required with as much as 45 per cent of the torque being sent to the front wheels, in Off-road mode all four wheels get drive consistently. The ESP is also recalibrated in this mode to suit loose surfaces.
The combination that really impressed on our first drive was the one equipped with the automatic. The 6-speed gearbox, originally a GM design, makes the best of the engine character, shifting before the 3000rpm mark to make the experience all the more easy going. The shifts from the ‘box aren’t lightning quick, but in normal driving conditions it always seems to know what you want and hence feels natural to drive. In Sport mode the gearbox shifts down aggressively to keep the engine rpm in the 3-4000rpm range for maximum punch. You could even control the gear shifts by tapping the gear lever forward or back.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
Hexa is offered in manual six-speed and automatic six-speed options. While the former comes with “Super Drive Modes” for surface-specific options, the automatic Hexa was tested for this review. And it was an absolute breeze.
The Hexa automatic offers a no-fuss, no-fancy drive with power coming up in a decently linear manner. No, it is not zippy but then, it would be unfair to expect a car this big to whizz around in city traffic. What is good though is that it moves in a leisurely enough manner in city traffic to ensure one doesn’t miss out on those important meetings.
Push the pedal harder and there is that slight sound of a muffled diesel gruff but on the whole, the Varicor 400 engine does a fantastic job of keeping itself composed. This and the extremely-well insulated cabin ensure that the crudeness of diesel experienced on most cars is disguised.
Where the Hexa does lag is in speeds well over three-digits. While getting there is no problem at all, the steering system sends back minor yet very noticeable vibrations – enough to make the slightly jittery driver even more jittery. This was experienced each time the car was taken well past 110kmph in this review.
The Hexa equipment list consists of six airbags, ESP, traction control, ABS with EBD, climate control with vents on all three rows, auto headlamps, rain sensing wipers, and reverse parking sensors with a camera. There’s also power mirrors with demister, cruise control, rear sun blinds, an eight-way adjustable driver’s seat (non-electric), a multi-function steering wheel, and a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with JBL speakers, to name a few.
It does miss out on features like powered seats and keyless go, which is a norm in the segment. There’s no sunroof either, which the rivals offer. In short, manual gearbox variants include XM and XT in six and seven seater options along with the choice of automatic transmissions called XMA and XTA. A 4×4 manual model is also available on the XT variant.
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. Get On Road price of Tata Hexa from Tata Dealers in Hyderabad