Tata Hexa Engine & Gearbox

Tata Hexa Overview

The Tata Hexa has been in the works for a considerable amount of time. It was first showcased at the 2016 Auto Expo, and the brand’s new flagship model serves as a replacement for the Aria. Though it shares the Aria’s platform, they’ve tweaked the styling broadly and equipped the car comprehensively to attract the young and style conscious buyer. It goes without saying that the first impression of this SUV is quite impressive, nonetheless. We drove the car extensively and this review will tell you whether the Hexa was worth the long wait

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Tata Hexa Exteriors

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

Tata Hexa Interiors

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.

Tata Hexa Performance

No big surprise when it comes to the engine. It’s the latest version of Tata’s 2.2-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel called the Varicor 400 (owing to its new Honeywell-sourced variable-geometry turbo and 400Nm of torque), which we’ve already seen on the top variant of the Safari Storme.

Fire it up and the Hexa’s relative refinement is literally music to your ears. There is a bit of murmur at idle for sure, but it’s not the boom you’d expect. Vibrations too are impressively contained, save for a little bit through the gear lever. The noise does swell up as the revs climb, but it’s only beyond 3,500rpm that it really sounds harsh, by which time you’ll have likely shifted up already.

The engine is surprisingly responsive off the line and does its best work before 3,000rpm. In fact, this takes some getting used to in both the manual and the automatic versions. In the manual, you have to account for the rather snappy clutch, whose pedal is not very progressive, so it often jerks and leaps off the line. Couple this with the heavy gearshift action and long, wide throws for the lever, and changing gear becomes a tiring task you’d rather avoid. There’s also no safety lock on the reverse gear, something that’s almost mandatory on six-speed manual gearboxes, so you have to be careful when you’re trying to engage sixth.

Thankfully, owing to the strong torque reserves of this motor, you can easily leave the Hexa in second, third or fourth and get through most everyday driving situations. Overtaking too is a breeze and very rarely needs a downshift.

In fact, for its size and weight, roll-on acceleration is not too bad, taking 12.72sec to do 40-100kph in fourth gear, and 10.83sec for 20-80kph in third, and that’s likely to do with the Hexa’s really strong mid-range. However, because of how tricky it is to launch smoothly and its jerkiness off the line, the 0-100kph time is a less-than-impressive 14.21sec – quite a bit slower than the competition.

Driving the automatic is an altogether nicer experience. The gearbox is really impressive with how smoothly and seamlessly it gets its job done in most circumstances, whisking you from gear to gear at no more than 2,000rpm if you tread lightly on the throttle. Like the manual, however, it’s when setting off and at really slow speeds that it falters. The tremendous pep from the motor means it overreacts and often shifts down unnecessarily with the lightest tap of your toe, only to return to the same gear moments later. There are no paddles but it’s sufficiently accommodating to taps on the lever for a car like this. It’s also significantly quicker than the manual version, with 0-100kph being despatched in 12.28sec and kick down times of 7.44sec and 9.73sec for 20-80kph and 40-100kph, respectively.

 

Tata Hexa Driving

On the face of it, the Hexa has a number of things that could work against it on the dynamics front – its immense weight, ladder-frame chassis, long wheelbase, robust 4×4 system, 19-inch wheels – and those things considered, it really pulls off something impressive. The ride quality first; it is really good. You will get quite a bit of steering shock (although not the worst we’ve seen in this sort of car) that’s typical of ladder-frame SUVs when you hit a sharp bump. There’s an underlying firmness that you’re constantly aware of, but at very few points could you call it harsh or uncomfortable. The truth is, the Hexa’s variable-rate dampers do a phenomenal job of tackling various road conditions and keep things comfy in the cabin no matter what. It’s at its best out on the highway, with a supremely flat ride and very little movement. What you’ll also be impressed by is how silently it goes about its business; very little suspension, tyre and road noise makes it to the cabin.

Handling expectedly is not in the same league as an SUV with a monocoque chassis. The Hexa rolls around a lot, although, it has to be said that there is a lot of grip, especially in the 4×4 version. The bigger issue, however, is that it just feels too large and heavy for you to ever dream of pushing it even remotely hard around a corner. The hydraulic steering has a bit of slack at the centre position, and is really heavy at low speeds, making parking this big hulk quite a task. This is slightly less pronounced in the 4×2 version, likely because of the lack of front driveshafts. Also, the lack of reach adjustment for the steering is a bit annoying, and you do feel like the wheel is canted slightly forward on the whole.

Tata Hexa Safety

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.

Tata Hexa Price

Tata Hexa Ex-Showroom Price in Bangalore ranges from 11,69,580/- (Hexa XE) to 17,03,908/- (Hexa XT 4X4). Get best offers for Tata Hexa from Tata Dealers in Bangalore. Check for Hexa price in Bangalore

Tata Hexa Verdict

Tata Motors have left no stone unturned with the Hexa as they have worked well on almost all the aspects of this new MPV turned SUV. The Indian audience might accept the Hexa well in the market considering the amount of features on offer and the practical nature of the car along with the convenience of a great auto box. However, to compete aggressively with the Mahindra XUV500, they need to market and price the Hexa well to make it a desirable SUV to own. The Hexa will be launched in January 2017 and it might be the next big hit by Tata Motors.

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