Winter is coming and this is possibly the best time to travel around India especially if you wish to check out any hill station. We planned a trip to the small town of Mandi in Himachal Pradesh which comes on the way to Manali as our weekend trip. We chose this as the destination since it has beautiful surroundings and typical hilly roads capable enough to test the potential of any car.
For this journey we wanted to see how a hatch can tackle such difficult roads. And that is the reason why we chose a Tata Tiago diesel for our journey. The Tiago is currently the largest selling car of Tata, bringing them back into the competition. This car is good looking, fuel efficient and a feature-rich city car. How does it perform when shown open long stretches and tough hill roads? Read on.
The distance to Mandi is around 480km from Delhi, which means it takes around 10 hours of driving to reach. We started off early in the morning with the diesel Tiago packed with all the essentials required for a hill station trip, including woolen clothes for sure. The Tiago starts with a typical 3-cylinder vibration which never really goes away. However, the sound insulation is pretty good inside the cabin. This is more evident while going fast on highways as the engine tends to become noisy when pushed really hard on wide open roads. The Tiago has been given a very well tuned engine, offering good performance between 1500-3000rpm in every gear. The clutch, though, has a short travel and feels very light for a diesel engine. The gearbox is also equipped with well spaced gear ratios for city-friendly usage.
The Tiago is always off to a good start and it only runs out of breath post 3500rpm. But usually, most of the overtaking was done below this range. The mid-range is very punchy for a 3-cylinder engine but you always have to be in the right gear to make sure you complete a successful overtaking. The Tiago comes with two driving modes; Eco and City. The moment you switch to Eco mode, there is a drastic and dull change in the throttle response which affects the performance. It is highly suggested that you use the Eco mode only when cruising at high speeds because slightly better mileage comes at the stake of performance.
Since we started early in the morning, after a drive of nearly five hours, we took a brunch break at the famous Haveli chain in Ropar. By this time, the sun was shining bright as we wolfed down some paranthas and chai. The seats of the Tiago initially felt quite comfortable but after spending so much of time, we realized that there is a lack of under-thigh and back support which tires you during long journeys.
After relaxing for a while we resumed our journey and the road conditions were pretty good here as well, same as what we had started from on the Delhi-Karnal-Kurukshetra-Ambala route. That said, the Tiago has very good highway manners as it stays quite grounded at high speeds and the steering also weighs properly to give you confidence. The suspension set-up is on the stiffer side which is useful while cruising at high speeds which finally ended up at Kiratpur Sahib. From here on the road condition is completely different as the uphill roads start with broken patches. While going uphill, the car was struggling to pick up momentum and then I felt that the car is under-powered but then I saw at the centre console where the Eco mode was engaged and I instantly turned it off which suddenly brought all the difference and the car became progressive.
Despite being in City mode, the Tiago takes a noticeable time to climb-up but if you keep the engine boiling in right gear then it will not bother you much. 2nd and 3rd gears are what usually it takes to help the Tiago to climb up. You cannot up-shift to 4th else it may stall and you will not need to engage the first gear since it is not that low on power. The low end turbo lag is very well contained and you can easily maintain your speed while going up. There are few broken patches after Bilaspur towards Mandi which are in really bad shape and they tested the car to its limit and we made sure Tiago does not back off. We were possibly the first to cover the entire broken surface and Tiago is well capable of taking all the hard beating from the uneven roads. It stays well in control even while moving at fast speeds over major potholes and the superb grip from the tyres and ABS-equipped braking system gives you immense confidence, which is very encouraging.
After the broken roads, we went through small town crowded roads on our way to Mandi including Barmana, Sundernagar and Behna before reaching our destination. It took us around 10 hours in total to reach Mandi after taking the Tiago on different kinds of road surfaces. There are a few outcomes from this journey which includes an overall superb mileage of around 18 km/ltr, brilliant high speed driving manners, feature rich interiors and a punchy mid-range. Yes, the engine runs out of breath quickly and the seats are also not that supportive but it is a very affordable, stylish, fuel efficient and well equipped car. This is by far the best finished Tata product launched in our market and that can be seen in its sales figures as well. And last but not the least, this can be your weekend car as well thanks to its good brakes and safety features, which makes it a very good value for money car and that is exactly what Indians look for.
Also read- Tata Tiago review
Words and Photography- Sunil Kumar