Meet the Tata Hexa and unless you have been living in a cave all this while, you would know about this car considering the buzz it has created. First shown in concept form at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show, it will finally be put on sale by Jan next year. So the simple question is should you wait for the Hexa and is it worth all the hype?
In a nutshell yes as it is easily the best car yet by Tata Motors and they have worked hard to make sure that the Hexa would be a winner. It would not be easy when it will competing with the Innova Crysta or even the XUV500 but we think the Hexa has enough in its arsenal. Styling is where we should first talk about the Hexa considering that Tata Motors have again carefully positioned it as a crossover and not an MPV. Unlike the Aria, the Hexa is a lot more interesting to look at and do not be mistaken that the Hexa is just an Aria facelift- it is a lot more than that.
It started with the Tiago and now the Hexa is another good looking Tata. With a massive grille, smoked projector headlamps with DRLs along with an aggressive front bumper, it has a lot of presence plus the cladding and the muscular wheel arches work too. The cherry on top of the cake though are the massive 19 inch wheels. The rear is a bit more understated but looks a lot better than the Aria with tail-lamps that blend in well and of course a thick strip of chrome to provide the necessary premium quotient. Do note paint finish and overall quality is excellent.
Inside there are even bigger surprises. The all black cabin has been tastefully put together and it is not over the top and nor is it too bland. Again quality is easily the best from Tata Motors but it also beats some of its rivals. Soft touch materials and overall switchgear quality is very good. The dash is neatly laid out with very good finish plus the instrument cluster with the TFT screen works as well. Though we would have liked a different looking steering wheel, a dead pedal and a bigger touchscreen.
No complaints about the seats though as they are among the biggest highlights of the Hexa. These large leather seats come from Germany and offer excellent comfort. Space has always been a Tata Motors strong point and it continues to be so here as well with more than ample headroom/legroom in the 2nd row- the captain seats being our choice plus you have a USB charging point, rear ac vents plus window sun blinds. The third row is even more of a surprise with more than decent space plus there are dedicated ac vents though access requires some effort. Luggage space with all three rows up is 128l while it is 671l with second and third row folded. Storage space is well thought out too with large enough door pockets, central storage space, two gloveboxes though for the navigation, which requires to connect your smartphone, there is no dedicated place to put your phone.
It is also good news on the features front with plenty being offered. The Harman touchscreen infotainment system features smartphone integration, voice recognition plus navigation, sms read out, rear view camera, 6 airbags, ambient lighting etc (complete feature list here). The navigation is via NaviMaps app with offline maps. There is also the Juke car app- a mobile hotspot plus the Smart Remote App-where you can control various functions from your smartphone. Lastly we must talk about the brilliant 10 speaker JBL audio system with a subwoofer which is just brilliant and among the best audio systems at this price or even more!
Now of course you want to know how it drives and let me tell you that we were shocked by how good the Hexa is in this department. The sole engine option is a 2.2l diesel with 154 bhp and 400Nm with a 6-speed manual being standard and a 6- speed auto being optional. 4x4 option is only available on the manual and so are the drive modes. The automatic gets selectable modes along with race car function plus of course manual shift option. First the manual and the gearshift is a long throw affair with shift action not being precise though the clutch is light. Start driving and the power is more than ample along with the generous amount of torque.
At low speeds you do not need frequent downshifts with enough grunt. Lag is minimal with power spread smoothly and the NVH levels are quite good (best yet from Tata) with the engine being vocal only when pushed hard. The drive modes are not a gimmick too with comfort mode being perfect for city and cruising while dynamic providing a more fun drive. Rough road mode is for off-road use. Speaking of which the Hexa is much more than a crossover being dressed in off-road clothes as the 4x4 version is quite capable in the rough stuff. It has got the necessary hardware and the right amount of ground clearance (200mm).
Moving to the automatic and we say it is the better one and also likely to be the best seller. The 6-speed auto is among the better torque-converter gearboxes around with being quite responsive whether in terms of upshifts or downshifts with sports mode being very aggressive. It is a lot more engaging and responds when driven hard. Yet at low speeds it also works, giving a much more relaxed driving experience than the manual.
In terms of ride and handling the Hexa surprised us with its agility and ride. The suspension just swallows everything and we went through some bad roads at high speeds which proved to be of no issue at all. It is also massively more agile than what its size suggest which means I was carrying a lot of speed into corners with confidence. Roll is much less and well contained. Yes, it is a big car and its weight (2280 kgs) is felt but this is as good as it gets for this class. The steering- which is heavy at low speeds, gets much better as you go faster.
Overall this first taste is enough to say that the Hexa will be a game changer for Tata Motors. The technology and engineering is spot on and it could very well be among the best in class for its driving experience or features. It does well in other departments as well with no massive flaw. It will be priced competitively which would also be the icing on the cake. Between the manual or auto, we would go for the automatic as it provides a much better driving experience even though that means you would have to let go of 4x4. So, yes the Hexa has lived up to the hype and if Tata prices it right, it has a clear winner.
Photography- Rajeev Bhendwal