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Rae's Indian hot wheels

2007-05-22 12:11

Rae Trew-Browne, Uitenhage

The second instalment in our new series of Reader Road Tests. Rainier Vermaak's BMW 745i article was well received, so what do you think about Rae's sporty - and spicy - Indica?

First impressions

At first glance, the fairly new Tata Indica is quite easy on the eye. Especially this one as it has had a few basic modifications, namely 17-inch alloy rims with low profile tyres and a slight window tint.

Although I must admit when the India-based brand first landed on our shores determined to bring a fight to the entry level hatchback and unsuspecting locals, I, and many others, were a bit sceptical of the brand.

Poor build quality and terrible handling were among the top of the list of reasons not to buy one. Upon taking a closer look and having the car for a few months my scepticism soon faded into utter enjoyment of the vehicle.

Just a few changes... I was surprised by the agility of the car once I replaced the standard 14-inch wheels with 17-inch rims from Merit Racing with Dunlop's SP6060 205/40/17 tyres. The added surface area covered by the wider tyres aided in better handling and steering response, especially at speed.

The down side for me is the poor performance. Although it is still quite nippy from robot to robot, the 1.4 MPFI engine with maximum power of 63 kW at 5 500 r/min and 115 Nm at 3 000 r/min doesn't get you much faster than 150 km/h down the straight. Even in entry level terms that is a few sandwiches shy of a picnic basket.

The higher than average height could be a cause of this too. At 1 500 mm high, it is a full 105 mm higher than one of its main rivals - the VW Citi Golf 1.4i. In terms of aerodynamics, the car lacks a bit of finesse.

Big car feel

Once in the vehicle, the small car look of the exterior is transformed to a big car feel inside. The dashboard and features create an illusion that the car is bigger than it really is. I was very impressed with this as I quickly forgot that I was in a small hatch back, but thought rather that I was in a larger sedan. The seats are set quite high, which becomes uncomfortable after long periods of time, but does give you a clearer vision of the road ahead. The interior is simple yet effective with the dials and facia creating a generally sporty atmosphere.

The LXI version, which is the top of the Indica range, impressively comes standard with air conditioning, power steering, ABS brakes, electric windows and driver and passenger airbags. These features and the price of roughly R91 500 make it very competitive in the entry level hatchback market, but in my opinion with that price and those features it should be classed higher as it is beginning to take on the more prestigious VW Polo and Ford Fiesta.

There are still many sceptics of the brand, but I believe with enough time to build a reputation of reliability, as well as those features and the price tag, we could see Tata establishing itself as a top competitor in all its target markets.


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