Xeta, the warrior princess
New price, better efficiency and refinement. Siddhraj Singh takes the Indica petrol for a spin
The biggest shocker is the Xeta's sub-Rs 3 lakh price, sending the Alto scurrying for cover
HEART OF THE MATTER The Indica still looks the same apart from the price revision, the single major change to the petrol variant is below the hood.
Tata Motors has always been known as a diesel carmaker, despite the fact that they know petrol too. Tata now wants to shake off that image and plant the Indica firmly in the minds of petrol punters too. And this is precisely the reason for the new Xeta variant.
The Xeta is not another downgraded, run-of-the-mill-variant of the Indica petrol; in fact it's far from that. The biggest shocker is its sub-Rs 3 lakh price (Rs 2.94 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi), blasting open the small car market and sending the Alto scurrying for cover. To survive in this segment a car needs to please the masses and to ensure this, the 1400cc motor's character has been changed quite a bit. Firstly, engine capacity has been marginally snipped from 1405cc to 1396cc, by reducing piston stroke - this has been executed not for any significant performance difference, but to make use of concessions offered in Europe for under-1400cc cars. Tata is making a considerable effort to sell the Xeta-engined Indica in Europe - and this means that today, even the India-spec car too comes with the export version of the engine management system. This is a revised version of the same 32-bit processor, with adaptive fuel management and intelligent knock control.
With these changes, Tata hopes that the Indica will be comparable to the current class in terms of fuel efficiency and driveability. Performance has been sacrificed to achieve this, with peak power down to 70 bhp (from 75 bhp). The Xeta is slower by almost two seconds to the ton over the earlier Indica petrol. The rev-limit too, has been lowered to 5600 rpm, down by 800 revs, adding to the reasons for the drop in power. This is useful fuel saving trick, preventing over-revving of the engine and the subsequent fuel wastage.
Off the blocks
Despite the slower acceleration, the Xeta does well against its rivals, clocking a commendable 13.96 sec to 100 kph, faster than all other small hatches. Its driveability too has improved, with torque up (12.64 kgm instead of 11.21 kgm) and at an earlier peak of 2600 rpm (3000 rpm in the older version). The Indica Xeta is quite responsive and agile in traffic, though it tends to jerk and lurch at pedestrian speeds, a tendency of some other fuel-injected vehicles. Gear changes are few and far between thankfully, so the rubbery and notchy gearbox has been left unchanged. City driving gains have had an adverse effect on the highway, with loss of performance, especially during hard overtaking, evident.
The Xeta engine does best with 91 octane or higher fuel - it will run on 87 octane, but won't perform as well. Ideally, 97 octane would bring out the best, but practically very few owners will shell out the extra 17-odd bucks per litre.
There is a newfound smoothness to the engine too. The coarse edge and mechanical chatter has been ironed out, and it's much quieter and balanced than before, though not quite in the same plane as its immediate competitors. Tata engineers added a roller bearing camshaft and shaved off a whole four kilos from various moving parts to achieve this stability and smoothness. The lighter parts also mean less inertia requirement, which equates to lesser loads on the engine. An aluminium sump reduces engine vibrations and increases block rigidity. However, thanks to the quietness of the engine, the sound of the rather unrefined gearbox is apparent, despite additional sound deadening material in place.
The suspension remains largely unchanged, though tightening control over quality and tolerances, and bushes with the right amount of compliances have given the Indica a softer feel. The suspension is less clunky and harsh but still needs improvement. Steering feel is non-linear and not reassuring at high speeds. The new beige interiors are a welcome change over the earlier drab one. The plastics look and feel better, especially the dashboard, though crude bits like the switchgear and rubber parts remain. Overall the interiors have improved a small step.
But the all important question still remains, 'Average kya hai?' Well, the far bigger engine and size doesn't let the Indica level with the likes of the Santro, the Alto or the Wagon R. But it's a huge improvement on itself, with 10.9 kpl coming up in city and 15.9 kpl available on the highway (8.9 kpl and 14.9 kpl with the older variant). It's close enough to its rivals to give competition, especially considering the brownie points earned for its space and comfort.
With refinement, efficiency, and price, Tata has pulled a trump out of its pack. But it remains to be seen if long-term durability has been improved or not. If so, the Xeta is the warrior for Tata's cause in the small car segment.
Rs 2.94 lakh onwards
Length: 3,675 mm
Width: 1,665 mm
Height: 1,485 mm
Kerb weight: 1,005 kg
Wheelbase: 2,400 mm
Power: 70 bhp @ 4800 rpm
Torque: 12.64 kgm @ 2600 rpm
Front-wheel drive, 5-speed
0-60 kph: 6.08 seconds
0-100 kph: 15.66
Top speed: 150 kph
Fuel-efficiency: 13.4 kpl
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