You’ve read about the Aria before, so I won’t go over the looks. Essentially, the Aria 4x2 is, as the suffix suggests, a two-wheel drive version of Tata’s flagship crossover. Why is it so? Well, it is primarily a de-specced variant, but one with still enough features to take on the higher-end Toyota Innova. Oh yes, in everything that the Aria does, remember the ‘I’ word. This time around, Tata Motors has planted the Aria bang in the middle of the Innova’s playfield and it’s fairly well armed to take on Toyota’s chartbuster.
To start with, the engine (sans the massive plastic shroud) is the same 2,179cc, 140 bhp, inline-four, diesel unit as on the 4x4. It isn’t particularly quick or exceptionally fast, especially when compared to the Skoda Yeti, but for the purpose it is most likely to serve — driving holidays — it adopts a relaxed, unstressed pattern of power delivery. The clutch action is a bit lethargic, and the gear shifter does come across as slightly reluctant to slot in, too. If you give it the stick, be prepared for some engine noises in the cabin and a slightly wallowy ride, but we’ll get to the last bit later. The car can get rolling from standstill in second gear with the air-con switched on and a full load of passengers with its 32.6 kg (at 1700-2700 rpm) of torque output. This means you could leave first gear only for inclines and, if it suits your fancy, drag racing! Just joking, of course. At 80 kmph in top gear, the cabin is fairly quiet and the Aria chugs along with the determination of a locomotive. It will hold 120 kmph all day while keeping its occupants in great comfort, and that is surely one of the Aria’s positives.
So how is the 4x2 any different from the 4x4? The answer lies in the now shortened features list. First to go is, obviously, the Adapterra 4x4 unit. The Aria in this spec is, like the Innova, rear-wheel driven. Sans 4x4, the Aria obviously loses out on traction in off-road conditions; however, it can still very much hold its own in the rough with its body-on-ladder chassis setup’s natural capabilities. The approach road to our shoot location was a mix of not-so-deep slush and craters and the Aria, with its high ground clearance, took to it with ease. Just as long as you’re not venturing into proper off-roading territory, you won’t miss the 4x4 unit. Oh, and the Pure variant comes with ABS as standard, but no EBD.
The suspension itself leans more towards “soft” and it shows in the way the car behaves under hard cornering. Body roll is evident and the Aria does pitch and dive rather pronouncedly. Under general use, though, you won’t be pointing fingers at the Aria’s ride and handling characteristics. The 4x2 comes with 235/70 R16 tyres, which means the ride is certainly an improvement, if only minor, over its elder sibling. Also, the omission of the four-wheel drive and a few other features means the Aria has lost almost 200 kg, bringing the weight down to roughly 2,000 kg. The weight loss has resulted in the Aria going from 0-60 kmph in 5.6 seconds and 0-100 kph in 14.4 seconds, as opposed to 6.9 and 15.3 seconds for the 4x4 Aria. The 80-120 kmph time, however, remains the same at 11.2 seconds, which makes the Aria a comfortable highway cruiser.
Moving on, our test car, the Pure variant, does not come with airbags, which is a huge disappointment. Leather seats are only reserved for the Prestige variant, while in the Pure and the Pleasure you get fabric seats in beige. The seats by themselves are wide and generous, although more than one of us seemed to have an issue with the thigh support and the overall height — a bit low and not height-adjustable, even for the driver.
Next to go is the GPS unit — something we found extremely user-friendly in the 4x4. Along with the GPS goes the screen in the centre of the dash, replaced by a smaller, basic one that reads out MP3/FM information and so on. Also to go are the steering-mounted controls, which is something that doesn’t go down too well. On the other hand, the Aria comes with a USB/aux-in port as standard, which is always a good thing!
Coming to the end of the ‘knocked-off’ list, the car does not feature fog lamps (only relevant to the Pure variant) and electric folding outside rear-view mirrors. The overall interior quality of the Aria is a huge improvement over Tata Motors’ past endeavours, although the quality of plastics used is a bit questionable. The arrow keys around the volume control knob, for example, tend to get stuck and could be better built.
What, then, is the final call on the cheaper, but not particularly cheap, Aria? To put it down on paper, the de-specced Aria still has every feature that the top of the line Innova has. Tata Motors has stated a 13.7 kmpl (ARAI tested) figure and we achieved an overall figure of 10.5 kmpl, which is impressive!
It is also roomier on the inside than the Innova, although you must leave the last row of seats to luggage or children. Prices for the Aria 4x2 begin at Rs 11.61 lakh for the Pure and Rs 12.61 and Rs 14.26 lakh (all prices ex-showroom, Delhi) for the Pleasure and Prestige variants, respectively.
To give you an idea, the Innova VX 2.0 petrol (BSIV) is priced at Rs 11.99 lakh and the VX 2.5 diesel at Rs 12.61 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). This means the Pure is actually a few thousand rupees cheaper than a top-of-the-line petrol Innova, and a full lakh down on the diesel!
Decisions, decisions. Until we do a face-off between the two giants, it’s fair to give the Aria 4x2 a serious look, right?