There's just nothing as appealing as a steaming hot breakfast. So what is Tata’s new Venture doing here? Well, it just happened to drop by office for a driving impression and we were hungry. Very hungry. So we decided to simply 1) cruise around South Mumbai while evaluating the new vehicle at hand, 2) feed ourselves silly with everything that looked appealing and 3) file the story while repeating step two. Simple.
But first, I must introduce you to the Tata Venture.
Yes, you guessed right, it is very much an Ace-based vehicle, but what lies beneath is a 1.4-litre TDi diesel engine from the BS-III Indica/Indigo. This is a proper seven-seater and the seven in that sentence is meant very literally. Most importantly, you must keep aside all co-relations to its load-lugging sibling; it is a car, a proper car.
Look around from the driver’s seat and the cabin feels bigger than it is, thanks to the sea of beige on the GX and also because of the huge glass section starting from the B-pillar and ending in a very Tata-family stacked tail-lamp cluster and of course, the rear windscreen. Importantly, the GX variant is equipped with a parking sensor (audio only) which is of great help.
The driving position is a bit odd, at least if you’re used to driving ‘normal’ cars and while it does take time getting used to, it’s fun while the novelty lasts. Leg room is never an issue (the EX also offers a five-seater version in addition to the seven/eight-seater versions in the range) and knee room is decent even in the last row, which can seat three abreast in decent comfort. The last row also folds down to provide increased loading space, which is always a good thing, although we wish the second row did the same too so we could ferry one of our two-strokers to the track and back. You get roof-mounted AC vents (the AC is powerful and very effective. Full marks!) for the rear passengers and a fan speed regulator knob, so your folks in the back will be a happy bunch.
How is it to drive? Well, the handling is a bit unnerving and that’s a given owing to its tall stance, but once you’re familiar with its dimensions, you could really do an auto-rickshaw on city traffic, if you know what I mean. The horizontally positioned steering wheel feels nice to grip and guiding the Venture through traffic and narrow alleys is an enjoyable deal, especially if you’re a van newbie. Triple-digit speed lane changes are not something that the Venture is built for and ‘gentle’ is the operative word when it comes to handling this Tata.
The independent front/coil sprung rear combination works quite well for the car in that it takes to the rough rather comfortably. Yes, it rolls a lot and under hard braking it dives to the point that you start preparing for a stoppie. But under general usage, it is about as comfortable as most B-segment hatchbacks. The front discs (drums on the rear wheels) are effective and do their job well and the only let-down is the aforementioned suspension dive.
A 1405cc inline-four cylinder diesel that produces 70 bhp at 4500 rpm powers the EX and GX variants while the CX gets a 49 bhp rating from the same motor. While the figures look good, what is really a disappointment is the gearing. First is just uncomfortably short, second livens up things a bit, but the 13.7 kgm torque figure (paired with the near tonne-and-a-half kerb weight) means if you shift into third even a little before you redline in second, you’ve stopped making progress. This, we believe, will be even more apparent in the 49 bhp, 8.6 kgm CX version and Tata Motors, if you’re listening, we believe a common-rail diesel motor should be next on your agenda. The GX, once you’ve worked your way up the box, is actually a very relaxed cruiser. Slot it into fifth at 80 kph and it pulls, slowly but steadily, to a speedo indicated 120 kph.
Now to get done with the bits that didn’t get points on our board. While the interior quality is a sure evolution from Tata’s past efforts, the Venture scores low on the ergonomics front. We generally complain about lack of steering feel in modern cars, but here the steering feel bit comes through rather awkwardly on your left foot when you depress the clutch – because that’s where the steering column is. Gearshifts are slightly notchy, especially lower down the ‘box, and while the shift from first to second takes some yanking, the shift from second to first is a bit of a game of luck, something rather typical with cable-operated transmissions. As you gather momentum, the ‘box is easier to live with. Lastly, there is a lot of engine noise in the cabin, but that’s because the engine itself is. Oh, and the Venture is equipped with a state-of-the-art diesel-powered heated centre console (think mid-engined... heh, heh).
These are things that will, unfortunately or otherwise, grow on you with time.
Overall, the Venture is a good holiday car, especially so for short jaunts provided you don’t want to get to the destination at lightning speed. Can it be the only car you own? That could be a strong ‘yes’ provided you’re not the enthusiast type. The Rs 5.39 lakh price tag for the GX is steep, especially so when compared to that of the Maruti Suzuki Eeco’s five-seater AC variant which retails at Rs 4.01 lakh (all prices ex-showroom, Mumbai). But the Venture has the meatier features list and also has the edge in terms of interior space. I think you should go take a test drive while we finish the last of the sandwiches....
Displacement: 1405cc, I-4, turbo diesel
Max power: 70 bhp@4500 rpm
Max torque: 13.76 kgm@2500 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Type: Rack and pinion with power assist
Front: Independent suspension
Rear: Multi-link with coil springs
(F/R): 165/ R14, tube-type
L/W/H (mm): 3950/1565/1858
Wheelbase: 2100 mm
Ground clearance: 160 mm
Kerb weight: NA
PRICE: Rs 5.39 LAKH Ex-showroom, Mumbai