Tata has thoroughly updated its successful Indigo eCS. But is it enough to make it leapfrog stiff competition from the impressive Mahindra Verito Vibe?
The Indigo eCS was one of the most affordable, and efficient, diesel compact saloon you could buy. It was very basic and sparsely equipped, but the Indigo was perfect for the market, it was and is the cheapest saloon available, and that made it a best seller. But with our market constantly evolving, customers have started to become more demanding. The Indigo though was getting long in the tooth, so an update was required. And thats precisely what this update is all about; spruced up looks, more features and, believe it or not, vastly improved mechanical bits.
With the new Verito Vibe, Mahindra has embarked on some serious image enhancing of its own. The new Vibe gets edgier styling and plenty of sporty details, and is almost different enough to make you forget the car on which it is based; the boring Logan. Now under four metres long, the new Vibe is also more affordable, better equipped and more refined too. But is it good enough to beat Tatas ace of base, the seriously well priced Indigo eCS. The Tata, after all, is cheaper than even the mid D4 Vibe we are comparing it to.
What are they like to drive?
The new Indigo eCS uses the same 1.4-litre common-rail diesel motor as the old car. But now, it has been tuned for better performance and has an improved cable-shift gearbox. Now there is very little turbo-lag at low engine speeds, and acceleration is almost instant and very strong. The gearbox is both slick and very accurate to use and, as a result, the eCS is surprisingly fluid and effortless to drive. Theres no doubt, performance, refinement and mechanical sophistication have taken a big leap here. Thanks to its strong engine, the Indigo eCS reaches 100kph in a decent 16.15 seconds.
The Vibe is powered by a 1.5-litre, Renault-sourced, four-cylinder diesel motor. Producing 64bhp and 16.31kgm of torque, it is less powerful than the Tata. But what this engine lacks in outright power, it makes up for with its linearity and smooth power delivery. The clutch is light and progressive and, thanks to the responsive nature of the engine, its the more relaxing car to drive in town. Acceleration is strong till about 3500rpm, but past that speed, there is not much grunt and its best to shift up to the next gear to keep the motor in the meat of its power band. Performance figures are very close to that of the Indigo. The sprint to hundred takes a similar 16.07 seconds and it hits a top speed of 144kph. But, thanks to the motors linear and instant power delivery, its in-gear times are very impressive. The sprint from 20-80kph in third takes 12.45 seconds and 40-100kph in fourth takes a scant 15.92 seconds, which makes it much quicker than the Indigo.
Ride & handling
The Tatas soft all-independent suspension does a decent job of dealing with speed-breakers and potholes, and appears well up to the task of dealing with Indian roads. This is especially true at low and medium speeds. As you up the pace, you begin to notice inconsistencies in the way the Indigo rides. Over patchy roads, there is too much vertical motion, which can get uncomfortable. There is some body roll too, and the steering, though light, feels vague at high speeds. This means it isnt as confidence inspiring.
The Vibe in contrast is rock solid at high speeds. It feels safe and predictable in high-speed corners and you do enjoy driving at a good pace. It doesnt want to change direction quickly, however. It needs to be coaxed into a corner and that takes some of the fun out of driving briskly. It also rolls quite a bit in bends, and while the light steering gets heavier the faster you go, it doesnt get heavy enough. Thanks to the soft suspension, the Vibe rides well at slow speeds and the suspension feels good at taking the sting out of nasty bumps.
What are they like inside?
None of these cars will win any design awards for their cabins, and the levels of functionality arent high either. The Vibes interiors are a step up from the days of the old Logan. The cabin plastics look plusher and feel more tactile. The grain on the dashboard and the improved fit and finish go some way in delivering the feel-good factor that had pretty much eluded the Logan. The instrument cluster, borrowed from the Verito, is clear, easy to read and looks quite good. But the cheap power window switches, the control stalks and sharp edges around the small door pockets are of iffy quality.
The interiors of the Indigo eCS have a bit of more flair, but still feel old; they basically come from the 14-year-old Indica. And while Tata has improved the quality of the interiors, there are still plenty of hard plastics around. Even worse are the flawed ergonomics. The steering wheel is too close to the driver, the pedals a touch too high and the front seats, which are the least comfortable of the two, lack under-thigh support. The cabin is not the most practical either. There are very few storage spaces and there are not many cubbyholes to keep your phone and other small knick-knacks.
Move to the rear and youll find space at the Indigos backseat is slightly tighter than the Vibe. Legroom is sufficient though and headroom is generous too. Not surprisingly, its the Vibe that has the most spacious rear seats. The broad cabin makes it the easy to sit three abreast and the high-set seat is very comfortable. Its boot, at 330 litres, is slightly smaller than the Indigos but the odd boot opening is small and makes loading large bags next-to-impossible.
Equipment & safety
The Indigo eCS is available in three variants and prices start at a very tempting R5.29 lakh for the base LS model. Power steering, front power windows, rear fog lamps and central locking are standard here. R5.49 lakh will get you the LX variant which, in addition to the features on the LS, comes with rear power windows, an anti-glare rear-view mirror, power mirrors, body-coloured mirrors and a CD/MP3 player with Bluetooth connectivity, USB and aux-in ports. In addition, the VX comes with a height-adjustable driver seat, rear armrest, rear-seat pockets, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, parking sensors, alloy wheels, keyless entry and ABS.
The Verito Vibe prices start at R5.68 lakh for the D2 variant that gets power steering roof rails, a parcel shelf and tachometer. Wed suggest you extend your budget to R5.95 lakh for the D4 variant that gets internally adjustable mirrors, power windows, central locking, full wheel covers, body-coloured door handles, adjustable front seatbelts and a trip computer. Our pick of the range is the fully-loaded D6 model, which is priced at R6.54 lakh. It comes with electric mirrors, a 2-DIN music system, rear defogger, keyless entry, body-coloured mirrors and a cellphone and bottle holder. It also comes with important safety features like ABS with EBD and a drivers airbag. With both manufacturers expansive service network and affordable spare parts, both Indigo and Vibe owners are assured of a stress-free ownership experience.
Mahindra Verito Vibe D4
The much improved Indigo eCS comes as a big surprise. We are really impressed by how far the eCS has come in terms of the way it feels and drives. However, the Indigo does feel really long in the tooth, and it still feels very basic.
With its refreshed looks, big interiors and greater refinement, the Vibe, however, edges ahead of the Tata. The engine is very flexible, the chassis is better built, it is well equipped and easier to drive in traffic. Sure its much more expensive, but it feels like a more modern, throughly engineered, and well rounded car.