Comparing the Tata Aria and the Toyota Innova MUVs

Tata is hoping that its latest launch, the Aria, will mark its rebound in a segment where its workhorses, the Safari and the Sumo, have been steadily losing ground to rivals Mahindra & Mahindra’s MUVs and Toyota India’s Innova. Tata Motors’ market share in the utility vehicle (UV) segment dropped to 13.2% in fiscal 2009-10 from 21.8% in fiscal 2006-07, according to industry statistics.

The Toyota Innova rolled out into the Indian car market in March 2005. It was first manufactured and marketed in Indonesia and was called Toyota Kijang Innova. When it came to India in 2005, the car had set new benchmarks in the MPV segment. Since then it is admired for its fantastic ride quality, luxurious and versatile interiors, proven performance, and extensive safety features. That the Innova still can’t be bought off the shelf and commands a waiting period is a testimony of the Indian consumers’ faith in Toyota.

Here we take a look at these two goliaths of the MUV sector – the Tata Aria and the Toyota Innova. Read on . . .

Aria vs Innova: Design

This is a tough one. Tata insists that the Aria is not just a people-mover, but a proper 4×4 in its own right. So through which lens do we look at it? Whichever one you choose to use, the first thing evident is that this is unlike any Tata vehicle before. Initial impressions suggest a very competitive package with some first-time features.

tata aria photo

Photo: Tata Aria

The Tata Aria is best described as a people mover on some serious steroids with all-weather and all-road capability. The very large and very intimidating front is dominated by the large three-slat chrome grille flanked by large swooping dual-barrel projector headlamps. Front fog-lamps are inset in the blacked-out bumper insert which quite helps in getting rid of some visual bulk on the front and gives it a more aggressive look. The muscular flared-fenders which house meaty 235/65 sized rubber on purposeful five dual-spoke 17” alloy wheels really do give the Aria a slightly chunky and very SUV-like demeanor. In fact the size and stance of the Aria makes it quite menacing when it’s in your rear-view mirror and it’s best to move out of the way!

When viewed side-on, the Tata Aria looks more traditional people mover and there’s no hiding its MPV-ish lines a-la Toyota Innova and the Honda CR-V. Speaking of people movers, the Innova, does a stylish job of its mundane duties.

toyota innova photo

Photo: Toyota Innova

After the recent botox treatment that it received, the Toyota Innova looks like a desirable car. The corporate grille sits atop its bonnet and houses the Toyota logo on it. The head lamps are big parallelogram shaped and have blacked out inserts in them to give the vehicle a sporty look. The air dam is a slightly smaller affair as compared to the Tata Aria’s grille and houses two big fog lamps. The wing mirrors are also huge and aren’t body colored. They are of the chrome variety. The door handles are also chrome plated. The wheels are 15 inch alloy ones for the top of the line Toyota Innova VX version. The rear features a big glass area with a roof mounted spoiler and stop lamp. It has a chrome tail gate as well. The tail lamps are clear lens unit post the face lift.

Overall, the Toyota Innova is an MPV without any qualms about it – and it shows. The silhouette, the stance is all MPV – albeit a stylish one. It’s been years since the Innova has been on our shores, and we have gotten used to its big size, and its eye-pleasing, functional looks. The Tata Aria, in comparison, is the brand new pony. It is a MPV with SUV ambitions. The car has been designed with muscular design flair all around. It commands great street presence and is a head-turner, largely due to its massive bulk. In fact styling will be the key reason for the Aria being picked over the Innova.

Interiors

The Toyota Innova is almost flawless in the interior department. It features luxurious interiors. The build quality is impeccable. There are orange wood dash inserts in this car and there are cubbyholes all around as well. The recent facelift brought along with it steering mounted audio controls as well. There are roof mounted air conditioner vents too. These do a very good job of blowing air right toward taller passengers. The Toyota Innova comes with a usable third row of seats which can seat three in reasonable comfort. The rear seats can fold down completely to give one storage space of about 895 liters. The middle row features captain chairs in the Toyota Innova VX version. The Innova is still the benchmark in this segment as far as quality is considered.

toyota innova interior

Photo: Toyota Innova Interior

The Aria’s interior is a big leap ahead for Tata Motors. The dashboard materials are all soft to touch and feel. Not one piece of plastic looks out of place. In fact, the Tata Aria Pleasure variant’s 7 roof mounted cubby holes aren’t surpassed by the tried and tested Innova. The Aria features beam mounted air conditioner vents. It however doesn’t have the comfy middle row captain seats that are such a delight in the Toyota Innova. The seats themselves are quite comfortable be it the front or rear. Speaking of the rear, the third row of seats are only for kids and very uncomfortable for grownups as compared to the Innova. The steering wheel is also quite easy to fit in the hands and has cruise control, Bluetooth and audio controls in them.

tata aria interior

Photo: Tata Aria Interior

Both the Toyota Innova and the Tata Aria’s interiors are a pleasurable place to be in. Both comfortably seat five passengers in the front two rows, but the Innova wins with more leg space in the third row, strange because, the Aria is bigger and Tata has made a name for themselves in carving out interior space. The quality of materials, and the wooden bits are top-notch in both the cars. The Aria, with its focus on performance, could do with bucket seats in the middle row. Other than that, there’s not much to complain about.

Engine

The Toyota Innova features a 2.5 liter diesel engine. This D4D engine has been the benchmark for efficiency as well as NVH characteristics. Road tests confirm it is a smooth performer and has a 5 speed gearbox to complement it. It makes 102 PS of power @ 3600 rpm and about 200 Nm of torque between 1400-3400 rpm. The Toyota Innova goes from 0-100 kmph in 17.95 seconds and reaches a top speed of 152 kmph. Braking is handled by 298 mm ventilated discs at the front and 282 mm drums at the rear. The Innova registers a fuel efficiency of 9.8 kmpl in the city whereas on the highways, it gives 16.2 kmpl. Overall, the fuel efficiency works out to be 12.2 kmpl – decent, considering its size.

The Tata Aria makes do with the DICOR engine from the Tata Safari. It is a 2.2 liter diesel motor making 140 PS @ 4000 rpm and a massive 320 Nm of torque @ 2200 rpm. These figures are enough to haul this crossover from 0-100 kmph in 15.65 seconds – two seconds faster than the Toyota. That is also considering the nearly 2,225 kerb weight of the Tata Aria to that of the 1,655 kerb weight of the Toyota Innova. Having a smaller engine as compared to the Innova, but one that glistens with modern technology, helps the Tata Aria post better acceleration figures. It reaches a top speed of 170 kmph. This motor easily overshadows the one found in the Toyota Innova on all counts. It is quite tractable and very silent in its operation. Braking is done with the help of 320mm ventilated discs at the front and 280 mm solid discs at the rear. The Tata Aria returns 10.9 kmpl in the city and an excellent, if suspicious figure of 18.3 kmpl (claimed) on the highway. This translates to over all figures of 14.6 kmpl. So much with 4 wheel drive? We’ll have to wait for our road test to confirm.

Ride

The biggest selling point of the Toyota Innova engine is its car-like quality to drive and has good spread of the torque throughout its rev range. Even at close to ton speeds, the rpm needle would be barely ticking at 2200 rpm. You can slot the gear in third and potter around in town at speeds of 30 kmph whole day.

However it is well known that the ride tends to pitch and bob a bit is also evident. This is due to the high center of gravity for the platform. It is based on a monocoque chassis and this establishes itself well with the handling capacity. The Toyota Innova grips the road quite well , with screeches at a minimum and all this at the absence of 4 wheel drive, unlike the Tata Aria.

While we have not yet got our hands on the Aria, the ride quality is said to be well sorted. Based on its size and those huge fat tyres, it just smothers everything in its path. It is firmly tuned however not overtly to make someone uneasy after sitting a few hours in the seats. The seats themselves, are said to be good enough to take home! While automobile journalists have always complained about the handling of Tata Motors products, no one seems to be voicing these concerns when it comes to the Aria.

It has been said that Tata Motors took help from the technicians at its subsidiary Land Rover to fine tune the handling of the Tata Aria. It is definitely an improvement from the handling of the Tata Safari – a comparable beast. The Aria does roll when leaned into corners however not as much as we would expect and surprisingly, less than the Innova – considering its height and bulk.

Price and features compared

The Toyota Innova costs between Rs. 10,48,831 and Rs. 12,20,690. Equipment list is extensive. It includes: parking sensors, front fog lamps, electric ORVMs, HVAC with climate control, power windows, power steering, rear AC vents, comfortable third row seating and a single-CD entertainment system. On the safety front, the Innova packs in ABS and EBD. Safety is also taken care by the GOA body of the Innova as well as 2 airbags, side intrusion beams and a collapsible steering column.

In comparison, safety features in the Tata Aria include Electronic Stability Program (ESP), ABS, EBD and traction control. The Aria also includes a segment first 6 airbags, cruise control, side intrusion beams and a collapsible steering column. The steering wheel is also quite easy to fit in the hands and has cruise control, Bluetooth and audio controls in them. There is also a satellite based navigation system, leather upholstery, darkness sensing head lamps, rain sensing wipers, glove box chiller, 6 CD audio system and reverse camera. The Aria retails between Rs. Rs 12,90,901 and Rs 15,50,000.

If you are price conscious, the comparison tells you to plump for the Toyota Innova. No question about it. However, if a larger, much more comfortable – not to mention powerful vehicle is what you are looking for – in other words, a super-Innova – the extra cash you shell out for the Tata Aria is well worth it.

Tech Specs: Tata Aria

Displacement: 2179cc, DiCOR, 16 Valve Diesel
Maximum Power: 140 Bhp @ 4000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 320 Nm @ 1700 rpm
Suspension: 5 Link Suspension, Ind Double Wishbone
Length: 4783 mm
Height: 1782 mm
Width: 1897 mm
Tyre Size: 235/65 R17
Turning Circle: 5.60 mtrs
Brakes: Front Ventilated discs , Rear Solid Disc
Gears: 5 speed Manual
Steering: Tilt and telescopic, electronically powered
Ground Clearance: 200.00 mm
Fuel Tank: 60.00
Kerb Weight: 2225 kgs
Seating Capacity: 7

Tech Specs: Toyota Innova

Displacement: 2494cc, 16 Valve, CRDi, diesel
Maximum Power: 102 Bhp @ 3600 rpm
Maximum Torque: 200 Nm @ 1400 rpm
Suspension: Coil Spring, Double Wishbone With Stabilizer
Length: 4570 mm
Height: 1756 mm
Width: 1780 mm
Tyre Size: 205/65 R15
Turning Circle: 5.50 mtrs.
Brakes: Front Disc, Rear Drum
Gears: 5 speed Manual
Steering: Hydraulically assisted with tilt and telescope functions
Ground Clearance: 178.00 mm
Fuel Tank: 55.00
Kerb Weight:1640.00 kgs
Seating Capacity: 8