Tata Indigo e-CS road test and review: Penny-pinching sedan

The Tata Indigo e-CS was the car that originally created the compact sedan segment in India. It has now been given a few more features in the form of the VX variant, and priced very aggressively, making it hard to ignore for a buyer who just must have a “three-box” car.

The CarToq team test drove a royal burgundy Tata Indigo e-CS VX variant, powered by a much improved 1.4-litre common-rail diesel engine. Here’s our review of the car.

tata indigo ecs

Looks, fit and finish

Exterior

The looks of the Tata Indica / Indigo range have become a really familiar sight of the Indian landscape thanks to the large numbers being sold to both private and commercial buyers. The Indigo eCS VX variant gets a few more styling details, such as the use of chrome strips on the grille, twin-barrel headlamps, integrated turn signals in the outside rear-view mirrors, chrome inserts on the rub strips along the side and the VX /ABS badge on the rear.

The notch-like boot on the Indigo e-CS though blends in better with the overall design than the new Swift Dzire. The Indigo e-CS measures 3998 mm in length, just 2 mm short of 4 metres to take advantage of the excise benefits doled out to small cars. It does have a fairly large boot, which can hold up to 380 litres of luggage.

Interior

The car has been given a refreshed interior with the use of beige upholstery and fake wood paneling along the centre console and door trims. Fit and finish, however, has plenty of room for improvement. Loose plastic bits can be found in many areas. Our test car had a gear lever rubber boot that kept coming off and missing plastic panels near the outside rearview mirrors. The edges of the door pads feel poorly finished and have a rough cut, while the dashboard has large panel gaps. This is an area where Tata really needs to improve the car further.

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Comfort and features

The Indigo e-CS VX is fairly loaded with features, especially at its price point of Rs. 5.6 lakh ex-showroom Delhi. It’s got everything you can possibly want in a comfortable sedan and then some. Powered electric mirrors, power steering, power windows, remote central locking, integrated stereo system with Bluetooth phone control, tachometer and manual HVAC are part of the standard feature list on the VX variant. It has an ABS-assisted braking system and warning buzzers for the seat belt that tops off the safety features list, but no airbags.

In terms of driving position, the high-mounted steering wheel is not that ergonomic, but fairly comfortable once you get used to it. But seating comfort is probably best in class. It has decent levels of headroom and legroom and you get a feeling of space inside the car. The rear seat has a drop down armrest that adds to the comfort factor. The boot can hold a fair amount of luggage, and the rear seat can be flipped down to increase luggage space if you need it.

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Performance and handling

Now, outright performance that can please an enthusiast is not something you expect from an Indigo e-CS. The car is powered by a 1,396 cc, common-rail diesel engine, that puts out 69 bhp of power at 4,000 rpm and 140 Nm of torque @ 1,800-3,000 rpm mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. We were pleasantly surprised at the improved refinement levels and easy drivability of this engine in the Indigo e-CS.

The gear ratios are well-matched to the car and it pulls effectively in the lower gears, allowing you to easily drive through city traffic. However, the gear shifts feel a bit rubbery. The car can also creep forward in bumper-to-bumper traffic thanks to the “auto-drive assist” function found in most common-rail engines that prevent them from stalling by adjusting idle rpm according to the driving conditions. The car’s compact dimensions also helped in easily darting in and out of city traffic.

Engine noise is sufficiently damped, though you do hear the drone of the diesel engine as the rpms rise. Thankfully it’s not that intrusive. The steering feel is average. The car has a fairly comfortable and slightly soft suspension, which is great for passenger comfort. Handling is decent enough as long as you aren’t driving the car in a tearing hurry.

Mileage

The biggest improvement Tata claims with the CR4 common-rail engine in the Indigo e-CS is the mileage. The car can do a claimed 25 kmpl on diesel, which makes it a very frugal car, probably the best in this segment. We didn’t have the car long enough for a significant mileage test, but in the 140 kilometers that we drove the car, the fuel gauge barely moved.

What we think

The Tata Indigo e-CS VX is a comfortable and practical car if you want a sedan on a tight budget. Compared to the Mahindra Verito, Swift Dzire and Toyota Etios, this car is the most affordable of the lot when you consider the features you get. However, in terms of quality and refinement, the car still has significant ground to cover.