Tata Motors has been a pioneer. Over the years, the Indian automaker introduced a lot of versatile cars, some worked others didn’t. The ones that didn’t set sales charts afire were slowly forgotten. Here’s to the memories of 10 such forgotten cars and SUVs.
The Sierra was India’s first compact SUV long before the term was even coined. With butch looks, a three door SUV form factor and even 4X4 thrown in, the Sierra was a man’s machine. It never really took off as few Indians could afford to splurge on something so unique, and unconventional. The Sierra was sold with 2 liter diesel and turbo diesel engines.
The Estate was just that, a stationwagon with many cosmetic parts and mechanicals borrowed from the Sierra. The car’s design was said to be based on Mercedes Benz station wagons of the 1980s, and this theory makes sense given the fact that Tata used to assemble Mercedes Benz’s until the latter decided to go it alone in India. The Estate never really managed to become a hot seller as stationwagons have never done well in India, ever.
Image courtesy TheAutomotiveIndia
The Tatamobile was the automaker’s first pick up truck aimed at family car buyers but the vehicle was too early for its time, especially in a market that worshipped (and still worships?) fuel efficiency and compact-ness. People who wanted to haul goods bought Tata 407s and those who wanted a pick-up truck for occasional use hired one. Needless to say, the Tatamobile didn’t have anyplace to go. It used to share the 2 liter, 68 Bhp non-turbo diesel engine with the Estate and the early Sierras.
A petrol powered Safari? Well, don’t be surprised. The Safari Petrol did exist in the early 2000s. The SUV used a 2 liter, 135 Bhp petrol engine, which gave it tremendous sprinting ability. Fuel efficiency kept up with the sprinting ability, promptly forcing prospective buyers to look at the much more efficient 2 liter, 90 Bhp TCIC diesel instead. The Safari Petrol soon joined the list of the Tatas that never made it BIG.
Safari 3.0 DICOR
Did you know that the Tata Safari once shared its engine with the 407 pick up truck? Well, almost. As the Scorpio arrived sometime in 2002, Tata went back to the drawing board and gave its flagship SUV a big diesel motor and common rail fuel injection. The Safari 3.0 DICOR was born. Less than a year later, Tata found that similar power and torque could be squeezed out from a 2.2 liter motor. The 3.0 DICOR was then reserved for commercial use, and the Safari that featured this engine was squeezed out.
You can’t fault Tata for not trying. The automaker took a relook at the station wagon segment with the Indica platform. The Indigo sedan was developed into a spacious stationwagon called the Marina. Why, even Ratan Tata bought one to transport his dogs. The Marina, for all its practicality, remained cursed by the Indian market’s stationwagon jinx. Both petrol and diesel versions were offered, but none of them clicked.
The Indica platform has to be the most versatile ever, for Tata Motors. The Indigo XL was one more car that showed how the Indica could be stretched, literally. A limousine with more space than a Honda Accord, the Indigo XL was a stretched version of the Indigo sedan. Massive legroom was its forte and the cab segment even bought a few cars. Personal car buyers found it a little too unconventional for their tastes.
In 2010, Tata came up with a spacious, luxurious sedan to rival the Honda City and the Maruti SX4, but at a much lower price tag. It was called the Manza. Sold with both petrol and diesel engines, the Manza was a big step up in quality. It even offered a Fiat Multijet diesel engine in 90 Bhp-200 Nm state of tune, and was well accepted by the cab market. The personal car market didn’t bite, and Tata quickly gave up in favour of compact sedans.
Have you seen a canvas top Sumo? Well, such a car did exist in the early 2000s, and it was called the Spacio 3.0 (Don’t confuse it with the Sumo Spacio). The Spacio 3.0 borrowed its 3 liter DI diesel engine from the Tata 407 and was reputed to be load lugger. This engine’s prodigious low-end grunt, along with the flexibility that only a canvas top can afford, allowed rural taxi operators to squeeze more than 20 people at a time. Tata pulled it off the market rather abruptly, never to build something like this again.
The Bolt was an Indica Vista with a different top-hat. Tata did do its bit to make sure that the interiors were of much better quality than those of the Vista. The Bolt also got ABS and Airbags. However, the market didn’t warm up to the car as it looked similar to the Vista despite all that dressing up. The Bolt continues to be built, but only for the cab market. Personal hatchback buyers have all but forgotten about this car, which shares its mechanicals with the Zest – a compact sedan that continues to be sold even to personal car buyers.