With automatics becoming a popular choice in entry-level cars in India, Tata Motors has tried to acquire a piece of the pie with the launch of the Tiago hatchback with an AMT automatic gearbox. We sample the homegrown car maker’s take on the Automated Manual Transmission in its latest offering.
Tata Motors has been introducing many models which were mostly cases of a swig and a miss. However, when they introduced the Tiago hatchback, it was an instant hit with Indian buyers. While we have familiarised ourselves extremely well with the diesel Tiago as it was a part of our long-term fleet for a good year, so when Tata announced the automatic version of the car, just had to find out what it is like by spending a few days pottering about town in this little city car.
So to get a better understanding of the Tiago AMT, we need to first look at it from a buyer’s point of view. The typical buyer of a small automatic hatchback would be someone who would be a young driver with limited driving experience for city commute and a somewhat limited budget. The reason would be for a more relaxing and hassle-free driving in city traffic with the ability to make it easy to park the little hatchback. The sort of chap who wants a good economical and affordable car that gets them from point A to point B. S for the right buyer, does the Tiago automatic ticks all the right boxes?
For starters, Tata Motors offers the Tiago automatic is offered with the petrol variant. The engine is a 1,199cc, 3-cylinder ‘Revotron’ branded motor which develops 83bhp and 114Nm of torque. The AMT gearbox is a 5-speed unit with a hydraulic actuated clutch. So in theory, when you accelerate the clutch is completely disengaged, but as soon as you lift off the throttle, the clutch engages and the gearbox is supposed to shift up or down depending on the requirement. The Tiago AMT comes with ‘City’ and ‘Sport’ driving modes.
Inherently, a three-cylinder will always have vibration issues due to the lack of the fourth cylinder to ensure that one of four cylinders is always on the power stroke and most manufacturers have found ways to not allow these vibrations to be felt by the occupants with the use of counterweights, balancer shafts, etc. However, the refinement of the engine is decent, as fewer of the vibrations can be felt. Having said that, the vibrations are extremely noticeable when the car is idling. The engine has a lot of room for improvement as far as refinement is concerned.
As far as the AMT transmission is concerned, the unit works fine, but in comparison to the units offered by the competition, the Tiago again lacks in refining and tuning of the system to work seamlessly in tandem with the engine. The system is slow to respond, which means in traffic, exploiting gaps is a task as you tend to get left behind as other people will be able to use your slower movement to their advantage. Therefore, the slower response of the gearbox will not be the relaxing, seamless drive that a buyer would be seeking from an automatic transmission. This is mostly down to the way the clutch engages and disengages. The clutch responds quite slowly with light throttle inputs as the Tata Tiago refuses to accelerate away smoothly, but if you accelerate harder, the engine punches through and overcompensates resulting in a lunge that wasn’t intended.
Additionally, the crawl feature doesn’t get the car moving forward fast enough to initiate that seamless smooth acceleration. The gearbox comes with ‘Sport’ mode as well which only holds the revs for longer to provide better acceleration. Some of the issues do get ironed out, but not entirely. The manual shift feature with the gearbox is very useful as the slow responding nature of the gearbox can be bypassed by simply changing gears manually without the need of a clutch pedal. As for fuel efficiency, weirdly, in ‘City’ mode, the Tiago AMT was delivering an indicated 12.8km/l, but with the ‘Sport’ mode activated, the efficiency indicator gradually rose up to 13.5km/l.
Other than that, there are ergonomic issues with the car as well. The visibility from the inside rearview mirror is minimal. It works brilliantly to tell you if there is a car tailgating you, but other than that, it isn’t of much use. Additionally, the stereo doesn’t seem to be calibrated properly as the Bluetooth connection consistently suffers from interference and disconnects from the device. The seats are not very comfortable as they lack in providing support, especially for the lower back.
What really goes for the Tiago is the styling of the car. Compared to the competition, the Tiago sets the benchmark in design. Additionally, the interior trim quality, fit and finish is far better when considered to its rivals. The plastic quality used for the interior trim and dashboard feels solid and premium. The design of the interior looks premium and the body colour matching air-vents, adds a nice and subtle touch to the cabin as well. In terms of cabin space, the Tiago scores a point here as well as it offers ample room at the front, however, due to its small dimensions, not much rear legroom is available. The Tiago AMT is offered with two trim lines – XTA and XZA. This allows the Tiago AMT to be loaded with features like a stereo from Harman featuring with ConnectNext Bluetooth, USB and AUX inputs.
To sum it up, for someone looking for a more relaxing commute within the city, the Tiago AMT may not be the car for you – due to its lack of refinement. However, if that is something you can gloss over, the Tiago will is a better quality product with better fit and finish than its rivals in the segment, in addition to offering more features for a similar amount of money.