Budget compact sedans can be a smart choice if you can’t decide between the sportiness of a hatchback or the boot space of a ‘regular’ sedan. But they usually veer too much towards the staid and sensible side of things. Until now.

Tata’s Tiago was a turning point for the carmaker. Far removed from the Indica template that’s tended to weigh down Tata’s efforts over the years, this small hatchback was good looking, well-equipped, well-made - and above all, had interiors that made you think you were sitting in a more expensive car.

Next came the Hexa, a monster of an SUV that had the ride quality of a cruise liner and off-road chops that genuinely surprised. There’s also a new roadster (the Racemo) on its way, but Tata’s not ignoring us city slickers. That’s why they’ve given the Tiago a new sibling - the Tigor compact sedan. We got to drive it around Delhi and here’s what we think.

 

They call it a styleback

Tata’s ‘Impact’ design language and hexagonal styling elements can be found everywhere - from the grille and the headlights to the centre fascia and the horn pad. The Tigor also gains smoked-effect headlamps with projectors. Look at it head on, and it seems like this small car’s smiling - not a bad idea, considering how we could do with a more cheerful presence on our roads.

Tata’s designers have also done a stellar job while extending the Tiago to add a boot - the design looks a lot more cohesive than other compact sedans, thankfully avoiding the ‘chopped-off boot’ or ‘stuck on like an afterthought’ vibe some of its competitors have. The roofline swoops down gently like in a notchback sedan - we reckon that’s why Tata’s going with the ‘Styleback’ marketing.

Yes, some angles aren’t the prettiest, with the rear section looking a tad bulky and giving it an ‘under-tyred’ look, especially when viewed sideways. Still, the Tigor’s one of the better executed compact sedans there are, and we gotta commend Tata - we imagine the compact dimensions of a small sedan make it hard to get the proportions perfect. The bottom line? It’s a good-looking l’il car, indeed.

Made for the city

The Tigor comes with a choice of three-cylinder engines - a 1.2l petrol and a 1.05l diesel. (Both look similar on the outside - although the diesel Tigor gets smaller, 14in wheels). Being three-cylinder motors, you’ll have to live with a certain amount of harshness. The petrol motor is driveable enough in the city but seems underpowered out on the highway. But what we didn’t like was the harshness when revved up - NVH levels aren’t as good as you’d expect from a modern petrol engine. Still, city-slickers won’t really complain as Tata makes up with a soft clutch, decent gearshifts and extremely predictable braking - all of which is quite useful when you’re stuck in gridlocked city traffic.

The small diesel motor isn’t half bad, we have to say. It’s quite driveable in the city and even when cruising along a highway at sensible speeds. It’s also decently smooth for a three-pot (as long as it’s not revved hard), and if you’re used to driving a previous-generation diesel car, you’ll be impressed. Still, we were surprised to see a lot of vibration come through the gearshift. Like its petrol sibling, it’s no scorcher on the highway and isn’t really a happy camper when accelerating hard - it runs out of steam soon so you’ll need to work ‘em gears when overtaking a truck on a two-lane blacktop!

The right direction

There are plenty of things the Tigor gets spot-on. We’ve already mentioned the clutch and braking feel. Then there’s the nicely tuned steering: It’s light at slow speeds, making parking a breeze. And it firms up quite well at higher speeds, providing enough feedback - a lot of small cars just can’t get this right so it’s good to see Tata pay attention to this area.

But what’s really impressive is the ride quality. For a small car, it irons out imperfections rather well and we’d even go so far as to say the Tigor manages to feel larger than it actually is (we mean this in a good way).

Compact and comfy

And finally, the best part - the interiors. The seats are comfortable and decently supportive, and the plastics are easily a notch higher than what we’re used to in this segment. There are a few rough spots here and there, but on the whole, it’s better than other budget compact sedans.

You’ll also find plenty of cubbyholes and space for knick-knacks. The design team’s also done a great job with the boot, not only managing to give more space (419 litres) than the competition, but also made it more usable by replacing the goose-neck hinges with hydraulic struts. Small details, indeed, that’s exactly what goes a long way in making a car more liveable on a day-to-day basis.

Safety’s not been ignored, either, and as long as you opt for the right variant, you get twin airbags, ABS and EBD with cornering stability control.

Rock on the road

The top-of-the-line variant we drove comes with climate control, a touchscreen, reversing camera and Harman Kardon’s ConnectNext infotainment system. The touchscreen isn’t as responsive as we’d like, and its UI could be cleaner, but also features a hardware dial and voice commands (which worked surprisingly well).

There’s a suite of mobile apps for the ConnectNext system - from music sharing to satnav (The ConnectNext system uses your phone’s GPS and MapMyIndia’s NaviMaps to display directions on the infotainment system’s display). While NaviMaps works well and is extremely well-detailed, the lack of Google Maps Android Auto means you miss out on live traffic updates and Google Now integration. But what really impressed us was the audio quality (four mid range drivers and four tweeters) - Blues and folk rock came through clear as could be.

Initial Verdict

It’s not hard to be impressed with the thought that’s gone into making the Tigor - It’s got a cohesive design that flows better than what we’ve become used to seeing with other hatchback-derived compact sedans, it’s got a great audio system for its end of the market, it rides fantastically for such a small car, the boot is spacious, and the interiors will put a smile on your face if you’re sick of the plasticky stuff the competition prefers.

Unfortunately, the engines take some shine off the Tigor (especially the harshness of the petrol motor), but there’s hope on that front as Tata’s partnering with Coimbatore-based tuning specialist Jayem Automotives to work on a ‘sporty’ variant (with more powerful engines and an uprated suspension and brakes to match)!

Moving on to what the Tigor will cost you, Tata’s also priced it right - the base model petrol starts at ₹4.7 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), going up to ₹6.19 lakh. While the diesel range is priced between ₹5.6 lakh and ₹7.09 lakh. For more info, head over to the Tigor website.

Tech Specs 
Engine
1199cc (Petrol) / 1047cc (Diesel)
Power
85hp at 6000rpm (Petrol) / 70hp at 4000rpm (Diesel)
Torque
114Nm at 3500rpm (Petrol) / 140Nm at 1800-3000rpm (Diesel)
Transmission
5-speed manual
Boot space
419 litres