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Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive
Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive
Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive
by Tim Beissmann

The Tata Xenon will aim to offer an unrivalled blend of toughness and value when it enters Australia’s burgeoning ute segment in mid October.

Pricing of the six-variant Xenon line-up – comprising cab-chassis, single-cab and dual-cab body styles in 4×2 and 4×4 layouts – is still to be finalised, but will fall between $20,000 and $35,000.

At that level, it will challenge the likes of the ageing Mitsubishi Triton and slow-selling Ssangyong Actyon Sports. It will also be positioned above cut-price rivals from China (Great Wall X200) and its own backyard (Mahindra Pik-Up), but undercut the market’s ‘new-generation’ utes (think Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Toyota HiLux and Volkswagen Amarok).

Built and sold in India since 2007 and exported to select markets in Europe, the Middle East, Brazil and South Africa, the Tata Xenon will become the first vehicle imported by Fusion Automotive, the new local distributor of the subcontinent’s largest automaker.

The Xenon will initially launch with a limited safety package featuring only two front airbags and anti-lock brakes, though an upgrade in early 2014 will add electronic stability control, traction control and hill-hold assist as standard. The lack of a proper lap-sash seatbelt for the middle rear seat (it gets a lap belt only) in the dual-cab version is unacceptable in this day and age, however, as is the lack of side and curtain airbags, and Tata has no current plans to amend either situation.

Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive
Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive
Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive
Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive

A single engine and transmission option simplifies the tyre-kicking process for potential customers. The Xenon teams a 2.2-litre four-cylinder direct injection turbo-diesel engine with a five-speed manual transmission. The Tata-designed and -built engine produces 110kW of power at 4000rpm and 320Nm of torque at 1700-2700rpm.

Fusion is yet to release official fuel consumption data, though it highlights that the engine complies with Euro 5 emissions regulations. Towing capacity is fixed at 2500kg across the range, which leaves it 1000kg short of the class leaders.

Two laps of Tata Motors compact test track at its development, testing and production hub in Pune, India, is far from sufficient for a thorough assessment of the Xenon’s ability, though it is enough for the engine to prove its competency.

Power delivery is strong across a usefully broad range spanning just south of 2000rpm up to 4000rpm. Whistles and rasps enter the engine note on the approach to its redline though effective sound insulation ensures the cabin is protected from serious aural unpleasantness.

Our two test vehicles were among first Australian-spec cars to roll off the production line, and were yet to complete final tests and alignment checks.

Tata offered this as explanation for inconsistencies in the cars’ steering weight – one was very light, the other noticeably heavier, potentially a side effect of differences in tyre pressures. Despite a slightly notchy feel to the heavier-steering test car, both displayed encouraging linearity as lock was applied.

Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive
Tata Xenon Review: Quick drive

Limited time behind the wheel on the mostly smooth circuit didn’t scratch the surface of the Xenon’s much-hyped toughness either, though a drive on local roads in October promises to put Tata’s claims to the test.

Despite sharing similar dimensions to the HiLux, the Xenon’s cabin feels tighter; noticeably thinner and offering less legroom for rear-seat passengers.

The utilitarian interior features predominantly hard-wearing plastics, some of which come together crudely with rough joins and crevices between panels of varying depths, though the feel and finish is acceptable for a work ute designed for rough and tumble. A deep glovebox and useful door bins and central cup holders are extra ticks in the Xenon’s practicality box.

The seats are firm and lack side support, though this circa-180cm tester had no problems getting settled behind the tilt- but not reach-adjustable steering wheel.

The standard inclusion of air conditioning, electric windows, one-touch triple-flash indictor repeaters, USB input and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming is welcome (our test cars were still to be fitted with audio systems), though cruise control is absent from the options list that includes rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and a seven-inch screen with satellite navigation.

The Tata range will be offered with a three-year/100,000km warranty and a free roadside assistance package. A capped-price servicing program won’t be announced at launch, but is expected to be applied to the Xenon’s 12-month/15,000km intervals at a later date.

The Tata Xenon is unlikely to appeal to those charmed by the refinement of Amarok and Ranger class, but it could prove attractive as a budget proposition if Fusion can keep pricing to the lower end of its targeted $20,000-$35,000 bracket.






Ta Xenon Specs

(4x2) : : 2.2L DIESEL TURBO F/INJ - 5 SP MANUAL - DIESEL - C/CHAS
Car Details
Make
TATA
Model
XENON
Variant
(4x2)
Year
2013
Body Type
C/CHAS
Seats
3
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$10,010 - $11,380
Dealer Retail
$11,470 - $13,640
Dealer Trade
$8,100 - $9,100
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
DIESEL TURBO F/INJ
Engine Size
2.2L
Max. Torque
320Nm @  1700rpm
Max. Power
103kW @  4000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
65.4W/kg
Bore & Stroke
85x96mm
Compression Ratio
17.2
Valve Gear
DUAL OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
5 SP MANUAL
Drive Type
REAR WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
3.73
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
DIESEL
Fuel Tank Capacity
65Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
8.5L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1575
Gross Vehicle Weight
4950Kg
Height
1765mm
Length
5125mm
Width
1860mm
Ground Clearance
200mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:2000  Unbrake:750
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
BALL & NUT - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
12.9
Front Rim Size
5.5x16
Rear Rim Size
5.5x16
Front Tyres
215 R16
Rear Tyres
215 R16
Wheel Base
3150
Front Track
1571
Rear Track
1571
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Front Suspension
Double wishbone, Torque Rod, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Leaf spring, Hydraulic double acting shock absorber
Standard Features
Comfort
Air Conditioning
Driver
Power Steering
Entertainment
Radio Compact Disc Player
Exterior
Fog Lights - Front, Power Mirrors
Interior
Power Windows
Safety
Anti-lock Braking
Security
Central Locking, Engine Immobiliser
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Mid Driver Side Chassis
Country of Origin
Thailand