The Vista gets minor changes that fulfils Tata's promise of more car per car

T hree years after Tata Motors launched the capable Vista, comes its first major face-lift. Will the tweaks give it the edge in the increasingly crowded and competitive premium hatchback segment? Tata has grafted the nose of the Manza onto the Vista; so when viewed head-on, it looks like its bigger sibling. We are not convinced that it looks better but there's no denying that the chrome grille and large, triple-barrel headlamps give it a more upmarket look.

The only difference to the rear is the addition of plastic cladding below the rear windscreen which looks quite nice but it's easy to miss, and lightly smoked tail-lamps. Cosmetic changes to the bumper would have given more meaning to this face-lift and we wonder why Tata couldn't have done a bit more.

Those familiar with the old Vista's interior will find that the fit and finish is much better, the two-tone scheme looks nice, panel gaps have been tightened and the soft-touch surfaces on the dashboard are especially good. The steering wheel now gets wheel-mounted audio controls too. Another useful item added to the feature list is power windows but the mirrors themselves continue to be a touch too small. The music system is from the Manza but the buttons on it feel a bit flimsy. Also, bits such as the air-con controls, power window switches and seat height are still not up to scratch. But to give Tata credit, the Vista's interior ambience is very acceptable and better than say the Liva. Interior space and comfort have always been the Vista's strong points. Thanks to the seat height and steering adjust, finding an ideal driving position is easy. The front seats are large and back and thigh support is good too. There is plenty of space for tall passengers but ergonomics could be a bit better. Pedal placement is a bit awkward and there's no place between the clutch pedal and the broad console to place your foot. The rear seats are superbly comfortable and, though the back seat is not as spacious, it is way roomier than others in the class. The rear seats offer sofa-like comfort with just the right amount of firmness. As the seats are placed at a good height, under-thigh support is spot-on and back support is good too.

The face-lifted Vista uses the same 1.3 Quadrajet engine from the old car and even the power and torque output at 74bhp and 19.37kgm respectively are the same. Where Tata has made a change is in the clutch pedal feel. The clutch now feels more progressive and easy to modulate in traffic. This makes the Vista easier to drive on daily city commutes and the gearshifts are slicker too now. Other than this, the new Vista feels the same to drive as the earlier car. The turbocharged engine is responsive and tractable in stop-and-go traffic.

The Vista is also a good highway cruiser, the refined diesel engine spinning unobtrusively. Overtaking slower-moving cars is relatively easy too. 100kph from rest takes 16.4sec and top speed is a decent 151kph.

The suspension setup remains unchanged — MacPherson strut front and non-independent rear suspension layout. It shows great composure while dealing with our potholed and rutted roads. One area of improvement is the brakes which feel a lot better, thanks to a larger 10-inch brake servo that's been introduced.

Tweaks to the hydraulic valves in the power steering system provide better feel, however it still lacks the precision and consistency to provide entertaining handling. Also, the steering is a bit too light on the highway. Still, the Vista is a lot of car for not much money. Prices start at Rs. 3.88 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the base 1.2-litre petrol and the diesel range starts at Rs. 4.79 lakh, which translates to a minor price rise from the old car staying on track of Tata's promise to provide more car per car.