The Tata Indigo gets a new common-rail engine and is all the better for it. HARMANN R A J MADON gets behind the wheel

When a business house like Tata, with a diverse portfolio goes on to make the automobile its core business, it has its sights on success. Yes, the Indica platform has been utilised effectively, spawning variations from hatchback to estate, but the other side of the story is Tata's success with diesel power. The latest step ahead is the provision of a common rail DiCOR engine in the Indigo sedan. And we find out how good it really is.

Inside out

Given the price premium and the positioning above the regular TCIC (turbo-charged, intercooled) diesel Indigo, Tata needed to spruce up the car. And therefore, the exteriors feature redesigned tail lamps, while the front of the car is better to look at too, with sharply defined detailing in place. However, it still remains that yawning wheel arches cry out for larger wheels and wider rubber. The interiors boast a leather-wrapped steering wheel and similar gear knob, while backlit, white-faced instruments lend a sporty touch. Overall, the controls feel good to the tactile senses - an improvement over the Tatas of yore. While the door pockets and the lockable glove box offer prodigious room, it is the lack of cubbyholes for odds and ends, which irritates. You have to keep your CDs, loose change and cell phone wherever you can, which is surprising for a car at this price. The Indigo makes up for these niggles with high seating and wide-opening doors, which makes life easier for users, especially older people. But of course, the heart of the matter is the new DiCOR diesel engine, augmented by Delphi's common-rail system, which makes for better performance, better drivability and of course, better fuel economy.

Under the hood

The engine features a capacity of 1396cc, a drop of 9cc compared to the previous model. Power remains unchanged at 70 bhp but there is a marginal increase in torque to 14.27 kgm. While this might not seem to make for excellent performance, the car is a two full seconds quicker to 100kph and four seconds quicker in the in-gear slogs. This makes overtaking easier, and while not exactly sprightly, the DiCOR makes the Indigo easier to drive now. In comparison, lower down the rev range, the older TCIC engine feels more responsive but after 2,000 rpm, it is the DiCOR powerplant, which has a better grip on affairs.It revs up to 4,850 rpm, but going beyond 4,200 rpm is irrelevant as the power trails off and the engine sounds harsh. Make no mistake, even at idle, this is not necessarily the most refined diesel going - the clatter is unmistakable and even with all the extra sound deadening about, you will not be fooled. At a cruise though, it is reasonably quiet and in-cabin boom is kept to a minimum.The common-rail system developed by Delphi, operates at a pressure of 1,600 bar, and can provide five injections per stroke; but in the Indigo, these are limited to three squirts per stroke. More injections mean a smoother engine. For now, Tata has elected to go with three injections per stroke until the Bharat Stage IV emission norms come in. Fuel economy in this car is par for the course, and it returns an overall figure of 14.27 kpl in the combined city/highway driving cycle.

Behind the wheel

The rest of the driving experience is pretty similar to what we are used to. Body roll is pronounced and the steering feels vague around the straight-ahead position. A car for the enthusiast this isn't, but for everyday driving, it doesn't disappoint too much. In town, the light steering and long travel suspension are a boon.The DiCOR's brakes have good bite and stop the car reasonably quickly but lack feel and modulation. Panic stops in slippery conditions can get hairy in this car. The gearbox is the same and the cable-operated gearshift is as rubbery as ever. Overall, what the Indigo DiCOR achieves is to showcase Tata's steady commitment to improving the Indica platform and offer better cars as the days go by, and the Indigo DiCOR is the next logical step to the all-new Indica/Indigo platform which we can look forward to in a while from now. However, at a half-lakh-rupee premium over the TCIC Indigo, it is not necessarily all that much more car for your money.