With sky high petrol prices, CNG has become the next alternative for many small car buyers and Tata has now become the latest to target this market with the new Tiago CNG in four variants — right from the base XE trim all the way up to the top-end XZ+. The company says it can, thus, suit a cost-driven buyer as well as one looking for a more premium user experience. So what is it like?
The facelifted Tiago has been around for over a year now, but the car still looks fresh with its sharp design cues. Alongside the introduction of the CNG variants, Tata has also taken the opportunity to freshen it up just a wee bit. So you have a new paint shade — metallic plum — and a few new features added to the Tiago range, like projector headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, and a black and beige interior colour scheme. The rest remains the same though, and while the top-end petrol gets 15-inch alloys, the CNG car gets 14-inch stylised steel rims.
With the CNG tank mounted in the boot, Tata has re-engineered the way to access the spare wheel. It is now done through the passenger compartment by folding the rear seat backrest forward. All variants also get a puncture repair kit, if you choose to not remove the spare.
Moving to the cabin, the new black and beige interior layout makes the cabin look more upmarket and the sporty-looking steering wheel and full-digital instrument cluster look really neat. There are also some CNG specific bits like the fuel selector switch, dual fuel gauges and a fire extinguisher.
As with the regular top-end car, the CNG Tiago comes well equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, coupled to a sweet sounding Harman music system. Auto climate control, electrically operated outside rear view mirrors and a rear parking camera are also there.
The front seats continue to be one of the best in the business and come with a perfect blend of cushioning. The driving position is good and the controls fall easily into place, just like before.
The Tiago’s 1.2-litre engine was upgraded to meet BS6 emission norms with the facelift and the CNG version shares the same powertrain. When running on petrol, it makes 86hp and 113Nm of torque, whereas on CNG, it puts out a maximum of 73hp and 95Nm.
Twist the key and you hear the 1.2-litre engine come to life. This is a three-cylinder unit which means you do get mild vibrations in the cabin. As this was our first time with the BS6 version of the petrol Tiago, we drove it in petrol mode first. Once running, there is a fair bit of engine noise entering the cabin and it gets louder past 2,500 rpm. Power delivery is nice and linear and, though not very peppy, the performance is strong enough to execute overtaking manoeuvres without a fuss.
Next up was the CNG mode. An interesting point to note here is that unlike its competitors that need to start in petrol mode the Tiago can be started in either mode, with the default set to CNG.
What is also nice is that from standstill, it feels almost the same as the petrol mode and the car builds up speed smoothly. In CNG mode, power is down by around 10hp and the result is visible in 0-100kph time, which is almost three seconds slower than petrol mode. However, what is more important here is that flat out driving aside, when driven normally at part throttle, there is very little difference between the two fuels and driving around at a regular pace will not leave you wanting.
Let us not forget that the Tiago is based on Tata’s X0 platform that has been predominantly heavier than its rivals, and this does reflect on the car’s performance. Tata has done a very good job of tuning the performance curves in both modes and you cannot really tell the difference in power during part-throttle acceleration. So for everyday driving, whether on the highway or in city traffic, it is absolutely fine.
As expected, the Tiago really does well in the ride and handling area. The suspension soaks up most bumps in a fuss-free manner and high-speed stability is good — the car feels quite solid even at triple digit speeds. What is also nice is that the steering feel is just the right amount of weight, it is not too light and lifeless nor too heavy, and thus the effort required is spot on. That it self-centres nicely in turns, meaning you do not have to twirl the wheel back to centre after tight turns, is an added plus.
With the CNG tank in the boot, Tata has also retained the regular petrol tank, which has a 35-litre capacity, while the CNG tank is 60 litres enabling you to get about 10kg of gas inside. Remember, the actual amount of gas you can fill inside a cylinder depends on the temperature outside and the pump’s system pressure. Tata claims a mileage of 26.49km/kg of gas; this is not class leading, but in some very basic preliminary testing we got about 21km/kg with the Tiago, which isn’t bad at all.
So to sum it all up, the Tiago was already a well-rounded package to begin with, and now, with the addition of CNG, Tata Motors has widened the fuel choice and thankfully created a whole line-up of four separate variants. So opting for CNG does not mean having to give up creature comforts.
You do pay ₹ 90,000 more for the CNG version when compared to the petrol counterpart, and you will trade boot space for the CNG tank, but besides that, the Tiago CNG is a good option for those who have higher running. The drive experience under CNG is almost petrol like, the ride and handling is well set-up, space inside is more than adequate, the interiors are well equipped and, of course, there are multiple variants on offer. So, as Tata Motors says, the ‘premium-isation’ of CNG has certainly begun.