Vista D90: A hatchback that packs a punch

Vista D90: A hatchback that packs a punch

Interiors need attention: A drawback of the car is the quality of plastics used for interiors, which is a little cheap

Vista D90: A hatchback that packs a punch

Going small is the norm in India, or at least this is what can be said about preferences of car buyers. There are small cars everywhere and carmakers have contributed enough in flooding the market with little four-wheeled sensations.

The trend has caught on so much with consumers that many have begun opting for small cars, owing to their ease of driving and overall simple ownership needs.   

Recently, Tata Motors, with a slew of formidable small cars already in its stable, rolled out a new version of the Vista. Called the ‘Vista D90’, the ‘big’ hatchback is high on promises of efficiency, comfort and high-end features.

If the promises were true, it could only be verified by taking the car out for a long drive. It was decided that the Tata Vista D90 would be driven through the picturesque landscape of rural Karnataka.

Before the drive commenced, a specific region was first chosen to test the many specifications of the car and accordingly, a route that would take us through hilly terrain and not-so-good roads was selected.

Day Drive

When we got to see the car for the first time, it didn’t seem any different than its earlier model, except for a noticeable rear spoiler that attempted to give it a rather sporty appearance.

At first glance, the exterior of the new Vista D90 is impressive, but not much different than its predecessor. The front is similar, except for the fact that the new Vista comes with a longer bumper. The headlights are long and slant backwards, apparently designed to help in effortless night driving.

The left fender sports the Quadrajet90 badge, while the car’s name is planted legibly on the back. A major refresh is the standard offering of a black roof on the ZX+ trim level, which makes the car look quite stunning. Overall, the Vista D90 appears massive on the outside, considering its dimensions of length: 3,795 mm, width: 1,695 mm and height: 1,550 mm, but it was to be seen how it fared in terms of its interiors.

The Vista D90 offers lots of space for driver and passengers, with ample leg room, comfortably enough for five people. The beige and black dashboard is a lift from Tata’s premium sedan Manza. Yet, it adds novelty to a car categorised as a ‘premium hatchback’, along with its tasteful use of available space. The engineers have done a great job of shifting back the instrument cluster from the centre to where it belongs, behind the steering wheel, right in front of the driver. This simple move improves driving comfort by leaps and bounds. The speedometer looks high-end and the reading it provides is neat, both during day and at night. Sizeable air-convents, with large knobs and switches, coupled with automatic climate control system are welcome features, especially having a car to test during an awfully hot summer.
A great breakthrough has been the centre-mounted double-DIN touch-screen TFT DVD unit, which also boasts of an inbuilt voice-enabled GPS system. This system, believed to be a first in the industry, helps update maps regularly and is useful for those weekend long drives outside the city. It also integrates the radio and music system with CD/MP3/AUX and USB portability inputs.

A not-so-good point of the interiors is the quality of plastics used, which we felt was a little cheap. Especially if you were to run your hand around the air-conditioning vents, the plastic would disappoint you. Otherwise, in terms of the head-room and leg-room, the car was decent.

We began our journey to Devarayanadurga, a popular hill temple dedicated to Lord Narasimha in Tumkur district, roughly a two-hour drive by road from Bangalore. A peculiar feature we noticed in the car was it had what would otherwise have been described as an auto-start button. Basically, the car would start automatically, but only when the ignition would be on and the clutch would be engaged. The engine was running and we were on our way.

While seated inside on the large, comfortable seats, the drive was expected to be smooth. The car is powered by a 1.3-litre engine, similar to the one that runs the Manza. Under the new Vista’s hood is a 1248 cc powerplant, dishing out power to the tune of 89 BHP @ 4,000 rpm. We were enroute, taking the highway towards our destination.

At first instance, the drive is one wrapped in comfort and sailing on power. But it would be worth mentioning that there is considerable turbo lag while acclerates on higher gears, but once the car picks up speed and the gear shifts become more frequent the car really picks up and the rest of the journey is smooth-sailing.

The Vista D90 is ideal for highway driving. We were approaching certain pockets of busy traffic, with road being occupied by trucks, buses and other vehicles. The car naturally was able to whiz past them, and its turning radius helped navigate the traffic well. But the extended front bumper makes it a little difficult while negotiating bad roads. 

As we drove through villages, we found instances where the road would suddenly pose a challenge to the Vista D90’s drivability. Yet the car’s ground clearance of 165 mm, supported by a wheelbase of 2470 mm, did its job well by maintaining the ride as smooth as possible. 

Throughout the 65 km stretch, the ride seemed comfortable, but there were those odd moments when the ride for back-seat occupants felt quite bumpy.

Nevertheless, the gear-box ratios were impressive. Compared to the older Vista version, the D90’s gear box is a lot softer. Even as the car surged forward, the shift quality between gears was seamless and accordingly, the radical in-gear acceleration was also smooth, yet quick.

Finally, we reached our destination. The Devarayanadurga Lord Narasimha temple is perched atop a hillock, which can be accessed only through an inclined road meandering through green, pristine surroundings.

This was an impirtant test for the Vista D90. As the car approached the climb, the gears were shifted quickly, and lo and behold, the car had already begun climbing the hillock at a comfortable speed of 40-45 kmph; the entire 6 km stretch being completed with the car pushing itself forward in third gear.

Quite a feat for a premium hatchback, considering its 200 Nm of torque.  

After an hour and 45 minutes, the Vista D90 had finally reached its destination. After a short halt, a visit to the temple and a view of the pastures and meadows down below, it was time for the return journey.

Downhill, the Vista D90 was equally responsive, being in absolute control. The brake system is good. The brakes felt very secure, since the car is equipped with a standard Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Brake Assist and EBD, which adds to a safe drive for both the car and its occupants.

As we hit the highway again, the sun had begun to call it a day. But we felt it was the best time to test the Vista D90 in night-time conditions.

Night Drive

We felt the need to test the car at night, as traffic conditions would be ideal at that time and we could test its top-speed. We chose the Bangalore-Kolar road, which is well-maintained and provides great opportunity to check a car’s all-round drive.

We began at around 11 in the night, hoping to reach back in the wee hours the next day. The Vista’s total power came to the fore and was tested to its limit. The distance that we planned to cover was roughly around 60 km.

The illumination inside the cabin was commendable. The dial readings were easy to read and it was convenient to find our way through buttons and switches. The headlights of the car are powerful and the road ahead could be gauged well.

Traffic was slim and it was time to burn more rubber. At top-gear, the car which was driving at roughly 80 kmph, suddenly picked up speed. The car hit 100, then 120, 140 and the speedometer froze at a minute point before 160.

As per our test, the car cruised at a top speed of 160 kmph, which is good enough for a car running on a 1.3l engine. The top-end variant, which we were driving, has good road grip, and its alloy wheels, with Bridgestone tubeless tyres, contributes to it well.

It was early morning and we had returned to Bangalore, after 18 hours of driving a premium hatchback in the countryside, through the day and through the night.

There are certain reasons why the Vista D90 is the car to have. First and foremost, for a hatchback, it comes packed with reasonable power and feel, dishing out a mileage of around 20 kmpl. With decent functional interiors and space, coupled with safety features, the car is a serious contender in its class.

The car can be bought at a price-point ranging between  Rs 6-6.8 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). The most important factor is that Tata Motors has been rather successful in offering a decent hatchback that is a culmination of efficiency, affordability and style.    

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