Tata Tiago i-CNG First Drive Review
Vehicles being powered by alternate sources of fuels are the way forward and here to stay, there’s no two ways around this fact. While electric cars are the future, in India at least, the infrastructure is nowhere close to being able to handle an electric car being used to make long journeys on a regular basis. CNG-powered cars have been around for a while, but more popular among taxi operators. However, with the ever increasing prices of petrol and diesel, manufacturers are looking to provide buyers with more cost effective ways to run their cars. And the newest entry into the CNG space is Tata Motors who have recently launched the Tiago hatch and Tigor sedan powered by CNG.
Tata Tiago i-CNG Exterior
Well, the Tiago as we know it has been around since 2016, receiving a mid life facelift in 2020. With the new BS6 norms, small capacity diesel engines have become all but extinct and the Tiago too lost its diesel power plant. The introduction of the i-CNG variant will offer buyers an additional option to the existing petrol-powered Tiago. While always being a smart looking hatch with a clean and crisp design, the i-CNG carries forwards the same designs with a few few minor additions. It now also gets LED DRLs mounted near the fog lights on the front bumper and you also get projector headlamps. You also get the i-CNG badge over at the rear, to help distinguish it. There is also the addition of this new paint option, which Tata motors calls Midnight Plum. Besides this, there are no changes to the exterior of the Tiago. And it still remains a pleasing car to look at. Interestingly, this Tiago only comes with 14-inch steels wheels. There is no option of alloys wheels. That said, the wheel caps offered do look good and can easily be mistaken for alloys.
Tata Tiago i-CNG Interior and space
The Tiago’s cabin shares a similar design theme with other vehicles from the Tata Motors line up. New to this variant is the black and beige layout of the dashboard along with new design for the seat upholstery. The easy-to-read digital instrument cluster now also gets a read out for the CNG level. It also has an indicator telling you when you are running on CNG mode. Switch to petrol mode, and the indicator simply goes off. It is laid out in a simple way and is easy to read and understand. Besides these changes, the cabin of the Tiago remains the same with the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment unit dominating the centre of the dash with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with an 8-speaker Harman sound system. It also gets automatic climate control, a cooled glove box among other features retained from the regular petrol variant. The Tiago’s cabin since its facelift in 2020 has felt premium, especially for a car in this category. Overall space is pretty good, with comfortable seats and plenty of little bins to store your knick-knacks. Where there isn’t any space though is the boot, which is almost totally occupied by the CNG tank and the cradle that holds it in place. Although it has been integrated neatly, boot space is down to 80 litres from 242 litres. The spare too is placed below the tank, while getting access to this from the narrow opening between the tank and boot lid would be a challenge, it would be more accessible by folding the rear seats down.
Tata Tiago i-CNG engine and performance
The Tiago i-CNG is being offered with the same 1.2-litre 3-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine seen on the regular version of the car. This engine will be available with only a 5-speed manual transmission. This combination has always provided adequate performance to keep the Tiago moving at a decent pace within the city or out on the highway. In the i-CNG however, power is now down to 72.4bhp, which is 10bhp less and torque is down by 18Nm to 95Nm when running on CNG power. While these numbers seem significant, the actual drop in performance isn’t too much. In CNG mode, the Tiago can easily keep up with moving traffic and even make the odd overtake, without too much extra effort. Out on the highway too, it can maintain a constant pace, once you’ve reached your cruising speed. A quick overtaking maneuver, however, will require you to perform a downshift or may be switch over to petrol mode, which you can do safely on the move, via the button on the dash. You do notice the increase in performance when you switch over to petrol mode, which has better throttle response and better acceleration. Obviously, running more on petrol power would defeat the purpose of buying a CNG car. Fortunately, you won’t have to do that very often as the Tiago does start by default in CNG mode and Tata Motors claims that it’s safe to run the car in that mode almost all the time. Though they do recommend switching over and running on petrol power at least once a week. The petrol tank continues to remain the same at 35 litres and with the addition of the 60-litre water filling capacity CNG tank, it will give you a great combined cruising range, without the need to stop and refill, even on a longer journey.
Tata Tiago i-CNG ride and handling
One of the big strengths of the Tiago has always been its excellent ride quality, which continues on this i-CNG model. Tata Motors has worked on improving the spring rates of the suspension, to accommodate the extra weight of almost 100 kilograms that the CNG tanks adds to the car, but this in no way has affected the way the Tiago rides. It still absorbs most bumps and undulations on our roads with ease and irons them out nicely, giving you a comfortable ride. It feels more solid and confident while tackling broken roads too. You will feel the odd sharp bump upset the car, but with the small wheel size, that’s bound to happen. Out on the highway, things remain equally good at cruising speeds, with the Tiago remaining composed and keeping it’s occupants comfortable. We did manage to find a few twisties to test the handling, which continues to remain safe and predictable. The skinny tyres and small wheels, while adding fuel efficiency no doubt, do let you down on the handling front, where you can feel them run out of grip pretty early. The chassis can handle more, after all there was the JTP hot hatch built around this same car! What still remains a standout is the excellent steering, which while being easy to maneuver in the city, does offer great feedback when you push the Tiago harder, unlike it’s Korean and Japanese rivals, which offer a more lifeless feel.
Tata Tiago i-CNG Safety
New age Tata cars have always had a safe and secure feel, with global rating to match. The Tiago has been the same and with the i-CNG model, they hope to continue the same. You of course get two airbags and ABS with EBD, while there have been a number of safety measures taken to ensure that the factory-fitted CNG tank and the other changes meet all safety requirements. In fact, the engineers have gone the extra mile to ensure safety in the i-CNG, where the car will not start if the fuel lid is open. And it can automatically switch over to petrol mode in case the system detects any leak. The tank has been built as per government regulations and it should be inspected periodically at a government approved centre periodically for validation, as per norms.
Verdict and price
CNG powered cars do provide a great alternative to reduce running costs and even a more eco friendly approach to motoring. If low operating costs are high on your priority, the Tiago i-CNG makes a great case for itself, retaining all the strong attributes of the Tiago, without compromising on comfort, features or safety. It definitely will be a strong contender in this segment wit the Maruti Suzuki Celerio and WagonR along with the Hyundai Grand i10 Nios, also offering CNG power. Prices for the Tiago start at ₹6.09 lakh, while the model we tested here is available for ₹7.64 lakh (both prices are ex-showroom Delhi). This is a premium of ₹90,000 over the regular petrol powered model, which could actually pay for itself in the longer run. Tata Motors is also offering the Tigor sedan with the same i-CNG spec as the Tiago, which has the advantage of a boot, in which the CNG tank does not occupy all the cargo space. Prices for the Tigor start at ₹7.69 lakh ex-showroom Delhi. This too is a premium of ₹90,000 over its equivalent petrol only variant. Both cars are on sale now and deliveries for the same have already commenced.