June 2021 | 722 words | 3-minute read
Tata Motors Ltd discontinued the original Tata Safari after nearly two decades of service and a few makeovers and updates. The brand obviously resonates with customers, so it is no surprise that the automotive giant reintroduced it.
The new Tata Safari is based on the Harrier but in an extended avatar, with some additional styling cues and a third row for passengers. In the new version, the third row seats are front facing — making them more comfortable, practical and safer.
The front design is similar to the Harrier’s with a judicious use of chrome for a more ‘premium feel’. The length and a stepped roof — instead of a sloping one — were necessary to give a raised seating to the passengers in the rear, for a clearer view through the front windscreen. This also meant there is enough headroom for third-row passengers. There are a lot of differences at the rear when compared to the Harrier. One can’t miss the fact that the rear hatch is straighter and the bumpers look leaner. The tail lamps are also larger than the ones on its smaller sibling. The alloy wheels look identical though. Maybe Tata Motors could have changed that.
In terms of size, the new Tata Safari is substantially longer than its older version but not as tall. Reason being that there is no need for it. Unlike the older Tata Safari, the third-row bench sits lower and access to it is through the middle doors and not the rear hatch. Two types of seating arrangements are being made available. You get proper captain seats for the middle row in the six-seater and a three-seat bench in the seven-seater version. The second-row folds flat and tumbles over in the seven-seater for accessing the third row, while in the six-seater you can simply walk through the space between the captain seats.
The powertrain is similar to the Harrier’s. So, the FIAT-sourced 2.0-litre diesel engine is the only one on offer. Tata Motors isn’t strapping a petrol yet, thanks to a steady demand and practicality for an oil burner in this segment. This is available with either a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual gearbox. Power figures are also identical — 170ps and 350Nm of torque. This is a proven unit but has noticeable diesel clatter noise, not vibrations; but with enough grunt at the low end to take the SUV (sports utility vehicle) flying past others.
The automatic version is quite convenient. It is easy to slot but cannot match the manual version’s response to throttle inputs. I guess a bigger, heavier SUV has taken a bit of the sheen off the box, as it works just right in the Harrier. The steering is also on the heavier side, which offers confidence at speed and you get a big SUV feel. The six-speed manual Tata Safari has a more exhilarating drive. No 4x4 is being offered, since takers for a more expensive four-wheel-drive are far and few. True, but it would have been a good connect to its ancestor and its quintessential off-roading ability. Maybe it will appear in future models. Fingers crossed.
The interiors are pretty classy and look the part of a vehicle this segment and price. Tata Motors has added a premium-looking, oyster-white interior with an elegant, wood-finished dashboard. The seats are big, firmly cushioned and well contoured. The panels look rich and seem to be fitted well. The third-row — the main differentiator — is big enough to accommodate two average-sized adults. The rear has air-con fan controls on the right and two USB charging slots on the left.
Under-thigh support in the third row isn’t as much as the second row because the floor is high and if the seats were any higher, headroom would have been an issue. There is room for one large suitcase with the third row up. But fold it and there is enough for any cross-country road trip.
Do not try to draw a parallel between the old and new Tata Safari, and it will be an interesting SUV for someone on the lookout for a well-built three-row SUV. A more relaxed drive in the automatic transmission or a peppier manual, the all new Tata Safari just got a wider audience than it ever had.
Author Girish Karkera is the consulting editor of Times Auto