The Tata Tiago is one of the nicest hatchbacks you can buy in India today. That is because of the fact that it rides and handles well, is feature loaded and looks nice. And of course, it has a great price tag. That said, it was never a performance oriented car with its 3-cylinder, naturally aspirated engine making 84 bhp. Now though, all that is about to change with the newly launched Tata Motors performance sub-brand 'JTP' or 'Jayem Tata Performance'. And the first two cars to come out of this performance 'skunkworks' are the Tiago JTP and the Tigor JTP. So is the Tiago JTP a true hot hatch or just some fancy paint and bumpers? Read on to know more.
Tata Tiago JTP: Exterior Design
The Tata Tiago JTP is basically a standard Tiago on steroids. The car gets a brand new front bumper, which I think looks on-point for a hot little car like this and screams performance. The bumper has a very distinct three part design that we are told will be a signature look for all JTP cars moving forward. The grille too has been accentuated and everything is finished in a shade of black. In fact, with the exception of the badges and the tail pipes, there is no chrome on this car at all. And that of course, is a good thing. The Tiago JTP also gets the updated headlamps from the recently launched Tigor facelift - again finished in an all-black shade, and a set of larger 15-inch dual-tone wheels.
Around the side, the Tata Tiago JTP gets a subtle side skirt, just bold enough to make someone who likes cars take notice without being obnoxious about it. And around the back the plastic bits of the rear bumper gets an addon that ape the front grille's hexagonal pattern and a subtle diffuser. And as I mentioned earlier, a new set of dual, chrome tipped exhaust tips finish the look off. But the coolest parts on the new Tiago JTP aren't the bumpers or the diffuser or the twin exhausts. It is the active vents that the car gets on the bonnet and on the fenders. These vents have been designed specifically to make the engine bay run cooler as adding extra bits like the turbo had effectively increased the ambient temperature in the engine bay.
Tata Tiago JTP: Interior Design
Not much changes in the interior as compared to the standard Tiago. The car now gets an all black interior package - including the roof lining and the pillars, an all black dashboard and a set of updated seats finished in a two tone black with red inserts. The seats also get red stitching that looks quite cool and a very prominent JTP logo. You also get a leather wrapped steering wheel - which is very high quality stuff and a leather wrapped gear knob. And to give the car a little special touch, you get red accents around the AC vents that match the exterior paint. However, the Tiago JTP does disappoint with the lack of climate control and the infotainment system does not support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Tiago JTP also lacks a reverse parking camera, which is a bit of a downer.
Tata Tiago JTP: Engine and Gearbox
So lets get down to business. We are driving the Tata Tiago JTP not because it has a set of bumpers or a set of larger wheels but because it has a new engine under the bonnet. That JTSV - Jayem Tata Special Vehicles has essentially done is take the 1.2-litre engine and put a turbo on it. The engine is basically the same as the one you get on the Nexon but now it makes even more horsepower - 112 bhp and is rated at 150 Nm of torque. And boy oh boy - does it put all that power down! 0-100 is taken care of in just 10 seconds and even though the engine red lines just under 6000 Rpm, it has a lot of power and torque in the higher spectrum of the rev range. And what that basically means is that it absolutely loves to be thrashed around!
Also Read: Tata Tiago JTP: All You Need To Know
The Tiago JTP is the kind of car you grab by the scruff of its neck and to be honest, the car responds really well to what can only be described as borderline abuse! While there is turbo lag in a higher gear and at lower RPMs, in the right gear and in the correct rev range, the Tiago JTP is an absolute joy to drive. In fact, it is not very often that a car leaves me speechless, and this did! The 5-speed gearbox is also very responsive and although I would have loved to see a proper short shifter, I must come back to reminding myself how this is a production car for the junta and not just for an enthusiast who wants to hoon around on a daily basis. But hoon you can! What it does lack though is a slightly sporty exhaust note. And while the blow off valve does tend to compensate for that, I really think JTP should offer an aftermarket exhaust. And please, make it loud enough to annoy the neighbours!
Tata Tiago JTP: Ride and Handling
While it is easy to put in a bunch or power by adding a new engine to the range, it is the dark art of suspension tuning that you need to master to make a car dance to your tunes. And J Anand from Jayem Auto is Master Yoda when it comes to suspension setups. The car has been lowered and put on stiffer springs that offer the perfect blend of body roll, handling accuracy and comfort. And when I say perfect, I really do mean spot-on-perfect. JTSV has also worked with tyre makers MRF and Apollo to specially tune a set of tyres that work in tandem with the specially tuned suspension to offer much better handling and braking.
So, to answer the query everyone has? How does the Tiago JTP really handle?? Well, it is pretty much point and shoot. Short of something like a Polo GTI or a Mini Cooper S, I think this could very well be the best handling hatchback I have driven in the country by a margin and a half. It really, genuinely is that good. Turn in is great, the back steps out just a wee bit on throttle lift off to let you correct enough and when you are done with this whole process, the car is exactly where you want it to be. And all of this without a hint of fuss. If there is one thing I would nit-pick about though is the fact that the steering feedback does feel a little light and does take some time to get used to. In fact, a little more weighed steering would have done wonders to the car.
Tata Tiago JTP: Verdict
The Tata Tiago JTP is priced at Rs 6.39 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). At that price point, there is nothing even remotely enthusiast-driven in the Indian auto sector. Therefore not only is it carving out its own niche, it is making its own segment altogether. On the whole though, the Tiago JTP is a very important car for the Indian auto sector as it finally brings back some attention to the ever growing car buying audience who does want something quick and performance driven rather than the usual drivel about fuel economy, and the Tiago JTP is all of that done correctly. Honestly, there is just one way I can sum up this car. The Tata Tiago JTP is India's Volkswagen Golf GTI moment.