Auto review: 30 days of owing the Tata Hexa


If there’s one person who’s eminently qualified to write an automobile review, it is this highly experienced, respected and knowledgeable commercial jetliner and airforce pilot who is also an avid automobile lover, and a dear friend. Meet Karan Vir Singh Parmar, who, when he read my review of the Hexa, happened to be in SUV-evaluation mode. He called me for a long chat, and we discussed my view of the Hexa after I’d test driven it way back in November, I think it was, when Tata Motors had invited 60 influential bloggers from across India to take it for a 160-kilometer drive in Hyderabad.

Thereafter, Karan tried and bought the Tata Hexa. Its top variant. And I invited Karan to share his review of the car I’d loved when I’d test-driven it. I’m glad that this very busy and respected senior commercial jetliner pilot agreed to take some time out of his busy schedule to share his experience after one month of owning and driving the Tata Hexa.

So this is the first of hopefully many pieces Karan will write, and I’m keen to introduce him to you, in his own words.  A truly fascinating person who is as understated as he is knowledgeable and experienced. And a delight to know as a person.

So here’s about Karan, in his own words. And then, his review. Here goes. Enjoy. – Pavan R Chawla] 

Karan Vir Singh Parmar

How Things Work has always fascinated me.  Like all young boys I was attracted to machines. I started by dismantling my bike. As I grew, my attraction towards machines, especially the Flying Machines, increased. 

To have a go at aviation, I joined the Indian Air Force. My 25 years with the IAF gave me sound technical knowledge on how complex and modern flying machines work. I am grateful to the Air Force for letting me fly a large variety of fighter aircraft and helicopters during my 25 years with the IAF. The great part?  I got paid for indulging in my passion.

I took voluntary retirement from the IAF and joined civil aviation. I’ve been flying modern jet liners for the past 14 years. Nowadays, I fly Airbus A-320 aircraft.

My other abiding interest has been machines on wheels. My first motorised possession was a Yezdi motorcycle which suffered constant tinkering and an occasional dismantling.  When my family size increased, I purchased my first car, a Premier Padmini. In consultation with my “Readers Digest Book of the Car” and my friendly neighbourhood mechanic, I spent long weekends unravelling the mysteries of the carburettor, ignition timing and suspension. Since then, I have owned and driven many fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable cars.

Over the years, I developed interest in travel. I love to drive and  explore  countrysides by car. I’ve been fortunate enough to drive across in all five contents. 

Karan Vir Singh Parmar’s review: 30 days of owning the Tata Hexa

Cake cutting at the Tata Motors dealership

I got the call saying my car had arrived. Early the next morning we were at the showroom and there she was – shining, Azure Blue, XTA, SUV with a pink ribbon on the bonnet. The Tata Hexa was everything I had dreamt of. We did a quick walk around and requested that all plastic covering be removed to show the interiors in all their glory. 

The Hexa interior ranks amongst the best that Tata has produced till date.  The all-black plastic interior looked plush and classy; the black Benecke Kalika upholstery felt great. 

The sales staff at the dealership in Gurgaon were as excited, and even had a  nice cake waiting. After a well planned ceremony made sweeter by the delicious  cake and picture clicking, we were handed the keys to our new car

Karan and his wife Renu take delivery of their new Tata Hexa in Gurgaon

That was   when my training as a pilot kicked in. My belief is never to press a button without being absolutely certain as to what it does. So I asked the staff — much to their bemusement — to tell me all about the numerous buttons and switches ; what did each one do ? A suitably senior-looking guy was summoned who tried to answer my questions to best of his knowledge. My aim was to familiarize myself with most of the common functions of the switches —  especially the complex business of lowering the recessed spare wheel. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would have been  to have a flat and not knowing how to change the wheel ? Worse, not knowing where the wheel was!  

Suitably enlightened and highly excited, we started the car. The 2.2 L Vericor motor bust into action and settled to a comforting purr. The high seating of the car gives the driver a commanding driving position. The automatic gear box is smooth. Shift to higher gear takes place at around 2500 rpm. I did detect slight judder and noise at gear shift. In spite of my being  gentle with my new car, the car felt nippy and eager to go. The  interior was very quiet for a diesel,  and road noise was minimal.

With the rise in temperature, it was time to switch on the A/C. The controls are straightforward, but panel being vertical is difficult to read. Angling it a bit upward would not only improve the readability of the panel but also give a more blended look to the centre console. Even at low fan setting, I  found the A/C fan extremely loud making normal conversation difficult. Tata at some stage will have to go for a re-design for a quieter fan while retaining the air delivery volume. 

The infotainment system is good but complex. The screen is a bit small and the the touch is a bit uncertain. The quality of sound from the infotainment system is good but the effect is lost due to high noise of the Air Conditioner fan. To get the best out of the sound system, I would have preferred more control over quality of sound. An equaliser would have given you feel of sitting in a theatre. An IR remote, though mentioned in the manual, has not been provided. Tata may consider making it an optional accessory. Features like mood lighting almost go unnoticed and seem unnecessary.  

Hexa is a big car and requires careful handling in city driving conditions, especially while parking. Parking assist is a big help. In a high end car, active assist would have been appreciated. The resolution of the rear view camera is poor especially under night conditions. An additional front  camera or a sensor would go a long way in preventing a scraped front end. 

Hexa by its super campaign had aroused the curiosity level of everyone and  all my friends and relatives wanted a ride. It was discovered that getting into the middle seat was a little difficult. Even not-so-old persons found it difficult to get to the captain seats. I am thinking of getting a stool made to help my relatives with not so strong knees. But once inside, the general comment was that the seats were great and so was the legroom. The seat maker has got the firmness of the cushions, the design of the seat and the thigh support spot on. Most passengers in the rear seat too appreciated the leg room. The availability of air con vents on all seats enhanced the overall comfort. 

The car has plenty of storage space, but the design of the front seat centre console is poor. USB-Aux and 12 V charging points are at the bottom of the Air Con panel, but due to the presence of the gear stick, there is no space left to keep your phone. The absence of cup holders for the front seat occupants was sorely felt, especially on long drives.  

Tight fit

On day three the unexpected happened. The entire left side electrical system including wing mirrors stopped working. Can you imagine driving in the city traffic with no left indicators ? Early next morning saw me at the dealership. The technicians too were equally surprised at the snag. I also discovered that since the car was new, the expertise level at the dealership was low. A computer was plugged in, a few phone calls were made and a few hours later the problem was rectified. What alarmed me to some extent was the fact that no one knew what exactly was the cause.

After a week of city driving and with 500 km on the clock, we decided to take our new Hexa to the hills of Shimla. But when we were starting, I discovered that  I could not change the air conditioning modes. The air conditioning system refused to deliver any appreciable volume of air. This second failure within a week shook my confidence in the car. Should we undertake the journey at all ? What if  something more vital were to suddenly stopped working ? Questions like this kept popping up in my mind. But finally, the spirit of adventure kicked in, and  and since the destination was cool hills,  we decided to press on. 

It was a scenic route all through, particularly because there had been some unseasonal but very welcome rains, and as we drove from the plains higher into the hills, the cloudy mists and the pure air braced body and soul.

The car was in its element and handled the hilly roads very well. It felt solid on the road. The ride quality was superb, the steering firm. The absence of body roll made going around  curves an  enjoyable experience. I was impressed by the ease of starting on a slope without slipping backwards. Breaking was good and reassuring 

The Tata Hexa was in its element on the hilly roads in and around Shimla

The car was in its element and handled the hilly roads very well. It felt solid on the road. The ride quality was superb, the steering firm. The absence of body roll made going around  curves an  enjoyable experience. I was impressed by the ease of starting on a slope without slipping backwards. Breaking was good and reassuring. 

On the way back we took a wrong turn and ended up on an under construction road. The 19-inch alloy wheels and the suspension handled the environment very well. 

On our return we were back at the workshop, second time in first 10 days of owning the Tata Hexa’s top variant – the  flagship model  of a leading car manufacturer. The fault in the AC was detected to a faulty selector motor. The dealership didn’t have the spare motor and  I was told that the motor would take about five days to arrive from Pune. Can you imagine driving a 10-day-old(or new) car in Delhi’s hot weather with a non-functional air-conditioning!? 

Fortunately, however, some senior Tata service staff intervened and a motor was taken out of a stock car and the Air Con was brought back on line. The process took six hours and further eroded my confidence in quality control of Tata motors. The car maker needs to give serious thought to quality control and its spareparts stocking —  especially the electrical components. 

Obscured lights selector

The headlights provide good illumination for night driving and the lights have plenty of modes. I haven’t used most  of them  so far. The electrical switches in the car have a poor and uncertain feel. The rotary headlight selector feels real cheap and flimsy. Ergonomically, it could not have been placed in a poorer location. The steering wheel obscures the rotary selectors, making any selections on the move a guesswork. I wonder why some functions could not have been assigned to the spare switches below the Infotainment panel.

In the first 30 days my Tata Hexa had done  1300 km. In spite of the niggles mentioned above the overall experience has been thoroughly enjoyable

In the first 30 days my Tata Hexa had done  1300 km. In spite of the niggles mentioned above the overall experience has been thoroughly enjoyable. I am looking forward to clocking more miles on the Hexa and sharing the experience.   

I will be back with another review after my Tata Hexa has completed 90 days. 

Till then, you drive safe.

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