2015 TATA Xenon Review
Garry Fabian road tests and reviews the 2015 TATA Xenon.
You may not know the TATA name but you might be surprised just how big and influential the Indian-owned car company is.
Aside from being the dominant player in their domestic market, TATA also owns the famous British marques – Jaguar and Land Rover and frankly, their cars have never been better!
Now the brand is looking to etch out a presence in Australia in its own right with a commercial ute it calls the Xenon.
The 2015 TATA Xenon, while offering an attractive price for those on a budget, can hardly be described as the latest state-of-the art unit. As the saying goes “You get what you pay for” and this is the perfect example of that.
Some of areas that have not quite caught up what rivals offer include big safety and equipment oversights, stone-age dynamics, cramped cabin, dubious quality and no automatic transmission option.
But, on the flipside, there has been some progress on the 2015 model, including the addition of stability control to all TATA Xenon models – a move that sees the utility elevates its ANCAP safety rating from two to four stars.
Dual-cab models also gain a reversing camera and satellite-navigation, which is a fillip not only within the bargain-basement domain but against significantly more expensive dual-cabs.
TATA has beefed up the ownership deal to go with the new ANCAP rating, increasing its factory warranty to four years/100,000km warranty (up from three).
But some significant blemishes remain. The Xenon still has only twin front air-bags, making it an unfortunate relic in a world where side and head-protecting curtain airbags are by and large mandatory.
If you don’t care for shifting gears yourself, you are out of luck, because a five-speed manual is the only choice. Cruise control isn’t part of its repertoire either, a big minus for those who do a lot of highway miles.
All models get air-conditioning, keyless entry, power windows, Bluetooth and 16-inch alloy wheels though.
It’s a fair jump up to the driver’s seat, and you sit with your knees up and askew thanks to a combination of a high floor and offset pedals. The seats are very basic in the support, adjustability and comfort they offer.
There’s no steering reach adjustment (just tilt) to fine-tune a driving position that some will find merely compromised, others plain uncomfortable.
The cabin has a distinctly dated atmosphere, from the generic 1990s design to the patterned fabric trim that also looks like it came straight out the 1990’s. The plastics are hard and shiny, and there are exposed bolts in some places.
If the inclusion of touch-screen sat-nav suggests a certain sophistication, it’s only because it’s a feature of the obviously aftermarket stereo stuck in the dash.
Back-seat occupants aren’t treated to an abundance of foot and leg space, and the high floor and upright backrest conspire to make it a less than welcoming space for taller passengers.
While it is a bit tight inside, the TATA XENOM at least lives up to its fundamental load-lugging purpose with a decent sized, fully lined tray and reasonable payload (1020kg for dual-cab 4×2).
Under the bonnet is TATA’s 2.2-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder that is common across all Xenon models. It’s not the snappiest diesel in the dual-cab shed but posts respectable power/torque.
But, it is slow off the mark, reminiscent of diesel engines twenty years ago.
What it doesn’t do is deliver benchmark quietness or the higher rev zeal of the best modern diesels, feeling ever more strained and wheezy – and making quite the agricultural racket – when asked to give its all across its full rev range.
It’s a willing performer in the real world, with little in the way of turbo lag, and fuel economy at a claimed combined 7.4L/100kms is a real highlight.
The TATA suspension can at best be described as ‘rugged’. It bounces along on seemingly smooth roads, and reacts to craggy rural tarmac with the restraint of a red-cordial-infused child on a pogo stick.
Hit a large, sharp mid-corner bump at open-road speeds and the bump-steer will take your breath away, if not worse given it’s of the sudden-lane-change variety.
This kind of suspension control, or lack of it, obviously doesn’t help it through the bends.
On the billiard-smooth roads it actually steers quite directly (if not quickly) and tracks faithfully, but the rarity of such surfaces in Australia means any innate ability is more often overwhelmed by the suspension’s control issues.
The Xenon’s ride woes, unsurprisingly, aren’t as accentuated with a heavy load in the tray. Towing (it has a decent 2500kg maximum capacity) is another activity that will surely settle things down.
The 2015 upgrades don’t perceptibly alter the Xenon’s effectiveness or desirability.
It still lags behind by contemporary dual-cab standards and only recommended if you absolutely must have a new ute for minimum outlay and don’t give two hoots about truly contemporary standards of safety, cabin packaging, comfort, quality and driving nous.
But the TATA Xenon’s stronger safety, extra equipment, decent diesel engine and decent towing capabilities do put it a comfortable step ahead of cheap-ute rivals like the Great Wall V200.
So, while it’s not a game-changing ute, it’s not the worst you could buy either. That’s got to count for something.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2015 TATA Xenon
Engine: 2.2 litre diesel producing 110kW and 320Nm
Transmission: Five-speed manual (only)
Safety: Four stars