BUYERS GUIDE - UTES & CAB CHASSIS MEDIUM
Tata is the world’s fourth-largest commercial vehicle maker and the owner of Land Rover. This giant multinational company didn’t get that way from making rubbish, but the Xenon had appeal to those wanting a basic ute, not a frills machine. Pricing was very, very good.
Like its Mahindra countryman the Xenon attracted market attention because of its very keen pricing: $25,990 for a 4WD single cab/chassis; $27,990 for a ute and $29,990 for a crew-cab ute. Our 2013 test vehicle was fitted with an optional nav screen and reverse camera, for an extra couple of grand.
The Xenon single cab/chassis and crew-cab sat on a 3150mm wheelbase and the single cab ute was shorter, on 2825mm. All variants had a 2.2-litre common-rail-injected, turbo-intercooled, Euro V diesel, with modest outputs of 110kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm in the 1500-3000rpm band.
The only transmission offered at launch was a five-speed manual, with two-speed transfer case.
Underpinnings were as strong as it gets, as you’d expect from
a vehicle whose Indian buyers blithely ignore gross mass ratings, so the stated gross mass rating of only 2950kg and payload of 970-990kg were decidedly on the conservative side.
A sturdy torsion bar front end was matched by taper-leaf rear springs with massive helper springs and the assembly looked capable of handling much more than three tonnes all up.
The suspension worked fine, but would benefit from beefier dampers front and rear.
Towing capacity was limited to 2500kg by engine torque of only 320Nm.
Off road traction was so-so, because a limited-slip rear differential struggled to maintain grip, with stiff rear suspension that limited wheel travel.
At 32 grand drive-away we had to cut the latest Tata crew-cab 4WD ute some slack. Its weird ergonomics don’t compare with the control layouts of mainstream utes, but you could buy two Tatas for the price of one fully-loaded, top-shelf established brand ute.
So, while you were struggling to see the speedo and tacho, because the tilt steering wheel rim was in the way, or trying in vain to get the Bluetooth dashboard button make your phone work, or sliding around a bit on the flattish front seats, or squeezing long legs into a cramped rear-seat space, you had the warm feeling of having saved plenty.
There was also no cruise control but there was plenty of urge from a state of the art turbo-intercooled diesel and the five-speed manual box had an excellent action. The 4WD system worked promptly from a knob control.
We planned to check out the Xenon once more, when better equipped models were released, but never heard from Tata again.