With 84bhp and 114Nm, the Tiago’s 1199cc motor offers strong outputs considering its displacement, however, the powertrain is hampered by the 1020kg kerb weight and it shows when we look at performance numbers. More on that later.
This all-aluminium motor has three cylinders and despite its unbalanced nature, is devoid of vibrations for the most part. Sure, it sounds industrial and slightly grainy at high revs but when you are driving around town at a normal pace, the motor is peppy and flexible from the word go – it pulls well from low revs and spins in a linear way all the way to its redline. By contrast, the Santro’s 1086cc, four-cylinder motor makes 69bhp and 99Nm. Now these figures may not seem substantial on paper but bear in mind, the Santro is light for its size. At 920kg as tested, it is over 100 kilos lighter than the Tiago and with the engine paired to a slick-shifting 5-speed manual and a light clutch, they make for a stress-free drivetrain combination. Speaking of stress-free, the Santro’s engine has a surprisingly strong bottom-end, pulling the car from standstill with pleasant vigour. There is always enough torque to keep up with traffic and the engine remains quiet as long as you don’t breach the 4,000rpm mark. The strong bottom-end pull and decent mid-range punch allow you to stay in higher gears, which means you end up shifting a lot less than in the Tiago. In terms of gearshift quality, again it’s the Santro’s mechanism that’s simply faultless – the shifts are as precise as they can get and the clutch pedal is light and well weighted, too. The Tiago’s 5-speeder isn’t bad either, lending a good feel when rowing through the gears, however, the clutch pedal is springy and comparatively heavier.
The Santro’s user-friendly powertrain is aided by a steering that’s fairly light to use. Although there is some feel to it, the steering is sloppy at low speeds and the rack itself is very slow to initiate quick turn-ins. In comparison, the Tiago’s steering is quicker and a lot more fluid when you apply some lock. In outright steering feel terms, the Tata is still the one – it isn’t quite as light as the Hyundai’s, but direct and smooth nonetheless.
Both the Santro and the Tiago are perfect for playing traffic wars and they are not bad on bad roads either. At low speeds, it’s the new boy that has the upper hand, with a ride that is certainly more absorbent than that of the Tiago, with a nice, soft edge over rippled surfaces. More importantly, the suspension remains quiet, isolating occupants by rounding off sharp inputs. On the contrary, you can hear the suspension working in the Tiago as it goes over sharp-edged bumps. Some vibrations also creep in through the steering column and the pedals, which isn’t a surprise given that the Tiago is stiffly sprung. All in all, the Tiago is firm at low speeds though it’s never uncomfortable.
The comparatively stiffer setup pays dividends as you venture out of town. On the highways, it’s the Tiago that remains far more composed over long undulations or humps. This may come as a surprise for some but the Tiago is also a lot more refined at speed. The Santro, on the other hand, gets a little skittish at triple digit speeds – the rear end is fidgety even over slightest of bumps and overall, never feels settled.