CNG is not rocket science. It’s been around for ages, and exploiting this resource doesn’t require carmakers to spend billions of R&D money. A recent surge is being witnessed with manufacturers wanting to offer CNG versions of their latest entry-level cars. Tata Motors’ arsenal of greener, cleaner motoring now includes two new CNG versions of their popular products — the Tiago hatchback and the Tigor sedan. I spent some time behind the wheel of the Tigor CNG to find out if this sedan can be deemed a worthy alternative to conventionally powered runabouts.
To keep this review succinct, here are 5 things that work in the Tata Tigor CNG’s favour and 5 that don’t. We’ll start with the positives.
1. Just like a hybrid
The good thing about CNG cars is that the engine is the same as that on the petrol version but with a CNG kit fitted and tuned accordingly. This enables the car to be used with either petrol or CNG, depending on the availability.
CNG is cleaner than diesel, in terms of NOx and particulates, and whenever there’s a need for more power, one can comfortably switch to petrol, even on the go.
2. Adequately powerful
That brings us to the second point: power. The Tata Tigor CNG is adequately powerful not just when driven on petrol but also CNG. The overall power is down by 10hp, which might be noticeable when switching back and forth from petrol, but in isolation, it doesn’t feel underpowered for the majority of what you’d experience regularly. Be it motorway cruising or zipping through traffic, the Tigor CNG manages everything.
For a small, entry-level sedan, the Tata Tigor has a long list of features. The good thing about the Tigor CNG is that it’s available only on the top-spec trims of the car, namely the XZ and XZ+. While those cost a fair bit more than the regular version, Tata Motors is clearly not limiting the Tigor CNG’s customer base to taxi/fleet services. It also means the sedan gets all the equipment Tata has to offer on the car; so there’s no discrimation on the basis of your fuel of choice. The feature list includes projector headlamps, a decent touchscreen infotainment system (with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay), automatic-folding outside mirrors, steering-mounted controls, an eight-speaker audio system (which sounds okay at best), a cooled glovebox, digital instrument console, etc.
4. Easy to drive
In the last few years, cars have been constantly improved, especially if you look at Tatas. So unless you’re coming from a model launched two decades ago, you wouldn’t find the Tigor CNG surprisingly easy to drive. But in reality, it actually is. You don’t have to push it too much to make progress, despite the engine being a 1.2-litre naturally aspirated one. The maximum power, highly irrelevant if you’re looking at how easy it is to drive, though; 86hp when driven in the petrol mode and 73.4hp on CNG. Both max outputs are achieved at 6000rpm. What’s of interest here is that the maximum torque is achieved at 3300rpm (113Nm in petrol) and 3500rpm (95Nm in CNG). These numbers may not be a patch on diesels or electric powertrains, which have the abundance of torque available much earlier, but it does make the Tigor CNG driveable in stop-go conditions.
This applies to the regular Tigor, too; it’s one of the safest cars in the segment. For a brand that’s been testing its cars for crash-worthiness since the time of the Indica, this achievement isn’t unusual or unexpected. But we live in times when carmakers happily skimp on essential features, and it’s reassuring that Tata has its priorities sorted. A Global NCAP 4-star rating for the Tigor shouldn’t come as a surprise.
With the CNG, Tata has taken a few more precautions to ensure the overall safety of the car isn’t affected. The tank has a leak-proof design, but in the case of an unfortunate incident, the system will automatically cut off the supply. The same happens in case of a ‘thermal incident,’ and through a special nozzle, the system allows the gas to escape out of the car. Another worthy inclusion is the feature that if the fuel lid isn’t shut, the car won’t start. Similarly, if the fuel lid is opened, the system automatically switches the ignition off.
All things said, the Tata Tigor, while a great effort from the carmaker, is far from perfect. And the next five pointers might give you an idea why I say that.
Harsh to call a car in 2022 unpolished, but that’s what the Tata Tigor seems to be. It’s not bad by any means; it’s quite the opposite, actually. But it is not quite there yet — something that becomes more evident when you consider that Tata has had the time to improve the Tigor. These aren’t major flaws but a little more effort would’ve gone a long way in ensuring that buyers didn’t feel shortchanged. The cabin materials are just okay, the bonnet on the test car seemed in desperate need of buffing, and the boot lid was without any lining.
2. Uninspiring to drive
The Tata Tigor shares its platform with the Tiago hatchback, which was based on a platform that was first seen on the Indica. Of course, it’s been thoroughly modified, but it’s surprising that while cars like the Indica Vista, Zest, and Bolt were decent to drive, the Tigor feels a touch too light for my liking. You see, a car doesn’t need to be fast or super-stiff to be appreciated by an enthusiast, but it does need to be an event worth looking forward to. A drive in the Tigor CNG, as far as just driving it goes, is unlikely to be that.
It deserves better-looking wheels. The sub-four-metre segment never had any good-looking cars, but the Tigor did manage to grab attention when it was new. The recent upgrade did refresh things up, no doubt, but the CNG car comes with these flimsy-looking alloys which just ruin the appearance. Or is it just me?
4. No AMT
It’s going to be a case of demand and supply, but at this point, Tata doesn’t offer the Tigor CNG with an automated manual gearbox. Unless it’s incredibly difficult to reprogramme or if the demand is too low, it’d be incredibly nice to have that in a car that has fuel economy, urban tractability, etc. high up on its list of priorities, rather than just outright driving fun.
5. Boot space
With the inclusion of a tank in the car’s boot, the luggage-carrying capacity has dropped considerably. It can still hold the spare wheel and a few bags. Yeah, yeah, you can’t have everything, that’s true. The lid itself is controlled using hydraulic struts placed outside the boot, which is a clever touch — it ensures maximum space utilisation.
The Tigor CNG does a lot of things right, and that makes it unmissable if you’re looking for a car that can be driven for everyday commutes without having to waste too much money on fuel. Unlike others in the CNG-powered segment, you don’t have to switch to petrol to start the car, either. Nor does it do that automatically.
The shift from petrol to CNG is smooth. There’s a little drop/increase in power, if you’re switching to CNG or petrol respectively, but in everyday driving, that’s going to be a non-issue.
It’s a good effort by Tata, and in the end, the Tigor can very easily replace a petrol or diesel car, as long as your city has CNG availability. A 35-litre petrol tank remains unchanged, which means in the event you’re required to do inter-city or are in a city/town where CNG doesn’t exist, you wouldn’t be stranded.
The company claims a fuel consumption of 26.49 km/kg of CNG, which is of course a figure by them and we didn’t have the car long enough to do a thorough test. Tata Motors has a neat calculator on its website that tells you how much money you’ll save by using a CNG car. Say, in Maharashtra, if I’m coming from a petrol car that gives me 15kpl and I do a monthly mileage of 3000km, by switching to CNG, I’m looking at saving nearly Rs 1.8 lakh in one year. Woah!
Considering that CNG burns cleaner than diesel and petrol, it’s a no-brainer! The Tata Tigor i-CNG is priced at Rs 7.7 lakh for the XZ variant, Rs 8.3 lakh for the XZ+, and Rs 8.42 lakh for the dual-tone version of the latter.