22 May 1998

… AND SO DOES INDIAN

MANUFACTURER TATA

INDIAN giant Tata is the latest vehicle maker to enter the four-wheel-drive pickup and off-roader sector, with all-wheel-drive versions of its Loadbeta singlecab and doublecab pick-ups, and Gurkha hybrid vehicle. As with their two-wheel-drive siblings, price tags undercut many Japanese rivals by a big margin.

All the new 4×4 versions have a 2-litre, 90hp turbodiesel driving through a high-low transfer box and switched electrically by a small rotary knob on the dashboard. Changing from 2WD high to 4WD high can be done on the move, but the shift to 4WD low needs to be done with the vehicle stationary.

While Tatas UK importer claims that build quality has steadily improved since the Loadbeta was launched in 1994, it is the bargain-basement prices that will still be its chief weapon in the ultra-competitive 4WD pick-up sector. These range from £9995 + VAT for the singlecab 4WD pickup to £11,357 + VAT for the 4WD doublecab. All vehicles come with a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty.

&#42 Verdict

Compared to equivalent products from Japanese or European makers, the Tata cab is still a relatively rough-and-ready

affair. Theres a whiff of east Europe about it, with some of the trim ill-fitting and an old-fashioned feel to the dials and switches. Its noisy at high speed, relatively heavy to steer and the gearbox on this brand-new version was a bit stiff.

But if youre not looking for the last word in state-of-the-art sophistication, theres a very capable vehicle lurking under the surface. The 90hp engine pushes the vehicle along well, the seats are comfortable and the suspension is a lot more forgiving over rough ground than many we could name. Moreover the low-ratio box is usefully low, ground clearance pretty good and the 4WD Loadbeta will go wherever 99% of farmers want it to.

So there you have it. A full-sized pickup which matches Japanese pickups on power, payload and load area dimensions, undercuts them on price but lacks their smoothly sophisticated feel. An ideal vehicle for the cash-strapped late 1990s?

Tata range now consists of 2wd, 4wd and doublecab pickups, as well as hard-top Gurkha variant. Apart from base non-turbo model, all have 90hp engines.

Citroens long-in-the-tooth Visa-based C15 pickup (tested in FW May 23 1997) has been replaced by the Berlingo 2wd pickup, developed from the van of the same name by Bradford-based Jiffy Trucks (01274-619996). Payload is 700kg and the load area measures 1.7m (5ft 7in) long by 1.9m (3ft 11in) between the wheel arches. Deck lengths up to 2m (6ft 6in) are available as options and a glassfibre top is in the pipeline. Engine is 74hp 1.9 litre non-turbo diesel. Price is £8995 + VAT.

Tata 4wd line-up


Model Power Load area (L x W x H) Payload Price (+ VAT)

2.0tdi 4×4 90hp 1.88m x 1.41m x 0.4m 1000kg £9995

2.0tdi 4×4 d/cab 90hp 1.52m x 1.51m x 0.4m 860kg £11,357

Gurkha 4×4 90hp 1.19m x 1.41m x 1m 740kg £13,845