Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar
Tata Ace has grown up in more ways than one. It’s called the Ace Mega.
Tata Ace has grown up. It is now called the Ace Mega. Inching closer to the SuperAce, Ace Mega aims at those who want to carry more, avail better fuel efficiency, and have the ability to turnaround quickly. Coming across as a bit of a cultural shock, after watching the Ace grow from strength to strength for over a decade, the Ace Mega is set to add a new dimension to the Ace family. Both, in terms of performance, and payload carrying capacity. Also part of the equation are qualities like an upmarket stance and a robust build.
Painted in an attractive shade of metallic Azure blue, the Ace Mega retains the appeal of the Ace. It looks as cute or toy-like. Just that it feels like it has grown up in all directions almost. In a way, it has. Walk closer, and the cabin looks bigger than that of the Ace. It actually is not. Walk to the rear, and the cargo tray looks longer and wider than that of the Ace where upon it is not longer or wider. A sense prevails that the Ace has grown up, helping to understand the fact that the Ace Mega can carry 1-tonne over Ace’s 800kgs. Connection with the Ace is kept alive by the leaf spring suspension all-round. Like the SuperAce however, the Ace Mega is equipped with 165 R14 radial tyres. If this explains the 175 mm ground clearance and a gradeability of 30 per cent, the leaf spring suspension presents the Ace Mega with an ability to handle the rough with the smooth. If the SuperAce is about speed and comfort, the Ace Mega is about the ability to carry more than the Ace; at higher speeds, economically and over less than ideal surfaces. A closer look at the chassis provides a fair idea of the efforts that went into making the Ace Mega robust. Company sources claim that the chassis has been reinforced to account for the higher payload carrying capacity. The cabin has been reinforced as well.
Unlike the Ace where one can easily slid into the driver’s seat, in the Ace Mega one may need to climb into the seat almost. If this provides a reason to think that the Ace has grown up, the cabin feels roomier. The hump between the seats may rob the cabin of some space, it also indicates that below it is the engine. Over the Ace’s 16 hp, 800cc two-cylinder in-direct injection diesel engine, the Mega Ace gets a 40 hp, 800cc two-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine. Longitudinally arranged, the lightweight aluminum engine is BS III (BS IV will arrive in January 2016) emissions compliant. Power is routed to the rear wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission. One more cog (over the Ace’s 4-speed gearbox), apart from extracting better fuel efficiency, also aids to achieve higher operating speeds. The Ace Mega is capable of a top speed of 90 kmph over the 60 kmph top speed an Ace can achieve. Fuel efficiency is claimed to be in the region of 18.5 kmpl. Under real-world operating conditions, it is expected to be in the region of 15-16 kmpl. To account for a higher top speed and load carrying capability, the brake system is equipped with discs at the front and (254 mm dia.) drums at the rear. The braking system is servoed, and includes a 7-inch vacuum booster. To address the growing needs of a typical driver-operator in the category, the Ace Mega gets an ergonomically located driver console, lockable glovebox, provision for a music system, mobile charging port and a digital clock.
Comfortable and easy to drive
The large front windshield makes it easy to even spot a rat running across! Apart from the large front windshield, credit for a commanding driving position should also go to the ergonomics. Ergonomically well engineered, the engine cover between the seats does tend to rob the cabin of some space, it does not quite succeed in presenting a sense that this cabin is bigger than that of the Ace and roomier. Seating position is comfortable, and accompanied by good amount of legroom, shoulder room and head room. If the fabric seats help with an upmarket look, the dash is simple and a bit utilitarian. The instrument cluster is at the centre, and below it, is the digital clock, charging port and head lamp leveller switch located. In what looks like a mini centre console, there’s a provision for the music system too.
Waking up to an amount of noise, the engine tends to be a bit noisy. Its typical of an aluminium unit. While the noise is not as intrusive on the move, the need for more sound insulation is felt nevertheless time and again. A thick foam pad on the floor works towards isolating vibrations. They are ably kept out. Not so much about noise however. Taking off away smartly in the first gear, it does not take long to understand that the first and second gear is about the ability to pull. They are taller than the rest. Quite responsive in comparison to the Ace, despite the absence of a tacho, it is aparent that this vehicle generates good amount of torque (94 Nm @ 2000-2500 rpm) at lower revs. The engine is not exactly rev happy, it is instead quite responsive. Push the ‘drive-by-wire’ pedal, and the Ace Mega gathers speed fairly quickly than the Ace is capable of. On a rough stretch, a sense of robustness is had.Manoeuvring is easy but the need for a power steering is felt. The ride, not as plush as that of the SuperAce, has a firm edge to it. A sense of strength and robust built emenates through. For certain, the Ace Mega feels like a grown up Ace.
Aiming at those who want more than what the Ace can deliver, the Ace Mega, like the SuperAce treads into the pick-up category. According to R. Ramakrishnan, Senior Vice President, Product Strategy & Planning, and Customer Value Creation — Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, the Ace Mega is in many ways a ‘proper’ pick-up. An addition to the Ace family, which commands an estimated 70-80 per cent of the small commercial vehicle market, the Ace Mega may find the going smooth. Even though it is aiming at a market that is going through a dull period, the name, the Ace has earned for itself, it can be assumed, will work in favour of the Ace Mega. Addressing the changing needs of small commercial vehicle operators who apart from a dull environment also continue to face funding hurdles, the Ace Mega, priced 10 to 11 per cent more, reflects an ability to help achieve better profitability. In line with R. Ramakrishnan’s opinion that migration is happening from SCVs to more feature laden and capable pick-ups, the Ace Mega elevates the reach of the Ace family. Indicating a shift in the last mile transportation model, the Ace Mega adds a new dimension to what is claimed to be the most voluminous CV brand in the world. Not to overlook the tendency of operators to overload, the Ace Mega, as a robust mini-truck, presents the operator the ability to achieve more. At Rs.4.31 lakh,
ex-showroom, Thane, the Ace Mega indicates that its maker is well aware of the changing dynamics of the market.