Think New. Think Ultra. So screams the headline on the brochure for the Tata Ultra series of LCVs (Light Commercial Vehicles). The Tata Ultra series comes in three deck lengths and payloads, and is touted as bringing the comfort and driving experience of trucks more in line with passenger vehicles. So, is this the case? Read on.
As the Ultra comes in to the location we have selected, it is immediately noticeable. Gone is the standard blocky, squarish look of Indian-made trucks. In its place is a swoopier and curvy style that makes you do a double-take when you see the Tata badge on the front. As Aruna Weththasingha of DIMO explains to us, operators of LCVs are now becoming more concerned with the image of the vehicles, as well as the comfort features for their users. Having a good looking and well-equipped truck becomes a sort of status symbol for the company it is owned by. So there is a gradual shift now towards trucks like the Ultra that offer more comfort, more convenience and more style.
Mechanicals & Technology
Let’s talk about the oily bits. The Tata Ultra comes with Tata’s 497 TCIC engine which is a 3.784cc in-line four cylinder diesel with turbocharging. The engine puts out 125bhp at 2,400rpm which is a significant amount over the class; usually around 90bhp is the norm. Torque is at a healthy 400nm between a low 1,300 to 1,500rpm. The Ultra also features a manual gearbox with six forward speeds rather than the usual five-forward gearbox seen in the class.
“When you compare with competing vehicles, not just from India but other Asian countries, the Tata Ultra beats them all!” says Aruna. The suspension, for example has parabolic leaf springs with shock absorbers. The brake system is a dual system that uses air and hydraulic, with discs at the front and drums at the rear. The steering is power-assisted with tilt and telescopic function. The clutch is a single-plate variant with a diameter of 330mm which is larger than usual and this translates to lower effort and better durability.
The rear axle is banjo-type that is stated to give rugged usage, high durability and low maintenenace. The chassis is made from rolled members of high tensile steel with 800 MPa tensile strength. The tyres are of the tubeless variety.
We took a short drive in the truck and have to say it was very impressive. The clutch effort is on the level of a passenger car and the travel is fairly short too. The brake is easy to modulate after a few minutes, and the throttle response is good, the engine eagerly revving up with the instruction from your right foot. The power steering is light – not Japanese car light, slightly firmer but miles lighter than the typical commercial vehicle. Being a six-speeder, first gear is rather short and will be very helpful when getting going from an incline when loaded; for most situations second is good enough to start from. Another welcome thing pointed out by Aruna is the gear shift is dash-mounted rather than a long stick sprouting from the floorboard. This has two advantages. One is that the gear throw is shorter and the shift engagement more positive. The other is, the cabin floor is fully flat which means the occupants can scoot over and exit the vehicle from either side.
Honestly, once on the move you will forget you are driving a truck and must keep looking at the rear view mirrors lest you think you are in a car and cut too sharply. The rear view mirrors are excellent for this with their large size allowing a wide field of view from the rear wheels upwards. The three-way adjustable driver’s seat is independently sprung with a dial to select the driver’s weight for optimum comfort. I must say this seat is a very comfortable place to be, and the driver of an Ultra will no doubt be thanking his company for their choice.
Here is another area we find more reasons for the driver and user of the Ultra to thank the company for their choice. The cabin comes with Air Conditioning which worked very well too, and is controlled by knobs much like you would find in a passenger vehicle. It also comes with an FM/USB music system which will help keep those tunes pumping on long drives. A phone charger socket is there too.
The instrument panel features analog dials for speed and revs, plus digital dials for fuel levels in the main and auxiliary tanks, as well as showing air brake pressures, front and rear. This digital panel is called the smart panel and shows the odometer information (controlled by buttons on the column stalk) as well as fuel consumption, distance to empty, brake and clutch wear and an economical driving assistance light to show you when you are being most frugal with that liquid gold. Bright LED cabin lights are there too, and plenty of space for oddments with the glove box and overhead storage compartments. There is a sun visor with vanity mirror too!
The Ultra comes with dual headlamps with adjuster for enhanced visibility at night. LED lighting for major lights such as brake lighting is employed as well for increased visibility. A wide windshield provides a good forward view. A load-regulating valve automatically adjusts the brake circuit depending on load conditions and the power steering pump adjusts its sensitivity at high speeds.
Price & Warranty
The Tata Ultra range starts at 3.2 million for non-AC and 3.4 million for AC on the Ultra 612 variant. DIMO offer the highest available warranty of 3 years / 300,000 kilometers (whichever occurs first), coupled with 24-hour islandwide breakdown service 365 days a year. They have workshops dotted around the country, even in locations such as Trincomalee and Jaffna.
Maintenance is stated to be 40,000 kilometre intervals between services, but DIMO recommend 20,000 kilometres on account of our harsher roads. This translates into lower costs and better return-on-investment to the user.
Variants – Tata Ultra
Variant Deck Length Payload Gross Vehicle Wheelbase Turning Circle
Ultra 612 14 feet 4,000-5,000kg 6,000kg 3.31m 11.9m
Ultra 812 17 feet 6,000-7,000kg` 8,000kg 3.92m 13.8m
Ultra 1012 20 feet 7,000-8,000kg 10,400kg 4.53m 15.2m
Facts & Figures
Engine Tata 497 TCIC
125bhp @ 2,400rpm
400Nm @ 1,300-1,500rpm
Transmission Rear wheel drive
Steering Power assisted
Brakes Dual, air over hydraulic
Front – disc
Rear – drum
Tyres 225/75 R 17.5 (Ultra 612 & 812)
235/75 R 17.5 (Ultra 1012)
Ground Clearance 185mm (Ultra 612 & 812)
189mm (Ultra 1012)
Gradeability 36% (Ultra 612 & 812)
33% (Ultra 1012)
Fuel Tank Capacity 90 Litres (Ultra 612)
120 Litres (Ultra 812 & 1012)