Tata Indica was more like a challenge to Ratan Tata from the industry and from his friends. Therefore, he claims, it was the most cherishing time he ever had working for the Indica.
Tata Indica was launched in the country on December 30, 1998. It was the very first small car from Tata Motors. Also, it was the very first hatchback that was indigenously developed in India, right from the start. In just a week from its unveiling, Tata Motors received a total of 1,15,000 bookings for the car. In the next two years, it was the best-selling car in its segment. Also, it went on to capture 20 per cent of the total market share. If you ever thought Indica was sold only in India, you are wrong. It was even sold in European nations by the MG group.
Tata named their first hatchback as Indica because it was an acronym to "India's Car", according to the manufacturer.
The Indica was very close to Mr. Ratan Tata’s heart. He revealed the challenges that Tata Motors faced while they were working on the Indica when he was felicitated at the Automobile Hall of Fame in 2015.
“ It’s a great pleasure and privilege to be here this evening. A little overwhelming if I may say so. In all these years, I've tried to work in varying capacities in India, the most fascinating time I ever had was in the automotive area. The automotive business is truly an emotive and immersive business area. However, the greatest pleasure I’ve ever had was working on a project that everyone denied. I cherish the most today over my decision of saying, Indian can produce its own cars. It was then, all my friends from India and overseas said it is not possible and can only be done through collaboration. While we were heading towards the Indica’s launch, I remember that I realized I don’t have any friend. Although the car worked wonders and captured a 20 per cent market share in no time”.
Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Group
Talking of the Indica, it was initially offered with 2 engine options - 1.4L petrol and a 1.4L diesel. Soon after, the company realized that the engines need to be updated, which marked the arrival of the Indica V2. Following the V2 was the newer Xeta variant in 2008. The carmaker also offered a CNG-version of the Indica.
Enough of the engine chronology, let us now understand why Indica turned out to be a huge success for the carmaker. It was one of the very few small hatchbacks that were offered with a diesel engine back in the late '90s. The frugality a diesel engine offers coupled to the low price of the diesel fuel made Indica a highly loved car around the cab aggregators across the country. Also, it offered the most spacious cabin in its segment. Even today, we hardly have other hatchbacks in the entry-level market which can offer the kind of space the Indica did. Other highlights included low cost of spare parts, great ride quality and multiple variants to suit every budget.
The last iteration of the first-gen Tata Indica was the eV2, then Tata Motors used the trademark with the Vista.
The hatchback even spawned as many as three iterations of sedans. The first was a Maruti Esteem challenger. Next, the company even came up with an XL version that offered more space and luxury. Finally, the CS (Compact Sedan) version was launched, which turned out to be the most successful of all the sedan derivatives. The Indica was discontinued in 2018, but a lot of them can be seen around airports in smaller cities. The Tata Indica was truly a remarkable effort from the homegrown carmaker.