With the market for multipurpose vehicles constantly growing, we discover why Tata’s Xenon XT is a leader in its class
A sturdy double-cab bakkie that is suitable for carting around the whole family will always be a popular buy in South Africa. Town and country, daily commute and weekend dirt roads: a four-door pick-up just ticks so many boxes when you’re shopping for a multi-purpose vehicle.
But, unlike many of its rivals, Tata’s Xenon XT manages to combine all the perks of functionality with affordability. For just under R250 000 (including, remarkably, a four-year / 120 000 km warranty and five-year / 75 000 km service plan), you can park a shiny new model in your driveway.
But affordability isn’t the Xenon’s only drawcard – it is remarkably well equipped, spacious and energetic too. Of the four-model range, our derivative of choice is the 4×2 double-cab (at the above-mentioned price of R249 995). This is the one to go for if you aren’t planning on beating any paths through the bundu, although Tata does offer a 4×4 version if you fancy playing rough on the weekends. And, even if you do find yourself needing to launch a boat or make a dignified escape on a muddy surface, the limited-slip differential will do what it promises: limit the chance of one wheel slipping and losing traction.
But I digress. Once in the driver’s seat (complete with inner arm rest, mind you) the overall plushness of the cabin is what raises the eyebrows. The steering wheel has a quality feel too, and these initial impressions carry through. When the ambient temperature hit a scorching 40°C, I discovered that the Xenon’s air conditioner is highly efficient, swiftly adjusting the cabin’s climate to a more pleasant level.
Also making life in the Xenon more convenient is its Bluetooth capability, a must-have if driving duties are not to render you incommunicado. Bluetooth is not a feature I expected at this level; nor did I expect it to be accessed via a seven-inch touchscreen in the centre console, which also acts as the interface for the navigation and sound systems.
There’s no denying this is a seriously well-equipped bakkie (on the outside, the rubber-lined load bed is gargantuan, with a set of clever internal tie-downs). But, surprise-and-delight features and external appeal aside, the Xenon makes an equally positive impression when you get out on the road and under way. The 2.2l turbo-diesel power plant is as refined as any other four-cylinder oil burner out there, and the five-speed transmission is slick and concise through the gears.
The big and tall dual-purpose rubber soaks up the potholes with ease. And, while bakkies aren’t designed for swift cornering, the steering proves pleasingly accurate, with the Xenon feeling much more agile than its large size might lead one to expect. It also doesn’t hurt that
a commanding driving position assists with planning ahead in traffic, enabling the driver to take full advantage of the eager performance.
Is it really more than just a bakkie? Experience the versatility for yourself – why not load up the family this holiday season and find out?
TATA XENON XT 2.2L DC 4×2
Engine 2 179 cc, turbocharged diesel
Cylinders four, in-line, longitudinal
Power 110 kW @ 4 000 rpm
Torque 320 Nm @ 1500 rpm
Drivetrain five-speed manual, RWD
0–100 km/h information currently unavailable
Top speed 160 km/h
Overall fuel consumption 7.7 l/100 km
CO² emissions information currently unavailable
Driving aid ABS
Warranty four-year / 120 000 km
Service plan five-year / 75 000 km
Service intervals 15 000 km
Price R249 995
(This article was first published in the summer 2014/2015 issue of AA traveller magazine)