To most Malaysians, TATA is synonymous with those big buses and lorries. Some may also know that the make is of Indian origin and has been in this country for about 25 years. The thought of anything smaller from Tata seems odd but the Indian company is actually a full-fledged automaker with products that include passenger cars and multi-utility vehicles.
Today, Scott & English (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, its distributor since 1993, introduces one of its other products, a pick-up known as the Telcoline 207 4×4 Crew Cab. It is assembled in Pekan, Pahang, at the Malaysia Truck & Bus (MTB) factory which also does Mitsubishi Pajeros, Isuzu Trooper and the Hicom Perkasa.
According to Quek Wang, GM (Automotive Division) of Scott & English, the initial batch of vehicles does not have substantial local content but within a short while, when the suppliers finish their work, there will be a number of items sourced locally.
“We should be able to have at least 37% local content within a year and in fact, Tata wants us to use Malaysian content such as the rubber weather strips which they say is better than the quality their Indian suppliers can offer,” said Mr Quek.
Pick-up styling is fairly generic and the vehicle is essentially a cab and a flat bed attached at the back, both riding on a chassis frame. In the case of the Telcoline 207, the cab is a ‘crew cab’ meaning it has four doors and a second row of seats. The front end looks somewhat like that of a Mercedes SL Coupe and while the looks would be a coincidence, it must be remembered that Tata had a technical link with the German carmaker during the 1950s and 1960s.
Sizewise, the Telcoline 207 is similar to the discontinued Ford Courier and the Isuzu Rodeo with its 3150 mm wheelbase and 4910 mm overall length. But its 2.115 sq. metre cargo deck is slightly larger with high 400 mm sides.
Only one engine is available and this is a 4-cylinder turbocharged (with intercooler) diesel of 1948 cc displacement. With a compression ratio of 21:1, it develops 64 kW/90 ps of power at 4300 rpm and 190 Nm of torque between 2000 and 3000 rpm. The engine, which meets the tough Euro-2 emission control standard, is Tata’s own design and manufacture although it is likely to have been developed with help from Peugeot which is known to have technical collaboration with the Indian company.
The drivetrain is a conventional 4WD type with the 5-speed manual gearbox mated to a transfer case with high and low ratios. High range is a 1:1 ratio while low range is a stump-pulling 2.48:1. There is also the option of running in rear-wheel drive only and it is not necessary to manually lock the front hubs as they are auto-locking. A limited-slip rear differential is standard to provide additional stability on the most slippery surfaces.
A very simple but robust suspension layout is used with double wishbones and torsion bar springs up front and semi-elliptic leafsprings at the rear. Hydraulic dampers and anti-roll bars are fitted front and rear. 215/75R15 Silverstones are standard tyres on 5.5Jx15 steel wheels.
For stopping power, the Telcoline 207 has a vacuum-servoed disc/drum arrangement and to minimise rear wheel lock-up during braking with a lightly loaded rear end, a ‘load-conscious pressure-reducing valve’ moderates hydraulic pressure to the rear brakes.
Inside the Telcoline 207, the accommodation is quite spacious with some practical features like built-in cupholders (large enough for a big flask or mineral water bottle) in the front door panels and an extra courtesy light below the glovebox. Air-conditioning and an audio system are pre-installed in the vehicle which also comes with a remote control security system and central locking.
CHIPS YAP had an opportunity to take a short drive in the Telcoline 207, which costs around RM59,000 without insurance, and provides his impressions:
“The dominant impression of the Telcoline 207 is that it is a large pick-up with a lot of stability. Unlike some other vehicles, it tracks well without weaving and the steering effort is just right with the power-assistance. The ride is typical of any pick-up with leafsprings at the back and on some bumps, the rear end will hop a bit.
The Tata 483 engine is a strong unit with good torque from very low engine speeds so it should be good for tough load-carrying tasks. Like the older Land Rovers, there’s a fast-idle control knob which acts like a ‘poor man’s cruise control’ to keep the vehicle moving without pressing the accelerator. Of course, it’s only for very low speeds!
Switching from 2WD to 4WD can be done while the vehicle is in motion and the nice thing is you don’t need to get down to lock the front hubs. The transition is judder-free and the only tell-tale is the warning light on the instrument panel. But to engage 4WD (Low), you have to come to a standstill first. Nevertheless, all the switching is easily done as there is just a switch on the dashboard to operate – no lever to push or pull like some other 4WDs pick-ups.
It’s a practical vehicle if you need a rugged all-purpose transporter which can also be used for personal transport after office hours. Or if you are the sort who is into fishing or mountain-biking, it would be just the right sort of vehicle to suit your lifestyle.”