Comparo #1: Tata Marcopolo vs AL Viking

Automobiles are a constantly evolving species. In no other species of machines are the technological advancements so constantly viewed by the public as in case of automobiles. India is no exception in the above statement and though it took a little while to catch up with the rest of the world, the Indian passenger car industry is now up there, offering the best money and technology can offer. While this has been the case of cars, the case of Commercial Vehicles in India has nothing to write home about. It has simply not kept pace with the international standards in this very price-sensitive market, more so in this segment. Volvo changed it all in the Public Transport segment making people realize the advancements and creature comforts that the modern day buses have in other countries. Since then, the buses in our country have been trying hard to match the standards set by Volvo and in the process, the entire industry has seen a remarkable turnaround. Even the Government run public transport organizations are not left alone in this business with the fear of being smoked by the private competitors.

Thanks to all these, the buses in Indian cities, especially metros now present a much better picture and not the same old sad story as, say a decade back. The fleet is being regularly revamped, new buses are being introduced in much higher frequencies, they are no longer being confined to only metros and big cities and above all, a healthy competition is brewing up between the largest local manufacturers, Tata and Ashok Leyland. Both the manufacturers are going all out in modernizing their existing models and platforms and hurrying up new launches like never before. In addition to that, both are making inroads into what has been traditionally the other manufacturer's stronghold. The increasing number of Ashok Leylands in Delhi and the ever-multiplying number of Marcopolos criss-crossing Chennai bear testimony to that. While every new launch in passenger cars or bikes catch the attention of the general public, especially today's young brigade, they tend to turn a blind eye when it comes to public transport buses, the latest misses being the Viking series and the Maropolo series from Ashok Leyland and Tata respectively. Being the ever-enthusiastic auto-freak that I am, these new buses never missed my eyes or my lenses.

Exterior Design:
The Tata Marcopolo is built in a spanking new facility in Karnataka while the Viking series has been built by many coach builders like Prakash, Veera, Irizar-TVS and the like with Ashok Leyland providing them the bare chassis and the design factors. Seeing them on atleast a couple of dozens of instances everyday, Tata Marcopolo stands out with the most modern design of the two. When viewed head-on, the Viking tends to pose some threat to the Marcopolo with it's modern multifocal headlamps lending a touch of class and modernness to an otherwise traditional design. The Marcopolo is also quite a looker with it's Volvo-inspired headlamp design. Where the Tata trounces the Viking is in the safety aspect with it's two huge wiper blades covering the entire windshield compared to the paltry single blade in the Viking, hardly enough to cover the driver's side of the huge windshield. The story from the rear is a sloppy one-sided affair with the Viking coming with a decade-old but trustworthy design. The Marcopolo exudes a level of modernness and follows the same design theme like the front with circular-themed tailights, plastic shrouds for the lights and body-colored plastic bumpers.

The Marcopolo scores in the interior design department as well with well-appointed, spacious seats and good level of standard features, the most notable among them being the "Emergency Stop" button in each of the vertical rods that supports standing passengers. The ergonomics around the driver's seat is also impeccable with everything falling nicely to hand and easy to operate. The only noticeable grudge is the lever for holding the windows open, which is very old-school and could have been easily replaced with something much better. The Viking though comes in a tried and tested, less-modern, interior design that does not disappoint both the drivers and the common public. The only grouse is the uneven height of the seats directly above the rear wheels thus reducing the space available for the passengers in the next seats. There is a lost of weight reduction in the Marcopolo with Tata preferring plastic over sheet-metal in many places. Though it serves as a great advantage in the mileage aspect, the long-term reliability of those parts are still unknown.

The Ride:
From what I experienced, the Viking seems to have a better pick-up both when starting from a standstill and while climbing inclines, though this may also be completely because of the driving skills of the respective drivers involved. But, I have noticed it on more than a couple of occasions. Also, the Viking's engine  seems to burn fuel and combust more efficiently than the Marcopolo as it does not spew smoke out of it's exhausts like Marcopolos do. I have seen old Marcopolos emitting a plume of black smoke in Delhi and Bangalore but I was shocked to see barely weeks-old new Marcopolos doing the same in Chennai. It definitely needs to be given a thought by Tata. The Viking also seems to have better riding comfort as it sails over road undulations with minimum fuss unlike the Marcopolo which strains itself in situations like this, with it's modern frame and construction designed for truly modern roads. The Marcopolo, though is extremely refined and vibration-free unlike the Viking. Particularly impressive was it's refinement at idle, to such an extent that it was difficult for passengers at the rear to make out whether the engine was switched on or not.

As such, the Tata Marcopolo seems to have just edged out the Viking in the initial race going by the feedback of the general public, but only time will tell whether the new Tata will hold it's own against the rock-solid reliability that has endeared the Ashok Leyland Vikings to the traveling public. On a last note, the drivers I spoke to seem to prefer the older and traditional Vikings to the Marcopolos. As they say, it takes time to change perceptions.


  1. The smoke thickness totally depends on the fuel and oils used in the vehicle....and for commercial vehicles unlike cars these play a major role ( buses/trucks need regular oil changes....as far as the above discussion goes....tata's seem to have turned on the heat these days......my uncle owns a fleet of trucks (almost 250 of them) and he says he is more happy with the tata's REASONS: better mileage ( at the cost of higher pick-up and to be frank ...trucks are to make money not to show up at a drag race....)tata's can be fixed with ease as compared to AL's.........and lighter tata CV;s mean longer Tyre life....( which saves maintenance) but on the other hand....A leyland are good because they are good load runners and care take overload easily ( its not legal though)but have higher spare costs ( which is the reason the new tata 10 tyre tippers are selling like hot cakes source:valli shiping company visakapatnam) TATA'S EARN A PINCH JUST A PINCH MORE MONEY THAN LEYLANDS DO.......IF YOU USE YOUR BRAIN YOU WOULD BUY A LEYLAND AND IF YOU USE YOUR HEART YOU WOULD BUY A TATA.....IF YOU USE BOTH YOU WOULD BUY A TATA .............

  2. Upendra Parimi - First of all, thanks for taking time out and giving your honest comments/feedback. I agree with your point that smoke emitted by most Commercial Vehicles are due to lack of regular maintenance. But, in a govt. fleet, both Tatas and Ashok Leylands will be given similar treatment & maintenance. In that scenario, considering smoke emitted out of the exhausts, Ashok Leylands seems to be much better than the Tatas. But, as you said, Tatas are lighter, more fuel efficient, is less expensive in terms of regular maintenance and they can be fixed easily compared to Ashok Leylands.

  3. expensive in terms of regular maintena