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Tata  Rural round-up: The Tata Safari will be aimed primarily at rural buyers.

Rural round-up: The Tata Safari will be aimed primarily at rural buyers.

A new contender - designed and built in India - has just joined the burgeoning four-wheel drive segment

THE new Tata Safari, priced from $28,897, comes well equipped and is powered by a 2.0-litre, turbo-diesel engine that generates 67kW and 191Nm.

Although closer in size to mid-size off-roaders such as the Mitsubishi Challenger, the Safari is priced in line with the likes of the smaller Honda CR-V.

Standard features include air-conditioning, central locking, power windows and mirrors, engine immobiliser and AM/FM radio/cassette. A five-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission offered.

Introduced here in 1996 and distributed through Queensland-based Anoger Automobiles, Tata now has a 48-strong dealer network and averages 600 annual ute sales.

Tata Australia national sales and marketing manager Mr Dick Rackemann says the Safari ? which will be aimed primarily at rural buyers - could supplement this figure by an additional 250 to 300 sales per year.

The Safari's sales are expected to be incremental as the other models in Tata's range are cab-chassis and utilities.

Further down the track, Tata Australia may supplement its line-up with the compact Indica ? a potential rival for the likes of the Daewoo Lanos and imminent 1.3-litre Daihatsu Sirion.

"The Indica is on our shopping list but the earliest we could get it here is late 2001," Mr Rackemann said.

The neatly styled five-door is available in its home market with the choice of a 1.4-litre, 16-valve petrol engine or a diesel powerplant, but only the former will be considered for Australia.

"The Indica is a beautifully finished car and we are salivating at the prospect of getting it here," Mr Rackemann said.

But the non-availability of an automatic transmission (at least for now) may prove to be a handicap.

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