Phoenix Distribution, a newly created subsidiary of MG-Rover car manufacturer Phoenix Venture Holdings, launched a range of Indian-built Tata utility vehicles consisting of the Safari four wheel drive sports utility and the TL pickup line. A two-litre intercooled turbo charged diesel engine producing 89bhp/64kW at 4300 rpm and 190Nm of torque at 2500 rpm is matched to a five-speed manual gearbox and, on four wheel drive models, an electrically controlled Borg Warner transfer box. Additional, body style and trim level range extensions are being considered.

Phoenix Distribution said that vehicles in the UK sports utility sector vary in size and price from the Toyota RAV 4 to the Land Rover Discovery and sales in the sector reached about 138,000 units.

It is pitching the Discovery-size Tata Safari as a value-for-money model with seven seats, five doors and electrically controlled, selectable 2WD/4WD.

The Safari will be targeted at retail customers with a penchant for outdoor activities, small businesses, farmers and the construction industry.

The four TL pickup models, offered with two- or four-wheel drive and single and double cabs, will compete against the (Thai-built and different from US-built models) Mazda B series/Ford Ranger twins, Mitsubishi L200, Nissan Pick-Up and Toyota HiLux and will also be pitched as the value-for-money contenders in a sector that in 2002 accounted for almost 12,000 vehicles.