It is inspiring to believe a company like Tata have undergone a thorough transformation whose outcome is visible in a product such as the Nexon
IntroductionI finally had a chance to test drive the Tata Nexon top end diesel AMT mini SUV. Yes, the same one that has been making waves before and after its launch. If you know me well, I am a guy who would base reviews on everyday usability of the products that I test, and here it is no exception.
It is really inspiring to see how far Tata Motors have come in terms of being able to design a radically different type of product in their portfolio. Ever since sometime now they have set sights on good designs all the way from the Tiago to the Tigor and to the Hexa. The Nexon is the cream on the cake if I were to genuinely say so. So you do want to hear about what the car has to offer and I am going to take you right into that part of the review.
There have been many reviews written on this car and even videographed for the viewers by now. Yet they all lack in some part of the articulation in its truest sense.
Design elementsMore than speaking about the exact nature of the design elements of the car, what I would like to point out here is more that the entire design is a refreshing change in the history of Tata cars. Every element of the design is chosen to make the car look unique within the portfolio. To say more about this I have to start somewhere among all the great bits. What made me fall in love with the car is its day time running lamps. For a car worth a little over 10L price bracket, the DRLs were in the league of cars more than double that price. For me I do not appreciate DRLs by merely looking at them standing in front of the car. What would more matter to me is if the car announces its presence in the rear view mirror of the car I am driving. In that sense, the Nexon makes all the right visual cues in a bold and deterministic manner.
The grille in the front is crafted very well and is very different from the typical tata cars we are used to. All the way from the front, this vehicle is SUV-ish be in looks or the way the pieces are put together. That said, the bumper, the bonnet, wheel arches - everything looks macho. Being in Bengaluru, one would know that for the rainy season where there is no differentiation between what is a road and what isn’t the need of the hour would be a vehicle with sufficient ground clearance to wade clear of that water and tyres to support that kind of driving.
The 16" alloys make and imposing statement about the car and are available in two varieties the meek 195/60 and the more meatier 215/60 which blows competition out of the water. The tyres are safe and secure and would eat up anything thrown at it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But how do we know unless we put that to test, right ? So let us come back to more of those later. The sloping roofline to the back, the stright lines on the doors just make the car look gorgeous. The projector headlamps add to the glory during the night. The unladen ground clearance of 209mm is more than enough to not kiss every part of the road a sedan would otherwise. The laden clearance would obviously be lower, and the suspension should appropriately take care of that even if the car is laden with adults and luggages to the max capacity in real life.
The ground clearance clearly puts it into SUV category and makes the car look all the more imposing. The plastic handles blend well with the overall scheme and does not make the car look out of place. Single tone and dual tone colours add more options and the colour choices themselves are smashing to say the least. I test drove the etna orange, but personal favourites on the roads are generally the moroccan blue, vermont red and even calgary white. I have never seen a silver so far, but sure have seen the glasgow grey which is also a looker. The red is my favourite though.
InteriorStep into the car and you would expect typical tata fare of the same old boring dashboard with addition of clock and the some dials. But let me tell you again just in case you did not read earlier - Tata has paid a lot of attention and has completely revamped the interior to an extent that you would not believe what you are seeing. The three tone interiors are soothing and are not contrasty like the Kraz edition. The AC vents are normal ones you see on any other car, and there is a harman floating console in the middle. The steering has been carried over from Tiago and Tigor, but for those who only know the indica, this steering is miles apart from the old Indica’s and by a very large margin. I will talk about this more when we cover the drive.
The seats were not leather, but were cushy by tata standards, and I did feel that the thigh support could have been slightly better. It is not unmanageable but I do feel that over longer distances there can be some discomfort for those with legs longer than rest of their body - like me (the unfortunate bunch). There is a dial with different modes (eco, city and sport) which you can change on the fly and it mainly affects the gear change timings which are crucial for the experience of the said modes. Obviously the eco mode is tuned for mileage and the sport mode for driveability and power.
For safety you do get two airbags, ABS and EBD and a super rigid body structure. Just to drive home the point I have heard of Nexon’s having overturned on accidents on highways and everyone just walked out the door like nothing happened. You can be rest assured that Tata is among some of the companies whose main focus is on safety and reliability of the tensile structure of the body if not necessarily the parts.
The car has a generous amount of bottle and knickknack holders on doors and on the center of the front seats. I like the fact they have sliding doors to open up to the concealed storage areas. It is almost Civic-ish if I should point out. And that’s a good thing. It is like getting 20L premiumness in 10L. The central floating console is from Harman and there are 8 speakers, with Android auto and Apple car play - thereby finishing the exact need for an average user who wants music options. For more seasoned audiophiles an ICE would add more options to the experience.
Some nitty gritties - the door mats were looking a bit flimsy and I am a big fan of 3D or 4D door mats which keep all the dirt within and can be easily cleaned and disposed of. But maybe its just my nitpicking for some thing which is not such a big concern on the Nexon. I did find the rear view mirror a tad bit too small and the rear visibility is actually an issue considering the sloping roofline. It is slightly more claustrophobic at the back as well. The space in the front is good with height adjust and recline options for seats. The rear seat can fit 3 kids and one adult or 3 adults rather comfortably - and I mean realistically so. It is not an Innova, but it is not an Alto either.
The boot is large and very reasonable for any weekend drive or airport luggage even, and it should not present any problem as far as Nexon is concerned. It is surely not a Duster in terms of boot space, but its not bad either! There is also push button start which is a welcome move.
EnginesEnough about the interiors, can we move to the engine now? The car comes with turbo charged petrols and diesels, one with 1.2, 3 cyl, turbocharged petrol with 110 bhp power and 170Nm torque - and the other 1.5 4 cyl, turbocharged diesel with 110 bhp power and an insane 260Nm torque at 1500 rpm. What this means in simple english is brutal power, extreme driveability due to torque levels whether you are talking about petrol or diesel variants.
Since I took a drive of the AMT, there are a few things to talk about this version. I was particularly interested to understand how Tata has worked on the AMT gear box, the AMT gear lever and the likes of design elements. The gear level was small and looked awesome. It surely looks and feels like a 20L car here as well. The slotting is perfect and without a fuss.
If I had to nitpick about this a bit I was NOT a big fan of pushing up for manual gear up (in manual mode). I am so used to pulling it down for gear up in my celerio and this kind of feels counter intuitive for me and would also be similarly annoying for many other people. The thing is this for a pull down you activate only your hand, for push up you have to lift your arm from the arm rest. Again not a big grouse. Just a small one :)
Driving characterisiticsI would like to jot a disclaimer here that I did not try eco mode since I did not have the time or opportunity on the road to check it, but my guess is that since it is going to be tuned for mileage, the power will be reduced and upshifts would be common. Having put that out of the way let us focus on the remaining two modes, the City mode and Sport mode.
When you hear about these modes, the first thing that comes to you mind is that Sport would obviously be more zippy and more enthusiastic to use and the city mode would not be. Well that is the case almost but we need to consider a lot of other parameters such as the traffic on that road, the speed with which you are driving, the throttle inputs, how many potholes on the road, whether it is a linear road or not, and so on. Every person’s test drive experience will be different so I am trying to give you a fair picture of how the car behaves on a general test drive.
First off city mode - there is no lag on acceleration from first gear. The gear shifts after sufficient amount of acceleration happens about where you expect it. No much head nod for the passengers if you are reasonably gentle with the throttle. Breeze to drive it and wade through the traffic, no major issues and the car stays put exactly the way you expect it to. The light steering is a boon in city traffic and is easy to maneuver the vehicle. I did find one problem though - the steering is slightly tilted to one side at its normal position and it feels a bit odd. But that maybe just a one off case with this test drive vehicle and may not manifest on other cars. Time will tell.
The car does not downshift as well too soon and holds up being a diesel with enormous amount of torque (260Nm). This is sweet and even if it was a manual it would have felt very good needless to say. The 110bhp of power coupled with 260Nm of torque at as low as 1500 rpm has put the Nexon in a really sweet spot as far as driveability goes. Default rpm for idling is between 700-900 and just putting your foot on the pedal makes this figure jump to almost 1200 rpm which is just pretty shy of the 1500 rpm necessary for the torque to show.
Sport modeAs usual enthusiasts who want sport mode for the adrenalin rush would think this mode will really make you feel like god. On the contrary it isn’t so. All it does is hold a gear for as long as you really push it hard and the engine sometimes sounds harsh until it goes to the next gear. Since this is the first iteration of the Nexon, future tuning could make this mode more enjoyable in the longer run. That said, there is enough grunt in any gear for the car to sail through in sport mode. After using the sport mode and not finding an opportunity inside the crowded road to revv up substantially I had to switch back to city mode which left me at ease. City mode I would say is the default sport mode within the city. The sport mode thus may make sense on the highway to hold to fourth and fifth gears at low and high speeds completing the overall drivability quotient to a decent level.
TyresA word about the tyres. For me tyres make a huge difference in the way a car handles almost as much as the chassis/frame. As I said before, the Nexon top end has 215/60 tyres which are really enough to handle Bangalore’s potholed road surfaces with utmost ease. Rains, water, mud, potholes, bumps - you throw anything at these tyres and they eat it with aplomb. You are safe rest assured with this kind of tyre profile. The occupants had very less notion of how many potholes I was passing over on an internal locality road.
SuspensionJust like the chassis, and tyres one another important aspect about any car’s drivability is the suspension setup. For a car like Nexon I did expect something like duster’s suspension, but unfortunately its not the case. Do not get me wrong, it is not bad, but its not the best either. It sure is not mediocre and does well in isolating road undulations to a large level and like I said before the occupants barely will feel anything at all. It is only if you push the car too much on undulated surfaces some bounce is felt.
The suspension is not a hit or miss, but Tata can work on this to make it more sturdier nevertheless. As such the car handles well on broken roads which is the worst nightmare for any passenger.
VariantsClick the brochure to know more about the variants of nexon and what you will get or not get in each version.
NigglesEvery car has niggles and they just cannot get away with them due to persisting quality issues. The Nexon being the first of its kind is surely a batch meant for testing on guinea pigs and only future versions will bring about quality on the faulty parts.
A few things I noticed which fall into minor niggles category
- Doors bit flimsy - European level thud not present
- Rear visibility is poor but that is by design - there is nothing much that can be done about this
- AMT could have had lever down for gear up - though counter intuitive for some people
- Door mats could be of 3D or 4D variety
ConclusionThe pricing of the nexon in Bangalore is pretty competitive to say the Ford Ecosport or the Honda WRV. You can check the pricing of each version below
The Tata Nexon is a genuine attempt by Tata Motors to bring a car that looks very upmarket to its customers at a value for money price range with substantial exterior and interior design elements and surprisingly low amount of visible niggles. This would mean that the engineering and design of the vehicle was well thought over and brilliantly executed. Pitting it right where the Brezza, Ford and Honda WRV is the Nexon sure has the necessary character and demeanor to march past its rivals with a class leading engine, good ground clearance and visibility, excellent space and a punchy drive. If you are looking for genuine value for money - this is the car to go for while at the same time keeping in mind that there is not much parts reliability information available yet. The safety of this car is well designed and is surely going to keep occupants protected in all situations on the road.
Good luck Tata Motors to set sales charts on fire and the numbers cannot be wrong!
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