The sub 4-metre subcompact SUV segment of which the new Tata Nexon is one of the most popular and most aspirational automotive segments in the country. Maruti Suzuki consistently sells over 10,000 units of the Vitara Brezza every month and the Ecosport single handedly helped recover Ford India’s lull a few years ago. Mahindra has four SUVs in this segment too – the TUV 300, the Bolero Power+, the KUV 100 and the NuvoSport and even Hyundai and Datsun will soon launch brand new SUVs in this segment. So it was only obvious that sooner or later, any automaker who wants to be a real volume player in the Indian market needs to have a model present in this segment. Tata Motors first showcased a concept compact SUV called the Nexon at the 2014 Indian Auto Expo and an almost production ready version of the Tata Nexon at the 2016 Indian Auto Expo. While most of us expected the production SUV to be watered down version of the concept, the Indian automaker has surprised us by launching the Tata Nexon subcompact SUV that is very close to the concept’s original look and design. And the last time that happened was when Jaguar launched the F-Pace! So read on to know more about the brand new 2017 Tata Nexon!
The Tata Nexon is neither a sub-compact SUV nor a hatchback on stilts. It’s a crossover in the true sense. The SUV traits of the Nexon are ground clearance, which at 209mm is comparable with the Renault Duster, and large 16-inch wheels. The high-stance is married with a coupe-like sloping roofline that rakes sharply like that of the Range Rover Evoque.The unconventional design is eye-catchy, which should make it hard to miss when parked beside other hatchbacks and compact SUVs. The top-spec XZ+ variant of the Nexon that we drove sported a contrast-colour roof in steel grey with both red and blue exterior colours. The signature element is an off-white plastic trim that runs just under the greenhouse on the side. It continues at the rear too, but that’s paint and not plastic. Tata could have done away with it, but then, they could have overdone it too, which they have not.
Apart from the grey roof and off-white sash, there’s another contrasting element on the outside – the black plastic cladding. It does its job of making the Nexon look rugged and high-heeled quite well.Look straight into the Nexon’s eyes, and you’ll get a hint of Tata’s ‘Impact’ design. The front grille’s top line extends into the headlamps, and onto the side. That’s the ‘humanity line’ in Tata lingo. The Nexon’s design is, however, more aggressive than its siblings. The elements that add to the bold front look are pulled back projector headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, high-set fog lamps, a large front air intake and flared wheel arches.While the Nexon looks SUV-ish from the front, the rear is more hatchback-like. The high ground clearance is hard to miss, and the stock tyres (215/60 R16) look wide for a vehicle of the Nexon’s size. The faux skid plate on the rear bumper adds some ruggedness. There’s an off-white and glossy black element around the clear-lens tail lamps that adds quirkiness to the design, but you get used to it with time.
The interior is filled with new techie stuff and the focus on quality and refinement is quite apparent. The highlight is what Tata calls the Grand Centre Console, which really pushes the boundaries of what we expect of a car in this segment. From the neatly tucked in handbrake lever to the sliding tambour door mechanism, everything looks and feels a few classes above.Then, there’s the first in segment Multi Drive Modes selector dial that lets you choose between Eco, City and Sport settings. The theme colour of the infotainment screen changes to match the driving mode you are on. Don’t get your hopes too high though – it doesn’t have any off road setting because the Nexon is a front wheel drive car.
Unlike the exterior, the dashboard follows a simple and straightforward design. You get a floating 6.5-inch touchscreen that supports Android Auto. Tata says Apple Car play will be introduced soon. Infotainment system comes with the ability to read out text and Whatsapp messages and send replies using voice commands. The HD display offers intuitive interface and responds quickly. You can access all functions with minimal ‘eyes off the road time’. Nexon also offers a lot of niceties including the superbly sounding Harman music system, automatic climate control, navigation through the connected smartphone, voice commands for most functions, reverse camera and most importantly, a wearable smartkey. However, the steering wheel and the instrument panel have been carried over from the Tiago and Tigor.
There are 31 smart storage areas including a huge glovebox, bottle holders and even umbrella holders on the doors to make the cabin very practical.The front seats are well padded for great comfort and support. Height adjustable driver seat and tiltable steering ensure finding a suitable driving position is not an issue. You would appreciate the elevated driving position and the excellent visibility in all directions. However, rear visibility is slightly compromised thanks to the small rear windscreen.There’s adequate legroom for rear passengers and despite the sloping roof, head room is generous too. Yet, the rear bench is not wide enough for three passengers. Centre armrests with cupholders and rear air vents make things more comfortable at the back.350 litres of boot space can be expanded to 690 litres by folding the rear seat on a 60:40 ratio.
Tata is offering all-new petrol and diesel engines in the Nexon. Both can be upgraded to BS-VI norms as and when the mandate comes in. While the basic architecture of the 1.2-litre indirect injection turbo-petrol engine is the same as the Tiago’s 3-cylinder motor, Tata says that they have used all the know-how from the Zest’s turbopetrol unit and incorporated it here. So while the block remains the same, the engine is lighter than the Zest’s turbocharged unit and also makes 110PS of power and 170Nm of torque. These figures in the compact SUV segment are lower than that of only the EcoSport’s 125PS turbo-petrol engine.The diesel, in the meanwhile, is a 1.5-litre unit that makes the same amount of power as the petrol but a significantly higher 260Nm of torque. Both the engines are mated to 6-speed manual transmissions, with AMTs to be slotted in at a later date. Tata also offers the aforementioned Drive modes in both the variants. The Drive modes can be accessed via the rotary knob and can be changed on the move. The good part about this dial is that whatever mode you’ve selected, there will be an audio note telling you the selection and the colour of the infotainment system too changes a la Mini Cooper style. The dial also remembers the last selection made and sticks to it even after the car has been switched off.
We had a go at the turbopetrol engine first. At start-up, the engine has decent refinement; however, on the move, it is audible. There is some amount of turbolag and the motor isn’t that happy sitting at high revs. What it is happy doing is cruising. At around 1,600rpm, the engine is doing 100 clicks in top gear. Good for those efficiency numbers then. It is also tractable and even at a higher gear and low revs, the engine is happy. For example 40kmph in fourth gear is possible and the engine doesn’t really protest. But if you want quick acceleration, you need to drop a couple of gears before making any progress. The hairpins up Idukki dam were taken in second gear; however, the moment brisk acceleration was called for uphill, I had to downshift. Rowing through the gears though is pretty much fun as the gearbox is slick. Vibrations are present though and manifest through the pedals and gear lever. However, they aren’t at an alarming level.The diesel, in the meanwhile, sounds as refined as the Brezza’s unit. It, however, is the punchier of the two motors. The clutch is light and has a short travel while the gearshift too is smooth. Surprisingly, the diesel is a bit more eager to rev than the petrol. Tractability remains common for both with the exception that hurried progress doesn’t really require dropping a gear in the diesel. This will be the engine to watch out amongst the two. It has less turbolag and gets the job done in a better fashion.The Drive modes do alter the engine mapping and throttle setting, but over the years Tata Motors has refined it. The Sport mode no longer feels snappy. Instead it is quite linear. Around 70 per cent of our first drive review was done in this mode. City is the apt one for err in the city while Eco dulls out the throttle response and requires a bit more of patience when hurried progress is to be made.
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
Where the Nexon scores top marks, however, is in the ride and handling department. Ride quality isn’t pillow-soft and you do feel some of the larger bumps, but the suspension rounds off sharp edges brilliantly. The little bit of stiffness in the suspension also means there is not much pitching or bobbing and body roll is well contained despite the Nexon’s height. There is a bit more up-down movement in the lighter petrol car, but on the whole ride quality is really impressive. The steering, borrowed from the Zest, is spot-on and one of the best electrically assisted units we’ve experienced in this class of car. It has a reassuring on-centre feel and weights up perfectly as you pile on the lock. All of this translates to brilliant overall stability, and with a best-in-class 209mm of ground clearance, and lots of wheel travel you really don’t need to slow down for potholes.The stiff chassis, impressive brakes and generous grip from the fat 215/60 R16 tyres give a lot of confidence through corners. It doesn’t feel as keen to drive as an EcoSport and isn’t as surefooted either, but work up a rhythm, keep the engines in their sweet spot and you’ll be nicely rewarded.
Tata Motors is offering dual front airbags and ABS with EBD on all variants. You also get a seat belt height adjuster standard on the Nexon. We all are pretty much familiar with the sales and service of the automaker. Sales outlets across the country are aplenty and service centres are also in abundance. While service quality levels may not be the best, Tata isn’t that bad either and the company is working their way up.
So it seems, Tata’s holistic approach towards the Nexon has paid off. The flamboyant styling, superbly finished cabin, modern tech along with impressive performance are sure to win many hearts. Moreover, Tata is already revamping the dealership and aftersales experience to welcome the Nexon.Yet, we all know that it’s not going to be cakewalk for the Nexon as it will be running into formidable competition from the heavyweights like the Vitara Brezza and the Ecosport. However, despite a few minor niggles, the Tata Nexon is well-placed to put the competition to shame and rake in good numbers.