Cartrade Comparison Test
It doesn’t look like the compact SUVs war will end anytime soon. In fact, it has heated up with the Tata Nexon entering this space. This car has managed to woo many potential buyers and started to give good competition to other majors in the same segment like the Maruti Suzuki Brezza and the Honda WR-V. Now, Ford has also put their cards on the table by launching the facelifted EcoSport. The SUV didn't see a major makeover since its introduction in 2013, but now is updated with a reworked fascia and refreshed cabin with new features. So does it still have the potential to hold its ground well? We find out.
The Nexon easily has things in its favour as far as the looks are concerned. Undoubtedly, Tata’s design team has managed to do a good job as the SUV made heads turn wherever we went. Right from the front mesh pattern grille, projectors and DRLs, to the alloys, dual tone colour, sloping roof, LED tail lamps, all give it a strong presence and striking appearance on the road. The EcoSport too, although an older car, gets a refreshed fascia with revised grille, headlamps with LED DRLs and tweaked bumpers making it look more mature. Ford hasn’t made any more changes on the sides or at the back. We wish they could have at least provided LED tail lamps to add to the appeal and distinguish the new EcoSport from the ones already running on the streets.
As compared to the radical exterior design of the Nexon, the interior layout is pretty straightforward with many components borrowed from other Tata cars like the steering wheel, instrument cluster, air con controls etc. However, Tata has managed to add some spark by introducing elements like a 6.5-inch HD touchscreen system that sits atop the dash. There’s a sliding tambour door mechanism in the centre console, which is good to stow small things but is too deep to act as cup holders. Here, what will catch your attention is a chunky knob, which is the drive mode controller to choose between the three drive modes – Eco, City and Sport. Also, ingress and egress is good due to the high stance and high-set seats. With large windows, the front visibility and that of the surroundings is good. However, due to the thick C-Pillar, rear visibility is limited and the rear camera on our test car also didn’t provide a crisp and clear image. Even so, the seats are soft and comfortable for short rides. And, despite the good shoulder room and legroom, the shape of the rear seat with a bulge at the centre makes it difficult for the middle passenger to sit comfortably. Nonetheless, one sits low with good thigh support and despite the coupe-like roofline, headroom is good for average heighted individuals.
The EcoSport’s interior now has completely changed with better quality materials used than the predecessor. It looks better due to the different layout and without the use of silver accents and curvy shapes. This time, a straightforward design with new steering wheel, instrument cluster, air con unit and vents among others give it an upmarket feel. Another standout feature is the new 8-inch touch screen that has a faster frame rate leading to a smoother interface and better usability than the one in the Nexon. The fit and finish of controls, door handles etc. feels so much better in the EcoSport and gives you an impression that strong and durable materials have been used. That said, the ones on the Nexon look good as well, but just don’t feel very long lasting and premium. Leather seats are provided in this top-of-the-line Titanium+ variant which are well-cushioned and firm enough to be comfortable even on long journeys. Now, the Nexon’s cabin is undoubtedly more spacious than the EcoSport. But Ford has nicely carved out the front seats to make decent knee room comfortable for two adults at the back. Six-footers will still complain about headroom and the limited shoulder room. Seating three occupants in the second row will also feel uncomfortable. The lack of AC vents also marks down the EcoSport as against the Nexon. Both cars get some added creature comforts like cup holders in the rear seat armrest, 12V charging port, hooks for coats etc. And even if the Nexon benefits from foldable umbrella holders in the door, it misses features like automatic headlamps, rain sensing wipers and cruise control. Meanwhile, the EcoSport outplays the Nexon with a well put together cabin that features traction control and six airbags as against the two in the Tata.
Instead of continuing to use the Fiat-sourced 1.3 Multijet diesel motor, Tata developed a new 110bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder Revotorq diesel mill for the Nexon. Sure, the engine is a scaled-up version of the 1.05-litre Tiago’s engine, but it’s powerful and suits the bigger vehicle. It is the first in its class to offer multiple drive modes, out of which we enjoyed the sport mode the most. Once u set off you will notice a little throttle lag below 1,600rpm, post which it continues to pull effortlessly with a linear power delivery. On the other hand, the EcoSport’s engine is the familiar 98bhp 1.5-litre diesel motor, but feels so much smoother than the Tata. You don’t feel too much of a throttle lag as the power delivery is linear and the engine pulls nicely from a low 1,500rpm. This has proved to be an advantage for the EcoSport as it sprints from 0-100kmph in 12.5 seconds, while the Nexon is slower as it takes 12.73 seconds even when both cars weigh 1,300kg.
That said, the EcoSport still provides 205Nm of torque as against the Nexon’s 260Nm, which makes the latter excel in our drivability tests. Thanks to this torquey nature, the Nexon took 9.89 seconds for the 20-100kmph run in third gear and 12.03 seconds for 40-100kmph in fourth. Meanwhile, the EcoSport managed the same in 12.7 seconds and 15.09 seconds respectively. So, one might have to shuffle between the third and second quite often especially while going uphill. Coming to the feel, the EcoSport’s five-speed gearbox feels slicker as compared to the Nexon’s six-speed gearbox, which has longer throws and you will take time to get used to slot in the gears accurately. However, there are more gear ratios to play with and so the Nexon makes the most of the available power. Also, the clutch here feels lighter and better than the springy pedal on the EcoSport. Moreover, the Nexon never feels bogged down except in the eco mode, where the beast is on the leash to extract more fuel efficiency. This brings us to the fuel economy figures of both cars which are almost similar. The Nexon delivered 13.9kmpl in the city and 18.7kmpl on the highway run, while the EcoSport matched it with 13.8kmpl and 18.8kmpl respectively.
Now on the ride and handling part, both these front-wheel drive cars impressed us in their own way. The Nexon rides superbly, especially at slow speeds and over rough tarmac. The EcoSport, though a tad firm and running on low profile rubber, is still capable of absorbing bumps easily. However, with a higher GC of 209mm as opposed to 200mm on the EcoSport, the Nexon has an advantage of clearing taller bumps and uneven surfaces with ease. The dampers never bottomed-out or thudded like in the EcoSport. However, with increase in speeds the EcoSport shines by showing rock solid stability and composure. The Nexon also rolls quite a bit and the steering doesn’t make you feel as connected with the direction changes. On the contrary, the EcoSport’s steering provides great feedback and confidence to take long bends or windy roads. It responds well to sharp movements and the EcoSport displays good body control too. This made it the most enjoyable car to drive amongst the two.
At Rs 9.45 lakhs, the Tata Nexon gets a head start as it's easily more than a lakh cheaper than the EcoSport. It is a good deal then with a fresh design, superb road presence, excellent ride quality and a spacious cabin. However, it cannot match the EcoSport on many fronts like build quality, driving dynamics and more importantly brand value. So yes, Tata has managed to come close to getting it right with their vehicles, but it is still not there yet.
Even if the facelifted EcoSport is priced at Rs 10.67 lakhs, it has got the shot in the arm it needed. Yes, it may not be as spacious as the Nexon but it gets usable and practical interior with better build quality. It looks more mature now, has a refined engine and its more car-like to drive. This only means it will serve its duties even better than before. Also, since it has been around for many years, it surely has a better credential than Tata's new kid on the block. So we won't hesitate in saying that the king of the compact SUV segment is back and how!
Text by Ninad Ambre
Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi