Cartrade Comparison Test
The entry of Tata’s Nexon in the much sought-after compact SUV/crossover space marks the brand’s attempt to carve out a sizeable share of the segment pie. A segment that’s simply ruled by the likes of the Maruti Vitara Brezza, Honda WR-V and the Ford Ecosport. We already subjected these three to a broad comparison a few months ago. And it was one that saw the Brezza win the battle by a fair margin. And now, it is time for the Nexon to flex its muscle and prove itself against the Maruti. Let’s put two and two together and go into the specifics.
The Nexon is the new kid on the block, and it is undisputedly ‘attention grabbing’ to say the least. The nose is characterised by tall headlamps that are connected by a large grille with a chrome strip that runs across the width. It gets even more interesting when viewed in profile thanks to the pronounced wheel arches with 16-inch alloys and the crease that ends at the tail lamps. But what’s unique is the window-line ceramic trim which sweeps upwards and extends on to the boot section through the C-pillar. It ends around both tail lights to form an unmistakeable X-signature design under the compact rear windscreen.
If the Nexon is all about curves then the Brezza is all about straight lines. It is simply because of these lines and the overall upright posture (upright pillars) that Maruti’s Vitara Brezza looks more like an SUV. Then there’s that chrome grille with both vertical and horizontal slats, and the more angularly designed lower bumper with a bash plate which makes it look distinctly rugged. What stresses this even further is the profile section that displays the large squared-off wheel wells with huge alloys and well-specced tyres. The rear section too has a pleasing personality that’s comprised of straight lines as seen in the window line, tail lamps, boot opening and blacked out lower-bumper section. Full marks to the Nexon for looking modern and attractive.
The Nexon’s interiors are a breath of fresh air and the dashboard is well laid out. Although the quality levels feel similar to the Brezza, things like the stalks, air-con controls and the piano black trim around the gear lever could have been better finished. Also, the Harman infotainment system may sound better than the unit on the Brezza’s, but there’s a lot more lag here which is quite unlike the Brezza’s smooth interface. That said, our test car came with weird engine noises (while revving) and the door kept locking/unlocking on its own. While this is a reflection of poor quality control, these can also turn out to be major irritants in the ownership experience.
Going forward, there’s adequate space in the front door pads of the Nexon to hold your knick-knacks and bottles. And there’s even more cubby space in the large cooled glove box and the deep centre storage box. However, the cup holders built into the glove box lid are useless since the front passenger can’t be seated with the lid open. Plus, the opening to the deep centre storage is too slim and fouls with one’s hand while extracting your belongings.
After the Nexon, sitting in the Maruti Vitara Brezza’s makes it feel a lot more conventional. The dashboard especially feels a whole lot simpler. Although quality of plastic is just as good as its rival, the fit and finish is much better and easily feels like it will stand the test of time, unlike the Nexon’s. There’s a large infotainment system whose interface is a lot quicker and easier to use too. Also, with very few buttons on this centre console, it feels clutter-free and makes operating this vehicle’s controls a breeze. Furthermore, there’s quite a bit of cubby space to stash away your belongings on the door pads (with bottle holders), centre console and the glove box.
The Nexon’s front seats are larger with lots of lateral support and there’s plenty of legroom too. However, where the Nexon falls behind its rival here is in the headroom and shoulder room department. But when it comes to the rear of the cabin, the Nexon is extremely spacious with a well contoured seat and an appropriate backrest angle. There’s more knee room than the Brezza and as it is much wider, it makes for comfortable seating for three. However, tall passengers will find the rear headroom in the Nexon to be tighter than the Brezza’s.
Meanwhile, the seating position in the Brezza is a lot more commanding because you sit quite higher in comparison. Although the front seats are well bolstered and hold you place, these seat covers have additional padding that makes you to sit ‘on’ it rather than ‘in’ it. This ultimately translates into a flat seating posture. The Brezza may lag behind the Nexon in terms of knee room at the front, but it is appropriate for an average sized adult. Also, taller passengers will have more headroom and the cabin is wider here too. At the rear, other than the superior headroom, the Brezza falls behind the Nexon in terms of space and seat comfort. It doesn’t mean that the Brezza is uncomfortable in any way. For that matter, it feels airier (upright pillars), has adequate knee room, appropriate shoulder room, enough thigh support, and an upright backrest angle.
Let’s talk about the boot now. The Nexon’s boot can swallow 367-litres and it swells further due to the 60:40 split folding rear seats. On the other hand, the Brezza gets a slightly smaller 342-litre boot, but also comes with the 60:40 split seats for added convenience. On the whole, the Nexon’s boot has a wider opening and the wider enclosure ensures that it is more usable. While both cars are well equipped, a quick look at the features revealed that the Nexon gets DRLs, key-less go, climate control, and a reverse camera. However, it doesn’t get a few extras that are available in the Brezza such as cruise control, rain sensing wipers and automatic headlamps. We’d prefer the Brezza’s interiors over the Nexon’s as it feels better built and has more useable cubby space.
The Tata Nexon’s 1.5-litre Revotorq four-cylinder diesel motor that makes 108bhp and 260Nm of torque is based on the Tiago’s three-cylinder engine. Coupled to this refined motor is the brand’s newly developed six-speed manual gearbox. Despite being heavier than the Brezza by 100kg, the extra horses aide the Nexon to get off the mark easily. There’s a mild surge at about 1700rpm which is then complimented by a strong mid-range that tails off at the 4500rpm redline. The Nexon gets three drive modes called ‘Eco’, ‘City’ and ‘Power’. In Eco mode the system offers a toned-down engine response even when the throttle is floored. It should be ideal only when you’re really low on fuel, or in stop/go traffic situations.
However, in City or in Power mode, the Nexon becomes enthusiastic and feels much more responsive than the Vitara Brezza. While our VBox recorded a marginally faster 12.73 sec for the 0-100kmph run (Brezza-12.78 sec), it is the 20-80kmph and 40-100kmph runs which took just 9.89 secs and 12.02 sec that sealed it in favour of the Tata. This also makes for some quick overtaking when the situation calls for it. Driveability is the Nexon’s strength and the gearbox ratios are such that constant gear shifts aren’t required to keep up the pace. This helps even further since the gear shifting experience is hampered by the notchy gear shift and the heavy clutch. We also learnt that going off the mark always felt jerky owing to the fact that we couldn’t guess the bite point while letting go of the clutch pedal.
Under the hood of the Maruti Vitara Brezza is the familiar 1.3-litre 89bhp Fiat-sourced multi-jet diesel motor that makes 200Nm of torque, and is coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox. This motor isn’t as refined as the Nexon’s and engine noise is prominent at higher revs. Off the mark, there’s a pronounced turbo-lag at slow speeds which requires one to constantly shift gears to keep the momentum going. It isn’t a big deal since the gears are much smoother to shift than its rival and the clutch pedal is lighter too.
Post 2000rpm, however, there’s a strong mid-range and this free revving motor comes into its own on the highway. Despite weighing 100kg lighter than its counterpart, the Vitara Brezza wasn’t able to beat the Nexon to 100kmph and it actually clocked a marginally slower 12.78 secs. But where it seriously lacked was in the 20-40kmph and 40-100kmph driveability tests, where it was slower by 2.89 secs and 3.96 secs respectively! That said, it was a mixed bag when it came to efficiency. While the Nexon was more efficient in the city by returning 14.6kpl vis-a-vis the Brezza’s 14.1kpl, the Brezza edged ahead of the Nexon by delivering 19.1kpl on highway while the latter returned 18.4kpl.
The Nexon’s ride and handling is quite impressive. Regardless of whether you’re travelling at lower speeds or higher, the ride is quite absorbent and it remains impressively flat over most surfaces. It is only the severe bumps that get transferred to the cabin. The damping from the well-sorted suspension set-up along with the large wheels and tall profile rubber help it get these manners. Going forward, the steering response on initial turn-in feels slightly vague around the dead centre, but post that it feels direct and you can plant the Nexon exactly where you want it. Aiding this behaviour is the minimal body roll and the immense grip from the 205 section tyres. But that said, it feels bulky around corners due to the additional weight and the brakes could have had a stronger bite.
Compared to the Nexon, the damping from the Brezza’s suspension system is a lot stiffer. Due to this it goes without saying that the road imperfections and potholes can be felt strongly within the cabin at slow speeds. It doesn’t get uncomfortable but there is a lot of movement when the going gets rough. However, as speeds rise the ride gets flatter. But surprisingly a bit of the body movement still remains. We also noticed that the feedback from the steering is direct and it weighs up appropriately too. The Brezza may not be as surefooted as the Nexon, but throw the former around a set of bends and it will retain its composure by performing quick directional changes (thanks to it being lighter) unlike the Nexon. Lastly, we found brakes on the Brezza to be capable of shedding speed quickly, with just the right amount of feedback at the pedal. We would tilt towards the Nexon for its superior performance, and ride and handling combo.
What goes in favour of the Maruti Vitara Brezza is the simplistic SUV design, the adequate cabin space, lots of features, and the fact that it drives more like a car than a crossover. The icing on the cake would undeniably be the peace of mind offered though the brand’s huge service network. However, what goes against the Brezza is the engine which has now begun to show its age. It isn’t as refined as the competitor and the harshness at high revs is just too pronounced. We also have to factor the stiff low speed ride and the higher price tag too.
The Tata Nexon, on the other hand, isn’t as agile or fun to drive as the Brezza, and the car maker still needs to fix its quality control measures. However, it simply takes the game ahead with the refined and performance-oriented motor, and the sorted ride characteristics. Other perks include the thoroughly modern looks, the spacious rear cabin and that attractive price tag. From what we’ve discovered and shared about these two crossovers, we’re sure that you’ve made up your mind about which one suits you.
Pictures: Kapil Angane