The much-anticipated Tata Nexon is the carmaker's latest bet on the SUV segment. The Nexon, short for 'Next-On', points to the next step in Tata´s journey. With one SUV, the Hexa, already under its belt, Tata is now training its guns at the compact SUV/crossover segment led by the Hyundai Creta, Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Ford EcoSport, Honda WR-V and the likes. Tata says the Nexon has that X factor to make heads turn and make it the talk of the town with its design, performance and features. To find out whether Tata has it, we drove it from Kochi to Idukki in God's own country - Kerala.
This SUV made its debut as a concept at the 2014 Auto Expo and carries forward most of the design elements. The honeycomb mesh grille in black gets a tastefully done chrome slat extending into the projector headlamps with DRLs. The blue and red are fetching colours which allow the lines to come shining through. This includes the bonnet, a well-defined belt-line and massive wheel arches over the five-spoke alloy wheels.
The white strip on the shoulder line is something unique. The focus, however, remains on the well-executed D-pillar in grey and the manner in which the roof drops towards the rear - very similar to a Range-Rover Evoque. The rear too lacks chrome but uses the white strip extending towards the LED tail lamps. The tailgate and rear bumper design too is well-executed completing the new look.
The fresh-looking exterior design is well complemented by the appearance of the interior. The steering wheel and instrument cluster are borrowed from the Tiago, but everything else looks new. The mix and match of plastics on the dashboard is decent and goes well with the fabric seats in black. However, we cannot say the same about durability as the glossy black material got scratched easily. We also heard some rattling noises from the door pads hinting that the fit of some materials isn't very impressive. The quality and finish is mediocre, but we aren't complaining for now as none of its competitors boast of a high quality interior. The front visibility is good, even if the thick A-pillar does impede vision around corners. Conversely, the rear visibility isn't great due to the small rear windscreen and sloping roofline. But despite the latter, there's surprisingly good headroom and knee room in the second row. Although seating three people here will be a snug fit, there’s very good shoulder room making it a very spacious area for two. Generous thigh and back support add to the comfort. Yet, the seats squabs are soft and slightly firmer ones would have been more comfortable on long rides.
The cabin boasts of a bright 6.5-inch display HD touchscreen with a floating dash-top design. It does provide an upmarket feel and more importantly reduces the eye off-the-road time with its high placement. Its haptic feedback is a little slow but works nicely with the control knobs. It features Android Auto which worked seamlessly, while Apple CarPlay will be enabled later via OTA updates. Compared to the present Tata ConnectNext infotainment platform, this system doesn't rely on smartphone apps to mirror infotainment services on to the in-car console. So it makes the new system more practical and a nifty addition. Voice commands for hands-free actions adds to its convenience. The eight-speaker Harman-powered audio system sounds great too. Apart from an engine start-stop button and keyless entry, the carmaker has equipped the Nexon with a waterproof key that can be worn on the wrist. A quirky and useful add-on!
Then, the Nexon also boasts of 31 utility spaces, which include four cup-holders and six bottle holders – more than enough for four people on-board. There's a new central console with armrests that get a deep storage space and a sliding door to hide away all the stuff you add to it. A boot-space of 350 litres with low loading height looks adequate, until you use the rear seat's 60-40 split and full flat folding system to liberate 690 litres of total space. The safety kit includes dual airbags and ABS as standard fitment. A rear view camera with sensors adds to the parking convenience.
The Tata Nexon is offered with two new turbocharged engine options, a 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel, both producing 109bhp of power and 170Nm, 260Nm of torque respectively. They are both mated to a new TA6300 six-speed manual transmission and offer three driving modes - Eco, City and Sport. We began with the petrol model in red, whose three-cylinder engine started with a thrum and settled into a quiet note. This is a refined mill but lacks the punch in the Eco mode even when you keep flat on the floor. At lower engine speeds there's a lag, meaning constant lowering of gears and keeping the revs high. The tall gearing further doesn't help. However, the 170Nm of torque is best used above 2,000rpm when the turbo spools in and keeps the 1,237 kg car going. Shift to the city mode and the stark difference in the engine response is evident. There's not much difference when one shifts from city to sport, but the motor feels more energetic in these two modes. The Sport mode is what we used mostly and it gave the best driving experience. The engine has a better top-end here even if it falls flat post the 5,000rpm mark.
On the other hand, the blue Nexon here is a four-cylinder diesel and feels much better to drive. At idling, the new motor has a fair amount of pitter-patter, but this clatter is not at all disturbing. In fact, it feels fairly refined and is not noisy while driving too. Kudos to Tata for doing a good job in noise insulation. Unlike the eco mode in the petrol, the diesel variant offers better driveability. There still is a lag till 1,500rpm, but the throttle response is not jerky and power delivery is linear too. In the eco mode, it feels flat, but it is a step up from the city mode and gets more energetic in the sport mode. Nonetheless, it remains linear throughout. At 1,305kg, the diesel Nexon is heavy but the power flows smoothly and the 260Nm of torque makes it a joy to drive in the city or cruise on the highways. There's a considerable amount of punch in the mid-range and the car makes brisk progress all the way to 4,000-4,500rpm. Gear shifts do feel a little clunky, but they sit in well. The transmission here feels adept with the closely stacked ratios. Thanks to the abundance of torque, you can continue crawling in a higher gear at low rpms. And still at higher revs, the engine didn't feel much strained.
Straight-line stability of the Nexon is good and the steering allows turning in nicely in the direction pointed. If you push the vehicle too hard, the steering feels soggy with less feedback. Nonetheless, it’s not bad even when driven at a brisk pace. The ABS equipped front disc and rear drum brakes have enough braking power, but could have been done better with more feel and feedback. The diesel feels a little stiffer than the petrol due to its weight, but both are much planted. We loved the ride quality as it takes the plain roads and even bumpy tarmacs quite nicely. There's a mild rocking movement at slow speeds on uneven or broken roads, but the side contours on the seats provide nice support restricting the side-to-side movement. The ride is supple, absorbent and silent. Sure the car does thud in sharp-edged and deep potholes, but the ground clearance of 209mm and 16-inch alloys with a high profile help the Nexon take all this in its stride easily.
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||109bhp @ 5500/109bhp@3,750|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||170Nm @ 1,750-4000/109bhp @1500-2750|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||44|
|Tyre size||215/60 R16|
|Dual airbags and ABS||Yes|
|16-inch Five-spoke alloy wheels||Yes|
|209mm ground clearance||Yes|
|Different driving modes||Yes|
|Projector headlamps with DRLs||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Max. Power (bhp)||109bhp @ 5500/109bhp@3,750||110bhp@6300/99bhp @3750|
|Max. torque (Nm)||170Nm @ 1,750-4000/260Nm @1500-2750||140Nm @ 4400/205Nm @1750|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||44||52|
|Tyre size||215/60 R16||205/60 R16|
Getting a leg up in the Indian automobile market is an enormous uphill battle for any new car. No matter the price, the first impression matters. Thankfully, Tata has managed to make a good one and a competitive price will help its case further. A fresh design, utilitarian features and a nimble ride add to the positives of the SUV. Though it could have done better with the fit and finish inside, it will still be able to put up a tough fight against the Ford EcoSport and the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza.
Pictures by: Kapil Angane