Can the new Tata Nexon set benchmarks in the compact SUV segment?
It’s been 7 years since the Tata Nexon was introduced in the Indian market and in that period it has become one of the most reliable brands in the country. So if you were looking for a car in the subcompact SUV space, the Nexon is one car you just cannot ignore. Tata has reaped the benefits of it because it has sold 5 lakh units of the car in these 7 years. So what's ahead? Well, the ideal way would have been to introduce a new generation model, but Tata has held that off and brought in a facelift that it says “is a comprehensible one”.
The new generation of the Nexon would have ideally been based on the ALFA platform, but this one is still the X2 so it still has to be considered a facelift. However, we know how versatile this platform is because the Nexon EV is built on this and it was the basis of a 5-star safety-rated car as well. So, in a sense, why move away from something good?
The first thing to attract you is the way it looks and the answer to that is pretty straightforward. It looks gorgeous, no two ways about it and that purple colour really attracts your attention. The chiselled and sleek look adds a different dimension to the Nexon.
The slim LED DRLs are standard but the bi-functional lamps are only on the top end. Look closely and you’ll see a bit of muscle on the bonnet and the nice haunches on the front and rear wheels. So, there is that added layer of muscle to make it look a bit aggressive. I also like the fact that the wheel arches aren’t squared. It’s becoming a norm for most designers especially for SUVs, so glad to see the normal rounded wheel arches.
The profile reminds you of the Nexon SUV but the roof now slopes nicely into the rear very coupe-like styling. The 16-inch wheels with aerodynamic design look small but those wheel wells could have looked fuller with 17 inches. The rear also looks gorgeous and the signature tail lamps connected end to end look gorgeous. There’s no way you can mistake this for any other car. A lot of play on the light by Tata Motors to truly strengthen its position as far as brand recall goes.
Then there are a few hidden elements like the rear windshield wiper which tucks into the spoiler. Now, we’ve seen this clever design on the Hyundai Tucson earlier so it’s new to the segment, but not as a design element. You have the ‘Tiger’ easter egg at the rear and then there’s the button to open the boot. The loading lip is lower which is good but the button is tucked underneath and it’s this tiny spot that you have to hit to open it. So rubber cladding could have helped.
The Tata Nexon comes with the same two powertrain options as before – 1.2-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel. I got into the petrol first. There’s no change in power output. It still pushes out 118 bhp and there is 170 Nm of torque on offer. But the big change is the addition of this 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Now my first issue is that engaging it isn’t the easiest job in the world. You have to be patient and cannot hurry the system. One push will not change the position of the gear, and you have to really press it hard till it changes. So, yes, it takes a bit getting used to.
The same can be said for the engine response. Well, there is nothing the engine offers till about 2250 rpm but then everything comes alive. Even in sports mode, there’s a lot of noise from the engine but that doesn’t really translate into movement. So yes a little disappointed on that front. The gearbox though is quick to respond to your inputs and thanks to the paddle shifters, it’s fairly easy to shift up and down. And then there’s the steering response. Though the steering looks absolutely smashing and is good to hold too, at higher speeds it feels lifeless and that’s very un-Nexon-like.
I want to drive the manual too but that’s for another day. But the diesel had one and I got a chance to spend some time with it. The diesel is the punchier of the two and that’s because the torque kicks in early and you have power at lower rpms. There is a bit of engine noise that comes through into the cabin, but the gear throws are shorter and the clutch travel too is short so the effort taken to drive a manual is lesser, which is good news.
Tata also offers the AMT on both the engines so, that’s still an option and that also means there’s a big play on what variants there are on offer. It certainly is scoring big on customer preferences.
Ride and handling continue to be Nexon’s forte. The suspension travel is not too long so your expectations are met as far as the Nexon tackling bad roads goes. Even the deeper potholes are dealt with ease. The 208mm of ground clearance too helps put your mind at rest. But for me, the ride at the back especially on the diesel was bumpier, and there was no explanation given as to why that was so. It was odd, given suspension setups on both the petrol and diesel were the same. So that was a bit puzzling.
Tata Motors has also upped the ante when it comes to offering quality features on the car and the cabin oozes future. The big floating 10-inch infotainment screen grabs your attention and it is very intuitive. All the information needed has been provided right there at your fingertips and the latency is very low. The digital instrument cluster is also a talking point, because it is vibrant with the colours and the text is clear, so good for readability.
Features like ventilated seats, wireless charging, and Apple Carplay Android Auto connectivity add a layer of future readiness from the customer's point of view and you also get a bucket load of connectivity features thanks to IRA 2.0. Voice commands in both English and Hindi work really well and we tried it out. So watch our review to see how they work!
There are a couple of other features added now to the connectivity suite and those are remote engine and AC start. You also get 360 camera and HD video output so everything is crisp and clear. Rear seat space is pretty much the same so you have an upright stance decent knee room and good under-thigh support.
6 airbags, ESP and seat belt warning for the rear seat passengers are now standard apart from all the other features. Tata claims that this Nexon will fare well under the new, stringent Global NCAP crash protocols. I am sure it won’t accept anything below 5 stars.
Let’s talk about the price then. Ideally, the base variant should not breach the Rs. 8.10 lakh mark and the top end should not breach Rs. 13.50 lakh given that most of its rivals are similarly priced. Tata knows it has a popular product on its hands and it has sold 5 lakh units of the car in 6 years, a fact that reminds you of this new car.
The new Nexon has the potential to set the benchmark in the segment but the final box to tick is the price. So Tata needs to get the price spot on!
Photography By: Prashant Chaudhary
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