Unless you have been living under a rock, you would be very well aware of a particular species of automobiles which has caught the fancy of car buyers unlike anything else. Of course I am talking about the compact SUV. It is quite easy to fathom the appeal of one as it straddles between two worlds- bringing the design and appeal of an SUV but also the nimbleness and clever packaging of a hatch. Needless to say, whatever new launches have taken place have all been lapped up hungrily by the Indian car buyer.
Tata Motors, understandably does not want to miss the compact SUV party but while they are late they sure have made everyone sit up and take notice. Meet the radical Tata Nexon and it is very much the most crucial car for Tata Motors. While the Tiago bought them onto the right path, the Nexon is very much stepping on the gas. Thus how good is this new compact SUV? Does it live to the hype and has it been worth the wait? Read on.
Are you sure this is a production car?
Does not look like it right? That is the genius of the Nexon and Tata Motors have hit a bulls eye here. Let us face it, design matters and the Nexon would not have created this much buzz had it not been this radical. It is as though it has been plucked right out of a motor show stand and put into production. Virtually unchanged. The shape is not made to be bland as it is shock and awe. The Nexon is a crossover and makes no bones about it. The sloping roofline, coupe like design, the swoopy and curvaceous design all look stunning. It is not overdone and it just gels beautifully. The front gets the Tata signature humanity line but it is much more aggressive and bolder while the LED DRLs look superb and we love how the headlights merge with the humanity line and grille.
The side reveals chunky 16 inch alloys, cladding plus the contrast roof looks cool as well. The real highlight for me though is the ceramic paint finish running all over as that looks fantastic. The rear admittedly is not the best angle for the Nexon where it reveals itself as more of a hatch on stilts but still rather cool looking tail-lamps merge with the ceramic paint finish 'x-factor' line. Overall exterior build quality has attained a new standard for Tata Motors. The paint finish, panel gaps and especially the ceramic paint finish is executed of high quality. Full marks for Tata Motors here.
What about interiors?
Again it is a big jump from even the Hexa and the Tiago. The design works very well and indeed looks quite premium and well finished. Yes, while it may share a few bits and pieces (like the steering wheel) with its stablemates, elsewhere quality and looks have been a notch up and we say in terms of interior design it is among the class best right now. The centre console is tastefully designed with dash top 6.5 inch HD touchscreen being the main highlight. The position of the touchscreen is as such that you do not need to take your eyes off the road to glance.
The touchscreen works quite well and thankfully its a much bigger size than in the Hexa too. In terms of features other than that there is plenty to talk about. The Harman infotainment system gets Android Auto with Apple CarPlay coming soon. Along with that there is an 8-speaker system that admittedly sounds very nice plus push button start, rear camera display, reverse parking sensors, steering controls, climate control, rear ac vents (two speed blower control), power adjustable and retractable mirrors, dual airbags with ABS.
The coolest feature though is wearable key which looks like a fitness band. Other than the usual key fob, this wearable key gives you the convenience to not carry the key fob, instead wear this and the car will unlock itself with you wearing this.
Storage is done very well too with a large cooled glovebox plus the door pockets have an umbrella holder too, along with that the centre console has a sliding storage area which is useful again. Few things that we noticed though as the rear camera display could have been better, the handbrake is positioned on the left, plus we feel the gear lever and the drive mode selector take up a huge amount of space and reaching out for the small USB slot is cumbersome.
In terms of space do not let its dimensions fool you as its a Tata Motors product all right. You sit lower which has been done to protect headroom and the rising window line limits view out from the back but legroom is quite good and so is shoulder room which means three can get in, unlike some of its rivals. The seats themselves are comfy with good support all around. Its boot is bigger than its main rival as well with 350l while you can expand it with 690l.
How does it drive?
There are two engines options with the 1.2l Revotron turbo petrol ( 108 bhp/ 170Nm) and a new 1.5 Revotorq diesel (108 bhp/260Nm). Both have a six speed manual as standard. An AMT is expected later. We first drove the diesel and this new engine certainly is better than the 1.3 Multijet diesel. It is slightly more refined and there is much less lag. Power delivery is smooth and not erratic with considerable punch at low speeds which means you do not need to shift gears constantly. While more refined than the earlier diesel, it is still a tad noisy. While the mid-range is strong, power tapers off at the top and the Nexon diesel is best left to cruise , using its punchy mid-range. The six-speed manual is a new highlight and shift quality is very good and precise but both the gearbox and clutch are on the heavy side to use.
More than the diesel though we loved the petrol more and it suited to the character of the Nexon as a agile crossover. Compared to the diesel, its refinement is superb and while thanks to its weight and lack of torque, you do require to use the gearbox more in the city, the gearbox and clutch itself is lighter and feels better than the diesel. However once past that, it gathers buzz at the higher revs and is quite fun to exploit unlike the diesel. The drive modes are no gimmick but amongst the three modes- Eco, City and Sport, we used Sport most of the time as Eco bogged down the engine and City mode is best used for short trips in city for generally relaxed driving, however most of the time you need the maximum pull which Sport has and we suspect people while mostly use this. In terms of ride and handling it is one of the more fun cars and one of the best Tata cars.
While the suspension is stiffer compared so some Tata cars and sharp potholes do filter, the overall absorbtion is much better than its rivals plus body control is surprisingly good too. As speeds rise, the ride quality and driving experience represent a new dynamic standard that Tata Motors have met. The heavier diesel feels a bit nose heavy while the more delicate petrol feels lighter and good to drive being quite agile plus the brakes work very well too. The steering is also way better than some of its rivals too with not being overly light and completely devoid of any feedback. It weighs up nicely and scores top marks. The healthy 209mm ground clearance helps it swallow bad roads with ease and that is a boon but it is a strict crossover, no 4WD or any off-roading here.
Everytime we drive a new Tata car we say it is the best they have made and that shows the strides that the car-maker is taking. The Nexon is Tata Motors reaching a new level. The design is the new segment benchmark and that alone will win the Nexon many buyers. But the interiors and general quality is a big step up, it drives quite well, is spacious and generally ticks all the correct boxes. What we like is that it stands out from other cars and it does so well. Yes it is not perfect and few issues need to be sorted but if priced sensibly (i.e. below the Brezza) the Nexon is the second success chapter for Tata Motors after the Tiago. And this time it promises to be a bigger one.