Will the Nexon be the game changer, not only for the compact-SUV segment but also for Tata Motors? We find out.
It’s an open secret that we, Indians, love SUVs. That’s the reason why this segment has been growing by leaps and bounds, especially the compact SUVs. Their volumes have actually increased five times in the last 4 years. No wonder there’s been a slew of compact SUV launches in the last couple of years and the future of this segment looks even brighter as many more manufacturers will soon be joining the party. One automobile manufacturer that has been creating a buzz since the 2014 Delhi Auto Expo is Tata Motors when they showcased the Nexon concept car. With a lot anticipation, even though there were some serious doubts whether the production version would be able to retain the concept’s design elements, we were happy to see that Tata Motors stuck to the original concept’s looks as we got the keys to drive the production ready under 4-metre SUV, which will hit the roads before the festive season this year.
Without a doubt this is one crowded segment with the Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza leading the pack, the Ford EcoSport still doing decent numbers, the new kid on block Honda WR-V making its presence felt and with Hyundai soon to join in, Tata Motors have their work cut out. For starters, the Nexon does manage to stand out with its aerodynamic coupe-like design, unlike its competition, which looks boxy miniature version of full-sized traditional SUVs. Based on Tata Motors new design language, IMPACT, the Nexon certainly is refreshing and one of the most dynamic vehicles in its class.
When it comes to exteriors, an SUV must have a commanding driving position and an imposing road presence - the Nexon ticks both these criteria. It gets a big honeycomb grille mesh that gives it a butch look, which beautifully compliments the sleek projector headlights with day time running lamps (DRLs). The fog lamps come with eye brow-like accents which the Nexon could have done without. As mentioned earlier, the coupe silhouette adds the funky design element to the Nexon while the broad shoulder lines running across the doors add more muscle. Coming to its tall stance, the Nexon boasts of 209mm of ground clearance, which is the best in the segment, and the meaty 215/60 R16 tyres with 16-inch alloys add to the overall height of this SUV.
The cabin is all new, which is a good thing, as the build quality is right up there with the competition and so is the fit-and-finish. I have never been a big fan of beige interiors, therefore, I liked the smart looking black and dull white combination, although maintenance could be a problem. What clearly stands out is the Harman infotainment system’s 6.5-inch floating touchscreen, which is connected to an 8 speaker surround system. The sound quality is impressive as each and every note was crystal clear. Tata could have opted for a bit more vibrant colours for its display, but apart from that, the interface was very intuitive and easy to use. It is currently equipped with Android Auto, but Tata Motors has promised to introduce Apple CarPlay very soon.
Coming to the cabin, it feels spacious and according to Tata Motors, the Nexon comes with 31 utility spaces including handy little umbrella slots designed in the front doors and a sliding tambour door in the centre console. It also comes with 3 driving modes – Eco, City and Sport – and this nob is neatly tucked below the gear stick. The Sport mode actually makes the diesel engine more engaging to drive as it revs freely. We will get to that bit later. The Nexon also comes with a fairly spacious boot which offers 350 litres of space. Thanks to a 60:40 ratio split rear seats, the luggage space can be increased to 690 litres once the seats are folded completely.
Rev or rant?
The Nexon is powered by two new engines. Well, technically it uses the Tigor’s 1.2-litre three-cylinder Revotron petrol motor, but it now comes fitted with a turbocharger. It boasts of 108bhp of power and 170Nm of torque and is mated to a new 6-speed transmission. The powertrain certainly felt a lot more refined than the Tigor’s, but it’s the midrange where the Nexon starts to pick up space. Below the 2500rpm mark, the compact SUV feels slightly sluggish. The gear stick, unfortunately, felt vague and didn’t slot in easily, especially when you try to put it in reverse.
The diesel variant, on the other hand, is the more fun option and is powered by an all-new 1.5-litre powertrain, which is based on the Tigor’s 1.05-litre engine. Tata has finally said goodbye to Fiat’s 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine. The new turbocharged diesel motor also produces 108bhp but has a higher torque rating of 260Nm and is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox. This motor offers a refined and linear pick up without any turbo lag, which is very impressive. The power is well spread out in low, mid and top range.
Both the petrol and the diesel offer three driving modes – Eco, City and Sport. While the first mode is all about conservative driving, thereby, ensuring a high fuel economy, the City mode is apt for your day-to-day drive in the city and offers decent power. But it’s the Sport mode that actually makes the engine quite engaging to drive, especially the diesel engine thanks to its healthy 260Nm of torque.
Ride and handling
I hate getting all technical, but in this case, I must say that Tata got the suspension setup spot-on. The independent McPherson strut with coil spring at the front and the semi-independent twist beam with coil spring at the rear soak up any pothole or broken tarmac you throw at it. It is soft enough to provide a very comfortable ride, but at the same time not too soft to make you feel nauseous. I think it can be safely said that the Nexon has the plushest ride quality in its segment.
Coming to handling, this compact SUV managed to surprise us even further. It was hugging the tarmac while taking turns as body roll was down to bare minimum. It isn’t in the league of the Brezza, but the Nexon still exuberates a lot of confidence in the corners. In terms of braking, the disc (front) and drum (rear) combination manage to ensure that the SUV comes to a full halt quickly. The Nexon comes with ABS as standard.
The Tata Nexon is a decent sub-4metre SUV, which comes with a spacious cabin, fully loaded with features like a fitness band which works as the car key, floating 6.5-inch infotainment system, safety features like dual front air bags and ISOFIX child car seats and excellent ride quality. The 1.2-litre petrol engine is ideal for city commuting while the 1.5-litre diesel is the more engaging motor to opt for. So will the Nexon be able to create a storm in the compact SUV segment? Well it all depends on how well Tata Motors price it.