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2018 CarWale Track Day: Ford EcoSport vs Maruti Vitara Brezza vs Tata Nexon

Introduction

Why on earth would anyone take SUVs on to the Madras Motor Racing Track? It’s like getting comedian Kapil Sharma play Tom Cruise’s role in a Mission Impossible sequel. As crazy as that may sound, today’s cars are evolved examples of what carmakers learn on the track. So considering the fact that these three ‘heavy-weights’ have donned the ‘Sports’ Utility Vehicle badge, let’s find out if they can actually live up to the ‘Sports’ bit, on a race track.

What makes it special?

Sure we’ve milked the hell out of these cars on our regular roads. And this easily helps us guess how they could behave in this sportier environment. For one, we’re almost convinced that the Brezza will run away with the honours thanks to a stiff suspension setup, decent steering manners and being light overall. These traits should, in theory, allow it to carry more speed through the corners and nullify the lack of outright grunt which eclipses it.

When it comes to the EcoSport and Nexon, the Ford clearly has an upper hand owing to an engine that’s the most linear with a strong mid-range/top-end, and a steering that feels the liveliest. Despite it weighing as much as the Nexon (1300kg), the EcoSport’s soft suspension doesn’t have as much travel as the former and we think it will bounce lesser.

What goes against the Nexon in this test is that it is as heavy as the EcoSport, the comfort oriented soft and long travel suspension may translate into a lot of bouncing, and the steering isn’t particularly communicative either. However, its engine has the most grunt and is also impressively faster than both other cars by about 2.7 seconds in the in-gear acceleration times in 3rd and 4rth gear. Let the games begin!

What I think it can do?

After quickly speeding down the track in the Brezza, the Maruti showed off what was exactly expected of it. The lack of outright grunt was hardly a matter of concern and the Brezza held the racing line quite well. What also helped matters was that this light SUV had decent steering manners to aid the confidence required in flicking directions.

However, it was the Ford EcoSport that didn’t live up to our expectation. Despite its motor having more grunt than the Brezza, we just couldn’t push the car hard around corners as it was all over the place. The EcoSport simply found it difficult to hold its line around corners since it was insanely understeering with hardly any feedback from the steering.

And this brings us to the most unexpected outcome in this track shootout. Although we thought it would shine the least in this company, the Tata blew us away with quite the track experience in this line-up. While the additional grunt did help in pulling out of corners, we were utterly surprised with the way the soft long-travel suspension setup dealt with these sporty cornering situations. The Nexon stuck to the racing line while offering excellent steering feedback, which allowed us to push it even more than we’d want around bends.

The track test

After Rayomand Banajee attacked the MMRT in these SUVs, he returned to the pits confirming our second impression of the vehicles. He clocked 2:24.21 seconds in the Ford EcoSport, a swifter 2:22.70 seconds in the Nexon, and the quickest laptime of 2:20.68 seconds in the Brezza. While starting off with the EcoSport, Rayomand stated that the only thing he liked was that the engine felt better than the rest. This can also be seen in its exit speed of 108.44kmph at C1, which is just slightly off the Brezza’s 109.41kmph, but the Nexon beat both by clocking 113.88kmph.

Sure, the Nexon has more grunt, but it plateaued out too quickly unlike the EcoSport where it just kept going a little bit more since there was more range in each gear. This shows in the extra 2kmph apex speed that the EcoSport carries through C7 and C10 over the Nexon. However, in terms of pure feel and in every other respect, the Nexon was better. Be it brakes, steering and handling. The difference in steering itself was just unbelievable. The EcoSport just understeered, adamantly refusing to turn. Which is ultimately why the Nexon turned out to be almost 2 seconds quicker than the EcoSport.

Going forth, our test driver relayed that the Nexon’s overall show was a pleasant surprise. It didn’t bounce about on the corners much, and if it did, it was a very stable and controlled one. The Tata SUV gripped the tarmac well, and there was surprisingly no understeer. He also claimed that if we shaved some weight off the Nexon, it could even win this test! The Brezza is a clear winner in this test as it was almost 2 seconds quicker than the Nexon. It was more than 3kmph/2kmph faster than the closest competitor on the C7/C10 apex.

Rayomand disclosed that one of the contributing factors which was aiding the Brezza was the lighter weight (100kg) that it had to carry around corners. He also disclosed that its handling was also the best, although the Nexon wasn’t far behind. Plus, the Brezza ended up carrying a lot more corner speed and was more stable thanks to the stiffer suspension and the decent feedback from the steering.

Last words

The Maruti wins this track test not because it fared well in one parameter, but since it did a number things decently well. Quite the all-rounder, you see. So there it is for all you Brezza owners, time for you to drop the family off at the mall before heading out to the track and going gaga. And I never thought I’d say this, but, you can have a lot of fun at the wheel of the Nexon too. We appreciate the effort gone into the Nexon, great job Tata Motors!



Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi

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