What is it?
Why would I buy one?
Design, comfort, space, smart cabin
Why would I avoid one?
Cabin insulation, noisy engine, no drivetrain options
What is it?
Take Tata Motors' attractive design philosophy - Impact 2.0 in this case. Skin it over a capable and modern Land Rover platform - the Discovery Sport. Then, power it with Fiat's proven Multijet engine - that's the one housed under the hood of the Jeep Compass. And, what you have ultimately is a potent concoction called the Tata Harrier.
Why potent? Well, we will get to that in a bit. But, what you need to know right now is that the Harrier will rival the likes of the Hyundai Creta at the lower end, and the Jeep Compass at the very top. Tata is quoting a price range of Rs 16-21 lakhs for this one.
But, of course, at this price, it might also eat into its own sibling, the Tata Hexa's sales. So, clearly, the Harrier has a big pie to dig into.
However, can the Harrier, Tata's first full-sized monocoque SUV, actually demand a price tag of around Rs 20 lakhs? That's what we are here to find out.
Well, in terms of design, the Harrier certainly nails it. It is extremely close to the H5X concept Tata had shown at the expo. So, it has a wonderfully squat stance with a racy top hat. There's lots of detailing on the exterior too, but it doesn't look overdone.
Now, the placement of head lamps might seem odd at first, but it gives the Harrier a unique and unmistakable identity. The sloping down roof line gives it the air of sportiness, modernity, and style. And, even though it looks less like an SUV, and more like a sporty, tall hatch from the rear, it's a lovely posterior to behold.
How is it on the inside?
The Harrier is a spacious car, which is obvious from the moment you open its doors. There's ample shoulder room both front and back. There's more than adequate head room for a six-footer even at the rear. And, the leg room all round is fantastic as well.
We liked the seats too. The one's at the front are large, cushy and well-bolstered, and the one for the driver can also be adjusted for height.
The boot though, at 425 litres isn't all that big. But, without any intrusions to speak of, it's easy to load and pack it to the gills. Additionally, the rear seats get a 60:40 split. And, these fold flat as well which increases the luggage carrying flexibility and utility that the Harrier offers. The loading lip height, meanwhile, at around 750mm, isn't too high.
The rear seats are lovely too. The huge seat bottom means good thigh support. The seat back angle feels right. And the cushioning - for the back and the bottom - isn't too hard or soft. And, that meant even after two hours of being strapped to the rear seat on the early morning drive back to Jodhpur, I felt as fresh as morning dew. Coffee, helped, of course.
And if you thought Tata can't make an interior that can justify a Rs 20 lakhs price tag, well, it has come quite close with the Harrier.
There are a number of different materials and finishes which the Tata designers have opted for here. There's faux wood occupying the pride of place on the dashboard, which is then flanked by a metallic highlight at the bottom and soft grain plastic at the top. The floating multimedia and its related controls are all finished in gloss. Ditto for the aircon controls.
There's also liberal use of tan leather. It's part of the central tunnel, it's on the door handles, it's on all the armrests - central or otherwise, and of course, it's all over the seats. In short, all your touch points are wrapped in tan. And, that metallic finish from the dash; it also finds its way on the doors and the central tunnel.
And all of this comes together very well. It makes the Harrier's insides look plush, inviting, and well put together. In fact, apart from some black plastic that feels a little cheap to the touch, it is, in fact, one of the better cabins we have seen.
Feature wise, apart from a sunroof, electric powered driver seat, auto dimming mirrors, lack of a two-zone climate control system, a dedicated button to lock/unlock the doors, and maybe mood lighting, the Harrier seems to have it all. Or, at least, the rest of it.
There's voice command, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for the Bluetooth multimedia system. There's a detailed driver information system with a TFT display. There's a central cooled glovebox; cup and bottle holders for every passenger; and smart storage as part of the deep door pockets. You also get a fancy looking handbrake lever which, when applied, makes it a task to use the front cup holders!
How does it drive?
Now, there are a few things we have come to expect of new Tata Motors' products. Things like great ride quality, light clutch and steering operation, and good body control. The Harrier has all of these qualities. And more.
The clutch - even though slightly long in throw - is light. Ditto for the hydraulic powered steering. And both make this SUV easy to drive around in stop and go traffic.
The ride too is well judged. It is especially good over mildly deterioted roads, and at speed. The Harrier flattens almost everything in its path. And rarely, if ever, does it move its occupants around, forget throwing them from side-to-side. It also manages to iron out bigger bumps quite well. On the other hand, deeper potholes can upset the poise of the Harrier, but again, not enough to make you cringe.
What we would have liked better though, is the sound insulation for the suspension, the front in particular. You can't feel it working as much as you can hear it clunking around. Cabin insulation, in general, needs some work on the Harrier too.
The 2.0-litre Multijet is a noisy engine to begin with, but there's pronounced drivetrain line lash every time one goes on or off the throttle. This was common in the older ladder-on-frame, rear wheel driven SUVs. But, the Harrier is a front wheel driven, modern monocoque. And at its price point, mechanical isolation from the occupants is a necessity, not a bonus. The engine and wind noise inside the cabin too, could have been lower.
As far as driving goes, the Harrier is quite impressive. The steering isn't just light, it's also quick and feel some. And it helps make easy work of manoeuvring the Harrier be it in the city, around the twisties, or catching slides on dirt. The Harrier is also more than willing to make quick direction changes without feeling loose, cumbersome, or scary. And in a straight line, even at high three digit speeds, it feels hunkered down and confident. And with the pliant high-speed ride, it has all the makings of a great touring machine.
Now the engine, the 2.0-litre diesel makes 140bhp and 350Nm of torque. It is the same engine as on the Jeep Compass and with the same torque rating. But, the power is lower on the Harrier. Not surprisingly then, in terms of acceleration or even roll ons, the Tata won't have you nodding your head in appreciation every time you floor the throttle. But, make no mistake, it doesn't feel underpowered at all.
It also has three driving modes - Eco, City and Sport - which essentially alters the drive-by-wire throttle response. In Eco, it feels acceptable. But, in Sport, the perceptable jump in response actually makes you go wow. Just for the first time, that is. There are other driver aids as well. This includes three settings for the ESP - City, Wet, and Rough Road - which change how and when the ESP cuts in. There's a hill descent function as well, and there's cruise control.
Should I buy one?
Now, Rs 20 lakhs might seem a lot to pay for a Tata car. But, when you consider that it borrows heavily from a Rs 40 lakhs plus Land Rover, has the same drivetrain as the Rs 20 lakhs Jeep, and has a totally drool worthy design, it doesn't seem that tall an ask.
Sure, the Harrier isn't exactly a Discovery Sport with a different top hat. It has a less sophisticated, semi-independent twist blade axle (an iteration of the twist beam). And, the front suspension has been revised keeping costs in mind as well. But, the architecture, the hard points, and the essential engineering is all the same. No wonder, the Harrier drives so well, which is what makes it such a potent concoction.
What's more, the Harrier has reasonably plush interiors, a decently long equipment list, and a wide safety net. And, by the way, it's Rs 20 lakhs 'on-road' for the Tata, while it's all ex-showroom prices for the others. Seems even more worthy now, doesn't it.
Where does it fit in?
Like we said at the start, the Harrier will go up against the Creta with its XE and XM trims, and the Compass with the XT and XZ versions. At the time of launch there will be no petrol, no automatic, and no all wheel drive versions, which might be a miss, but it's something that Tata can quickly correct and deliver. According to Tata Motors, when the Harrier is launched early next year, it will carry on-road prices between Rs 16 lakhs to Rs 21 lakhs.
Pictures by Kapil Angane