Why would I buy it?
- Outstanding ride quality
- Easy-to-drive with good handling
Why would I avoid it?
- Uninspiring bottom-end engine performance
- Highway efficiency
The 2020 Tata Nexon is now more stunning to look at with its new design. It gets new features and an uprated petrol engine with updates to meet the BS6 emission norms. Sure, it can get better in terms of ergonomics, fit, finish and quality, but it still boasts of a solid build and high safety rating. Then this quiet, petrol three-cylinder engine, though not as refined as the four-pot ones, delivers adequate mid-range performance for everyday usability. The Nexon, then, remains to be a good package at a competitive price despite the advent of new SUVs like the Kia Sonet and Hyundai Venue.
Engines and Performance
The pre-facelift Nexon’s 109bhp 1,198cc petrol engine now makes way for a BS6-compliant 118bhp, 1,199cc mill in this 2020 model. It's still a Revotron turbocharged three-cylinder unit that delivers 170Nm of torque at 1,750-4,000rpm. Transmission choices are unchanged, with Nexon offering the same six-speed manual, that we are testing here, or an optional six-speed AMT. Start the engine and it remains quiet at idle and feels refined too as earlier. Also, it does portray low NVH levels, unless the tachometer needle is pointing upwards of 4,000rpm.
Now, I was expecting a palpable difference with uprated power, however, that's not the case. The turbo lag is evident and it feels lazy below 2,000rpm. Even post this, there's no particular strong surge in power delivery and it lacks a punch at low revs. Thankfully, it's only this initial bit which once you get past you will see the speeds climbing at a steady rate. The meat of the power band lies between 2,500rpm-4,000rpm when you will actually feel the difference in moving ahead. It’s sufficient within city speeds and even gets to triple digits on highways, so you won't even have to rev till the redline at 5,500rpm. The mid-range is quite usable for commutes, and with a light clutch to operate, getting from one point to the other becomes convenient. Thankfully, the driving modes are more distinct too. This time, the Eco mode is quite usable and doesn't feel like it's suppressing the response to throttle inputs too much. Switch to the city and then to the sport mode, and you instantly realise the difference with better responses from the engine. Still, this petrol Nexon isn't the one that will appeal to enthusiasts, yet good for ones who don't want to wring out performance.
Its ARAI-claimed fuel-efficiency of 17.4kmpl is achievable with light to moderate throttle inputs. But the Nexon is quite heavy at 1,260kg and needs a bit of rev to get going. Besides, shifting to a lower gear for a quick overtake becomes imperative. In this process, more fuel is used and this was clearly evident in our fuel efficiency tests that returned 13.26kmpl in the city and 14.45kmpl on the highway.
Ride and Handling
The Nexon continues to impress with its ride quality for which this Tata vehicle has been lauded in the past. In fact, now the suspension has been nicely tuned to provide a right balance for both low and high-speed rides. That said, it does feel a little firm at low speeds and sharp-edged potholes can be felt. However, it’s nicely damped to not send a jolt inside and make passengers feel uncomfortable. That way, it still continues to give that confidence of demolishing bad patches coming its way. It, in fact, it does that while not having to slow down on battered sections or improperly paved routes. A ground clearance of 209mm and 16-inch wheels further help in clearing the biggest of bumps and dug-up sections with ease. Also, the mild stiffness has translated into a flatter ride as one goes faster, which also improves high-speed stability.
Interestingly, if you've driven the outgoing Nexon, you will be surprised to see how better the SUV handles now. The steering doesn't feel dead in terms of feedback and weighs up quite nicely. It’s quick with less than three turns lock-to-lock, so parking this SUV is quite easy. What's more, this quick turn-in with a good feel and feedback has made the Nexon even better in terms of handling. Sure, there's no running away from the evident body roll on tight bends in this high-riding SUV. But then, it isn't dreadful for occupants and more importantly, it doesn't feel skittish even when pushing hard around corners. I still feel the ABS equipped front disc and rear drum brakes could have done better with more feel and feedback. However, they provide enough braking power for this heavy SUV along with good grip from the GoodYear rubber shod 215/60 section tyres.
Interior Space and Quality
You don’t need to crouch and can still easily walk into the cabin to be greeted with a slightly changed interior. The new silver accents with tri-arrow shapes look good. No soft-touch panels here, but a good effort on smooth provisions. Interior quality is still a mixture of good materials and some with hard plastics. The shiny black ones reflect light and as we’ve seen earlier, they tend to get scratched easily.
Also, shorter people will find it difficult to arrive at a suitable driving position. As they increase seat height, the steering wheel feels too close. And since it’s not a telescopic one, it cannot be adjusted for reach. The thick A-pillar will cause a little hindrance in frontal visibility and a small raked rear windscreen in rearward visibility. Thankfully, a rear camera with sensors helps in reversing. Then, there are plenty of storage places, but cup-holders aren’t large, inconveniently placed, and with fairly narrow access like the USB ports.
The floating screen again looks good but is still cluttered with information. Space-wise, it remains the same with fairly large supportive seats and enough space in the second row to fit three individuals. Shoulder-room might be tight for three but all occupants are pampered with sufficient legroom and headroom. Lastly, the split-fold seats add more flexibility to a 350litre boot space. It’s anyway sufficient to accommodate two big hard case bags and about three soft bags.
Features and Safety
The Nexon was always nicely packed with features like LED DRLs, projector lamps, automatic climate control, cruise control, et all. Now its latest iteration gets some more features. For example, there’s a new ‘Xpress Cool’ button, which as the name suggests cools the cabin faster with maximum blower speed and pulling the driver window down. Then, the instrument cluster has changed to a digital one with more information like TPMS. Even the infotainment system gets the brand’s IRA tech for users’ demand of connected technology. Another feature that Indians swear by these days is a sunroof and Tata has given in to the demand.
In terms of safety, a five-star NCAP safety rating had put a feather in Tata’s cap which continues with plenty of safety equipment. This includes dual airbags, ABS with EBD, Isofix seats, rear parking sensors, driver and passenger seat belt warning, high-speed warning, and all are mandated by the new safety regulations. In addition, the Nexon also gets ESP, traction control, hill hold, brake assist, and roll-over mitigation.
With a more powerful petrol engine, the 2020 Tata Nexon gets a mid-cycle refresh. One whose noteworthy revisions add more character and sophistication to an already good-looking car. Not all will appreciate that there's no improvement on the ergonomic issues and some quality of materials to a certain level, but a major chunk of the prospective buyers will be more than happy with the new features Tata Motors has added to make it more alluring.
It's easy-to-recommend too if you aren't expecting an outright performance from the engine, but looking for a quiet and easy-to-drive car. Furthermore, it remains to be the best-in-the-segment when it comes to ride and quality. Another favourable thing is its on-road pricing that not only aligns with most competitors but also undercuts all rivals like the Maruti Suzuki Brezza, Toyota Urban Cruiser, Ford EcoSport, and the Mahindra XUV300. It certainly makes for a great option to consider in this horde of compact SUVs.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi