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Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

What is it?

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

Why will I buy it?

For its design, build-quality, the convenience of an automatic

Why will I avoid it?

Interior plastic quality and some niggling issues inside the cabin

What is it?

This is the much-awaited automatic version of the Nexon. Tata has equipped both the petrol and diesel models of this compact SUV with an AMT gearbox. This is a good move by the carmaker as it makes the Nexon the only car in its segment to offer this. This suggests that there will be an option for every kind of buyer - a diesel AT for one who takes to the highways quite often and a petrol AT for those customers whose run-abouts are primarily in the city. But, the biggest question is has Tata has brought out a well-calibrated AMT? We drove it to find out.

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

The Nexon has won many awards for its SUV design and it certainly looks the part. It has a good street presence and its proportions give it a compact footprint. We Indians swear by the looks of an SUV and the carmaker's latest design philosophy has nailed it. The AMT version, in fact, has a fresh appearance thanks to its striking new Etna Orange body colour, paired with silver-grey coloured roof and detailing. There are no other changes to the exterior apart from an 'XZA+' badge.

How is it on the inside?

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

The cabin remains largely unchanged meaning you still sit in a commanding position with good view of the surroundings outside. On the other hand, the interior fit and finish once again fails to impress, as the quality of materials used can be better. The design is practical and the 6.5-inch touch screen jutting out of the dashboard is eye-catching. It is paired to an eight-speaker Harman audio system and supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Nexon's USP is still its ample cabin and stowage space, comfortable seats and user-friendly features. Now, this AMT version will presently be offered only in the top-of-the-line XZ trims. So, it has pretty much everything that one has come to expect with the standard kit on the regular Nexon. It’s loaded with comfort and convenience features like automatic climate control, rear air-con unit, multi-function steering wheel etc. Then, there are safety features including standard dual airbags, ABS, EBD etc. However, the ones that make the AMT trim unique are hill assist to avoid the car roll backwards and a wearable water-resistant PEPs key.

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

How does it drive?

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

The diesel AMT is powered by the existing 1.5-litre diesel unit producing 108bhp of power and 260Nm of torque. Let’s talk about its primary feature – the AMT. It gets the same six-speed transmission. But now, using hydraulic actuators, it changes gears with clutch-less gearshifts. This felt particularly good, especially the creep function that allows the driver to inch forward in traffic without continuous throttle inputs. This is surprisingly jerk-free too, making it a boon at low speeds.

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

As with the previous iterations, engine characteristics and drivability is good, and thanks to this, the AMT gearbox works well with this engine. You can feel the turbo lag with a slight surge post 1,600rpm as the turbo spools up and continues to rev effortlessly till 4,500rpm. Like in the manual version, be it the Eco, City or Sport mode, there is more than enough go with seamless power. In the Eco mode, in pursuit of fuel economy, the gearbox shifts up early. Nonetheless, the engine response is good when you mash the throttle to drop a cog or two. Unlike a typical AMT, there is not much head nod while changing gears, and the key here is torque that helps the car cruise with a strong mid-range or make quick overtakes. What also works in the AMT’s favour is that the clutch in the manual transmission version is heavy. This, on the other hand, gives you a relatively stress-free drive.

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

Like the diesel mill, the 1.2-litre petrol engine is also carried over. It’s a three-cylinder unit delivering 108bhp and 170Nm of torque. The lag on this small capacity turbo-petrol motor is more pronounced so the AMT isn’t as well-suited to the petrol as it is to the diesel. Nonetheless, this gearbox does a good job of working around the lag. In the Eco mode, the Nexon is slow to get off the mark and remains sluggish. One needs to step down on the accelerator pedal to keep the car moving. The City mode feels better, but it’s the sports mode which we stuck to for making brisk progress. Notably, the AMT gearbox comes as an advantage here as it keeps the engine in the meat of the powerband.  This is not really a refined motor, but the AMT still keeps the revs low. Thankfully the task of constantly working through the gears manually is phased out and the driver remains at peace. Anyway if the need arises, one may avail of the option of putting it in manual mode which automatically activates the Sport mode. The driver gets to control the gears manually, which is the same in the diesel AMT sibling as well. 

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

We love the Nexon for its ride quality which is impressive. It also has a tall stance with 209mm of ground clearance, balanced road manners and good straight-line stability. Although the diesel model feels a little stiffer than its lighter petrol sibling, both are well-damped and provide a comfortable ride on well paved roads or broken ones. The body roll is well-contained - the Goodyear tyres provide sufficient grip with ABS as standard. What´s more, the brakes have good stopping power but they could have had more initial bite and feedback for such a heavy car. The steering feels heavy only during quick direction changes. Otherwise it’s light, fairly predictable and resolved – traits which I quite liked.

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

Should I buy one?

It´s definitely more fun driving around in a stick-shift, but an automatic makes more sense if simplicity and ease of mind is what one is looking for. The Nexon has a good ride, drives well, is feature-packed and looks good. The introduction of the AMT also makes for an easy-to-drive package for someone buying their first car. It’s not only more convenient to drive, but also more desirable with the several new features. Of course, we will have to wait for the announcement of prices and going by the past experiences, it might be Rs 30,000-50,000 more than the manual version which still isn’t a big penalty. It should also be noted that AMT will be available in the top-of-the-line XZA+ variants only. Tata should plan to launch an entry-level AMT variant if only to make the price point lucrative.

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

Where does it fit in?

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

The compact SUV market is getting incredibly competitive these days. However, the availability of automatics in this segment is still extremely limited with the Ford EcoSport AT available only in the petrol trim and the Mahindra TUV300 AMT in the diesel model. So that works in the Nexon´s favour too.

Tata Nexon AMT First Drive Review

Pictures by Kapil Angane

Tata Nexon Petrol manual First Drive Review

Tata Nexon Diesel manual First Drive Review

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Tata Nexon Price in India

CityOn-Road Prices
Mumbai₹ 7.87 Lakhs onwards
Bangalore₹ 8.24 Lakhs onwards
New Delhi₹ 7.6 Lakhs onwards
Pune₹ 7.83 Lakhs onwards
Hyderabad₹ 7.98 Lakhs onwards
Ahmedabad₹ 7.82 Lakhs onwards
Chennai₹ 8.01 Lakhs onwards
Kolkata₹ 7.66 Lakhs onwards
Chandigarh₹ 7.38 Lakhs onwards
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