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.
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.
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.
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.