When anyone talks about a small SUV from Tata Motors, you know they must be talking about the Nexon. And that isn't surprising as this entry-level compact SUV has earned quite some recognition in our market. Its popularity is so much that it plying on our Indian roads is quite a common sight these days. This one, however, is the latest version that looks quite similar to its electric cousin. Now you may ask, what do you mean by that? I'll explain.
The carmaker has introduced this iteration during its transition to comply with BS6 norms. Along with updated engine options, it gets minor but quite tasteful changes. And this cosmetic makeover is in line with the Nexon EV that was launched last year. Here, we get into all the details of the changes as we tell you what's good and what's not so good about the car.
1. Looks stunning with a strong road presence
Everyone appreciated the Nexon for its proper SUV looks and not just being another beefed-up hatchback. This continues with this 2020 model year update as well. The fascia is new with a reworked hood and a revised grille similar to the electric version. And if you remember the white ceramic elements from the older model, they're gone. Instead, there are slimmer and reshaped headlamps that integrate a tri-arrow pattern for the DRLs. Interestingly, this same pattern can be found in the lower grille which does add to its appeal.
Now on to the sides, the unique white band still runs below the window line. It adds more character to the SUV along with a new pattern for the alloys. Even the tail lamps are new and give a distinct look to the Nexon. And if you compare it to its predecessor - this one has a very mature appearance. All of these changes as mentioned earlier are minor but quite impactful. They indeed make the Nexon the most good-looking SUV in this segment.
2. Torquey and frugal engine
Tata Motors has updated the 1.5-litre diesel engine to comply with the stringent BS6 emissions norms. And it can be had either as manual or with an automatic transmission. This turbocharged mill produces 108bhp of power and 260Nm of torque. Its ARAI-claimed fuel efficiency is a nice 22.4kmpl. What we have here comes mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
It continues to get the eco, city, and sport driving modes, with each one showing a considerable difference in throttle response. And be it any mode, the engine quite linearly delivers the power to the front wheels. There's a healthy amount of torque that gives it enough muscle to overtake slower moving traffic. Even out on the highway, you won't be left wanting as it's quick enough to provide that sufficient punch while overtaking. In fact, going past a long vehicle can be done very confidently and will also be hassle-free.
Its performance feels effortless and owners will love it whether they are driving it in the city or taking it out on a highway. Yes, the engine does have the diesel clatter even if Tata has done a good job of insulating this noise. Yet, go past 2,000rpm and the engine note is quite audible. Good thing is that the turbo spools up at 1,500rpm and you don't have to constantly downshift to make progress. You will hardly be revving the motor to its 4,000rpm redline when it gets noisier. One will mostly be ambling below the 2,000rpm mark as the SUV continues to gather speed and easily cruise at triple-digit speeds.
3. Well-sorted ride and handling
The new-age Tata cars have set a high benchmark for good ride quality and the Nexon carries forward this trait. It has been appreciated in the past for its nicely tuned suspension that now provides the right balance for both slow and high-speed rides. Though the slight underlying firmness at slow speeds can be felt only over sharp-edged potholes, all occupants will still be very comfortable while traversing our unpredictable road conditions. The Nexon gets 16-inch alloys with a high-profile rubber. This paired with a ground clearance of 209mm, it has quite a high-riding stance. It's commendable how nicely it absorbs all thuds over broken roads and off the road. And while doing so, it stays very stable as it does over flat sections of the highway. Although I expected a little more feel and feedback from its brakes, then that's just me. These ABS-equipped front disc and rear drum brakes lend enough braking power for this SUV.
If you've driven the previous version of the Nexon, you will be pleasantly surprised what an improvement there is in its handling. The Nexon's steering doesn't feel dead with a better feel and feedback. It weighs up consistently and responds well to the steering inputs. And despite being an SUV, you don't have to muscle around a bit. Efforts you will put in are quite minimal, in fact, similar to what you would while driving a smaller hatchback. As a result, it is quite easy to park and thanks to its compact footprint - easy to fit into traffic gaps as well.
4. Spacious and feature-packed cabin
Despite having a compact footprint, Tata’s engineers have managed to carve out a good space inside the Nexon. And now, it’s a feature-rich cabin as well. This top-spec trim is handsomely packed with many features. On the outside, you have equipment like projector lamps, LED DRLs, LED tail lamps, etc. Then, inside there's an engine push-start button, keyless entry, a touchscreen infotainment system, automatic climate control, cruise control, etc. Remarkably, it now even gets a digital instrument cluster, tyre-pressure monitoring system, and nowadays, a much-in-demand feature - a sunroof. Do note, you might find the bottle holder placement a bit odd. But then, the nifty idea of incorporating space for a small umbrella is still carried over.
Otherwise, space-wise too, 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.
Now let's speak of a new ‘Xpress Cool’ button that has been added. This one puts the blower on max speed and simultaneously pulls the driver window down automatically. This helps in cooling the cabin faster which will be quite a delight owing to the hot and humid climatic conditions in our country. Then, connected car technology is something many users have been wanting. Well, that's also taken care of through the brand’s IRA technology. This is something which is now being offered by many manufacturers in new cars. The connected technology on the Tata Nexon is called the iRA or intelligent Real-Time Assist. This 2020 Tata Nexon is said to be the first product from the brand to receive this feature. It comes with a host of additional smart features including geofencing, intrusion alert, find-my-car via a smartphone application, vehicle-crash notification, and live vehicle diagnostics. Then, there are voice commands specially developed to understand Hindi, English, and even Hinglish (Hindi + English) as well. What's more, the iRA connected technology also comes with What3words - a step-by-step navigation feature. This feature goes on to analyse the driving patterns and provides feedback too.
5. Safety equipment
You also must be quite familiar by now with the new Tata cars scoring high on safety. It, in fact, started with the Nexon as it was the first model to receive a five-star safety rating from Global NCAP. Also, it's not just for the tremendous road presence, but the Nexon has been appreciated for its tough construction as well. The quality of materials used does give it a built-to-last feel. Besides, its robust underpinnings have proved its solid build quality over time. Gladly, the new one also continues to boast a five-star NCAP safety rating ensuring owners and prospective buyers of a very safe car. This is backed up by a safety suite of dual-airbags, roll-over mitigation, ABS with EBD, traction control, and more.
1. Quality can be better
Though this is one of the most spacious ones in its segment, the cabin can see some improvement. Tata Motors has made an effort with this makeover but it still lacks that finesse to make it shine amongst the competition. Forget soft-touch materials, but there are some of these scratchy hard plastics. Even the rough edges of some parts can be felt. Plastics in the centre console could get better in terms of quality and feel. The same goes for the door pads which don't look the best and could have had a better texture. Even the black shiny materials may look good, but the problem is they reflect light. And with time, they are easily going to get scratches. The way two different materials meet, panel gaps, and quality of materials can still see some improvement. It will be a delight to have a more premium feel with a better fit, finish, and quality.
2. Small niggles
Now, you may say I'm nit-picking but these are things many of you will also agree to. For example, the Nexon doesn't get an auto-dimming mirror and a telescopic steering adjustment. Finding a perfect driving position is going to be difficult for both short and tall individuals. Shorter ones will increase the seat height to find the steering too close and the taller ones can move their seat behind but the steering feels a little far from reach then. Also, the A-pillar is quite thick which does restrict some frontal visibility. Additionally, the windshield at the back is a small one and it's quite raked. As a result, it hinders rearward visibility and one doesn't have a very wide view.
You must have realised that apart from a few niggles, there's not much to complain about the SUV. It looks good, has a huge presence, yet is quite compact, still most spacious in its segment, and easy-to-drive. Then, this diesel motor is quite a potent one. Quite easy to recommend then.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi