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Tata Nexon Road Test

Introduction

Let’s face it, a decade or so ago, not many people would have recommended a Tata vehicle to their comrades. For years, the local brand was seen as a typical budget box on wheels, with hardly any compelling products. However, in the last few years we have seen Tata Motors bettering their quality and churning out some impressive cars, and what better product to represent the evolution than the all-new Nexon. 

In a market as competitive as the compact SUV segment, being simply good isn’t enough, which is why Tata has come out all guns blazing with the Nexon. Stylish, comfortable and feature-rich, here’s how the Nexon is changing the public’s perception of Tata Motors to that of a brand that "has come a long way". 

Design and Style

As far as compact SUVs go, the Nexon is a bit out there – running in the midst of traditional, slab-sided, high-riding vehicles and there’s a lot going on with its design. With its multilayer headlights at the front, through the bulging wheel arches to the very specific and animated rear-end, if the Nexon is a vision of Tata’s future designs, that future is pretty funky. Throughout our road-testing period, the Nexon managed to turn heads wherever we went. 

Better still, it’s one of those rare cars that fairly mimic its erstwhile concept form. Bits like the smiling mesh grille, high-set projectors headlamps and those razor blade-like 16-inch alloy wheels look striking without appearing overdone. It’s even got a few unique touches like the grey coloured roof and the thick white strip that runs across the car. While the no-frills, entry-level XE trim comes standard with the ceramic white trim on the bumper and around the glass area, it loses out on the grey coloured roof. Also, it doesn’t get projector headlamps, 16-inch alloys, LED daytime running lights and front fog lamps.

The Nexon’s appearance, then, is a little more daring than what we have seen in this segment. We wouldn’t call it a heavily polarizing design but it is bold, indeed. 

Interior

As funky as its exterior is, inside the Nexon, the cabin is sophisticated in its design and well finished to an extent. Most of that multilayer dashboard is made of good quality materials and even the design appears less generic and rather sleek. What you see is matched with some nice looking light grey trim bits and a higher standard of fit and finish compared to other models from Tata in recent years. It’s not entirely original though. You will notice some inspiration from European luxury carmakers in the layout of the media screen and a few other bits. Nonetheless, that BMW-like free standing touchscreen display and a centre console that extends all the way in between the front seats are elements that are entirely new to buyers in this segment.

Sticking out of the dash, the touch display catches the eye as soon as you turn the key. Interestingly, the font design and layout for some of the functions resemble Audi’s MMI system in many ways. More on that later…

As for the all-important quality, the Nexon is a step-up over the rest of the Tata line-up. The brand has nailed it when it comes to overall ambience by cleverly using black, grey and a few glossy black trim bits. Having said that, fit and finish is still an area of concern – bits like the power window switches, lower half of the dash and wiper/lights stalks feel flimsy. Overall, the material build and plastic quality is on par with Maruti Vitara Brezza, however, it isn’t as solidly built as the 2017 Ford EcoSport we recently tested. Ergonomically, the Nexon is among Tata’s better efforts, featuring a large glove-box and cup holders over the rear armrest, but it’s not perfect. The storage space under the front armrest is too narrow and useless for regular size cups and even the glove-box lid which comes with several tiny utility spaces is of no use when you have a front passenger. What’s more, the control stalks behind the wheel are oddly angled, meaning they require full twist of your palm to engage them.

The Nexon gains back some points when it comes to space and comfort. The front seats are adequately large and the stiff side bolstering does a good job of keeping you in place. The legroom and headroom are generous too. The only thing that needs improving upfront is better thigh support and a more ergonomically sound driving position – the pedals are slightly off-set and the steering wheel feels a tad too close to the driver. The Nexon’s extra width over its competitors pays dividends as you switch to the rear seat. It is softly padded, offers more lateral support than all its rivals, has adequate contours and the backrest angle is close to perfect as well. Tata is even offering air vents at the back, a 12 volt outlet and cup holders in the armrest for added convenience. However, the latter arrangement is poorly finished. The boot, at 350-litres, is right on the money for a vehicle of this size. It’s wide, cleanly spaced out and thanks to the 60:40 split folding rear seats, can be extended to 690-litres.

Safety and Equipment

The Harman developed infotainment system with that pop-out display is definitely the cabin highlight. Unlike other Tata models including the Hexa, this system gets a crisp, high-res display that interestingly enough looks a lot like Audi’s MMI unit. While it looks nice and modern, this system could use better computing power as it’s nowhere as smooth as the new EcoSport’s multimedia system. That being said, the Nexon’s 8-speaker system delivers exceptional audio quality. 

As for the overall equipment, the Nexon gets all the basics like climate control, key-less go, reverse camera with guidance and daytime running lamps. Meanwhile, ABS and airbags come as standard across all trims including the entry-level XE. The top-spec trim even gets a water-proof wrist band which acts like a key. It acts as a great feature for those who often go running and swimming and don't want the hassle of carrying the key fob. Oddly enough, the Nexon misses out on rain sensing wipers, automatic headlamps and cruise control – features that are common in this segment.

Engine, Performance and Braking

We will get past the numbers first. Tata is offering the Nexon with two turbocharged engine options – a 1.2-litre petrol and a 1.5-litre diesel, both developing 109bhp of power and 170Nm, 260Nm of torque respectively. Both are paired to a 6-speed manual gearbox and come with three driving modes - Eco, City and Sport. 

The three-cylinder petrol motor is a quiet performer; however, its modest power output means it ends up struggling at times to pull the Nexon’s heft. Peak torque is available from just below 2,000rpm but peak power doesn’t come in until 5,500rpm, meaning that you have got to rev that motor more than you would economically like to zip along with traffic. The power delivery isn’t exactly linear either because of some flat spots around mid-range. Also, the engine feels extremely dull and unresponsive in Eco mode when it’s not on boost. That said, you can get around it by switching to Sport mode wherein throttle response is noticeably better. All said, we ended up driving the Nexon petrol in Sport throughout the testing period. In the latter mode, it’s not sluggish in any way, nor is it a hurried car. If you like driving in a relaxed manner then the Nexon petrol will suit.

While the petrol powered version is nice and quiet, the Nexon is best served with the turbo diesel motor. The latter is simply effortless in its performance (thanks to the extra torque) and surprisingly refined. The motor, in fact, delivers torque in a linear way with just a hint of turbo lag below 1,600rpm. On boost, it pulls hard all the way till 4,200rpm without ever sounding coarse. There is no denying that it becomes noisy at higher revs but it does feel more refined than the Brezza’s motor. However, we would like to add that our test car’s engine, though smoother, kept making weird noises, especially after continuous hard pull. Meanwhile, the 6-speed gearbox is equally good when it comes to the shift action, but the clutch pedal is springy and you can never really gauge the bite point. 

Strapped to our timing gear, the Nexon posted some quick times, with 0-100kmph coming up in 12.73 seconds. It does 20-80kmph in third in just 9.89 seconds and takes 12.02 seconds to accelerate from 40-100kmph in fourth, resulting in significantly quicker roll-on times compared to its arch rival, the Vitara Brezza. The Nexon has even got different drive modes that alter throttle response to favour economy or performance. In Eco mode, it accelerates in a fairly leisurely manner, taking nearly 19 seconds to hit 100kmph. The petrol Nexon proved to be marginally slower flat-out, taking 13.02 seconds to hit 100kmph. 

Ride and Handling

The Nexon holds its composure in a straight line, however, it isn’t exactly fun when the going gets twisty. It’s steering is pretty much dead on-centre and generally feels vague. Sure, its chunky tires offer immense grip and it’s fairly stable around the corners, but the Nexon doesn’t like to be chucked around – it’s tall stance and heft means it suffers from body roll and slow turn-ins. 

As for the ride quality, the low speed ride is remarkably plush and absorbent with a nice, soft edge over rippled surfaces. Like most large Tata cars, the Nexon deals with high frequency bumps nicely and even if you hit large potholes they don’t transmit into the cabin. Once up to speed, the Nexon is comfortable and quiet, with little wind and tyre noise entering the cabin while the suspension irons out the lumps and bumps nicely. Now because it’s softly sprung (which gives it immense ability to absorb bumps at low speeds), there is slightly more vertical movement than we would have liked at high speeds, but it’s no deal breaker. 

Price and Fuel Economy

Tata is offering the Nexon in five trim levels – XE, XM, XT, XZ Plus and XZ Plus Dual Tone. The petrol range is priced between Rs 5.87 lakhs and Rs 8.62 lakhs while the diesel range is priced between Rs 6.87 lakhs and Rs 9.47 lakhs. In comparison, the Vitara Brezza costs between Rs 7.30 and Rs 9.94 lakhs. 

The Nexon diesel delivered 13.9kmpl and 18.7kmpl in city and highway conditions respectively. Predictably, the petrol powered version used up more fuel, delivering 10.03kmpl and 14.1kmpl under similar conditions. 

Verdict

Ultimately, Tata’s first crack at the compact SUV space remains an impressive offering, with a premium look and feel. Better still; the Nexon is one of Tata’s best efforts in an extremely competitive class. It may not be as nimble to drive as the Vitara Brezza or as plush on the inside as the new EcoSport, but for those want a striking looking vehicle with peerless ride quality and a spacious cabin, the Nexon remains a strong offering. It is difficult not to recommend the Nexon, especially the powerful diesel version. The off-beat appearance, potent diesel motor and the long list of features make it one of our favourite compact SUVs. 

 

Pictures by Kapil Angane

Click here for our detailed comparison test between Tata Nexon and Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza

 

Specification

CAR NAME Tata Nexon
Variant XZ+ Diesel XZ+ Petrol
ENGINE  
Fuel Diesel Petrol
Installation Front, transverse
Displacement 4 cyls, 1497cc 3 cyls, 1198cc
Bore/stroke 76.0/82.5mm 75.0/67.50mm
Valve gear 4 valves per cyl 4 valves per cyl
Power 108bhp at 3750rpm 108bhp at 5000rpm
Torque 260nm at 1500rpm 170nm at 1750rpm
Power to weight 83.07bhp per tonne 87.80bhp per tonne
Torque to weight 200Nm per tonne 138.21Nm per tonne
Gearbox 6-speed manual 6-speed manual
CHASSIS & BODY  
Construction Monocoque, four-door 
Kerb weight 1300kg 1230kg
Tyres 215/60 R16
Spare Full size
STEERING  
Type Rack and pinion, electric power steering
Turning circle 10.5m
BRAKES  
Front Discs
Rear Drums
Anti-lock Yes

Test Data

PERFORMANCE & BRAKING  
  XZ+ Diesel                                            XZ+ Petrol
0-20kph 1.06s 1.37s
0-40kph 3.08s 3.24s
0-60kph 5.34s 5.55s
0-80kph 8.62s 8.90s
0-100kph 12.73s 13.02s
0-120kph 17.86s 18.55s
     
     
20-80kph in 3rd gear 9.89s 16.10s
40-100kph in 4th gear 12.02s 15.38s
     
80-0kph                        25.41                                                     25.41
FUEL ECONOMY  
City 13.9kmpl 10.03kmpl
Highway 18.7kmpl 14.10kmpl
Tank size 44 litres 44 litres
Range 614km 521km
INTERIOR MEASUREMENTS  
Front  
Kneeroom(Max/min) 820/630mm
Headroom(Max/min) 980mm
Shoulder room 1310mm
Seat base length 510mm
Backrest height 590mm
Rear   
1m kneeroom 730mm
Kneeroom(Max/min) 910/720mm
Headroom 920mm
Shoulder room 1380mm
Seat base length 490mm
Backrest height 610mm
Boot  368 litres 
Depth/width/height 710/940/550mm
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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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