Why would I buy it?
- Road presence
- Improved cabin design
- New-age features
Why would I avoid it?
- ADAS available only in higher variants
- No AWD on offer
What is it?
This is the 2023 avatar of the Tata Safari. Though it’s a facelifted model, it gets changes that make it look like a concept and more upmarket than its predecessor. It’s got a new face with a single grille, which is quite unique with accents that match the exterior body colour on this version. The connected LED bar gets a welcome feature, while the new squared-off headlamp housings on the re-sculpted bumper further help in differentiating it from the earlier model.
The new 19-inch wheels look nice and sturdy with their design similar to the Sierra concept’s wheels showcased at this year's Auto Expo. Then, the rear section has been updated with tweaked taillamps and a new LED bar that boasts the welcome and goodbye animation in line with the front. Besides, there's a faux skid plate on the redesigned bumper with vertically stacked reflectors and reverse light housing. The question is, is the 2023 Safari better than the previous model?
Is the cabin of the 2023 Safari any good?
8 / 10
Although the interior has also been revamped, the design remains more or less the same. The most prominent update is the new steering wheel with an illuminated Tata logo that we saw on the new Nexon. It’s worth mentioning that the carmaker incorporated our critical feedback from last time, regarding the odd placement of the horn and the extra effort to use it. This time, it has been repositioned towards the centre, and is sensitive to inputs, unlike our previous experience.
Another change inside the new Safari is in the form of touch controls for the AC. Other crucial updates on the dashboard include a 12.3-inch infotainment screen and a fully digital instrument cluster. The latter is replete with a chunk of information including ADAS. Plus, it gets readable fonts, is fast to respond, and is highly customisable. The same is the case with the touchscreen with its clean UI and quick responses, though there’s no haptic feedback or any knobs for quick control.
The seating layout remains unchanged, with good space inside in all rows. However, a major improvement which makes the interior feel more upmarket is the better quality of materials used for the upholstery, dashboard, door pads, and most areas. Nothing feels cheap or out of place, and it still is robust in nature. Also, the Safari was known for its boss mode, and it continues to be, with a laid-back seating style but now with added power adjustments. Besides, the seats get adjustable headrests, thus elevating comfort. To further add to the delight, there are ventilated seats in both rows. This is going to be a boon in our hot and humid climate.
Even in terms of safety, Tata has tried to go a step further. For example, six airbags are standard across all variants/personas, but now, its top-spec version gets an additional driver’s knee airbag as well. Moreover, the Safari gets a 360-degree camera and ADAS, which includes new features like adaptive cruise control and stop-n-go, high beam assist, lane change alert, and lane departure warning. Then, there’s door open alert, traffic sign recognition, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert, among other features. The other crucial ones include rear collision warning, forward collision warning, and even autonomous emergency braking which worked efficiently. It also gets disc brakes all around.
Lest we forget, the Safari gets a new e-call feature for assistance in case of emergencies. The breakdown call intimates the roadside assistance service at the touch of a button. Other noteworthy tech appeals that worked effortlessly include the new TFT cluster, terrain mode selector with TFT screen, audio controls paired with Alexa, powered tailgate opening, and the connected car experience. Lastly, whether you chose the six- or seven-seater version, every persona — from the entry-level Smart to the top-spec Accomplished+ — offers a good variation in exterior colour options and material choices too.
Is the 2023 Safari nice to drive?
8 / 10
The facelifted Safari continues to be powered by the same 2.0-litre Kryotec diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual or a six-speed torque converter automatic unit. This motor is BS6 Phase 2-compliant and is tuned to produce 168bhp and 350Nm of peak torque. This, paired with the automatic, still works perfectly well. And if the new segment-first E-shifter (shift by wire) tech is to go by, the experience has only improved. The shifts still feel quick, smooth, and more importantly, in sync with the engine’s characteristics and how it puts the power down. There’s enough torque to pull from slower speeds and the gearbox’s instant response, whether to shift up or down, makes things feel good. One can use the new paddle shifters too, which respond well and make the driving experience quite engaging.
As was the case before, the Eco, City, and Sport modes liven up the driving experience with responsive throttle inputs. It has sufficient load-carrying and people-hauling capabilities, be it in the city or on the highway. It even manages to overtake without any effort despite being a big burly vehicle. This Tata SUV stays planted and stable at triple-digit speeds. Although it is bigger and heavier than the Harrier, its performance isn’t dull. Moreover, the terrain mode selector helps alter the response through the software maps and works efficiently like before. Still, some off-road enthusiasts will point out that AWD would have made the SUV more capable in hilly regions and slippery conditions. But from our experience, for the most part, it will tackle trails and rough terrain with poise.
On the ride and handling front, the Safari continues to tower over broken roads, potholes, ruts, etc. with its high ground clearance, tall stance, and well-balanced suspension. So, be it low-speed bump absorption or high-speed thuds, occupants won’t feel unsettled and there’s not much noise heard inside. Its robust nature and build outshines, of course, with the Land Rover DNA in its underpinnings.
The heavier hydraulic steering was a cause of concern for some old Safari owners, and it has been taken care of by the new electronic power steering. It does feel lighter at lower speeds but manages to add that weight as the speed builds up, as seen in the Sport mode too. The ADAS doesn’t feel intrusive and manages to guide if the car is veering off the marked lanes. On the braking front too, the all-discs continue to provide good stopping power and are well tuned to the emergency automatic braking system. It worked as seamlessly as the adaptive cruise control, which functioned at the touch of a command.
Should you buy the 2023 Safari?
8 / 10
With plenty of body colours to choose from, including the dual-tone option, which is a first in this segment, and with many new features, Tata Motors wants to ensure that the new Safari appeals to a wider audience. With its macho appearance, it still can be a symbol of authority while offering a premium and spacious cabin. Moreover, prospective buyers get new technology and added connectivity, while cocooned in safety. The pricing isn’t available yet, but if Tata Motors doesn’t ask for an unreasonable premium, it will be easy for a buyer to decide, as the 2023 Safari is indeed quite appealing with the new changes.
Pictures by Kaustubh Gandhi