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Tata Nexon: First Drive Review

  • Aug 08, 2017
  • 12932 Views
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The Tata Nexon will soon enter the Indian market and will go against the likes of Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza, Ford EcoSport, Honda WR-V and Hyundai i20 Active. To outsell its rivals, the Nexon will have to be more practical than a hatchback and look rugged as well. It gets a new set of engines as well, which can either make or break the game. We drive both the petrol and diesel Nexon to find out what it brings to the table.

Exterior

The Tata Nexon is neither a sub-compact SUV nor a hatchback on stilts. It’s a crossover in the true sense. The SUV traits of the Nexon are ground clearance, which at 209mm is comparable with the Renault Duster, and large 16-inch wheels.

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The unconventional design is eye-catchy. The top-spec XZ+ variant of the Nexon that we drove sported a contrast-colour roof in steel grey with both red and blue exterior colours. The signature element is an off-white plastic trim that runs just under the greenhouse on the side. It continues at the rear too, but that’s paint and not plastic.

The elements that add to the bold front look are pulled back projector headlamps with LED daytime running lamps, high-set fog lamps, a large front air intake and flared wheel arches. While the Nexon looks SUV-ish from the front, the rear is more hatchback-like. The high ground clearance is hard to miss, and the stock tyres (215/60 R16) look wide for a vehicle of the Nexon’s size. The faux skid plate on the rear bumper adds some ruggedness.

Interior

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The Nexon’s interior has three prominent layers. The upper portion is finished in dark grey plastic, and its quality is on par with its peers. The middle layer gets an aluminium finish, and it looks particularly upmarket. The third and the lowermost layer is a plastic of greyish shade of beige. This plastic is hard to touch, and the fit and finish levels aren’t too high either. Overall, Tata has managed to do a good job of ensuring satisfactory quality levels at contact points.

Sitting atop the Nexon’s dashboard is a 6.5-inch Harman infotainment system that’s fixed to the dashboard. There’s simply no missing it. More importantly, it feels high quality and well thought out.

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The centre console extends from under the central AC vents and goes all the way to the rear. Apart from the climate control knobs, it houses a USB and an AUX port and the Drive Select knob as well. It also gets a pair of cup holders that can be shut with a Tambour door, which is a roller shutter that you see on some of the higher-end cars. Move further behind, and there’s the armrest that opens up a small glove box with enough space to keep your smartphone and your wallet. The centre arm stretches all the way to the rear cabin and houses air con blowers for the rear passengers.

The Nexon is a car best suited for four. It doesn’t mean that the cabin is not spacious, just that the rear seats are designed such. So, while you get a bench at the rear, the seats are properly contoured buckets for two passengers. There’s a central armrest which folds up in case you wish to seat a third passenger. But you wouldn’t want to do that unless you’re doing short distances.

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Engine & Transmission

The Nexon gets a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine and a 1.5-litre turbocharged diesel engine. Both the engines are paired with a 6-speed manual transmission and churn out 110PS of maximum power. Both have been developed by Tata in-house, and while the petrol engine is exactly a turbocharged version of the Tigor’s engine, the diesel engine is completely new.

The diesel engine makes 260Nm of peak torque at 1500-2700rpm and 110PS of maximum power at 3750rpm. The fact that it’s not completely dead below the max torque range makes it all the more special. It offers you the flexibility to drive it in 3rd gear at speeds of around 30-40kmph without the need to downshift, and it also does about 80kmph in 2nd gear at around 4000rpm (redline starts) without feeling harsh or stretched.

The 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder petrol engine of the Tigor gets a 25PS power burst with the turbocharger on it. It makes 110PS of max power at 5000rpm and 170Nm of peak torque at 1750-4000rpm.
The petrol engine isn’t as exciting or refined as the diesel unit. So, while the diesel engine is responsive even at low rpm, the petrol engine feels quite sluggish, and in case you’re driving with a full house, the progress gets much slower. The petrol engine hits the meat of its powerband just around 3000rpm and not 1750rpm, where max torque starts to kick in.

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The Nexon gets three drives modes – Sport, Eco and City, and all the three vary the character of the engine so much so that you can actually make use of them wisely. While the Sport mode lets loose all reins, the City mode makes the engine feel slightly strained as you rev high. The Eco mode amplifies the restraint a bit more.

Ride, Handling and Braking

The Nexon gets McPherson struts up front and a twist beam setup at the rear. The ride is soft and because there’s not much body roll, it feels plush on the inside. It deals with potholes in the manner of bigger SUVs. So all you feel inside is a toned down thud and some cabin jerk that settles down pretty quick. The Nexon also feels quite confident on the road, and stability at highway speeds is not a concern either.

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Verdict

The Nexon’s loud styling might not appeal to all, but will definitely click with those looking for something different. Yes, quality control could’ve been slightly better and the petrol motor could’ve been a notch more responsive. That said, neither of these are reasons to rule the Nexon out completely. At an expected price tag of Rs 6 lakh to Rs 9 lakh, it does spell trouble for the contenders in the sub-4-metre SUV space.
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