If there is one company that makes huge leaps and bounds in terms of product quality in the recent times, it is Tata Motors. Forget when they were learning to make cars two decades ago; today, they have unique portfolio of products that can stand with the best the industry can throw at them. Enter Nexon – the next big thing from Tata.
The styling is a bit of mixed bag but impresses for the most part. For one, it looks like a concept car and isn’t far removed the original concept that was shown at the Auto Expo in 2014. Out on the road, it makes everything else around it look dated. That said, it is one step too far with the curved roof and too many elements thrown in. You can see it around the A and C pillars where it is a congregation of shut lines. The contrasting silver roof adds to the overall aesthetics. The front has a bold grille and headlamp give it a smiling face like most Tata cars, the roof line is more hatchback than SUV, and the rear is a quite unconventional. The sixteen inch wheels could have a better design, but they fill up the arches rather well. There is a strong waistline in contrasting ceramic finish, but that is prone to getting scratched.
The interiors feel great. Everything feels nice to touch and has a quality vibe. The textured dash, the quilted roofline, the seats, the strip of silver that runs across the dash, the controls – all feel upmarket. You get the usual keyless entry, start-stop functionality, automatic climate control etc, but the Tata offers more. You get a wrist band, like in the Jaguar F-Pace, which acts as the key and is perfect for outdoor activities. The central touch screen is the best we have seen in a reasonably priced car. It has Android Auto at the moment, the interface is excellent, there is good readability in sunlight and there are a myriad of apps to improve functionality. The rear view camera however is letdown by poor quality and the touch functionality of the system is a bit laggy. But it sounds great with the Harman Kardon setup with 8 speakers. There are lots of cubby spaces inside, but most of them are rather poorly executed. For instance, the cupholders in the centre console don’t operate smoothly and the umbrella holders in the door are awkwardly positioned to be of any real use. Front seats are set high and you don’t need too much effort to find a driving position that suits you. Although it is best suited for two at the rear, there is ample headroom than the sloping roofline suggests. The seats themselves have good cushioning and offer a good posture, although the high waistline has compromised outside view for rear seat passengers. Boot is sufficient at 350litres and the rear seat offers 60:40 split folding when you need additional boot space.
The Nexon gets two engines – a 1.2 litre petrol and 1.5 litre diesel, both with an identical 110bhp. The petrol is the same engine as the Tiago and Tigor, but with a turbocharger and variable valve timing added. This engine produces 170Nm torque but it isn’t that impressive on the road. It needs a bit of revs to get the turbo spooling and once on the move too, you can tell the fuelling could have been better calibrated. It doesn’t enjoy being revved high and you are best of riding the midrange where it feels least perturbed. The clutch is light and the gearbox is reasonably smooth, which somehow save the day.
The 1.5 litre diesel is also a derivative of the one in the Tiago and Tigor, but with an extra cylinder taking the total number to four. The motor is very tractable around town and you can feel the 260Nm torque at play when pottering around town. Even on the highway, the addition of the sixth gear makes it feel relaxed at high speeds. The diesel engine is less clattery on idle, but you do feel some vibrations. That the Nexon weighs 1305kg – a 110kg more than the Brezza – and its engine doesn’t rev beyond 4500rpm imparts performance. Also the power delivery is rather linear, it is best to drive this in a relaxed manner.
The ride quality is where the Nexon shines. It isn’t overtly soft, but rides very well over potholes and broken road surfaces. There is some firmness but not to the point where it gets disturbing. There is very little body roll and the steering feels pretty accurate. Grip from the tyres is decent and the brakes are quite reassuring too. It isn’t as good to drive fast as an Ecosport or Brezza though, but considering its target buyers, is up there with them.
The Nexon, though it isn’t the most complete car we expected, enters the hottest segment of compact SUVs, with a few strong points. The styling, the interiors, the equipment list and the exemplary ride quality are all going to be appreciated by Indian buyers. While the Hexa is actually a facelifted Aria and the Tiago and Tigor were built to meet a certain price point, the Nexon has to be the most flexible, no-expenses-spared, grounds-up build in the Tata range. It has potential to put Tata back on top in the Indian car buyer’s radar and the huge waiting periods of Brezza should help things here. But it all boils down to how they price it. And like I said before, Tata needs to work on its image and this is one way to do it.