• The Nexon remains calm and composed at high speeds and ma...
    The Nexon remains calm and composed at high speeds and makes for a good long-distance cruiser.
  • Headlamp’s blister-like indicator pod inspired by Nissan ...
    Headlamp’s blister-like indicator pod inspired by Nissan Juke.
  • Sharply cut tail-lamps with their LED elements look reall...
    Sharply cut tail-lamps with their LED elements look really slick.
  • Ceramic-look highlights are unique but all panels don’t l...
    Ceramic-look highlights are unique but all panels don’t line up perfectly.
  • Chrome band under blacked-out grille helps enhance visual...
    Chrome band under blacked-out grille helps enhance visual width.
  • Look closely at the rear windscreen and you’ll spot these...
    Look closely at the rear windscreen and you’ll spot these two tigers.
  • 209mm ground clearance better than some more hardcore SUVs.
    209mm ground clearance better than some more hardcore SUVs.
  • Front left windscreen wiper kinked awkwardly to maximise ...
    Front left windscreen wiper kinked awkwardly to maximise spread.
  • Activity Key wristband frees you from the need to carry t...
    Activity Key wristband frees you from the need to carry the key fob.
  • Useful umbrella holders in the front doors have channels ...
    Useful umbrella holders in the front doors have channels to drain water. But only small umbrellas fit.
  • Large drive mode selector is from the Hexa. Given its lim...
    Large drive mode selector is from the Hexa. Given its limited scope here, it seems like an overkill.
  • Rear air con is a first-in-class feature. There are two s...
    Rear air con is a first-in-class feature. There are two speeds for the blower as well.
  • Cabin is smartly turned out and uses different colours an...
    Cabin is smartly turned out and uses different colours and textures to good effect. Panel fit could be better at places though.
  • Shutter-like opening for the centre storage box is a deta...
    Shutter-like opening for the centre storage box is a detail you usually find in more expensive cars.
  • The high-set 6.5-inch touchscreen is easy to read but tou...
    The high-set 6.5-inch touchscreen is easy to read but touch responses aren’t slick and the system also operates with a bit of lag. You can use voice commands with good accuracy to adjust temperature and set radio stations, not so much for dialing numbers from your phone’s contacts list. Smartphone a
  • Front seats are large and well shaped but lumbar support ...
    Front seats are large and well shaped but lumbar support could be better.
  • Smartly contoured rear seats are very supportive. Space i...
    Smartly contoured rear seats are very supportive. Space is impressive too.
  • Large 350-litre boot and split/fold rear seats give Nexon...
    Large 350-litre boot and split/fold rear seats give Nexon big carrying ability.
  • Futuristic Nexon stands out in all settings. The concept ...
    Futuristic Nexon stands out in all settings. The concept car-like looks are central to its appeal.
1 / 0
Rating 8 8

2017 Tata Nexon review, road test

7th Sep 2017 4:05 pm

Is there more to the Tata Nexon than just designer looks? Our road test reveals all.

  • Make : Tata
  • Model : Nexon

Not since the Nano has so there been so much buzz surrounding a new Tata Motors product. First shown as a radical concept at the 2014 Auto Expo and then revealed in an utterly desirable production guise at the 2016 edition of the motor show, the Nexon compact SUV has been a long time coming. But Tata Motors needed all the time it could get to test, validate and fine-tune the compact SUV before final sign off. You see, the Nexon is not only Tata Motors’ first compact SUV but is also the launch vehicle for the carmaker’s 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, new 1.5-litre, four-cylinder diesel and new six-speed manual gearbox. A cumulative 1.7 million kilometres of testing later, the Nexon is finally headed to a Tata showroom near you.

We’ve put both versions of the Nexon under our road test scanner to bring you all the facts and figures, and tell you if the wait has been worth it.

The Nexon is the last of what Tata Motors calls ‘bridge products’, before a new generation of models spawned off its new Advanced Modular Platform (AMP) and L550 platform (shared with Land Rover) make production. The Nexon is built on Tata’s X1 platform that forms the basis for the Vista, Bolt and Zest. The high-riding X1 platform actually lends itself well to the Nexon, with the compact SUV boasting a class-leading ground clearance of 209mm. Like its main rivals, the Maruti Vitara Brezza and the Ford EcoSport, the Nexon measures just under 4m in length – essential to qualify it for tax sops on small cars – but is both the widest and the lowest of the monocoque-bodied compact SUVs.

See a Nexon in your rear-view mirror and you’ll be convinced there’s a big and tough SUV behind you. The wide grille, the effective use of chrome on the fascia and the muscular arches make the Nexon look wider than it is. The 16-inch wheels and chunky 215-section tyres also help the squat and confident stance. Look closely and you’ll also note the Nexon is full of intricate details. There are blister-like bulges for the indicators on the shapely headlights (similar to those on a Nissan Juke), and a funky mesh for the grille, just as you’d find on the Hexa. But completely unique are the ceramic-look plastic highlights around the fog lamps, at the window line and on the tailgate. What’s worth bringing up though is that these plastic panels are not extruded but use costlier injection-moulding that allows manufacture of more complex forms and of varying thickness. With the complexity, come challenges of panel fit. The interplay of so many surfaces and materials don’t all align well, leading to inconsistent panel gaps.

In general, the Nexon looks part-SUV, part-coupé and fully distinctive. The rich coat of silver for the upper half of the body (that is standard, by the way) will draw your attention to the beautiful flow from the raked A-pillars to the chunky C-pillars via the arced roof. And that pinched glasshouse just adds to the style. There’s not much bodywork aft the rear wheels but the compact tail with its sharply cut tail-lights and the ceramic-look elements laid out in a wide ‘X’ (to symbolize the Nexon’s X-factor we are told) looks particularly eye-catching.

It is fairly straightforward under the skin, with power from the transverse-mounted engine channelled to the front axle only. The Nexon’s suspension comprises front MacPherson struts and a rear torsion beam. Braking is via front discs and rear drums, and it uses an electric power steering. Interestingly though, the Nexon uses a different steering setup to its platform mates. Tipping the scales at 1,237kg, the petrol Nexon is lighter than the petrol EcoSport, but the 1,305kg Nexon diesel is the heaviest of the three diesels in the segment. Tata claims the Nexon, which comes with dual airbags, anti-lock brakes and Isofix child-seat mounts, meets India’s upcoming crash test regulations.

The Nexon complements its exciting exterior with an inviting interior that looks and feels contemporary. Individual elements, like the knitted roof lining and rich upholstery, come together really well to give the cabin a premium ambience. And while the smart dashboard is not radical in design, it uses high-grade plastics of multiple textures and finishes to great effect, some panel fit inconsistencies notwithstanding. In particular, the gloss metal-look bar that splits the dash horizontally adds a degree of robustness to the cabin.

The Nexon carries over the simple dials from the Tiago/Tigor but what’s all-new and stands out, quite literally so, is the floating 6.5-inch centre touchscreen positioned atop the dash. Its high position makes it relatively easy to refer to it on the go, but a larger size would have been welcome. Larger physical shortcut buttons for the infotainment system’s menus would also make life easier for drivers not entirely comfortable with using a touchscreen. Also, air con temperature and fan speed readouts, which you typically expect to find in the air-con control cluster are shifted to a corner of the screen, leaving an odd, blank space between the dials.

Still, the Nexon’s driving environment is rather nice. The large seat is comfy (you could be left wanting more lumbar support on long journeys though), the steering and gear lever are good to hold and there’s ample room in the footwell too. The last point is important to bring up because a cramped footwell and absence of a dead pedal have been perennial irritants on other cars built on the X1 platform. Tata engineers had to altogether reposition the ducting for the climate control system to free up the necessary space here. Drivers sit at a good height, but the thick A-pillars do obstruct visibility at crossroads. The small rear windscreen also limits the view out the back, but for what it’s worth, there is a provision to access the somewhat low-res rear-view camera even when the car is moving forward. There are some other ergonomic issues as well. The handbrake that’s offset to the left can result in awkward contact with the front passenger and the small slot that houses the USB/Aux inputs at the bottom of the centre console is hard to access.

Tata has been quite generous with space for smaller items within the cabin. There’s an umbrella holder, with channels to drain out water, built into the front doors and each of the doors also gets a large bottle holder. The huge (and cooled) glovebox is thoughtfully designed too, with a removable tray to keep your tablet/laptop on, and a lid with recesses for cups. There’s yet another storage bay that runs all the way from behind the gear lever to the elbow box. The premium sliding shutter that conceals much of this space (the rest can be accessed via the magnetised lid on the front centre armrest) looks straight out of a Jaguar, but the storage itself is too narrow and deep to be put to frequent use. Our test cars didn’t feature the flip-out cupholders that go here either. Also, the large rotary controller borrowed from the Hexa seems like an overkill as its only function here is to alter the drive modes. Freeing up that space for a dedicated cubby for a mobile phone, and moving the drive mode selector to one of the blank switches on the centre console, would have been more practical.

Looking at a Nexon, you’d half expect it to be cramped for rear-seat passengers. But that’s not the case. Yes, you do have to bend a bit to avoid contact with the low roof, but once inside, even taller occupants will find headroom adequate. The seat has been positioned low and the backrest is a touch too reclined to eke out every last bit of headroom, but you can live with the compromise. There is enough shoulder room to host a fifth passenger too, but the way the rear seats are contoured, it’s evident the Nexon was intended to be a four-seater. The seats offer terrific support and the big surprise is the ample kneeroom on offer. Occupants here also get a drop-down centre armrest with two cupholders, a 12V charging socket and first-in-segment rear air con vents with blower control. If anything, it’s that the upswept windows don’t give you
as good a view out as you’d expect from an SUV.

The Nexon boasts a class-leading 350-litre boot. Loading and unloading luggage is fairly easy and you can split the rear seats 60:40 and fold them forward too, should you need more space. However, even when fully folded, the rear seats don’t sit flush with the boot floor.

In terms of equipment, top-spec XZ+ Nexons offer most of what you’d get on the range-topping versions of its rivals. However, the Nexon does without cruise control, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers as offered on the Brezza, or leather seats and side airbags that the EcoSport can be had with. A rather cool feature here, however, is its Jaguar F-Pace-like smart activity band. With the wristband on, you can lock/unlock the vehicle and even start the engine, effectively doing away with the need to carry the key fob. Runners and swimmers will find the feature particularly useful.

The Nexon’s Revotron petrol engine is essentially the turbocharged version of the unit that powers the Tigor. In addition to turbocharging, the all-aluminium engine gets variable valve timing on the exhaust side too and sees the inclusion of an integrated exhaust manifold. The engine’s internals have also been strengthened for the higher pressures and temperatures that are a result of the turbocharging, and fuelling has been recalibrated as well. Peak power and torque figures are a healthy 110hp and 170Nm. For reference, the EcoSport’s 1.0 direct injection, turbocharged EcoBoost petrol motor makes 125hp and 140Nm of torque.

But before you get your hopes up, know that the Nexon’s turbo-petrol engine is not one to excite, even in the sportiest of its three drive modes. Drive with verve and you’ll find that the build-up of power is quite flat and there’s no surge anywhere in the rev range. You’ll need to be above 3,000rpm to get the most out of the engine, but with the limiter cutting in at 5,900rpm in ‘Sport’ (5,500rpm in Eco and City modes), the powerband is quite small. What’s a further dampener is that the gearing is too tall for the engine’s power characteristics. Third gear tops off at a high 133kph while gears four, five and six hold at the 150kph limited top speed. The net result is that, despite a brisk 12.33sec 0-100kph time in Sport mode (an EcoSport 1.0 takes a longer 12.54sec), real-world performance is quite subdued. In-gear acceleration times are way off what the EcoSport 1.0 achieved. The gap in performance just widens in City and Eco modes (see table).

In average city driving, you’ll have to work your way around the inconsistent low-speed power delivery and meek bottom-end by keeping revs above 1,600rpm. You can tell the fuel ‘tip-out’ is snappy (most so in ‘Eco’), as lifting off the throttle at low speeds is invariably accompanied by a jerk. The engine feels strangulated in Eco mode, at anything more than average speeds, and has more to give in City mode but feels its best in ‘Sport’. On the highway, the Nexon petrol cruises really well and it is in this environment that the tall gearing works in its favour. You are never wanting in more power, especially when you’re in the meat of the powerband. Overtaking is quite effortless and it’s possible to hold a brisk pace, which makes light work of long-distance driving.

What is also nice is that this turbo-petrol runs largely vibration-free, idle is silent and even the typical three-cylinder thrum at high engine speeds is fairly well contained, making this an impressively refined powertrain. The gearshift is fairly light and so is the clutch but it’s not particularly progressive and has a snappy action.

In general, the diesel Nexon comes across as far more accomplished. This cast-iron block engine may have its roots in the original Indica’s 1.4-litre diesel, but for all practical purposes, this is a whole new unit. Its 110hp power and 260Nm torque outputs are best-in-class figures and its 0-100kph time (achieved in Sport mode) is a none too shabby 13.68sec too.

But what is more telling of the diesel engine’s characteristics are its timings through the gears. The Nexon is quicker than a Vitara Brezza in gears three, four and five and across a range of speeds. It’s down to how this engine makes its power. It pulls well enough from the word go and fully gets into its rhythm at as low as 1,400rpm. There’s no step up in power thereon, just a relaxed push towards 4,000rpm. That engine noise levels remain relatively low, making the Nexon diesel all the more likeable. Note, cruising in sixth gear at 100kph has the engine spin at a fairly calm 2,100rpm.

The engine’s smooth power delivery makes the diesel version easy to drive, though at times you do wish the mid-range was a bit meatier. There’s not much of a top-end either, but, for a typical user, that’s hardly a concern. What is, is that you can amble along in a higher gear without any protest – the Nexon pulls cleanly forward from as little as 1,000rpm. Gearshifts are nice, so long as you are not gunning it, and the clutch is well-weighted too.

The three drive modes also seem better calibrated on the diesel. You can get by using ‘Eco’ on a daily basis but you will feel the urge to switch to City or Sport modes every now and then.

Acceleration
Petrol EcoPetrol CityPetrol SportDiesel EcoDiesel CityDiesel Sport
0-10kph0.58s0.53s0.58s0.49s0.51s0.53s
0-20kph1.81s1.13s1.21s1.11s1.33s1.09s
0-30kph3.25s2.24s1.80s2.21s2.34s2.07s
0-40kph4.66s3.15s2.55s3.66s3.53s3.21s
0-50kph6.31s4.43s3.55s5.15s4.91s4.52s
0-60kph8.47s5.86s4.87s7.16s6.31s5.77s
0-70kph10.75s7.29s6.21s9.48s8.59s7.61s
0-80kph13.18s9.08s7.74s12.03s10.50s9.26s
0-90kph17.45s11.22s10.19s15.49s12.71s10.95s
0-100kph21.94s13.90s12.33s19.47s16.15s13.68s
0-110kph26.92s16.82s14.79s24.70s19.42s16.11s
0-120kph33.39s19.99s17.48s31.55s23.44s19.04s
0-130kph--22.25s41.83s30.14s23.48s
0-140kph--27.48s-37.68s28.17s
20-80kph in 3rd gear21.74s16.01s14.62s14.07s12.07s11.02s
40-100kph in 4th gear35.51s21.27s19.89s18.33s14.46s12.95s
60-100kph in 5th gear37.08s18.94s16.50s16.40s12.30s11.38s
80-100kph in 6th gear--21.18s17.48s15.08s12.63s
1/4 mile22.39s19.34s18.41s21.20s20.26s19.22s

With its 209mm of ground clearance, impressively long travel suspension and meaty 215/60 R16 tyres, the Nexon has the ingredients to tackle the worst of Indian roads. And what gives even more confidence is the fact that the Nexon just seems like it’s engineered to take a bit of a beating. There is some road shock that makes its way to the steering wheel at times but, on the whole, the suspension feels absorbent and rounds off the bumps really well, despite a hint of firmness in the setup. The Nexon also feels stable at triple-digit speeds, though it is the heavier diesel that is more sure-footed when the going is fast.

Tata Motors has been getting its steering systems spot-on of late, and the Nexon’s is no different. It’s light and effortless to twirl at low speeds yet gives you a great feeling of connection when you are going faster. A lot of work has gone into fettling the steering, which includes a faster rack and a higher output (590W against the Zest’s 320W) electric motor. The good body control and the inherent grip of the Goodyear tyres mean the Nexons can be real fun on a curvy road. It helps that the brakes offer good feel at the pedal and strong stopping power.

Full disclaimer – we tested both Nexons for fuel economy in their efficiency-enhancing Eco modes. In our city test loop, the petrol delivered a mediocre 9kpl. Out on the highway, where sixth gear came into play, the petrol Nexon bettered its performance with a figure of 13kpl, which, if you think about it, is still not a shining number for a car of this size. As with all turbo-petrols, an aggressive driving style has a big impact on economy. Drive hard and you’ll make your way through the Nexon’s 44-litre tank alarmingly fast.

The diesel Nexon was expectedly more efficient with city and highway fuel economy figures of 14kpl and 18kpl, respectively, making it about at par with diesel rivals.

The high-set 6.5-inch touchscreen is easy to read but touch responses aren’t slick and the system also operates with a bit of lag. You can use voice commands with good accuracy to adjust temperature and set radio stations, not so much for dialing numbers from your phone’s contacts list. Smartphone addicts will be happy to know Android Auto is part of the package and Apple CarPlay will be offered soon too. Tata also offers phone apps for navigation, remote control and jukebox (allowing all passengers to add songs to a single playlist) that help enhance the functionality of the infotainment system. As expected, the Nexon’s four-speaker, four- tweeter sound system is hugely impressive.

Desirable. That’s what the Tata Nexon is. With a design that stands out even amidst pricier cars, there’s an inherent pull to the Nexon. But, commendably, Tata has made sure buyers will find more to the Nexon when they scratch beneath the surface. Sure, the cabin could have been better put together and should have come with more storage spaces too, but it is still a place you and your passengers would be happy to spend long hours in. The impressive levels of refinement of both petrol and diesel engines and the well-settled ride simply add to the high level of comfort the Nexon offers. An added bonus is that the handling is quite entertaining too. The petrol engine has its weaknesses but it’s the smooth diesel that anyone interested in the Nexon should be considering.

Tata has also priced the Nexon aggressively, with prices starting at Rs 5.85 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the base petrol version and topping off at Rs 9.45 lakh for the top-spec diesel. All pointers suggest the Nexon could be Tata’s Swift moment – the car that changes its image for good.

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 5.85 - 8.60 lakh Rs 6.85 - 9.45 lakh
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Fuel Type / Propulsion Petrol Diesel
Engine Installation Front, transverse Front, transverse
Type 3-cyl, turbo-petrol 4-cyl, turbo-diesel
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1198cc 1497cc
Bore/Stroke (mm) 77/85.8mm 76/82.5mm
Compression Ratio 9.6:1 16:1
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl, DOHC 4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 110hp at 5000rpm 110hp at 3750rpm
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 170Nm at 1750-4000rpm 260Nm at 1500-2750rpm
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 88.92hp per tonne 84.29hp per tonne
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 137.42Nm per tonne 199.23Nm per tonne
Specific Output (hp/litre) 91.81hp per litre 73.48hp per litre
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Drive Layout Front-wheel drive Front-wheel drive
Gearbox Type Manual Manual
No of Gears 6-speed 6-speed
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 3.667/7.462 3.308/8.482
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.913/14.30 1.913/14.66
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.218/22.46 1.218/23.03
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.895/30.57 0.895/31.35
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.690/39.65 0.690/40.66
6th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.578/47.34 0.578/48.54
Final Drive Ratio 4.44:1 4.33:1
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 25.39m, 2.29s 25.84m, 2.32s
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
City (kpl) 9.06kpl 14.0kpl
Highway (kpl) 13.0kpl 18.0kpl
Tank size (lts) 44 litres 44 litres
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.58s 0.53s
0 - 20 kph (sec) 1.21s 1.09s
0 - 30 kph (sec) 1.80s 2.07s
0 - 40 kph (sec) 2.55s 3.21s
0 - 50 kph (sec) 3.55s 4.52s
0 - 60 kph (sec) 4.87s 5.77s
0 - 70 kph (sec) 6.21s 7.61s
0 - 80 kph (sec) 7.74s 9.26s
0 - 90 kph (sec) 10.19s 10.95s
0 - 100 kph (sec) 12.33s 13.68s
0 - 110 kph (sec) 14.79s 16.11s
0 - 120 kph (sec) 17.48s 19.04s
0 - 130 kph (sec) 22.25s 23.48s
0 - 140 kph (sec) 27.48s 28.17s
1/4 mile (sec) 18.41s 19.22s
20-80kph (in third gear) (sec) 14.62s 11.02s
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
1st (kph @rpm) 44kph at 5900rpm 38kph at 4500rpm
2nd (kph @rpm) 85kph at 5900rpm 67kph at 4600rpm
3rd (kph @rpm) 133kph at 5900rpm 105kph at 4600rpm
4th (kph @rpm) 152kph at 5000rpm 142kph at 4500rpm
5th (kph @rpm) 151kph at 3800rpm 172kph at 4200rpm
6th (kph @rpm) 153kph at 3200rpm 183kph at 3800rpm
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Idle (dB) 47.0dB 48.5dB
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 55.9dB 55.2dB
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 59.4dB 74.1dB
50 kph in 4th gear AC off (dB) 63.9dB 64.1dB
80 kph in top gear AC off (dB) 67.7dB 68.1dB
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Construction Four-door, monocoque, SUV Four-door, monocoque, SUV
Weight (kg) 1237kg 1305kg
Front Tyre 215/60 R16 215/60 R16
Rear Tyre 215/60 R16 215/60 R16
Spare Tyre Full-size, steel rim Full-size, steel rim
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Independent, McPherson struts, coil springs Independent, McPherson struts, coil springs
Rear Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Type Rack and pinion Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric Electric
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 10.2m 10.2m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Discs Discs
Rear Drums Drums
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Length 3994mm 3994mm
Width (mm) 1811mm 1811mm
Height 1607mm 1607mm
Wheel base 2498mm 2498mm
Front Track (mm) 1540mm 1540mm
Rear Track (mm) 1530mm 1530mm
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1370mm 1370mm
Ground Clerance (mm) 209mm 209mm
Boot Capacity (Lts) 350 litres 350 litres
2017 Tata Nexon review, road test
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