• The striking-looking Harrier stands out in the urban jung...
    The striking-looking Harrier stands out in the urban jungle and the real one.
  • Pinched glasshouse at rear looks sleek but rear window is...
    Pinched glasshouse at rear looks sleek but rear window is small.
  • Thrust control-like handbrake lever nicer to look at than...
    Thrust control-like handbrake lever nicer to look at than it is to use. It is fiddly to operate.
1 / 0
Rating 8 8

2019 Tata Harrier review, road test

7th May 2019 10:00 am

Tata’s big SUV sure got people talking. But is it as good as everyone hoped it would be? Only an exhaustive road test can give the definitive verdict.

  • Make : Tata
  • Model : Harrier
We Like
Roomy and well-appointed interior
High speed manners
Value for money
We Don't Like
Ergonomic issues
A few rough edges
No automatic or AWD option

If there’s a model that repeatedly ‘broke the internet’ in 2018, it was the Tata Harrier. Right from the time the SUV was revealed as the H5X concept at the 2018 Auto Expo, there was unrelenting curiosity about what is Tata’s most ambitious SUV to date. And the interest only piqued when the final product’s pricing was announced in early 2019. Priced between Rs 12.69 and 16.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the near-4.6m-long SUV has single-handedly thrown established pricing structures out of whack. See it as a larger-than-average mid-segment SUV or an exceedingly well-priced premium one, if there’s one common thread, it’s that the Harrier is big on value.

 

The Harrier is also a landmark product, being the first model built on Tata’s new OMEGA Arc platform that’s derived from Land Rover’s D8 platform. In fact, the Harrier is the first new Tata built with subsidiary Land Rover’s know-how from the get go. In the pipeline is an automatic-transmission-equipped version, a higher-powered and BS-VI emission norms-compliant diesel that will come by April next year, a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol is in development and an all-wheel drive option is an outside possibility as well. Come 2020, a larger seven-seat version, previewed by the Buzzard concept earlier this year, will also go on sale. For the moment, however, there’s only one version – a 140hp diesel with a 6-speed manual – on sale and that’s the one that’ll be under the scanner in this test.

Tata Motors hit it out of the park with the futuristic H5X but few thought the production version would stay so true to the concept. Sure, certain elements have been toned down for production but the Harrier still looks like a concept car for the road. The styling makes heads turn and, without fail, you’ll see an expression of shock when people notice the Tata badge on the grille. The Harrier is the first product styled to Tata Motors’ evolved Impact Design 2.0 philosophy and the look sure makes an impact.

Split headlight uses DRLs on top and projector lamps below.
 

Being 4,598mm long, 1,894mm wide and 1,706mm tall, the Harrier is a fairly substantial SUV to begin with, and the high-set bonnet only gives it more road presence. You could describe the Harrier’s frontal styling as busy and it may not resonate with buyers who like their SUVs plain and simple but, going by online chatter, the radical face has more fans than ‘haters’. The front end is characterized by a strip of high-set LEDs that seemingly flow into the large grille. Mind you, the LEDs merely function as daytime running lights and turn signal indicators; the main headlamps sit lower down on the bumper in a ‘tri-arrow’ enclosure. The split headlight look is radical but, curiously enough, the Harrier won’t be the only SUV to sport it. The Hyundai Venue compact SUV and MG Hector (that will compete with the Harrier) also feature a similar arrangement. Lower down, there’s the de rigueur scuff plate, and what’s also nice is how Tata’s designers have used body cladding to give the Harrier a high riding look.

Alloys lack flash. Chunky 235/65 R17 tyres are great for ride comfort.
 

The Harrier is distinctive in profile too and the pinched glasshouse is particularly attractive. However, while the large wheel arches, which are a vital element of Impact Design 2.0, add mass to the design, they also make the 17-inch rims (16-inchers on lower trims) look a size small. Snazzier wheels would be more in keeping with the Tata’s look too. Styling at the rear is slick, though. The linked tail-lights are particularly smart and, if you look closely, you’ll also note the pronounced crease on the tailgate looks neat.

Spare tyre sits under the body rather than under boot floor.
 

As mentioned, Tata’s OMEGA Arc platform is derived from Land Rover’s transverse engine D8 platform that underpins the Land Rover Discovery Sport. Note, ‘derived’ is the operative word here. And that’s because, while the Harrier shares many hard points with the Discovery Sport, the platform itself has been re-engineered for lower costs. Aluminium has made way for high- strength steel, the Disco Sport’s complex integral link rear suspension has been replaced by a simpler torsion beam arrangement (tuned by Lotus) and hydraulic assist has been adopted in place of the costlier but more efficient electric power steering. What’s a shame is that the Harrier also misses out on rear disc brakes, which is something you’d expect on an SUV that weighs upwards of 1.6 tonnes. The Harrier does, however, conform to India’s latest safety norms, with base versions equipped with dual airbags, front seat seatbelt reminder, speed warning system and rear parking sensors. Top-spec versions get six airbags and also see the addition of traction control and ESP with off-road modes.  

Powering the Harrier is what Tata calls the ‘Kryotec’ engine. This mill is none other than the 2.0-litre Multijet II diesel engine that you’d find under the hood of a Jeep Compass, albeit in a lower state of tune. The Harrier also shares its 6-speed manual gearbox with the Jeep, though Tata uses a lower-geared final drive.

 

Stylish and richly finished dashboard uses different materials to great effect.
 

Thanks to a cabin that sits at just the right height, you walk into rather than climb aboard into the Harrier. And the large doors open to welcome you into Tata’s best interior to date. Top-spec XZ trim Harriers, like our test car, make generous use of leather (including on the door pads), the faux wood on the neatly styled dash looks convincing, the free-standing 8.8-inch touchscreen is sleek and even the metal-like element that splits the dash horizontally (à la the Nexon) appears premium. An all-digital instrument cluster would have taken things to the next level but even the informative part-digital (the speedo is analogue) display does its bit to up the ambience. Yes, there are some average plastics in the cabin but you have to hand it to Tata for the strides it has made in the department of perceived quality.

USB slots, both front and rear, are hidden from view and are irritatingly hard to access.
 

Drivers sit at a nice height in the Harrier, and the commanding seating position gives that feeling
of being in something substantial – something that SUV buyers tend to appreciate. However, all’s not perfect. Over long stints, some of us found the large, lumbar-adjustable front seats excessively bolstered in the region of the lower back. And though there is a dead pedal, folding your left leg will result in your knee brushing uncomfortably against the centre console. A bigger issue is the sheer size of the external mirrors. They are large and create a blind spot large enough to cover SUVs, let alone two-wheelers. If there’s a model that needs the Audi e-Tron’s camera-based Virtual Mirrors, this is it. Even within the cabin, you’ll have a tough time locating the USB slots that are positioned out of view under the centre console. We also weren’t sold on the thrust control-like lever for the handbrake. You do learn to live with these things but they are irritants nonetheless.

Front seats are large and well-finished but there’s excessive lumbar support.
 
 
Occupants seated at the back will have less to complain about. The seat is nice and supportive, there is an enormous feeling of space and you can easily stretch out, thanks to the ample legroom on offer. The cabin is also wide enough to seat three abreast with ease. On first acquaintance, you might think the Harrier misses rear air-con vents. But it doesn’t; it’s just that they are mounted on the B-pillars, and do a fair job of cooling the rear section of the cabin. The rear centre console is home to charging slots but, again, you’ll have to feel your way around to find them.
 
There’s loads of room at the back and the rear seat is big on comfort too.
 
 
In terms of storage for small items, the Harrier comes across as well thought out. There are large door pockets and the shelves incorporated on the ones at the back are a smart place to stow your phone. A large glovebox and cooled recess under the centre armrest also come handy. What’s also nice is that there’s more room in the luggage compartment than its 425-litre capacity would lead you to believe. The loading lip is high but there’s plenty of space for large suitcases. Top-spec versions get split and folding rear seats that take boot capacity to 810 litres. And before you ask, the spare wheel (16-inch) sits under the body and not the boot floor. 


425-litre boot can hold big suitcases with ease. Loading lip high though.

The Harrier might share its 2.0-litre diesel engine with the Compass but the Tata can’t quite match the Jeep on outright performance. On the Tata, the engine makes 140hp and 350Nm (the Compass uses a 173hp and 350Nm version of the unit) and also has to lug nearly 100kg more of SUV. This should partly explain the big difference in their 0-100kph acceleration times; the Harrier takes 12.24sec to 100 while the comparable Compass 4x2 records a sub-10sec time of 9.97sec. However, the gap becomes much smaller when talking of the more relevant yardstick of in-gear acceleration. The Compass is only marginally quicker from 10-30kph in second, 30-50kph in third, 50-80kph in fourth and 80-100kph in fifth gears. The Harrier’s relatively low-geared final drive comes into play and also helps the Tata better the 300kg lighter Hyundai Creta through the gears. 

Kryotec-branded engine is none other than Fiat’s Multijet II diesel.
 
 
While performance isn’t electrifying, it is more than adequate. Drive modes also let you alter how the engine delivers its power. The efficiency-enhancing Eco mode curtails power and revs and makes the build of speed leisurely. The engine has more to give in ‘City’ and feels its freest and best in Sport mode. Power comes in smoothly and there’s a slight bump at about 1,800rpm. The Harrier gets to highway cruising speeds with ease but, at times, you do wish there was more punch in the mid-range; that strong surge on the Compass is missing here. The more powerful BS-VI-compliant version of the engine could address the issue.

Engine refinement was a serious issue on our pre-launch drive of the Harrier but the good thing is that Tata engineers took the feedback to heart and there has been a noticeable improvement in the production cars. In fact, one of the reasons for the production delays is because of the NVH tweaks carried out retrospectively. The engine is now quieter and the vibrations coming through the pedals are more subdued. However, it’s still not as refined as we would have liked. Idle is grumbly, the engine sounds buzzy after 2,000rpm and you’ll even hear a clunk from the driveline ever so often. The 6-speed gearbox doesn’t operate with the same slickness as it does in the Compass but it is light enough. Thankfully, the Harrier clutch isn’t heavy or snappy like the Compass’, and is actually quite convenient to modulate but you need to give it a wee bit of ‘gas’ to avoid stalling the engine. Also, we can’t help but wonder how much better the whole experience would be once the Hyundai-sourced, smooth-shifting torque converter 6-speed automatic gearbox eventually makes its way onto the Harrier.

The Tata Harrier has robust underpinnings and you can feel as much when you drive over broken roads. The combination of a long travel suspension and chunky 65 profile tyres that absorb much of the initial shock make light work of the largest of potholes. There’s little road shock at the steering too and the overall sensation is of being in a vehicle that’s built to take a beating. What’s more, the Harrier doesn’t feel out of place in the rough either. There’s more than ample ground clearance and, so long as you don’t get too adventurous in tricky terrain (it is front-wheel drive only after all), the Tata will not disappoint. Top-spec versions get hill descent control and there’s also the much publicised three-mode Terrain Response system that alters ESP settings on the Harrier. The latter system seemingly does its work covertly because we didn’t notice much of a difference at the wheel between Normal, Rough and Wet modes.

Large dial controls Terrain Response. On offer are three modes – Normal, Rough and Wet.
 

The Harrier also makes for a good high-speed cruiser. It feels confident at triple-digit speeds and, again, the excellent bump absorption plays its part in taking the edge out of poorly paved patches. There’s a good enough feeling of connect at the steering wheel too, but the way it weights up is a bit inconsistent and doesn’t feel as precise or fluid as the Compass, which corners with more poise. Also, there’s a bit of whine from the power steering pump at full lock.

High-speed ride quality is a highlight. You can maintain a fair clip even on poor surfaces.
 

Where the Tata doesn’t feel quite as special is in town. The steering requires some effort to twirl and you are always aware you are piloting a big car. A Hyundai Creta simply feels much more manageable in city confines, for instance. Not helping matters is the fact that rear visibility on the Harrier isn’t the best and what makes life particularly tough are the massive blind spots created by the elephant ear-sized outside mirrors. Also, at low speeds, the suspension can’t completely smoothen out surface imperfections. There’s a degree of lumpiness to the ride (more so on concrete surfaces), and the movements are far more pronounced at the back.

The Harrier fared quite well in our braking tests, coming to a halt from 80kph in 27.83 metres. Braking force is strong and there’s good grip too, though more feel at the pedal and a sharper bite would be welcome. Tata should consider upgrading the brakes with the rear discs in the future.

Compare the Harrier’s fuel economy to its price rivals and the numbers might not impress. However, for what is a fairly large and heavy SUV, efficiency is pretty respectable. In town, in City drive mode, the Harrier returned 9.8kpl. Relaxed cruising out on the highway in City mode saw the number rise to 14.2kpl.

While middle-spec Harriers feature 7.0-inch touchscreen units, the top-spec XZ gets a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen-based infotainment system. The latter is the smoothest unit we’ve seen from Tata yet but it’s still not the slickest in the business. Android Auto is standard (Apple CarPlay comes soon), and what’s nice is that the screen also lets you access the car’s functions when the smartphone interface is on. However, with connectivity being the buzzword now, Tata will need to upgrade the system soon. The Harrier XZ’s JBL sound system comprises four speakers, four tweeters and even a subwoofer. Sound quality is good, not exceptional.

8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

Top-spec Harriers get part-digital instruments. High-res screen houses tachometer and MID.
 
 
The Tata Harrier is available in four variants. Base XE trim versions (Rs 12.69 lakh), oddly only available in white paint, get the safety basics of dual airbags and ABS, but only few comfort features like power windows, power steering, tilt and telescopic steering and projector headlamps. The XM (Rs 13.75 lakh) adds in a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, steering-mounted audio controls and drive modes. The XT (Rs 14.95 lakh) is a more appealing package, with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, a rear-view camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, push-button start, auto headlamps and wipers, auto climate control and electrically folding mirrors. However, if you want the most frills (and safety equipment), you’ll have to stretch and go for the XZ (Rs 16.25 lakh). Exclusive to the Harrier XZ is a larger 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a nine-speaker JBL sound system, part-digital dials, leather upholstery and a 60:40 split rear seat. It’s also the only one with xenon headlights, Isofix child seat mounts, six airbags, ESP, hill descent control and hill hold control.
 
Exterior mirrors are oversized and create massive blind spots.

With its Land Rover-derived platform and Fiat-sourced engine wrapped in a confident and new-age Tata design, the Harrier promises the best of all worlds. And for the most part, it delivers. The striking look will be the hook for many but the Harrier’s positives extend to its spacious cabin, tough build and excellent high-speed ride.

There are a fair few ergonomic guffaws, long-term reliability is unproven as yet and, at few places, the Harrier feels rough around the edges too. The absence of all-wheel drive will be missed by only a handful of off-roaders but the lack of an automatic will be a deal breaker for many and should have been an option right from launch. Still, see what you get for the price and it’s hard not to feel you are getting more than your money’s worth.

Tata’s reinvention started with the Tiago and Hexa. And just like the Nexon did two years ago, the Harrier takes the process into a higher gear.

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Price Range Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 12.69-16.25 lakh
Warranty 3 years/1,00,000km
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Fuel Type / Propulsion Diesel
Engine Installation Front, transverse
Type 4 cyl, turbo-diesel
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1956cc
Bore/Stroke (mm) 83.0/90.4mm
Compression Ratio 16.5:1
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 140hp at 3750rpm
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 350Nm at 1750-2500rpm
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 83.58hp per tonne
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 208.95Nm per tonne
Specific Output (hp/litre) 71.57hp per litre
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Drive Layout Front-wheel drive
Gearbox Type Manual
No of Gears 6-speed
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 4.154/7.895
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 2.118/15.48
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.361/24.09
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.978/33.53
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.756/43.38
6th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.622/52.72
Final Drive Ratio 4.118:1
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 27.83m, 2.5s
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
City (kpl) 9.8kpl
Highway (kpl) 14.2kpl
Tank size (lts) 50 litre
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.54s
0 - 20 kph (sec) 1.43s
0 - 30 kph (sec) 2.09s
0 - 40 kph (sec) 3.34s
0 - 50 kph (sec) 4.17s
0 - 60 kph (sec) 5.27s
0 - 70 kph (sec) 6.68s
0 - 80 kph (sec) 8.43s
0 - 90 kph (sec) 10.16s
0 - 100 kph (sec) 12.24s
0 - 110 kph (sec) 14.98s
0 - 120 kph (sec) 17.64s
0 - 130 kph (sec) 21.01s
0 - 140 kph (sec) 25.48s
1/4 mile (sec) 18.73s
20-80kph (in third gear) (sec) 10.32s
40-100kph (in fourth gear) (sec) 17.79s
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
1st (kph @rpm) 39kph at 4900rpm
2nd (kph @rpm) 76kph at 4900rpm
3rd (kph @rpm) 117kph at 4900rpm
4th (kph @rpm) 161kph at 4800rpm
5th (kph @rpm) 166kph at 3800rpm
6th (kph @rpm) 168kph at 3200rpm
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Idle (dB) 49dB
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 58dB
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 73.9dB
50 kph in 4th gear AC off (dB) 60.4dB
80 kph in top gear AC off (dB) 64.2dB
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Construction Five-door SUV, monocoque
Weight (kg) 1675kg
Front Tyre 235/65 R17
Rear Tyre 235/65 R17
Spare Tyre 235/70 R16
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Independent, MacPherson strut, coil springs
Rear Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Hydraulic
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 11.6m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Discs
Rear Drums
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Length 4598mm
Width (mm) 1894mm
Height 1706mm
Wheel base 2741mm
Front Track (mm) 1616mm
Rear Track (mm) 1630mm
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1410mm
Ground Clearance (mm) 205mm
Boot Capacity (Lts) 425 litres
INTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Cruise control Available
Drive modes Available
Driver seat height adjust NA
Reclining rear seat NA
Rear AC vents Available
Touchscreen 8.8-inch
USB Available
Android Auto Available
Apple Car Play Available
Keyless go Available
Sunroof NA
EXTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Daytime running lamps Available
Headlamp type Xenon
Fog lamps Available
Electric adjust wing mirrors Available
Electric retract wing mirrors Available
Rear parking sensors Available
SAFETY FEATURES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Airbags 6
ABS Available
ISOFIX Seating Available
2019 Tata Harrier review, road test
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